The Best Fishing Lure Colors

Most of the time, lure color is one of the least important aspects of a lure.  The size, shape and the action of a lure are the most important features of a lure that will trigger a fish to chase it down. However, in certain situations lure color can be very important. What makes lure color important is it’s ability to get that lure noticed. Lure patterns consisting of contrasting colors can also be useful for the same reason of attracting attention.

Top 3 Reasons Why Lure Color Matters:

  1. Lure color helps a lure stand out and be noticed.
  2. Lure color helps emphasize the size, shape and pattern of the lure.
  3. Lure color can match the fish that are being chased and eaten
Striped bass caught on a white topwater lure

28 inch striped bass I caught on a white pencil popper lure.

Lures Colors that Attract Fish

A fishing lure will not work if it cannot attract the attention of fish. If a lure blends in or becomes invisible it simply won’t work. But here’s the important thing to understand about color: Color helps emphasize the fish attracting qualities of the size, shape and action of the lure. It’s not the color itself that catches the fish. It’s the size, shape and the action. All the color does is attract attention to the fishing lure so that the fish can observe the size, the shape and the action of the fishing lure.

Metallic Colored Fishing Lures

Lures with a metallic finish help catch fish because they resemble the flash of a prey fish. Metallic lures can also represent a school of smaller fish. What’s great about flashing metallic lures is that they call out to fish from a distance. Fish can see flashing lures from far away. Metallic lures such as spoons, inline spinners and metallic finish hardbaits work best during sunny weather conditions. They lose effectiveness during cloudy, low light and low water visibility conditions.

Panther Martin inline spinner lure with a gold plated finish.

Panther Martin inline spinner lure, with genuine gold plate finish. Note how brightly it reflects.

How to Choose Metallic Lures

When choosing metallic lures, be aware that most chrome colored lures are overlaid with nickel. While nickel looks shiny, it actually has a fairly low reflectivity. If you take a photo of a nickel colored lure you’ll see a dull reflection with a black tint to it. Compare nickel to a genuine silver plated lure and you’ll see that the silver lure reflects more light and that it actually has a white tint or glare to it.

This isn’t to say that silver plated lures are better than nickel plated lures. Silver will attract more fish from a distance. But if that silver lure is too big it might actually scare some fish away. Nickel plated lures (like chrome Kastmasters) will call in fish from a shorter distance but they are less likely to scare away the fish. The low intensity flash of nickel plated spoons and inline spinners is what makes them so effective.

A nickel plated finish is often a better choice than silver plated lures during periods of bright sunlight, when the water is shallow and crystal clear. The reason is because fish are more easily spooked when the water is shallow and clear. Additionally fish don’t like bright sun, which makes them extra fearful. Because a nickel or chrome plated spoon is less bright, the fish will tend to behave more aggressive toward it.

Gold is a great color because it has the high reflectivity similar to silver but in a warmer tone. This means it can flash and call in fish from long distances. But because it’s a warmer tone, in my experience, it tends to be less scary to fish. Gold is a good compromise color for a fishing spoon, a trolling dodger and for inline spinners.

When the water conditions are shallow and clear, you may wish to tone down the flash and use a fishing lure with a brass, copper or nickel finish. One of my favorite finishes is the Half and Half, which is a lure that is half silver and half gold. The tones provide a contrasting flash that is lower key than pure silver but a little brighter than gold itself. It’s a great combination for a fishing spoon or even for a trolling dodger.

Most Reflective Metallic Colors for Lures

  1. Silver
  2. Gold
  3. Half/half (half silver/gold)
  4. Nickel
  5. Brass
  6. Copper
Rainbow trout caught on a fluorescent Gulp brand bait.

A beautiful rainbow trout fooled by a fluorescent Gulp brand fishing bait.

Fluorescent Fishing Lures

Fluorescent colors work best during overcast conditions, and periods of low light or low water visibility (when the water is less than crystal clear). Periods of rough water are also ideal for using bright fluourescent colors.

Fluorescent colors help the lure pop out from it’s surroundings, allowing the fish to better observe it’s size, shape and action. It’s the size, shape and action of the lure that closes the deal. But oftentimes it’s the color that gets the deal going in the first place.

Lures painted in colors that fluouresce work fantastic when dropped in a school of fish that are being chased by bigger fish. This is called a “blitz” when fish are feeding on a school of smaller fish. Use a fluourescent color during a fishing blitz to catch striped bass, bluefish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, trout, salmon, lake trout, musky, walleye etc. Under blitz conditions, fluoursecent colors work great, whether you’re fishing in saltwater or freshwater.

Brown trout caught with a gold colored Kastmaster and a fluorescent trout worm, which are both hanging out of the brown trout's mouth.

Brown trout caught with a combination of a gold colored Kastmaster and a fluorescent trout worm that was threaded to the hook. The exaggerated wiggle of the lures are a deadly combination for catching brown trout!

Best Times to Fish with Fluorescent Colors

  1. Overcast and cloudy daytime conditions
  2. Periods of low water visibility
  3. Clear night time conditions, whether the moon is out or not
  4. When casting to a pod of baitfish

Top 8 Fishing Lure Colors

  1. White
  2. Fluorescent colors
  3. Yellow
  4. Pink
  5. Black
  6. Red/White
  7. Metallic
  8. Transparent tinted fishing lures

4 Must-Have Lure Colors

If you could only choose four lures to take with  you, these four colors will serve you perfectly well under all fishing conditions, in any weather, day or night. Yes, you can get along with only four colors for lures.  White is the most visible and reflective color. It works under any light condition including darkness.

Black works similarly well under any light condition, too. Fluorescent is more specialized in that it works best during low light, cloudy and low water clarity conditions.  Metallic colors work best during conditions when fluorescent colors don’t work as well, which is bright sunny days and with clear water conditions.  Metallic colors can also work well at night under a full moon or cloudless night

  1. White
  2. Black
  3. Fluorescent
  4. Metallic
Fluorescent colored PowerBait Mice Tail fishing bait.

PowerBait Mice Tail fishing bait catch a large variety of fish species. Here I demonstrate how to use a Kalin’s hook threading tool to insert a hook into the bait.

I hit a local lake recently and noticed a whole lot of black things wriggling in the water. They were pollywogs, tadpoles that had just hatched. Their shape resembles a big  head with a long tail. I didn’t have any lures in that shape that were black. But I did have a pack of floating mice tails. They had the same general shape and when I swam them through the water the lures “tail” undulated like a pollywog. The head was white and the body was bright pink. The color didn’t matter. The size, shape and action was what mattered because I quickly caught trout after trout with nearly every cast!

If you don’t want to spend a fortune buying countless color combinations, you can stick with four colors and still be able to fish effectively. There are literally countless color patterns and color combinations for fishing lures. But top anglers know that the only colors you really need are white, black, yellow and your choice of a fluourescent color. With those four basic colors you will be prepared to catch fish at any time of day or night, regardless of the weather conditions.

Lure color is one of the least important characteristics of a lure. What matters most is the size of the lure, the shape that matches what a fish eats and it’s action. What colors do is call attention to the lure and help the fish see the size, shape and action of a lure. Even when fish are keyed into eating a specific kind of food, as long as your lure matches the size, shape and action, the color still does not have to match the food. I know this as a fact as I have caught countless fish with lures that did not match what the fish were in a frenzy eating.

Translucent Rapala Husky Jerk lures in pink, perch, and glass minnow colors.

Translucent Rapala Husky Jerk lures in glass pink, glass perch and glass minnow colors. Their see-through quality makes them glow when sunlight passes through them.

Why You Need Color Variety

When fish are in an active feeding condition, you can throw the same lure over and over and catch fish with nearly ever cast. However, fish are known to become immune to certain colors after they’ve been fooled by them, sometimes even once. There have been many times when a lure stopped working after catching just one fish with it. One solution is to move on to another spot, but if you know there are still fish to be caught, another solution is to simply change to a different color.

If you know what the weather is going to be for the day, you can probably get away with carrying one color. But I like to carry at least to color combinations. I find that a dark colored lure and a light colored lure will usually do just fine.

What Lure Colors do Trout Like?

In general, lure color doesn’t matter that much for catching trout. I have caught countless trout on white lures like floating trout bait or floating trout worms. But I’ve also caught countless trout with lures in a clear transluscent pink. I have friends who swear by blue/chrome Kastmasters and would never leave home without them. Talk to ten trout anglers and you’ll get a different response as to what the best color is. What this means is that there may not be a best color for trout. But…

Sometimes it seems that a certain lure tends to catch more fish. This could simply be because more fishermen (and fisherwomen) are using the lure. But it could also be that in a specific lake or region, the combination of the swimming action and that particular color tends to easier to see at that particular lake.

For example, the Owner Mira Shad was and continues to be a hot lure in Northern California. But if you visit a specific lake in that area and ask what the hot lure is they’ll tell you a Rapala floating firetiger lure.

Owner Cultiva Mira Shad in "flame" color.

Owner Cultiva Mira Shad in “flame” color. This lure catches everything from large mouth bass to every species of trout. A versatile fishing lure!

My personal best trout of 24 inches was caught on a brown/orange swirl grub trolled behind a half and half dodger. I have no doubt that the dodger alerted the trout to my presence and when the grub passed by, the dark colors of the lure made it easy to see the frantic swimming action of the lure.

I have my favorite colors for trout. But those are colors that I tend to feel confidence in. I don’t recommend them as the best. And I’m constantly trying out new colors (like black lures) Try out some lure colors and note what colors work best for you at a specific place and under what conditions those lures worked. Write it down and keep notes.

But ultimately, you’re probably going to find that the basic colors I outlined above are going to work for most anglers, fishing for most kinds of fish, most of the time. That said, here are my favorites (in case you’re interested!):

Favorite Trout Lure Colors

  1. White
  2. Pink/bubblegum
  3. Orange
  4. Firetiger
  5. Transluscent (see through) pink
  6. Transluscent orange

Bright Colors Versus Earthy Tones

Sometimes a color can frighten away the fish. This is especially true in low water conditions, bright days and in crystal clear water. Lures that are too bright will frighten the fish. Now, I admit that this is going to sound a bit tweaky and even nerdy, but I believe that in certain tough fishing situations when the fish won’t bite, a matte colored lure or a dull earth tone lure will catch more fish than a glossy lure.

Many fly anglers will not wear flashy metallic watches when fishing small streams because the flash scares away trout. In fact, some trout fishermen won’t buy a rod if the rod is finished in loud or shiny colors. How much more do you think a flashy lure will scare trout during bright sunny days with crystal clear water?

Some may say that all lures look glossy and shiny underwater. But that’s not really truel. Glossy lures look wet but matte and dull colored lures reflect less light. I sandpaper the paint off some of my lures and repaint them in duller matte finishes for those tough summer days when nothing is biting.

Black colored fishing lure.

Black colored fishing lures catch fish day or night. They catch fish under almost any water condition.

Black Colored Lures

Scientifically, black is not really a color. It is actually the absence of color. This is a fact. That’s why a black hole looks black. Not because it is radiating the color black but because it is not radiating any color at all.  Black is a highly popular lure color for striped bass anglers. Freshwater anglers might be surprised to know that black is a great lure color for catching fish in freshwater, too.

Professional largemouth bass anglers know how powerful a black lure is when fishing during bright conditions. If you REALLY want to gain an advantage on other anglers on a bright sunny day, try fishing a black colored lure. The reason they work so well is because fish can see the size, shape and action of the lure better.

When to Use Black Lures

Black lures work great at night. Saltwater anglers have for decades caught countless striped bass and bluefish at night fishing with black lures. It’s a proven fact that black lures are highly effective at night.

But black is also great on sunny days. Elite largemouth bass anglers like to fish black colored lures on sunny days. When a fish looks up on a bright day they’re likely not going to see the fancy colors. They’re going to see a dark silhouette. Black is the most effective color for communicating that silhouette.

White Colored Lures

White can easily be considered the top choice color. If you are limited to one color, white is the color that will give you success regardless of weather, water conditions or time of day. White is the most reflective color. White resembles the belly of many baitfish. Saltwater anglers count white as one of the leading colors (if not the most important) to have in your lure collection.

Best Fishing Lure Colors to Buy

You don’t have to be unsure any longer when you go to buy a fishing lure. There is no mystery to choosing the best lure color for catching trout, bass, musky or any other fish, either saltwater or freshwater. The same considerations apply to all of them. If you enjoyed this article please discuss it on your favorite fishing forum (please do not copy this article, just link to it), and share it on Facebook!

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