Strike King News

When to Keep It Real

Submitted by Full Limit Outdoor Media

What is the best color to use? How many times have you heard, or even asked this about a fishing lure? As long as there has been anglers, there has been opinions of what colors work best in different scenarios. Most are, or should be, based off experiences in which an angler gained knowledge. However, a lot of what we “accept” as truth in fishing as it relates to what fish like, or see, is based off opinions that have been handed down as truth.

I want to look at why, or when, a painted or bright colored bait is a better, or a more productive choice than a natural, or realistic finish on a bait. With today’s advanced technology and processes, bait finishes can literally be photographic replicas of actual baitfish. Why in the world then would a good ole’ Citrus Shad, or trusty Chartreuse Blue Back crankbait ever outproduce a photo finished bait? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s see.

The obvious reasoning would be that the most realistic finish that mimics natural forage would be the best choice all the time. If we’re talking hard baits, that would mean a super-realistic, photo-finish craw crank when bass are eating crawfish, a shad when they’re eating shad, herring, bluegill, etc. If that were the case, then tackle boxes would require many less baits and manufacturers catalogs would be much smaller. Unfortunately, based on the experiences of some of the sport’s best pros, it isn’t quite that simple. There is, however a method to the madness of when you choose a “traditional? painted finish versus their modern lifelike counterparts. Here is what a few of the Strike King pros say on the matter.


Mark Menendez – “In dingy water, or low light conditions, I want a brighter finish such as Chartreuse/Powder Blue Back or Fire Tiger. I am convinced that these brighter colors offer a greater contrast in the darker conditions and allow a bass to see that bait better from farther.”

“The exact opposite is my theory in clear water. Clear water fish are primarily visual feeders, so I am super-particular about color in this scenario. I want the fish to see my bait and recognize it as prey, yet I don’t want them to get too good a look at it. In this case I opt for more translucent colors such as Green Gizzard, or Blue Gizzard.”

Jordan Lee – “In my opinion, choosing the proper color is a process that is day-to-day, if not hour-to-hour. Anytime there is a change in light conditions or weather, I believe it’s time to reevaluate your color selection.”

“I’m actually pretty simplistic when comes to choosing colors. Basically, I use employ bright/painted colors when the water is stained or muddy. Something like a Chartreuse Black Back or a Chartreuse Sexy Shad.”

“Sunny and clear conditions warrant a less-visible approach such as our Green Gizzard. I don’t want fish in bright, clear conditions to see a bait too well.”

In bright but windy situation, I want something natural. Not necessarily translucent and clear, but not super-loud and bright. That’s when I really like the printed photo finishes like our Natural Shad.”

“Overall, being equipped my multiple color options and being willing to change with the conditions will get you more bites.”


So, in summary, here are the general rules according to two of the county’s best touring pros:

Darker water and sky conditions, such as early and late as well stained water, call for a brighter bait. It allows more fish to see your bait and in turn that provides the potential for more bites. Chartreuses and whites are some of the better options. The variance of this rule would be nighttime when darker colors are better. In this case it comes down to a fish being able to silhouette a bait as brighter colors aren’t visible in the absence of light.

Clear water is the time for clear, or translucent baits. Clear water fish are synonymous with being picky and they are almost exclusively sight feeders. A bright colored bait will often alarm them that it’s not the real thing. Light penetration can be greatly affected in clear water by waves, so the wind factor is a major variable as well. The windier it is, the less clear you want to go. Slick and clear equals clear/translucent. Choppy and clear equals photo image finishes and more opaque colors. The exception to this rule is often with smallmouth and spotted bass. Although they will certainly bite clear or natural finishes in clear water, often-times they will viciously devour bright baits in the same clear water.

The “X Factor” with colors are usually associated with local forage. There are lakes throughout the country where that certain colors are known to be successful regardless of these “rules’ and the changing conditions. That is almost always a function of people doing what they’ve always done, or always heard should work, or local forage. It is very hard to beat a color that precisely matches the color of what the local bass population is primarily feeding on.

These rules and thoughts were primarily applied to hard baits such as crankbaits, lipless baits and topwaters. Next time we will tackle the same question as it pertains to soft plastics and jigs.

Years of knowledge and experience coming from the best anglers on earth have allowed Strike King to develop a range and option of colors to suit basically every need for your favorite waters. The best plan is to have a wide selection and be willing to let the fish teach you what they want. I’m willing to bet however, that the experiences of the two guys above are going to prevail most of the time!

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