Walk into any tackle shop in the country, and you’re instantly confronted with hard and soft bass fishing baits in more colors than you can imagine. Modern molding and painting techniques have allowed lure manufacturers to quickly design and produce colors that in years past wouldn’t have been possible.
As good as this is for anglers with unlimited bait budgets, it can make crankbait color selection a nerve wracking proposition, as it can be downright difficult to decide which colors to buy.
To help out, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a basic guide to which colors are necessities, and under what conditions each shines brightest. Here is our guide to clear water and stained water crankbait color selection.
Clear Water Crankbait Color Selection
When visibility is high, bass can see a long ways and get a good look at your crankbait as it works its way through the water column. For that reason, the name of the game in clear water is matching the hatch. Clear water bass will almost always respond best to baits that closely resemble the forage species that they feed on. Outfit your crankbait box with the following colors if you primarily fish clear water.
1. Ghost Shad
Ideal for super clear water, the translucence of ghost shad gives bass just enough of a look to draw their interest, without turning them off. It’s the perfect shad emulator.
2. Sexy Shad
In clear to slightly stained water, sexy shad has probably won more money in recent year on the top bass tours than any other color. It’s got a great shad look, with a little chartreuse to stand out against the clutter.
3. Natural Bluegill
When bass are feeding on bluegills, it makes sense to give them what they want. Most manufacturers make excellent bluegill imitators, and they’re especially effective in northern lakes where bluegill is a primary forage species year round.
4. Natural Crawfish
They eat em’, so why not have a crankbait that looks like them. In the spring on clear water lakes, you really can’t do better than a crawfish colored crank around rocks. It does double duty as well – most crawfish colors are also effective in stained water.
Stained/Dirty Water Crankbait Color Selection
When the visibility drops, bass have a greatly diminished sight distance, and as such you need something that will cut through the gloom and give them something to target. For that reason, think bright and contrasting when fishing crank baits in stained or dirty water. Load up on these patterns if your home lake has some color to it.
1. Chartreuse/blue back
An old standby, there have probably been more stained water bass caught on chartreuse/blue back than any other pattern. It’s been around forever for a reason – it simply gets bit. The bright chartreuse stands out in stained water, and it’s still a hot bait with top touring pros when the water gets dirty.
2. Citrus Shad
On the stained lakes of the famed Tennessee River, Citrus Shad has a success rate that competes with just about any other color created. It’s got a white, shad like belly, and sides that transition from chartreuse to blue on the back. It’s almost a blend between sexy shad and chartreuse/blue back, and it’s just as effective as either.
Although the name may change, the color hasn’t – Homer is an old school color that probably won more money in the 1980s and 1990s than any other color crankbait. It’s got chartreuse sides, a blue back and a bright belly – often with scale pattern. Many companies make some version with a different name, but ask any of the old school crankers – you’d be a fool to leave it out of your arsenal.
4. Fire Tiger
In the dirtiest water, and when you’re fishing in the northern states, there’s just something about fire tiger that gets fish agitated. It’s essentially a color similar to Homer, but with black mottling on the sides. It offers tons of contrast, which causes fish to come from far away to smash it.
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