I am sure that most people have been on the water on days that any bait or color will work for catching great numbers of fish. I am primarily a bass fisherman, and my experiences chasing bass are what I base this blog on, but it is adjustable for any number of species of fish.
Like many fishing fanatics, I carry many different colors of plastics and hard baits in my boat. Last fall when I emptied my gear out of the boat I actually weighed all of my Plano boxes and found that I carried 287 pounds of artificial baits in my boat! I tried to trim that down significantly this year, but I think it is actually easier to lose body weight - there is no such thing as Slim Fast for a boat.
That being said, I really think the wake-up call revolves around those that use live bait. Why do most fish prefer life bait? There are 3 major reasons:
- Action - baits that wiggle and move are easy visual attractors, as well as sensory attractors to a fish's lateral line.
There will always be a number of fish that will give you a reaction bite - all that they need is the "Action" reason to hit a bait.
If we can mimic a natural action and color of a preferred forage we will catch more positive and neutral fish and significantly increase our chances on negative fish.
As fishermen, we have so many bait choices that it teeters on absurd. The key to bait selection is to match the hatch. If you see minnows, small bluegills, crawfish, etc., in the area you are fishing, you are unlocking pieces of that color puzzle. Better yet, if you catch a fish and they cough up a crawfish pincher, minnow, or other forage on the deck of your boat, that fish has just handed you the key to a great day on the water - pay very close attention to the color and size of that forage and match it as closely as possible.
I keep a fishing log of EVERY day I spend on the water, and here are the colors that turn up most often in my log.
- Green pumpkin - hard to beat it! Keep a bottle of red and chartreuse Spike-It handy and you have a color that is good for 50% of your applications.
- Bluegill/sunfish - enough said!
- Black/blue - so many things that swim and crawl in the water have dark variations
- Browns - very versatile - throw in a little purple (PBJ) or red and it is a great crawfish imitator for many lakes and rivers - did you ever see what happens to the road and sidewalks when it rains? Worms and nightcrawlers on the bank end up in the water just like they end up on your sidewalk.
- White - a great match for minnows and shad variations.
- Watermellon - another very natural must have color.
If you are a jig fisherman, make your subtle color adjustments with your trailer - you will be surprised how close of a match you can come up with when you play with the color of your jig trailer.
In clear water (over 3' of visibility) use more translucent colors to match forage - fish are going to get a better look at what you are throwing so make them work at seeing the bait! Long casts are also key.
In stained water 1' to 3' of visibility, green pumpkin or brown is a great base color to start with until the fish tell you different.
In muddy water, some chartreuse never hurts.
So my question to myself is "why do I carry 287 lbs of jusk with me when I really could get by with 10 lbs?" I guess I will need to work on that problem.