Westmoreland on color

Last time I promised to start telling you about some of the things I learned from Billy. One of the most important things I learned early on is to think about artificial lure colors from the perspective of the fish. That’s not a real hard thing to do but it does take some thought and some practice.

He was famous for throwing his bright yellow Hoss Fly jig in the late fall, winter and early spring. It was a strange looking color but it worked for him, and for those of us who were fortunate enough to go fishing with him. (If you want to learn more about the Hoss Fly go to http://punisher.myshopify.com/products/aspirin-head-jig-hoss-fly.)

I asked him about that one day because I’d never seen anything swimming in Dale Hollow that looked like it. He explained that crayfish lived deep during the cold weather seasons. There isn’t much sunlight down there so their shells turn light. When a smallmouth sees them he or she doesn’t necessarily see any color at all. What they probably see is a light spot along the bottom of the lake or in the rocks. That’s what Billy thought, anyway.

To get an appreciation of what he was talking about think about some of the bass you’ve caught over the years. The ones that come out of deep or muddy water will sometimes be almost white. But the ones that come out of shallow, clear water that’s covered with grass and weeds will be bright green.

Based on all of that, he was a firm believer in looking at lure colors from the perspective of what we think the fish is seeing. He always impressed upon me the importance of not picking a lure because I thought it was pretty, flashy or because in my mind I thought a fish would like it.

That idea doesn’t just apply to jigs. It applies to everything. A crankbait that looks exactly like a bream to you and I might look like nothing to a fish. Before you buy anything think about what it might look like under the water. You may not always be right but that shouldn’t keep you from trying.

And, pay close attention to where you’re fishing and what the water’s like. Is it clear? Is it muddy? Does it have a tannic look to it? All of these things affect the way we see color and probably affects the way a fish sees color. Have you ever looked at a white car under red, yellow or green neon lights? If so, you know that the car takes on the color of the light. There’s no reason to think that it’s any different under the water.

Thinking about what a fish sees and the water he or she lives in has helped me as much as anything over the years. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve picked up a bait, admired the finish and then put it back on the shelf because I thought it wouldn’t look right under the water. I have Billy Westmoreland to thank for that.

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