The Truth About bait Colors

If you're like me, your tacklebox is a color kaleidoscope. With my endless assortment of soft plastics sporting colors never seen in nature, it's enough to make my head spin.

A reasonable angler might sit back and ask, Why all these colors? Wouldn't we do just as well to focus on a small handful of colors? Do bass really even care about lure colors? The answer appears to be a definite yes and an equally definite no.

Bass apparently do see color. Their vision is strongest in the areas of medium-red to green. It fails rapidly moving into the blues and purples, as it does towards the far reds. If our picture of bass color vision is accurate, then color is meaningful to bass in some cases but not others.

Fussing over minor shade differences on the blue back of a crankbait is pointless. A bass sees all shades of blue as essentially the same (provided, of course, the colors have the same brightness). The same is true for subtle variations in dark purple or dark red lures.

For mid-range colors where bass discriminate best, it makes perfect sense to offer a wide variety of bait colors when even small variations can make a big difference.

For example, a variety of midrange colors may keep heavily pressured bass from generalizing bad experiences across baits. Bass subjected to heavy pressure on dark purple plastic worms might shy away from all dark purple worms equally because they will view all dark purple worms as the same. But bass that have learned to shy away from pumpkinseed worms might see pumpkinseed-with-a-splash-of-red worms as distinctly different and therefore safe to attack.

Beyond color discrimination, however, is the issue of whether some colors act as visual signals. In theory, some color patterns might excite bass. A splash of red on the throat of a crankbait might signify blood and hence a wounded, easy meal. On the other hand, red on a lure might be more like waving a red flag in the face of a bull, instinctively driving the bass crazy.

Evidence from the field and lab suggests not. For one thing, if a color or color pattern evoked strong instinctive aggression, those lures would consistently yield higher-than-average catch rates. Yet despite the myriad of anglers pounding the water day after day, no such color has been discovered.

Bass anglers typically have individual favorites. But there is no consensus among bass anglers that any one color is reliably better than all others all the time. If bass have a favorite color, they're keeping it a secret.