Are Bass Seeing Red?

How Bass See Color – Are Bass Seeing Red?

There are biological reasons for red hooks being effective and it is a thing called “Gill Flash” as fish are feeding, the gills of a fish become engorged with blood and the flashes of red starts a frenzy. Almost all hook companies make red hooks for this reason. However, red line is supposed to disappear when submerged in water. But red is known to disappear in water, because red is the first color in the spectrum to lose light energy as it gets deeper in the water it. It doesn’t really become invisible, it fades to black. But since the line is clear and not a solid, some light can pass through it helping to make it almost invisible. To sum it all up, red hooks and lures can improve shallow water fishing sometimes top water and shallow running lures are the most effective especially when fishing in clear water, but the deeper you fish the faster red fades to black, making red line hard to see in low light. Let’s discuss this fish affecting phenomenon in more detail.Not all anglers have access to scientist and biologist that they can contact when they have a question concerning the nature and biology of bass. They are at a disadvantage when compared to top anglers when it comes to questions such as, “why are the fish not hitting crankbaits today?” The weekend warrior can’t call up their sponsor and tell them that the shad have a golden glimmer in a certain lake that they are fishing and have a new lure FedEx’d to them over night.  Not all of the top anglers have this advantage either, but many professional anglers do have secrets for color choice for crankbaits and other lures that they will keep to their selves. This is a rather long explanation of a theory that is based on science of light and the biology of fish, but it will contain much information as well as some tips for lure color selection. I have heard from several anglers who tell me that they just do not have any luck using crankbaits for largemouth bass, but they see others catching bass on them.  The tips in this blog will help you to understand why certain colors at certain depths are so important and hopefully help you to catch more bass using crankbaits and lures at various depths.
Bass eyes see in water, and our eyes see in the air, but there is an uncanny comparison in how a bass eye sees color and how a human eye sees colors. Cones in our eyes see colors and rods see things in shades of gray. Scientist and biologist have concluded that a bass sees colors much as a human sees colors. This theory is thought to be true for the reason that bass eyes have cones very similar to the cones in human eyes. One difference is the absence of a pupil in the bass eye. This is the part of our eye that dilates or gets bigger when light is dimmed.  This would explain why bass are light shy. They are structure orientated for more than reasons than just ambush and shelter, they prefer shade. Bass are most active in low light, morning and evening, but have much better vision in darkness and stained and muddy water than a human would have. A bass eye having no pupil, adjusts to brightness by repositioning the part of the eye called the rods. In bright light the cones are used with a majority of the rods of the bass eye being hidden behind the cones. As light dims more rods are positioned for sight. In dark conditions cones are of less use and the bass sees mostly with rods. To simplify this, cones see colors; rods see shades of gray. In dim light a bass sees in black and white. And a bass’s eye has more rods than the human eye and they function better. Thus it sees in dim light much better than a human can.  The temperature and density of the water as well as the oxygen of the thermocline will determine the depth the bass will be holding, and this depth will affect the color of a lure such as a crankbait that you will need to fish.
In every season anglers must select a lure that can reach the depth that the bass are holding. Lures such as a crankbait must be selected according to the diving capabilities of the specific lure. The larger the bill or lip on the nose of the lure, the deeper it will dive. Some lures will have the diving depth someplace on the lure and with most crankbaits, the packaging will display the diving depth, one tip is to write this running depth in feet on the lure with a fine point sharpie permanent marker. Also organize your lures by depth then color and label your lure box in the place for each lure with the diving depth. Bass Minder makes great products for labeling and organizing your tackle.This will help you to quickly decide which lures you will be using, keep in mind that in a tournament time can be money.

Targeting the correct depth is just the beginning, one important consideration also must be made by the angler…What color to use? Deciding by water color and the sky can be a good start, but what about eight to twelve feet deep? Or even for fifteen or eighteen feet deep? If you have you ever noticed the color of a lure seems to change in shallow water and seems to change even more at different times of the day as the sun moves across the sky.  This illusion is because of light reacting with water. Anglers need to understand how bass actually see the colors as the he chooses his crankbaits and other lures. Sometimes the color choice is paramount in the success of an angler’s day of fishing. At “different times of day”, or in “different light” and in “different depths” the color a fish sees makes it react.


Studying a simple glass prism will help anglers to see white light change into different colors beginning with the first color red and then moving through the entire color spectrum to the last color of purple. When we see a rainbow in the sky it is the same thing, we see light absorbed and or bent by water. A body of water however has an effect on the light we see as well. The water absorbs light and turns it into heat, or in other words converts light energy into heat energy. In this process some colors are absorbed much more than other colors. When we look at a crankbait in natural sunlight, we see all color waves. This is not possible once the color “wavelengths” enter water. The water actually absorbs the light. Reds are absorbed as heat before other colors while blues and purple are absorbed last.

  When we watch programs on WFN with under water footage, the absorption of light is what makes the water appear to be so blue. In water that is pure or perfectly clear, all red colors are absorbed and converted into heat energy before the light reaches 17 feet in depth. After red is absorbed, then all variations or shades of the color orange are then absorbed. Orange slowly fades into a dull yellow as an orange colored lure is fished deep. Shades of yellow are filtered out after orange. And then the shades of green are the next to be absorbed, after this only blue light will remain. Once the blue shades are absorbed, then there is no light. As blue light is absorbed lures appears in various shades of dark blue to indigo, violet and then finally into black. A white lure out of the water still is white in the water, but it gradually reflects light and appears to be green then blue as it goes deeper.  A crankbait that may appear bright red on the surface but when cranked into deeper water it gradually changes until finally it is seen as black. This is because the absence of red light in deeper water.Understanding this theory has apparently helped make KVD and Strike King Millions of dollars as he and the company has become very successful with the multi colored crankbaits in the “sexy” color that he has made so famous. For this reason I use crankbaits with an array of colors in both light and dark shades when fishing deep. This provides coverage as sunlight moves as well at different depths. When fishing in 18 feet of water or deeper, I like to start with brightly colored crankbaits. The reason for brightness over just one specific color is that I am looking for a lure that will reflect the least amount of light in the darkness of the deeper water.
When fishing in shallower water the crankbait color choice can be vital, as a bass can see the lure more clearly. “Matching the hatch” with a natural colored crankbait is a good way to choose your lure; however it pays to try a different color if you do not get a bite soon.  Many manufacturers do well with natural color patterns on their lures. In shallow water this is very important. When the fish are feeding on shad and there are many of them in a school, many anglers try to choose a lure in a color that stands out amongst the multitude of baitfish and fish the lure below the school. Citrus Shad, Bluegill, and other bright colors, seem to make the lure stand out in a crowd so to speak. Knowing the bass feed on the stray shad that leave the school due to injury or weakness. The theory of “Gill Flash” that occurs as fish are feeding, the gills of a fish flash blood red has merit in shallow clear water. This natural selection is helped by a color that makes a target stand out a little more than the rest.With any lure color choice, presentation is important. If you are not soon rippin’ some lips, change your retrieve speed, stop and go or slow it down to a crawl. As Bill Dance has often said, “let the fish to tell you what they want”.  I hope this information and tips for color selection help you to more effectively take advantage of many colors that crankbaits and other lures are available in, while fishing deep structure as well as shallow water this season.

Happy Fishing!

For more on this and other topics please visit my site at: http://markbilbrey.com

Source: How Bass See Color – Are Bass Seeing Red? – World Fishing Network

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