Color Theories For Crawfish Crankbaits

As I explained in a post earlier this year (Top 10 Cranks), the Rapala DT 6 has been one of the most efficient and productive cranks I use all year. Efficient because it doesn't dive much deeper than I can reach with my rod tip (in case of snags), and productive because, side-by-side, it's been outfishing most other cranks in my box. (The Live Target Crawfish is filing entreaties on that claim this fall, though.)

But do we need 6 different crawfish patterns in the same lure? Personally, I think variety is a great thing to have, especially with color. I just completed a Bass Guide article on color theories of the pros and there was too much information to crowd into one piece. I asked some of them if they adhere to the "match the hatch" school of thought, or are they in with the "what bass see best is best" crowd with respect to colors of crawfish crankbaits.

I asked Dion Hibdon that question years ago, and he said one of the first things he does when he arrives at a lake he's going to compete on is walk the shorelines and turn over rocks. He would capture craws and take them back to his room to try and find or create the closest match he could to the naturals. We might call that the "match the hatch extreme" school of thought.

My good friend Rich Zaleski, whose ideas on color I have always considered sound, is far less dogmatic about craw patterns. "I want a crawfish pattern with green in it and everywhere that doesn't work I want brown and that's close enough for me," he said.

Larry Nixon, winner of this year's FLW event on Lake St. Clair, has a pretty similar assessment of the situation. "I use brown or green or orange for crawfish," he said. "Those are the only basic colors you need to play with when it's a crawfish bite. If they spit one up in the livewell, then I really know how to tweak my color patterns from there."

Tweaking a crank might be done with a paint pen or highlighter, but Larry's typically talking about plastics when he's matching craws (being one of the planet's finest worm fishermen). Of course, with 6 different craw patterns in the Rapala DT series, the realism of the Live Target Crawfish, and the myriad other crawfish-pattern cranks on the market, you can "match the hatch" anywhere with a fair selection of baits without needing to touch up any lures. Different companies make lures in different shades, of course, even when following the same basic guidelines. In the middle of the pack above you see Rapala's natural olive-to-cream shading. The Bomber 6A, another favorite of mine, has a very similar color pattern in the lineup, but the olive back is darker and fades to black on top, while the belly is almost beige.

Can shades of colors so similar make a difference? With cranks it's hard to distinguish whether an improvement in the bite is a result of a color change or an action change when colors are so close. Not so with plastics, for the most part. But can different shades and versions of the same color make a big difference sometimes? The 2013 Bass Guide article offers opinions and anecdotes on that and other aspects of color from scientists and pros.

In the next post we'll delve into an area of thinking on color that doesn't appear in the article at all: Just how complicated is the concept of lure color?

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