Soft Bait Color Selection

If you were to refer to articles from this industry, you would learn that most fish are capable of only seeing primary colors.

However, we don’t know what the fish associate these colors with. Is it food? Is it an enemy? Who knows?

But, what we do know is that the use of color could be what determines if you caught a river monster or end up embarrassing yourself on the lake.

Soft Bait Color Selection

Soft Plastic Coloring

You can color your soft plastic lures in a variety of different ways.

The most common way though is mixing in the liquid coloring into your plastic before molding.

However, this technique isn’t efficient if you plan on using multicolor’s in your lures because it requires multiple batches of colored plastic and a lot of layering within the mold.

If you want to avoid this tedious process you can produce a lure in a single color (preferably clear) and then apply a finishing coat to produce a multicolored pattern.

Once this is done, your lure still needs one more clear coat to seal it.

Not All Fish See the Same Colors

For a fish to see color, it needs at least two cone cells in its eyes.

Bottom-dwellers, like catfish, only have one of these cells so they can only see shades, they can see the brightness of an object, but not its color.

However, many shallow surface water fish, like trout, minnows, and carp, have four cone cells in their eyes; this allows them to see all of the colors, including the ultraviolet spectrum.

Other fish, like the bluegill and bass, only have two cone cells in their eyes so this limits them to seeing only black, greens, browns, and reds.

It is also possible that bass might see yellows.

Although most fish can discriminate between fine shades and colors, this does not impact what they select for food.

There is no chart to explain the color viewing capabilities of each fish species, unfortunately.

With this in mind, don’t base your color selection on actual colors; you should base it on how the colors contrast with each other.

For example, pick a lure with two colors that will appear different, rather than for their actual colors.

Here is an example of how some fish view a blue and red lure, pay attention to the color contrast in all three of these images:

Color Filtration in Water

Water filters light and colors are colored light, so water will still filter colors. Light begins to break apart depending on the depth, this being so, that means colors can no longer be seen past a certain point.

There are many determining factors to how severely water filters light.

It depends on circumstances like the clarity of the water, the wind conditions, what time of day it is, and a lures depth.

Dirty water, high-speed winds, greater water depth, and hours dwindling into the evening mean that there will be fewer colors being filtered by the water.

In order to understand how this effect works, we need to understand the relationships between water and light first.

Light produces a spectrum of colors; this spectrum includes colors like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

When these colors are mixed together they produce white. If an angler were to shine a bright light in the center of a very deep lake, the colors within the light beam would gradually become weaker as the light travels toward the bottom.

  • By 10 feet, the color red barely exists, orange is beginning to disappear, and our friend yellow is starting to fade away.
  • By 35 feet, red and orange are completely gone, and yellow is quickly following suit.
  • By 75 feet, yellow has turned into a greenish-blue and the only visible colors are blue, indigo, and violet.
  • Once we get to 150 feet, blue and indigo are difficult to see, and violet is also quickly disappearing.
  • At a few hundred feet, ultraviolet color is the only one left and it isn’t even visible to the human eye.

However, when the spectrum of colors disappears, neon colors do not.

Neon colors are fluorescent, which means that they glow when they are hit by ultraviolet light.

There have been reports of brightly visible fluorescent pink and yellow colors at depths of 125 and deeper!

Now, with this in mind, remember that the rate of color filtration in water assumes that the water is crystal clear.

Pollutants, sediments, and varying degrees of wind can change these rates drastically by rearranging the filtration order and decreasing the overall depth of colors.

Taking into consideration these circumstances, red and orange are the most visible, assuming that the depth of your lure is not greater than 20 feet.

With that being said, here are some tips from anglers about how to pick lure colors:

Super Clear

Use white or clear. You should use glitter for color. Remember all colors are visible at 10 feet.

Clear Water

Blue is the most visible, and while is still visible. Remember that all colors are slightly visible up to 10 feet.

Green Water

Green is the most visible.

Stained Water

Orange, green, and chartreuse are the most visible and red is only slightly visible.

Muddy Water

Red is the most visible.

Here are a few additional suggestions to help with low light (first light up until sunrise), medium light (when the sunrise reaches to about 20 degrees on the horizon), and high light (from that position to sunset) conditions:

Low Light

Blue, purple, or black work the best. You should use this with a silver flash.

Medium Light

Red and orange work the best.

High Light

Brown or gray work the best. You should use fluorescent accents.

Note: When the level of light falls below 0.1 foot-candle (clear night and no moon), all colors become shades of gray and cannot be seen by fish.