What Colors Can Largemouth Bass See?

What Colors Can Largemouth Bass See?

Things underwater are… different… than they are above. Movement is met with more resistance. Things sound different. Vibrations travel through water. Light is broken up by the surface, especially in windy days.

Colors underwater are no exception.

They are different.

Alder Lake AJ Hauser Largemouth
That shirt is definitely visible underwater and attracts bass. No question. ‘Murica!

For example, the absorption and scattering of light underwater reduces and eliminates shadows. Shadows usually disappear at about twice the depth the angler can see a large fluorescent or white lure. This “scattering” of light is also used in photography. Items called “diffusers” come in a myriad of sized and they break up light so that objects on a table or within a white box don’t have such a direct, distinct shadow.

ZMan DieZel MinnowZ Swimbait with Spinner
Without diffusers this Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ Swimbait with willow tail spinner and Owner Beast Hook would look like crap…

To date, research on the color vision of bass has produced some contradictory data:

  • Bass do see colors, discriminate between them, and learn to avoid colors with negative consequences.
  • Different reports have returned different results. In some cases, bass see black best, followed by yellow, white, green and blue. In other cases, bass saw red best, but were actually attracted to yellow.
  • Underwater observations show that bass can discriminate between different colors of monofilament line.
  • This same study suggested that bass were repelled by bright yellow monofilament, but attracted to fluorescent green-blue line.
  • In another study, bass in a tank test chose minnows dyed red over natural minnows.
  • Yet another study found red and white lures to be particularly effective.

This is interesting, because many anglers will use red line because it is a color that disappears quickly underwater. This would contradict the idea that red hooks indicate “blood in the water”… perhaps they just aren’t as visible??

Light Absorption and Lure Color Underwater

You’ll have to experiment for yourself. Personally, I don’t shy away from red hooks, red swivels, or red beads – but I have not experimented with red line. I just stick with fluorocarbon or really light clear or clear/blue mono.

Alder Lake Wisconsin Largemouth Bass

Note: it is my belief that color plays an extremely important role in some (not all) bodies of water – especially those that are small or that have a very particular type of forage that the bass are keyed in on. However, bass are far less particular than say, trout, and they are experimental eaters. This means that you always have a chance of catching bass when using the “wrong” color. But if you can zero in on the magic combination – it’s lights out!

AJ Hauser PB Largemouth Bass 2020

(Color is a variable to pay attention to after you have found the fish, after you have figured out their depth, and after you have found a few presentation profiles that they will strike. It’s not unimportant, but it’s not at the top of the list when it comes to a great day on the water. Be careful you don’t give it too much attention.)

Keep experimenting and see what you find out.

Tight lines!

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