Picking a lure color for bass fishing is never an exact science, but there are some basic rules of thumb that hold true most of the year. Spring seems to have its own rules though, possibly because crawfish are changing colors, bass key on different prey species, or because bass become more territorial with spawning. Regardless of the reason, following are some guidelines I’ve developed over the years—a system that is more complex than the “throw something red” spring advice you’ll get at most tackle shops.
In clear to stained water on a sunny day, I’ve found gold to be my best color. Not a whole lot of baits come in gold, but some old standbys like Lucky Craft lipless cranks, square bills, and Pointers are spring producers that are available in this faux 24 karat finish. The clearer the water, the better gold works.
In similar water but on a cloudy and/or rainy day, I prefer red or sexy shad colored hard baits. Especially in areas with a lot of grass, bright fire engine red baits seem to do best, possibly because this color is the polar opposite of the greenery, making it highly visible. Others postulate that crawfish often have a reddish hue this time of year and bass are keying on them. In any case, this is the optimum scenario I’ve found for red lures.
Switching to muddy water (approximately 1’ of visibility or less), baits with a lot of bright orange excel on sunny days. Bright chartreuse color schemes are a good option as well.
Muddy water on a cloudy or rainy day is my least favorite option and I haven’t found a magical color combo for it. Normally, I’ll try chartreuse sexy shad as my first option here.
The rules above are what I typically use for hard baits, such as crankbaits, lipless cranks, and jerkbaits. For soft plastics and jigs, black and blue is hard to beat, especially early in the season. As it gets closer to the spawn, I prefer soft plastics in watermelon shades for clear water and green pumpkin where it is more stained. If the sun comes out, either watermelon or green pumpkin with red flakes or purple flake mixed in are top options. Along the same lines, after bass have seen 1000 black and blue jigs, changing up to PB&J or some shade of green is often a good idea.
As a general rule, I fish clearer sections of the lake on windy days and/or dark days (overcast or rainy). Fish don’t get as good of a look at your bait on these days and roam more, so covering water is normally the key. If I can find any grass, I launch super long casts with lipless cranks on my 8’ Dobyns 804CB crankbait rod, hitting points and spawning flats. For the same reason everyone has gone to 8’ deep cranking rods, an 8’ trap rod is just as helpful and the rod is so well balanced, it is actually easier to rip baits free from grass with it all day than with a 7’ rod.
When the wind stops and you get a bright bluebird day in the spring, the clear water bite gets really tough and I head for the mud. The bright light and low water visibility typically pins big bass tight to cover, so I go hog hunting with my Dobyns flipping stick and Lake Fork Trophy Lures jig & craw. Pitch it tight to stumps on creeks running through the flats or to any shallow staging cover you can find. You might not get a lot of bites on a tough day like this, but they should be the right ones. Later in the day, the sun will warm up the dark water quickly and square bills, bladed jigs and spinnerbaits catch fish that suspend near the surface next to stumps, docks poles and other vertical cover.
I use these guidelines only as a starting point. Exceptions are common, so if the fish aren’t biting, keep experimenting until you find what works. For more fish catching tips, check out my website www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com, or follow me at www.facebook.com/tomredingtonfishing and www.twitter.com/Tom_Redington .
Good Fishing Tom Redington
Tom Redington is a FLW Tour pro, host of TV’s “Big Bass Battle” & a bass guide on Lake Fork. To make the most of your experience in the outdoors, he recommends the Boy Scouts of America, Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, Lowrance, & Power Poles.