Fish have been existing for more than 400 million years and are exceptional beings. Over the hundreds of centuries, they have made many amazing adaptations to make it through in the marine environment.
Every spring, the tackle shelves of local hobby retailers are stuffed with eye-catching displays of the latest lures in variety colors, intended to catch the attention of keen fish. Most tackle boxes are stuffed with lures of every tone, and each fishing trip is a study of what color bait will encourage the fish that day. However, some key points of vision and the habits of light as it goes down water can make lure choice more scientific. Most fish see colors. As with humans, the retina of a fish’s eye has two forms of cells: cones and rods. Cones are put to use for day vision and are the cells that determine color. Rods are used for night vision and could not differentiate colors, even though they can determine light intensity.
The light that humans see is just a tiny part of the overall electromagnetic radiation that is acquired from the sun. We see what is known as the observable spectrum. The actual colors within the observable spectrum are identified by the wavelengths of the light: the longer wavelengths are red and orange; the shorter wavelengths are green, blue, and violet. Quite a few fish, however, can see colors that we do not, such as ultraviolet.
Location, weather, water depth, and even time of year play part in determining on how useful your lure will be. Wavelengths of light get immersed by water at varied depths – red and orange are the first to disappear, with violet being the last. So red might work near the surface, but if you’re heading deep you’ll want something violet on the end of your line. Uli-Beyer.com have done some in depth research into the influence of water depth on color reflectivity and fluorescence (in both, fresh and sea water), and have found that fluorescent lures can have a noticeable benefit on your results. There are those, obviously, who have asked whether these lures are just nifty gadgets.
At first glance, this way of light and color loss underwater makes a travesty of the significance of color in lures anywhere beyond low, ultra-clear situations, yet anglers around the world will keep on arguing that one color is better than another, perhaps in deep-water jigging. The crazy thing is, if you ask six fishers for their viewpoint on the most efficient lure color, you’re likely to get six different answers. Maybe it’s time we moved color to the bottom of the list of standards when selecting a lure or fly, and positioned far greater focus on the size, action and profile.
As you can see, light and color can get rather challenging. But let’s remember what we are trying to accomplish: catch a fish! Fish are not very smart, and they assault their prey as an instinctive behavior. This is a complex endeavor, of which color can often be an important part, but only if the fish can see the color.