Bass Lure Colors

It’s no secret that lures come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, but knowing which one to choose both in the store and on the water is an important factor in fishing.

While most professional fishermen won’t get too hung up on bass lure colors, there are some rules that should be followed and some things to be considered when selecting your lure.

How to Choose the Right Lure Color

Choosing the right lure is not a one-time decision. In each fishing excursion, you’ll face different factors that affect your choice of lure, even if you’re fishing in the exact same spot multiple times.

And if all the different color choices at a local store and online weren’t enough, you can also purchase dyes, paints, and stains to add your own colors to your lures.

Beyond that, you may wonder if the color matters as much as the shape of the lure, or perhaps the color matters less than the movement of the lure. All of these things matter, but we’ve broken down how to choose the right bass lure colors based on a variety of conditions and factors.

Water Clarity

The clarity of the water is perhaps the most important thing to consider when fishing for bass, lure colors and types aside. While water clarity does affect which lure you’ll select, clarity is also hugely important when it comes to locating areas where bass live.

Turbidity is the primary term associated with clarity, and it simply means how much sediment is in the water in a particular area.

High turbidity in an area brings about murky water that most commonly leads to fewer fish in the water. However, there are varying levels of water clarity that can be beneficial for a great catch.

If you happen to find an area that you know has bass for one reason or another, your next step is to prepare your gear. Selecting the right bass lure color may not make or break your fishing experience, but it can bring about a different result in your catch.

The general rule of thumb is that darker waters require darker colored lures, while clearer waters require lighter-colored lures.

However, if you’re fishing in dirty water, another popular choice may be a bright colored lure so that it stands out against the murky background.

Although these bright colors are not considered “natural” in terms of the bass habitat or their normal diet, they can help significantly in murky water or on a cloudy day, especially when the bass aren’t biting a lot to begin with.

Weather

Bass have pretty good vision, so they’re pretty trustworthy when it comes to seeing lures in the water, but it can’t hurt to help them out as much as possible. The way the weather impacts your bass lure colors is similar to the notions behind water clarity.

Namely, the brighter and sunnier the day, the lighter the color you should select for your lure. Likewise, the cloudier and darker the day, the darker the color you should choose.

Brighter days typically call for natural greens, browns, and translucent lures. You may also wish to use silver or gold lures, as they will reflect the sunlight well. Cloudier days will see fishermen bringing out darker blues, purples, blacks, and solid-color lures.

Perhaps the most important part of the weather when it comes to fishing is the temperature of the water. While bass are pretty tolerable of high and low temperatures, they may change locations or depth based on the weather conditions. This should be taken into account as you search for the optimal fishing location and select your lure.

While not exactly weather-related, it’s important to consider different bass lure colors if you’re fishing at night or during dusk or dawn. Similar to a cloudy day, the darkness of the sky will impact the visibility in the water and therefore impact your haul of bass.

Nighttime fishing, however, also takes into account the cloud cover when choosing lures.

The darker the night, the darker the lure. When there is significant cloud cover and little to no moonlight, anglers should use solid blacks, browns, and blues.

On nights with a lot of moonlight and no clouds, louder and brighter colors are ideal, such as green, orange, red, and chartreuse. On nights with partly cloudy skies, a combination of dark, solid colors and bright, bold colors are optimal, such as red and black, blue and black, or green and black.

Local Feed and Forage

If you ask a seasoned angler for advice on picking bass lure colors, he’ll likely tell you to “match the hatch.” This term was made popular by fly fishermen who, upon searching for the best bait, simply selected the flies that were local to the area they were fishing in.

If fish are eating local forage already, mimicking their diet is a great way to practically guarantee a good catch.

There are a few effective ways you can discover what the bass are eating so that you can better attract them with your lures.

First, you can toss the first few fish you catch into your livewell and hope they throw up what they ate last. If they do, you can match your lure to their diet and hopefully attract more bass.

A second option for discovering local feed and forage is to pay attention to the baitfish in the area. You may see clouds of fish swimming nearby or you can turn over some rocks near the shore to see what darts out.

Check out not only the color of the baitfish, but pay close attention to their shape and size as well. You may see brown baitfish and have several different brown lures, but if you notice that the baitfish are long and thin, you can select your lure accordingly.

Contrast

Contrast is important when it comes to selecting bass lure colors, but not in the way you may think. Bass need to see the lure—that is for certain. But if the contrast is too significant, they can recognize that the lure is unnatural and may be put off by it rather than tempted by it.

This is the main reason for the recommendations of light-colored lures on brighter days and in clearer water and darker colored lures on darker days and in cloudier water.

Contrast can also play a role in bass lure colors when you have more than one color on a single lure. In this case, the contrast is less about the lure versus the water and more about the darker color on the lure versus the lighter or brighter color on the lure.

Darker fishing environments, whether from weather, time of day, or water clarity, call for more contrast to help the fish see the lure better.

Scientists have actually found that fish eyes have more rods than cones, meaning their eyes are more sensitive to contrast and light than color.

Additionally, cones need light to work, so in dimmer environments or cloudier water, fish may not be able to see color well, but they can still see contrast, making it all the more important.

Fishing Depth

Because of the fact that bass cannot see color well in dim lighting, fishing depth plays a huge role in selecting the right bass lure colors, particularly if you tend to fish at great depths.

As you travel deeper underwater, the light is lessened and visibility is significantly impacted. Certain colors are more visible than others with less light, but some colors that are great for shallow waters will be practically invisible at a greater depth.

Red has the longest wavelength, meaning that it will fade out in darkness the fastest. Next is orange, then yellow, then green, and finally blue.

Generally speaking, red lures shouldn’t be used beyond 20 feet, orange shouldn’t be used beyond 35 feet, yellow shouldn’t be used beyond 60 feet, green shouldn’t be used beyond 70 feet, and blue shouldn’t be used beyond 90 feet.

Black lures are common choices for fishing at the greatest depths.

This color guideline for fishing depth is not set in stone, as water clarity, weather, and other factors can play a role in lure visibility at varying depths. However, this is an overview from which to start and you may need to take into account other considerations based on your location, the local forage, and more.

Natural Colors vs. Bright Flashy Colors

So far, we’ve talked primarily about natural colored lures, like brown, green, and black. But even a fisherman brand new to the sport knows that bait and tackle shops, as well as the internet, are full of fluorescent lures in a huge variety of bright and flashy colors.

One of the biggest benefits of bright-colored lures is your ability to see it as the angler. You can see if a bass has the entire thing in its mouth or if it’s in the right location with respect to the bass you’re hoping to catch.

Bass lure colors that are fluorescent and bold in nature are commonly thought of as ideal only in spring and fall in shallow waters. However, they serve a purpose in far more times and places than that.

Most experienced anglers will have four hard baits that are their most common go-tos. These include baits that mimic the three most popular bait in the country, the crawfish, the shad, and the bluegill.

The fourth must-have hard bait is a bright and gaudy colored lure, such as chartreuse or neon orange. These brightly-colored baits can be a game-changer in particularly muddy waters or in faster moving river systems.

When it comes to plastic lures, it’s also good to have a variety of choices. Generally speaking, you’ll need some dark and light natural colored lures for most occasions.

It’s also wise to keep a few bright lures in your tackle box though, as there will definitely come a time when you need them. Perhaps the fish simply aren’t biting or the weather or water clarity changed or wasn’t what you expected.

Those are great times to try something new and see what happens.

Anglers have long-used bright and flashy lures and they are a common first choice among new fishermen due to their appeal. Although sometimes it doesn’t make sense as to how or why they work so well, the fact of the matter is that they do work, and that’s reason enough to have a few in your tackle box.

Does Lure Type Matter?

While we’ve been talking about bass lure colors throughout this piece, you may still be left wondering what type of lure you need.

You feel like you’ve got some good information about the colors you’ll need for your particular excursions, but what type of lure should you purchase? Or does it even matter the type of lure you use?

Each lure type is designed with a specific purpose in mind, typically to mimic a type of bait or attract a particular type of fish.

The primary types we’ve discussed here are crankbaits, swimbaits, and plastic baits, but the rules for bass lure colors can apply to all types of baits you may use. It’s important to know the difference between the types of lures and if you need to select a specific type based on your needs.

In addition, you may select a particular type of lure and then find that within that category of lure, you have more decisions to make than just bass lure colors.

For example, plastic baits come in a variety of sizes and can be made to look like and mimic the movements of lizards, worms, frogs, minnows, and more.

Knowing what the bass in your fishing area will be tempted by will help you make the best selection of lure types.

You should also pay attention to fishing depth when selecting the type of lure, and take notice of the weight of the lure if you expect to be fishing in windy conditions or with moving water.

As a general rule, yes—lure type does matter. You should explore the options and differences in the different types of lures, as well as consider the skill level needed for each and the color options available in the varying styles before making your decisions.

Ask the Locals

Choosing a bass lure color is going to depend on a lot of things, as you’ve learned. While it does often come down to the specific conditions in which you’re fishing, you may also learn a lot from conversing with other fishermen in the area.

Whether you’re a local or not, asking those who are already out on the water and who seem to know what they’re doing can benefit you a great deal.

This may mean you visit a local tackle shop on your way out to fish, or it may mean striking up a conversation with someone while you’re fishing. Either way, getting advice from someone experienced in fishing those particular waters can be invaluable.

If you don’t seem to have any luck talking with an actual person, you may wish to search the area you’ll be fishing in before you head out to learn some tricks of the trade for those waters.

You can also check out the local tackle shop and look closely at their inventory. If there are one or two bass lure colors that seem to be popular, they are likely the most effective in that area.

Testing

Finally, when it comes to choosing the best bass lure colors, it’s all about going out there, trying out new things, and getting first-hand experience.

Every fisherman has his own ideas and thoughts about the best bass lure colors and the best types of lures and so on. Chances are, the more you fish, the more opinions you’ll have about gear and tackle too.

If you’re really looking to learn a lot and make the most of your time out on the water, take notes and keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Be sure to record the weather conditions, the water clarity, the depth, the lure type, and the colors you used.

You can compare and contrast your notes after a few trips and see if you can come up with a pattern.

Don’t be afraid to try something new or experiment a little, especially if you’re not seeing great results by “following the rules.”

Fishermen learn new things every day about the waters they fish in, the catches they get, and the tackle they use, so be sure to try new things and keep track of what works.