When it comes something as plain as day, you will find a huge difference of opinion on whether black is actually a color. Physicists will say one thing, artists another. 

But in bass fishing day or night–we all know the color. We know it, but unless we fish a lot at night, or do the Mexico thing with big Power Worms, black plastic is no longer the staple it once was.

Something changed. Yet, I don’t think it was the distance between the earth and sun, that big light bulb in the sky. And I don’t think black bass suddenly endured some kind of physiological makeover, where they couldn’t respond to the shadowy hue.

No, it wasn’t the fish. It was us. Like so many things in our world, fashions changed and so did our lure choices. You know how it goes.  We found out that the guys are getting them on green pumpkin or Lake Perris Fire, or some number Mutilator–and we change. Cuz, if it’s not cool, we don’t hang.

And yet, while science likes to debate bass vision, we know that a specific color doesn’t have to be the only trigger. Motion, size and silhouette or shape are also visual elements, and the fish may respond to any.

Yet, when it comes to black, I can’t get around the late Dr. Loren Hill’s findings about how well bass could identify this less than cool color. In very clear water and bright light, black was second only to red in the fish’s ability to pick it out. In stained water, in the absence of any light, black was second only to white in the bass’ ability to make the right ID. And in muddy water, and bright midday light, black was the most accurately identified in the Hill’s vision studies.

He never said they liked black better. He just tested bass over and over for a period of seven years and let them tell him what they recognized.

Now, if you’ve got 15 or 20 years or more under your bass fishing belt, how do those laboratory findings match up to your on-the-water observations? For me, in both the clear and dirty water situations I’ve seen those results repeated for years.

And even more recently, I’ve found that nothing seems to have changed. For one thing, I’m older and not so jumpy about changing colors. But also, logic tells me that even if the fish have certain environmental expectations–as in a certain forage–the illusion of shadows or silhouettes doesn’t change–as long as there is some light source. 

Of course, I would prefer dead-on, Lucky Craft match-the-hatch-or-die perfection in my presentations. I would like to be certain I have nailed that shade of  juvenile, prickly sculpin doing the backstroke. But sometimes, I’m just not sure so I have to settle for silhouette black.

And I catch ’em–even if it’s not cool.


4 Responses to “The Shadow knows: black is back”

by Dave Schreck

lately for fun Ive been pouring up a bunch of “Old School” worm colors. Plain Raspberry which works well at DVL to Scuppernong and Color plus which have been good producers at Silverwood. Its all about confidence and whats working for you.

I was digging around in my storage shed last weekend and found two, 100 count bags of power finese worms, the bags still sealed. However the label was faded. I think the worm color must have bled together because these are now brown with red flake and I don’t believe they made such a color way back when. I “think” they used to be camo color since that was my favorite power worm back in the day. Anyway, the worms are now brown red flake and they look really good. I’m going to try them at Cachuma next month! LOL

by George Kramer

And I think your confidence increases when the “situation” seems to call for something of a certain translucence or opaqueness or features an element (such as red flake) with a good track record in certain water clarities. And any of these kinds of “forgotten” colors probably have an edge at times since the fish aren’t seeing them every day….


Feel free to cite L. Hill’s study, as long as it is only about the color to which his trained bass responded. When he interpreted the results (and came up with his Color-C-Lector and supposed preferences at various depths) he left his scientific training and objectivity in the waste basket (IMHO) and moved into industrial/business sales mode.

If you read his entire report, which was never scientifically reviewed and published) you may come to the same conclusion I did: contrast is everything. The bass were trained to start looking as soon as the cue occurred to avoid punishment. The easiest color-disk to find was found first. Anything that merged with its background was found last. The color of the test tub/vat was as important as the color or murkiness of the water or test disc. In murky water the bass find it harder to find colored things.

Of interest were Hill’s tests with colored crayfish. The bass ate the closest and most visible food first. If there was no question that the item was food, the most outlandish flourescent craws were easiest to find and eat.

My conclusions based only on Hill’s data are: forget the C-lector, use white on dark days against dark backgrounds, use black against light backgrounds, and compromise by always throwing Firetiger, it always matches one of the C-Lectors top choices and usually has high visibilty in
most water clarity conditions.

Realism and contrast basically determine which lures are seen and eaten by bass, provided they are presented realistically and close enough to an active or semi-active bass’ strike window.

Nearer to your point, I’ve long used black cranks at dawn, dusk, and once for night fishing. Although a black belly chartreuse back sometimes seems to help on dark nights and at twilight. I now only use two basic plastic colors. Light green with a chartreuse tail highlight to make it visible in fairly bright light and Redbud, a compromise all-purpose dark lure for low-light conditions. If I still night fished (too blind now) I’d stick to black lizards with chartreuse or blue tails for maximum contrast.

This sent to you in case you are interested.