Howdy trout anglers, Cal Kellogg here. I get a lot of questions about selecting the right color lure, so I thought I’d toss out some basic guidelines I use when deciding on lure colors.
When I’m ready to head out for a day on the water at a new lake is access what type of forage is available to the trout.
At most foothill reservoirs the primary forage is open water baitfish in the form of threadfin shad or Japanese pond smelt. At higher elevation lakes chubs and aquatic insects are often the primary foods of the trout. At certain times when the conditions are right trout will feed heavily on small freshwater shrimp, while ignoring both baitfish and insects.
Once you’ve got an idea of what the trout at a given lake feed on this information should dictate the size and color of the lures you employ. Obviously, when the trout are feeding on baitfish it is important to match the size and shape of the lure to the available bait, but what about color?
I advocate a match the hatch philosophy in terms of imitating baitfish regardless of the depth. While matching the silvers, greens and blues that baitfish exhibit is important, imitating the dark and light contrasts they exhibit is equally important. Baitfish are dark above and light below, this is a color scheme that trout are accustomed to seeing and I believe lures that match this contrast trigger more strikes.
Since trout feed on baitfish and baitfish don’t change colors as they move into deeper water I don’t vary lure color much as I drop down in the water column. Chrome/blue, blue/white, black/white and purple/chrome are among my favorite lure color combinations for imitating shad and pond smelt.
In situations where the trout are feeding on shrimp, plankton, aquatic insects or chubs, you’re not in a position to match the hatch with trolled lures. In these instances, you’ve got to change your focus from matching the forage of the trout, to presenting them with an offering that will trigger a reaction strike, either out of curiosity or aggression.
This is often best accomplished by using brightly colored highly visible lures. Red, orange, chartreuse, hot pink and firetiger are colors that really shine for triggering reaction bites. These same colors are good when dealing with stained murky water or when fishing during periods of low light.