Does lure color matter underwater?


rogerdodger

Well-known member
Moderator
good info on the relationship between lure color and light/water conditions...cheers, roger

https://www.fix.com/blog/view-from-b...es-underwater/

"Most keen anglers have a favorite lure or fly color, and swear that their choice will out-perform all other offerings. But just how important is color when it comes to lure and fly selection? Well, according to science, not very important at all!

Water progressively absorbs or blocks light of different wavelengths, meaning that colors effectively “vanish” one after another as “white” sunlight travels through the water column. The overall intensity or brightness of visible light also diminishes rapidly underwater."
 
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hobster

Well-known member
Hey, whats up Roger. There is a book "What fish see" which was written by an optometrist who apparently went from catching 3 steelhead a year to 300. It deals with the UV lighting underwater. I am gouing to purchase it soon and have a look (no pun intended). Anyone here read it? I imagine colors are not nearly as important as people think though. We, in general, tend to overthink steelhead fishing i believe.
 

hobster

Well-known member
I just realized this isn't necessarily about steelhead fishing, but to me fishing is generally steelhead fishing :thumb:I think with lures it is a quick reaction from the fish, and color isn't so important. Hope you had a blast in AZ by the way!
 

pinstriper

Active member
My takeaway was that until you get past 30' deep, color still matters. After that, it diminishes. I don't do a lot of fishing deeper than that - actually I don't think I do ANY, but maybe dropping jigs for bottom fish...

Also, it leaves a question - does this mean the colored lures become "invisible", or just fade to a shadow ? Does this explain the rule of thumb to fish bright colors in clear water, dark/black in cloudy water ?

Movement, vibration and scent still play a big role and probably in greater importance the less the visibility.
 

BaldTexan

Active member
I'm not too sure about the accuracy of the color chart and depths. The chart shows red fading out at 20' or so (I assume it should appear black or grey below this depth). I have seen underwater video of red lures or bait at greater than 20' depths and they still appeared red. I have been meaning to get the book "What Fish See" to understand color selection better but I tend to choose lure type and color based on past success for given conditions.
 

bubs

Active member
Sorry but I have to share some thoughts here:

1) As a bank fisherman, I doubt I've ever run a lure deeper than 20 feet. Plus, while a fish might not see a color well at 20-30 ft away, I'm sure it can when it comes to investigate and make that final decision whether to strike or not.

2) 25 years of fishing has taught me that lure darkness/contrast can be very important (which this article randomly verifies in a graphic with no explanation in the text....), and so can color - but not quite as much. But this article comes nowhere near to supporting its claim that color is "not very important at all"....

3) If you ask six knowledgable fisherman (who have all fished the same areas for the same species) good & specific questions about what colors work in certain circumstances, I highly doubt you'd get very different answers. Not that weird anecdotes like this have any bearing on the "science" the article touts.

4) One concession I make to the "color doesn't matter" people is that I think certain groups of colors are not always actually that different from each other (at least to fish), especially when you think about them in terms of darkness/lightness...yellow vs. chartreuse vs. lime green powerbait, might not make the biggest difference. But does anyone use black or dark blue powerbait? Maybe, but you see the point ya?

5) And then what about the different metallic hues? Brass, silver, gold, copper etc...Not sure how the article's findings relate to this, but seems like it could be a big factor for us gear fishers. Certainly has been for me in some situations.

6) It's easy to falsely assign certain causes to certain effects, especially when you're a proud, helplessly obsessed fisherman. For example, some fish strike lures at night when seeing color is absolutely not possible..so why did it strike? When that same fish strikes the same lure during the day, how can you claim that color had anything to do with it? One can never say for sure exactly why a fish did or did not strike, which is why fishing is a lifetime of fun, and also why this discussion will never be over.....
 

Camo

Member
Hey, whats up Roger. There is a book "What fish see" which was written by an optometrist who apparently went from catching 3 steelhead a year to 300. It deals with the UV lighting underwater. I am gouing to purchase it soon and have a look (no pun intended). Anyone here read it? I imagine colors are not nearly as important as people think though. We, in general, tend to overthink steelhead fishing i believe.
I didn't...yet.
Also try ''Through the Fishes Eye'' by Mark Sosin
Fantastic book! It changed the way I fish! But it's not only vision, it's also the lateral line. The book goes deep. (pun intended) I loaned my copy out years ago. Taught me a lesson not to lend out books anymore.
 
Hobster, yeah, I have that book. Good info, I recommend it.

Red lures that look red at depth are florescent. Meaning they modify the spectrum of light that hits them. So (like the old black light posters) the wavelength of light that is reflected is different than the wavelength of light that hits them. Turbidity has a significant influence on which wavelengths are propagated, but red is not propagated at depth.

I am not one to obsess over color, especially in reaction type baits. I like them to look vaguely like whatever the fish are eating. I also like a dab of chartreuse on the bait somewhere. Chartreuse is a MAXIMUM contrast color, so a little dab will do ya. Slow moving baits, I get into color a little more. Fish sit there and look at the bait. Still, if I had to pick one color, I would not hesitate to say it would be black.
 

Kelkay

Member
Color matters a lot in more shallow water. I find in different locations, certain colors work better than others!
 

Markk

Active member
good info on the relationship between lure color and light/water conditions...cheers, roger

https://www.fix.com/blog/view-from-b...es-underwater/

"Most keen anglers have a favorite lure or fly color, and swear that their choice will out-perform all other offerings. But just how important is color when it comes to lure and fly selection? Well, according to science, not very important at all!

Water progressively absorbs or blocks light of different wavelengths, meaning that colors effectively “vanish” one after another as “white” sunlight travels through the water column. The overall intensity or brightness of visible light also diminishes rapidly underwater."
I agree. Good to see you back! I have always enjoyed your posts and insight.
 
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hobster

Well-known member
This is quite an interesting topic. Jed Davis goes into this a little in his spinner book ( which is now out of print and $50-100 on Amazon!). I think Bubs made a great point, i'm a proud bank maggot as well and i never fish lures more than approx. 10 ft. deep. Recently i tied on a spinner that i found at the river and it was all orange, blade and body. I'd never purchase a spinner with a colored blade myself, but it was the last #4 i had. Water was clear and about 3 ft. deep, second cast a steelie slammed it. I really had no confidence in it but it worked. I'll have to play with colors a bit more in the future.
Lotsa good advice here, choose lure and color based on past success, vibration is very important, and presentation, presentation, presentation.
Low and slow baby!
Or should i say " Slow and low, that is the tempo" - Beastie Boys
 

pinstriper

Active member
Hobster, yeah, I have that book. Good info, I recommend it.

Red lures that look red at depth are florescent. Meaning they modify the spectrum of light that hits them. So (like the old black light posters) the wavelength of light that is reflected is different than the wavelength of light that hits them. Turbidity has a significant influence on which wavelengths are propagated, but red is not propagated at depth.
Light doesn't actually work that way.

The wavelength of light reflected is a SUBSET, not a MODIFICATION of the wavelength coming in.

And by "reflected" I mean "that which is not absorbed by the reflecting surface". We see objects based on the wavelengths they don't absorb.

Propagation implies (actually, it means) that more copies of the original are made and emitted. That also ain't true.

And then, of course, a single color cannot be "high contrast" by itself. Contrast requires more than one color, by definition. Black works so well because it absorbs every wavelength, so whatever light is getting through comes through as black. Actually the light that gets through provides the background against which the black object contrasts. Chartreuse does contrast nicely with lots of stuff in the background where fish live, though.

Turbidity can have two effects: absorption and diffusion. Diffusion meaning the light is deflected off path. Absorption affects the wavelength of what is reflected, diffusion affects the volume of light that comes off in a particular direction. Light coming in is absorbed by what it hits, and what is not absorbed is reflected off in a different direction. Shorter wavelengths survive this better (as shown in the chart where short wavelength blues go farther than long wavelength reds), I am not sure why but I think this is related to energy which is higher for shorter wavelengths/higher frequencies but that's where it gets fuzzy for me. High school was a long time ago.

So you are correct in the effects, just not the mechanism. And you are 100% right in that contrast adds definition to perceived shape and also motion, which are pretty important aspects of presentation.
 

rogerdodger

Well-known member
Moderator
Propagation implies (actually, it means) that more copies of the original are made and emitted.
I think Shaun used the word correctly, 'propagation' does not require an increase in what is being propagated, it can mean just the transmission or spreading of something...here is an example of using the word in this way:

"Propagation of light refers to the manner in which electromagnetic waves transfer energy from one point to another."

or "the spreading or transmission of something <propagation of a nerve impulse>"

cheers, roger
 

pinstriper

Active member
I think Shaun used the word correctly, 'propagation' does not require an increase in what is being propagated, it can mean just the transmission or spreading of something...here is an example of using the word in this way:

"Propagation of light refers to the manner in which electromagnetic waves transfer energy from one point to another."

or "the spreading or transmission of something <propagation of a nerve impulse>"

cheers, roger
Huh. I was thinking in terms of plant propagation and other processes.

I sit corrected.
 
...by "reflected" I mean "that which is not absorbed by the reflecting surface". We see objects based on the wavelengths they don't absorb.
Agreed.

Propagation implies (actually, it means) that more copies of the original are made and emitted. That also ain't true.
Not exactly. Waves are said to "propagate" in media. I am more than a little fuzzy on how the term is applied to light, which functions as a particle and a wave. For example, light is perfectly happy to pass unobstructed through a vacuum, something sound obviously may not do. But I think that by virtue of the fact that light behaves as a wave, the term "propagate" is applicable. I might be wrong, and if so, would like to be made aware of my mistake.

...of course, a single color cannot be "high contrast" by itself. Contrast requires more than one color, by definition.
Good point. But I was more or less assuming that any time you introduce a lure to the natural environment, there would be items in the immediate area to provide that contrast. Also, a touch of chartreuse on a bait will contrast strongly with the colors on the rest of the bait. I am not sure how useful it is to the discussion, but an interesting experiment to try for yourself is to take a black and white photo of a piece of white paper next to a piece of chartreuse paper. In the photo, the chartreuse looks "whiter" than the white paper.

...Turbidity can have two effects: absorption and diffusion...
Good point.

...Light coming in is absorbed by what it hits, and what is not absorbed is reflected off in a different direction. Shorter wavelengths survive this better (as shown in the chart where short wavelength blues go farther than long wavelength reds), I am not sure why but I think this is related to energy which is higher for shorter wavelengths/higher frequencies...
Yes, shorter wavelengths of light are more energetic. This continues out of the visible spectrum into UV, x-rays, and gamma rays, none of which matter a lot to plastic worms. :lol:

SS
 

wils

Active member
[h=2]"Does lure color matter underwater?"[/h]
yes.
Dark sky = dark colors
Light sky = light colors

disclaimer: this is NOT scientifically provable. just a "rule of thumb"
 

igot_it

Member
Not an expert buuuut....flourescent materials actually emit light at given frequencies in response to being excited by a different frequency of light. The process is similar to luminescence. Uv near the visible spectrum penetrates deepest into water due to its low addition rate. So in theory it's possible for a red flourescent lure to emit red light at depth. What this means to fish I have no idea. Color certainly does matter to shallower lures and probably has more to do with matching natural forage items. Soft plastics for instance I've fished identical lures but had bass key in to one color and turn thier noses up at every other.
 

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