How to Pick an Artificial Lure for Color and Contrast

Frank Manuele   Sunday, March 11, 2007 1:26 AM

Sight, sound, and feel are three factors to consider when choosing an artificial lure on tough days or on days when the pattern is spotty.

Three other important lure elements that should be considered are a lure’s depth range, lure size (weight as it relates to lure motion or action) and rate and type of retrieve. The above six lure elements overlap in their effects on the fish’s bite.

For instance, sight characteristics include color brightness, amount of flash, reflected colors or color patterns, translucent colors and laminate colors. But they also include lure profile and size which affect reflected sound and water disturbance (- sound qualities).

Sound qualities include type of surface disturbance, subsurface water displacement, object impact noise, inherent-noise chambers, bait profile and size, and lure vibration, (i.e. action-related oscillation, apart from sound chamber rattles).

‘Feel’ elements also include lure profile, action-profile, and sound elements. By action profile I mean the bait’s appearance on the retrieve. For example is the skirt full or does it contain less strands; is it short (rocket shad) or long (beyond the hook curve)? Is the action profile a wide wobble (Helin’s Flat Fish) or tight (Rat L Trap or Poe’s Thin Shad)?

The lateral line is extremely sensitive to water displacement by a subsurface object’s profile and density. A combination of fish-attracting elements exists in each lure that can be compared to the combination of a lock. Does the lures have the right combination of any of the above elements that passes the "Bite Me!" test for certain fish, light and water conditions?

For instance, my buddy and I fished for panfish recently after a severe cold front. The spawn pattern that usually occurs this time of year was destroyed by 5” of rain and a 10 degree drop in water temperature. The wind stayed at 15 mph all day. Forget shallow water. Forget large profile baits. Forget 98% of the stuff in my storage boxes. I asked myself, “self, what color will work in tannin stained water, and what lure can be fished slow to medium and in 10’, with fish at 6’ ?"

We found isolated schools with the side-finder and worked small to medium grubs and panfish-size crankbaits. The lure that beat the pants off all other lures tried, was a Bass Pro tricolor crappie grub on a 1/8 oz. Jig head. I caught 10 fish to every one my partner caught. The lures he was using were perfect for more active fish.

  1. But I believe the elements of:
    the tiny curly tail with silver metal flakes
  2. the 1.5 “body length; the thin diameter braid;
  3. the 1/8 oz. jig head (with sides filed to reveal ‘bright metal’) used in order to feel a ‘nothing-at-the-end-of-the-line strike at 6-8’;
  4. the laminate colors of florescent lime and chartreuse or pearl (for tanin stain visibility);
  5. the knobby, grub profile and;
  6. an erratic retrieve gave me the combination of lure elements needed to unlock lock-jaw fish.

Two grubs caught 50 fish. His 15 types of grubs caught 20 fish. (He caught up to me in the p.m.) I did try other styles, but I kept the tricolor nearby to confirm sonar signals. In the afternoon we went after bigger species in shallow water, adjacent to wetlands. A popper only caught one small bass and buzzbaits and spinnerbaits couldn't’t buy a strike. But my in-line spinner combined with an 8” Big Wag worm in tequila sunrise, accounted for 4 pickerel, 5 bass and 6 missed hits. The blade was a #3 Colorado with a few silver beads.

The color contrasted just right in stained water and captured just the right amount of the bright sunlight. The weight of the rig allowed long casts for spooky fish; the braid allowed strong, long-distance hook sets and the weightlessness of the Texas-rigged worm allowed for a horizontal, shallow and steady retrieve in and over emerging vegetation. The medium wide u-tail slithered like a large augertail, uniquely displacing water and vegetation.

Thus the combination of successful elements: good color for water color; large, long profile and action profiles (good for shallow fish); a tiny, flashy, spinning blade(relative to lure length); two contrasting vibrations: spinning blade and slithering tail; slow and steady to mixed retrieves (for potato-couch fish); and a presentation that put the creature right in its living room. Large Brush hogs, Hoo Daddy or Bacon Rind worms would have done just as well as the Big Wag, with or without the spinner. (The spinner gets their attention from a longer distance.)

Elements that would not unlock the lock in shallow water:

  1. buzz, pop
  2. fast and steady retrieves
  3. black and red flake color

I’m sure better anglers than me could have found other lures with other characteristics that could have caught fish that day and in different water. But I found elements that worked for me based on my breakdown of productive, lure elements that contrasted in a way that got strikes.

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