Whether you are a beginning angler, or a professional bass fisherman working with soft plastic bass fishing lures, ensuring you are using the right colors on your soft plastic baits can mean the difference in getting an aggressive strike and having the fish ignore the bait completely.
There are a large number of variables when it comes to selecting the best natural colors for your soft plastic bait. A color that works in clear water may not work in muddy water, and colors that get quick results in the fall may not be touched by fish in the spring.
Taking a bit of time to understand the colors and why they work when they do is an important part of bass fishing. This may require you to talk with your local bait shop, other anglers, or simply test lure colors in your own area to see what works best and when.
Best Soft Bait Colors for Clear Water
When fishing in clear water, there are a range of natural colors you can use for your soft plastic fishing lure. While bright colors can draw bass to your area, a natural color such as green pumpkin can help you catch fish.
Perfect for clear water with bright skies, watermelon is a lighter shade that blends in with various sunny or shaded areas of the water. Watermelon shades are great for getting strikes from shy fish that aren’t afraid of artificial baits.
For timid fish that are more interested in subtle colors, translucent baits with glitter or other reflective accents are great for reflecting light and catching the attention of even the most stubborn or suspicious fish.
When the water is clear but the sky is overcast or stormy, green pumpkin shades of green, deep orange, and browns can get some strong and quick strikes. Fish will have an easier time locating these colors in the darker water without bright sunlight.
Best Soft Plastic Colors for Muddy Water
Muddy or dirty water clarity can bring its own range of challenges when it comes to the right colors to use on your soft plastic baits. Your tackle box might be full of every lure color under the sun, but using the right ones in dirty water can mean the difference in getting a strike or missing out on the fish completely.
In muddy water, soft plastics in dark colors such as dark purple are a great option. Dark purple solids and shades can be used as a silhouette-only option on soft plastic worms, but will also add natural contrasts to the shape and size of the soft plastic baits you are using.
Any soft plastic baits that make use of glitter can be very valuable in muddy water, especially when there is a fair bit of light. These glitter accents will reflect even small amounts of light, making your bait sparkle and shine and giving bass something to easily hone in on in poor water clarity.
Solid black or black combination bass lure colors are vital for use in muddy water on a cloudy day. Since the fish won’t be able to see long distances in this water clarity, having black or other very deeply colored soft plastics can be even more noticeable for fish you are targeting.
Best Soft Bait Colors for Different Seasons
During the spring including the pre-spawn and spawning months, most bass will be targeting crayfish and other deeper water prey under sunny skies. In most cases in the spring, soft plastics in shades of red, brown, or orange are the most successful solid color since they mimic natural crayfish and shrimp.
After the spawning season, bass will continue to feed throughout the summer months. Their tastes will change and instead of crayfish, they will be targeting larger prey fish under both clear and cloudy skies. During this time, bluegill colored baits, top water frogs in green or brown, and various color pattern soft baits are extremely successful.
As the year gets later and temperatures start to cool off again, bass will start feeding heavily on shad and other schooling fish such as minnows. In this season, the most natural silver or gray colors for bass anglers are the best options to catch bass. Ghost colors and some translucent colors or patterns will get the best results on both soft plastics and as hard bait lure colors.
As water temperatures get much cooler, colors that get the best results can include green pumpkin, black, black shades, and morning dawn shades. Chartreuse can also be very popular to use in stained water, as can fully natural baitfish shades and patterns. Solid colors under the bright sun can deliver the best bass fishing results.
Best Soft Bait Colors for Specialist Situations
You may have heard the term “match the hatch” during your time bass fishing at your favorite spots or speaking with other anglers. This phrase means you will need to match the color of your soft plastic bait with natural prey items in the area during that time of year.
During this time, make sure you understand what prey items are most common in the pond, lake or other waterway you are fishing in and which are being actively fed on by the target fish you are hoping to catch. Common baitfish colors include bluegill, shad, and silver shades that imitate fathead minnows.
If the fish you are targeting are feeding on crayfish and shrimp, look for soft plastics that are in shades of brown, tan, and red. For minnow, shiner, or shad colors, the go to colors can include whites, silvers, and lighter shades of blue and purple.
These colors not only look great from the side as fish are swimming nearby, but can also create a decent silhouette when fish are below and strike upwards. On cloudy days, more bass will strike from below so having a solid silhouette in these cloudy conditions can make a big difference.
Unfortunately, the magic color rule is not exact throughout the year and can even vary from year to year as groups of fish develop and change their tastes. Natural prey can change from year to year depending on how harsh of a winter it was, for example. This means the natural prey the bass enjoy in the spring may not be the same they enjoyed the previous spring.
Another exception to the rule comes in from time to time, and can depend on both water quality and bass species. For smallmouth bass, a very commonly accepted color is chartreuse and other bright and eye-catching colors. While these colors may not be anything you find naturally, smallmouth bass will strike these gaudy colors with speed and vigor.
Final Thoughts on Choosing the Right Soft Plastic Colors
Don’t be afraid to take your time when it comes to determining which colors are more accepted for the fish in your select fishing area. This step might seem like research, and can be time consuming overall, especially when it potentially changes year after year. Taking the time to determine which colors are the preferred ones for the year can increase your catch rate exponentially (this lure color selection chart can help).
In general, it’s hard to go wrong with light gray and darker brown colorations. An important factor to keep in mind is that this color selection works well in both clear water and dirtier water, or stained water as well. It’s also almost impossible to have bass refuse natural colorations such as bluegill and shad, so if you find the fish being stubborn to bite on other colors, try these all-natural shades instead.
And if you make your own soft plastics, you can have total flexibility and invent your own colors!