Despite the research, my readings on the science of bass vision rarely hold up out on the water. I’m almost certain that water clarity (and the tints it assumes from a number of factors) plus the actual longitude and latitude of the waterway (and thus the relative influence of sunlight) all contribute to how the fish perceive the color of your lure.

Still,  in order to make quick angling decisions, it has always helped to have a working “rule of thumb” to count on. Lately, though, I’ve found that the old, Dark waters fish dark colors; clear water fish light colors isn’t enough. I’ve got my opaque grapes, blacks and browns and I have my clear pinks, smoke and pale greens, but those don’t always generate the bites I think they should.

So, instead, I’ve been spending time looking at contrasts within the realm of the water clarity and the amount of sunlight. I’m trusting the scientists that physiologically there is a range of colors bass actually see. But I’m also relying on the fact that bass vision lets these predators also see virtually anything of indiscriminate color (non-specific shades, tones, hues or whatever).


And because of this, one of the easiest ways for bass to detect these “things” has got to be how they contrast with their environment (movement, of course, also playing a key role in foraging.) And my fishing experiences tell me that this not only happens, but sometimes I can take advantage. It just means I have to be alert enough to see what actually contrasts in a given water color range with a given amount of sunlight.

For example, take a medium algae bloom in early, but post sunrise light conditions. The water looks dark, and the normal choice is dark as well. But after quite a bit of experimenting (and yes, the water I fish most of the time is not clear) seems to indicate that a lighter green and not a darker green is the better choice at this time.

But once that sun gets higher and through the afternoon, fished side by side, the darker green (green pumpkin or more opaque versions of such a color) begins to produce better. The thing that makes the most sense, besides the fish maybe getting a more perfect view of a color in the brighter light, is that later the darker bait contrasts with the more illuminated water.

By the same token, I’ve often wondered why in the tannic waters (clear but with a brownish tint) of Oregon or Florida were not the realm of pink or watermelon, but rather black grape (Bobby Ditto’s Gatortail, for one). Somehow the fish must have been be picking up the contrast provided by that opaque favorite.

In any event, I’m not claiming this is the end-all cure for color choice. We’ve all had those days when something completely out of the ordinary has smacked them. But I do suggest that when the local favorites aren’t getting the job done, find a more contrasting shade–and see how the fish respond.

Let me know how you make those color choices.


One Response to “Bass color vision: a ‘contrasting’ view”

I make the choices the same way you do George. I wrote an article on this as well. Tight lines, Steve