Consider Color for More Walleye

Bob Jensen  |

I was with some friends recently, and as often happens, the talk turned to fishing, and as often happens when the talk turns to fishing, the topic of lure color came up.  That topic usually creates some interesting observations.  Following are some of those observations.

Of all fishing topics, it seems that lure color creates lots of interest and opinions.  Many anglers believe that lure color is no big deal, but more and more, anglers are accepting and understanding that there are times when having the lure with the right color on your line can be the difference between catching a few and catching a lot.  Keep these color considerations in mind the next time you’re tying on a lure that you want the fish to eat.

This clear water walleye couldn’t resist a Lucky Shad crankbait in the Crystal Shad w/Pink Belly color pattern.

There are lures available that have remarkable finishes.  Some look very natural, almost like the minnow, bug, or crustacean that they’re trying to imitate, and others don’t look like anything that you’d find in the water, but they still look spectacular.  Crankbaits in particular have become like art pieces.  The question is, do these pieces of art actually catch more fish?  The answer seems to be, sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Never say never, never say always.


With that said, we should always consider color, and we should always experiment with color.  The best anglers that I know and that I fish with change colors often.  When the fish aren’t hitting the color they’re using, they try different colors to see if they can find a color the fish want to eat.  And, when the fish are hitting the color being used, they change colors to see if they can determine the exact color pattern that will trigger even more or bigger fish.

The general rule-of-thumb is to use natural or subtle colored baits in clear water, and brighter, gaudier colors in stained water, and that concept is usually a pretty good place to start.  But don’t hesitate to put a gaudy chartreuse or orange bait in clear water for walleyes:  As far as I know, there is nothing swimming around in the water that is orange or chartreuse, and sometimes there is no better color.  There are times when bright baits in clear water are killers.  When it comes to bright baits, Strike King’s Lucky Shad baits in Purple Tiger and Hot Tiger are hard to beat in stained water or when clear water walleyes want a bright bait.

And, with that said, it seems like we’re seeing a trend on many lakes to baits that are more subtle in color.  In many lakes, the water is clearing up due to invasive species like zebra mussels.  On those lakes, the fish are eating earlier and later in the day, they’re deeper, and they’re liking subdued baits.  In the past couple of years, Lucky Shad crankbaits in Violet Alewife and Crystal Shad w/Pink Belly have been exceptional.


Perhaps the best time to switch colors is when you’re dealing with conditioned fish.  If you’re fishing a specific spot for walleyes, maybe a small rock hump, and you’ve been catching the fish on a black jig, but then the fishing slows, try a different color before you leave.  The fish may have become conditioned to the black jig, but if you put an orange one out there, a few more will eat it.

Using different colors, if nothing else, makes us do different things, and that’s often what it takes to catch more fish.  This open water fishing season, be willing to try colors you haven’t tried in the past.  If you do, you’re going to catch more fish.


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Consider Color for More Walleye