Vol 37 | Num 3 | May 16, 2012
Article by Sue Foster
“What color flounder rig should I use? What color Gulp! is best? What color lure should I use?”
What color rig, lure or artificial bait like Gulp! is always a topic of conversation in a bait and tackle shop. The most tried and true way to decide the best color is experimentation. If you have four guys on the boat fishing for flounder, everyone should start off with a different color. When the fish start biting one over the other, that’s the one to switch to!
There are four things you have to consider when you choose what color rigs, bait or lure to use.
•Weather conditions (sunny, cloudy, day or night, dusk or dawn)
•What the fish are feeding on- Are they feeding actively?
“I heard chartreuse was always a good color to use!”
For years, chartreuse was the color of choice for anglers fishing for flounder and when Gulp! took over the market, chartreuse was always the best color. Last year white outsold chartreuse three to one. Go figure. Three color combinations that always seem to work in saltwater are: yellow/white, chanteuse/white and red/white. In the spring pink or pink/white works well.
Fluorescent colors like chartreuse can be seen further in the water when the water is murky or greenish. When the fish are not biting aggressively and are having a hard time seeing the baits, chartreuse blades or chartreuse Gulp! may be the ticket. But when the fish are really turned on in a feeding frenzy eating some natural bait in the water, a natural color such as white, yellow or pink may produce more bites. This is because fluorescent colors are not natural to the environment.
When a lure or rig hits the water in our coastal bays, 60% of the color can disappear by the time the rig falls ten feet. The deeper you are fishing, the less important color is and the more important it is to have motion, scent and contrast of light/dark colors. A lure may look only gray or black to the eyes of a fish once the light has filtered out the color. Rig manufacturers know this. That’s why they often make a rig with contrasting colors like white hair and red beds. If the fish doesn’t see one color, it may see the other or a contrast of light/dark to make it more visible. Also, a fish like a flounder is looking up, so the contrast of the bait against the color of the sky can make a big difference. That’s why on cloudy days a darker color like purple may work and on sunny days in clear water, a color like white may work best. In clear, shallow water, colors will look like the colors they are. In deeper water, the colors are more like shades of gray and black.
Some fish sense polarized light more than others. What??? Light waves are produced by vibrating electric charges and it’s in the water more at dusk and dawn than at any other time of day. That’s why some fish like striped bass seem to feed best at this time of day. These light waves in the water also help some fish feed in low light conditions. Tinsel and Mylar that are in flounder bucktail teasers are excellent reflectors of polarized light. The bucktail material itself is not a good reflector of polarized light, so that must be why on some days, especially early and late in the day, Mylar in your bucktail flounder jig can be quite helpful.
Color of the lure is not the only criteria when fishing. Most fish are nearsighted (objects in the distance appear blurry and out of focus) and the fish need to get “up close and personal” to really see the bait. A flounder may look up and see the contrast of two colors against the sky. More contrast (darker colors) is good if the sky is dark and cloudy. Use less contrast (and lighter colors) if the sky is sunny. Remember the old flounder saying, “Dark live minnows on a cloudy day and bright light-colored frozen shiners on the sunny day.”
Sound and smell are just as important as sight. Sound travels five times faster in water than it does in the air. That’s probably why the striper bite will quit at the South Jetty once the boat traffic gets up!
The sense of smell for a fish is a million times better than humans. So that’s probably why Gulp! and Fish Bites work so well! Jigging a bait up and down will not only give motion, but it will also create some sound to entice the fish. Combining a Gulp! artificial bait with a minnow will give contrasting color plus it will give you more scent and motion in the water! Putting a white strip of squid with a dark live minnow will also give you color contrast plus it will give you more scent. Scented squid strips will also give off the marinated shedder crab oil scent into the water.
“Why are dark colored lures good at night?”
Black and dark purple lures at night are sometimes really good for striper anglers. If the sky is dark, black gives us the best silhouette because black is the least transparent color in the water. Fish look up and can really see that black colored lure! If the moon is out and bright, a lighter color may work better.
Then of course, you have to factor in what the fish are feeding on and “match the hatch” so all the color theories can be thrown out the window! If the stripers are feeding on baby sea trout and sea trout color Tsunami lures are working, then, that’s the way to go! But, the rule of thumb in places like the Indian River Inlet have always been “light or white lures during the day and dark lures at night.”
Sometimes all the theories can be thrown out the window and the lure/bait you believe in most will work. A plain, live minnow on the hook may wind up being the best bait of the day and throw out all the fancy rigs. But if you go flounder fishing with Capt Monty on the “Morning Star”, you will see that the technique of jig, jig, twitch and twitch... combined with the fancy Mylar teaser tails and certain color beads (sight and contrast), and a certain bait (scent) will… well… you just got to see it to believe it….
Sue Foster is an outdoor writer and co-owner of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick, DE.