Going garish for bass
John Neporadny Jr.
Bright colors have been used for years on magazine covers and in advertising, fashion and home décor to catch our attention, and this same theory on garish hues can be applied to bass fishing.
“There is a time and a place for everything,” says FLW touring pro Sean Hoernke. The Texas pro has used bright-colored lures throughout the country to catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
One of his favorite garish lure colors is bright pink.
“In clear water it shows up really well,” Hoernke said. “To us it looks unnatural, but with the way fish view things I don’t think it is really that intrusive of a color to them.”
While sight fishing during the spawn, Hoernke favors bright pink craw worms and tube baits, which he can see easier on the nest. He makes his own bright pink soft plastics by dipping white craws and tubes in a pink dye.
“A lot of times I use that in a tournament situation on fish that I don’t want to mess up on. I don’t want to foul hook the fish in that situation, and with that pink bait I can see when it is gone and completely in the fish’s mouth. On the other hand, the pink bait also seems to get more bites a lot of times for some reason. I can’t really tell why that is though.”
The fishery dictates whether Hoernke uses a bright pink craw or tube. He notices craw worms seem to work better for sight fishing on lowland lakes such as Sam Rayburn, Santee-Cooper or Toho, whereas the tube produces best for him on highland reservoirs such as Table Rock and Beaver even though both types of impoundments are filled with crawfish.
“It is hard to beat a crawfish of any color over a tube on most days while sight fishing on Sam Rayburn,” he says.
The Texas pro also has noticed the bright tubes and craws will catch largemouth during the pre-spawn and post-spawn periods as well as when the fish are on beds.
Pink floating worms also trigger plenty of strikes for Hoernke in the spring and fall at Sam Rayburn and Lake Murray in South Carolina.
A lot of Carolina lakes are notorious for floating worm fishing, says Hoernke. When fishing lakes in that region, Hoernke also likes to throw floating worms in bright white, yellow and sherbet hues.
Whereas some anglers think bright colors only work in shallow-water situations, Hoernke has discovered flashy hues also attract the attention of deep fish. One trick Hoernke used for years while guiding on Lake Fork to catch bass 25 to 30 feet deep in late May and June was to drag a Carolina-rigged merthiolate-colored trick worm.
“We caught 7- to 8-pound bass consistently in that deep of water.”
Picking the right bright color to use depends more on the type of water Hoernke is fishing rather than the time of year. The touring pro has noticed worms in a merthiolate hue seem to work best in the tannic waters of East Texas, Louisiana and Florida, but the bright pink hue produces better in clearer water.
“So it isn’t just any bright color that works everywhere. Fish seem to like specific bright colors in different colors of water. Largemouths also don’t necessarily have to be on a bed to catch them on a bright color, and smallmouths just seem to hate bright colors all year round.”
Waking a chartreuse spinnerbait with double chartreuse blades across the surface of Northern waters has always been a popular way to catch smallmouth bass, but Hoernke has a blade bait in another obnoxious color that tricks brown bass. He has used a spinnerbait with a head he painted pink and adorned with a pink skirt and pink blades.
“I have found sometimes that it works better than the chartreuse bladed spinnerbait that a lot of people throw.”
His bright pink spinnerbait has produced heavyweight smallmouth on Lake Ontario where he could see the bottom 21 feet deep.
“I could see the cracks in the rocky bottom, and I was throwing that spinnerbait on a slick calm day.”
Twitching a hot pink Fluke or Strike King Zulu jerkbait across the surface also produces smallmouth for Hoernke on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.
“They like that color because they can see it from a distance. I have caught fish that are 15- to 20-feet deep by pulling them up from the bottom to the very top with those lures.”
The Zulu jerkbait stays on the surface better because it is made of highly buoyant material whereas the Fluke tends to sink more.
“Sometimes (the Zulu) will jump out of the water when I am twitching it. It seems like I have caught bigger and more fish in the tournaments up there by fishing that lure on the surface.”
He believes this tactic works so well because it is similar to bulging a spinnerbait on top.
On his last trip to Lake Erie, Hoernke caught plenty of 3-pound smallies on a bright chartreuse crankbait. Even though some lure manufacturers offer a pink crankbait, Hoernke has yet to try one.
“I probably should, especially when I go up north for those smallmouths. I have about every other color crankbait you could imagine in the box.”
If bass seem to be ignoring your natural-colored lures, look for the gaudiest color in your tacklebox to catch their attention.