Best Lure Color: The Answer for 15 Popular Gamefish

Choosing lure color has long been a spot of consternation for anglers.  Some days green is the hot ticket and on others it’s blue, pink or watermelon sparkle.  There is an endless assortment of colors for every kind of lure.  Our job is to choose the right color.  If only fish put out a daily list of preferred colors, our troubles would be over!

Unfortunately, picking the best lure color just isn’t that simple.  Countless variables like water clarity, weather conditions, forage base and time of year all play a role in deciding what colors entice fish to bite.  

Not to mention, it varies from one species to another, even in the same water body.  Each gamefish species has their own peculiarities and preferences that keep anglers guessing.  

While experimentation with lure color is essential to keep a bite going, there are some good rules of thumb to live by for most gamefish.  That’s why we compiled this list of the best lure colors.  These are the colors that seem to work more often than not and are a good starting place regardless of the conditions.  

Picked by pros and tested by countless experienced anglers, take a look at our selection of the best lure colors for 15 popular gamefish.

1. Walleye

Best lure colors – Green, purple, black and white

Anglers targeting walleye face ever changing water and weather conditions throughout the year.  Green, purple, black and white colored lures will cover a wide variety of situations.  Start with more vibrant green or purple tints on sunny days or when the water is particularly clear.  

Transition to darker tones with cloud cover or wind chop that decreases light penetration.  In extreme low light conditions, walleye’s keen eyesight picks up on black hues since it provides the best contrast in stained water or even at night.   

For versatility, white colored baits mimic a wide range of common forage minnows.  When you are not sure what walleye are feasting on in your particular lake, white is a highly visible color that’s tough to resist.

2. Rainbow trout

Best lure colors – Brown, black, pink, orange, gold, silver and white

Rainbow trout have a voracious temperament that often makes choosing the right color easy.  Yet, finicky rainbows have a refined taste and a few versatile colors will entice more bites.  Stalking rainbows in shallow, clear water is the best time to break out the pinks, oranges or red colors.  These bright colors get their attention and encourage savage strikes.

Brown, white and black colors are our favorites when rainbow trout are keyed in on natural forage.  For deeper water or low light conditions, incorporate some silver or gold for flash.  Black is an all around star performer that catches rainbows in virtually every conceivable situation.  

3. Brook trout

Best lure colors – Purple, black, white, silver and brown

Hands down the best lure color for brook trout is purple.  Whether we target them through the ice or in pristine alpine lakes, lures with even a hint of purple prevail.  In all fairness, brook trout are aggressive predators that often hit any lure regardless of color.  But purple still wins out in a side by side comparison of color.

When you need to change it up in heavily pressured fishing spots, stick with black, white and brown.  Brook trout are also reactive to a bit of silver flash which is especially useful if they push to deeper water.  

4. Brown trout

Best lure colors – Gold, silver and natural patterns

Hunting shallow shorelines in the dim glow of twilight for trophy brown trout is a day dream for many anglers.  However, I know a few anglers who consistently make it their reality.  For them, success heavily relies on picking the perfect color lure.  When it comes to brown trout, gold is the best lure color without question.  

Whether you use a gold spoon or a gold color Rapala, some hint of gold catches the biggest browns.  Trout patterns, in general, have all been effective for brown trout.  These highly piscivorous predators feed primarily on minnows so they stay laser focused on baitfish color patterns.  When light conditions demand it, silver tones are also effective.

5. Lake trout

Best lure colors – Silver, blue, chartreuse, orange and pink

Lake trout spend a great deal of time lurking in the depths.  Even in clear water, which big lakers prefer, light penetration is limited.  That’s why silver, blue and chartreuse lures should be your first pick.  These vibrant colors will draw in cruising lake trout looking to investigate a meal.

Lake trout are not relegated to the depths all year.  Cool temperatures during fall and winter bring them shallow where anglers find great success casting or jigging orange and pink lures.   

6. Kokanee

Best lure colors – Fluorescent pink, orange, red and chartreuse

Kokanee feed almost exclusively on tiny zooplankton that are nearly transparent.  Luckily for anglers, kokanee are perpetually ticked off and looking for a fight with any brightly colored lure that crosses their path.  

Take advantage of a kokanee’s wild temper by tying on the most brightly colored lures possible.  Fluorescent pinks, oranges, reds and chartreuse are the best kokanee colors available.  Late season kokanee tend to push as deep as 40-60 feet so UV and glow colors are a must.  In addition to obnoxious colors, some bright flash is needed to draw kokanee in from a distance as well. 

7. Crappie

Best lure colors – Chartreuse, orange, white, green and blue

Seasonal crappie movements increase the challenge for not only finding dense numbers of fish but also dialing in colors that make them commit to your bait.  

We find most suspended pre-spawn crappie schooling in deep water are particularly attracted to blue and white or black and white color combinations.  As water temps reach into the 50’s and the crappie spawn kicks off, switch to orange, chartreuse and green hues.  Bright colors such as these are universally effective on crappie in stained water that often accompany shallow spawning beds.

8. Yellow perch

Best lure colors – Green, yellow, orange, metallic and UV colors

Perch are among the most popular panfish and we love fishing for them.  Lure color is less about matching what yellow perch eat and more about invoking their scavenging curiosity.  Perch are also highly cannibalistic which should influence your color choices as well.

Yellow, orange, green and red colors really pop which tends to attract more perch than natural colors.  Firetiger and perch patterns are standard lure colors that need to be in every perch angler’s arsenal.  Occasionally, metallic and UV colors do better at grabbing their attention in low light conditions.  This is often the case while ice fishing.    

9. Bluegill

Best lure colors – Brown, black, white, chartreuse, yellow and purple

Nothing beats catching a bucket full of plump little bluegill.  Most anglers prefer live bait like worms, crickets or grasshoppers.  Occasionally though, lures help weed out numerous tiny fish and pick out the biggest bull bluegills in the school. 

During non-spawning periods, bluegill feed primarily on small invertebrates that hatch near dense weeds, sunken timber or docks.  Therefore, the best lure colors are brown, black, white and sometimes purple.  Bluegill become aggressive once they spawn as they defend their nests.  They are easily provoked by small bright colored crankbaits and spinners so use yellow, chartreuse and orange to get them charging. 

10. Smallmouth bass

Best lure colors – Green pumpkin, brown, watermelon and white

The power and aggression of smallmouth bass is well known among anglers.  Hence, the growing popularity for this species.  These stout fish flourish in clear, cold, rocky lakes and rivers where they feed on crawfish and minnows.  

Experiencing arm aching smallmouth bass action is a matter of matching their forage.  Some of the best all around colors to consistently get bit are green pumpkin, brown, watermelon and white.  A variety of soft plastics in these colors all but guarantees you’ll catch smallmouth.

Early spring and late fall smallmouth tend to push toward deep secondary points and rocky breaks.  During these periods, gold or silver blade baits jigged or retrieved prove deadly on smallmouth. 

11. Largemouth bass

Best lure colors – Green, yellow, watermelon, purple, brown and black

As the number one sport fish in the world, there are plenty of experts who weigh in on the best lure color for largemouth bass.  Just the same, it is probably more important to focus on presentation than a specific color.  

In general, the best lure colors for largemouth bass are ones that mimic natural prey.  Greens, yellow, watermelon, purple, brown and black are excellent options for flipping jigs or chucking soft plastics.  Minnow imitating crankbaits like golden shiners, shad or bluegill patterns are sure to help anglers yank a few largemouth out of the water as well.

12. Northern pike

Best lure colors – White, orange, silver, chartreuse, yellow and black

As an apex predator in northern waters, huge northern pike garner a steady following from trophy anglers.  These toothy gators prowl weed lines looking to scavenge or devour any meal that crosses their path.  

Since northern pike are opportunistic feeders, the most effective lure colors are those that contrast well with the surrounding water.  Hook up with more pike using white, orange, chartreuse, yellow and even a bit of metallic flash.  For anglers targeting pike at night, black is the color of choice for any style of lure you tie on.   

13. Muskie

Best lure colors – White, black, blue, green, brown and chartreuse

Catching muskie is certainly a challenge and not for the faint of heart.  I’ve seen guys with suitcase size tackle boxes filled with every muskie lure on the market in every conceivable size and color.  Yet most pros agree that a half dozen choice colors in a range of sizes is all you need.  

Muskie grow big because they devour baitfish by the boat load.  Take a look at most baitfish and you’ll notice that nearly all have some shade of white on them.  But muskie are not always a “match the hatch” kind of fish.  Bright, noisy colors like pink, blue and chartreuse bag their fair share.  Some avid muskie anglers swear that black lures are a must.  

We like to stay on the safe side so a selection of white, black, chartreuse, blue and brown are our go to colors for muskie.  A smattering of pink and green doesn’t hurt either.    

14. Salmon

Best lure colors – Green, blue, purple, pink, black and silver

From the Great Lakes to the West Coast, anglers are always in hot pursuit of salmon.  Gearing up for salmon is no easy feat and lure color is often over looked.  Targeting a variety of salmon species in wide ranging depths demands a closer look at color.

Kings, coho and Atlantic salmon are caught on pink, green, blue and silver lures when feeding in the top 50 feet of the water column.  In deeper water, red tones fade to grey and purple.  Green, blue, white and UV glow colors are the hot ticket for all salmon species.  Some salmon like pinks and sockeye have an affinity for bright pink or orange lures.  

15. Striped bass

Best lure colors – White, black, chartreuse, yellow and baitfish patterns

Striped bass are phenomenal visual hunters that key in on movement and bright colors.   Among the most effective colors for stripers in any situation is yellow and chartreuse.  These colors work so well because they’re hard to miss.  If ever you are in doubt, start with yellow and chartreuse.

Occasionally, you’ll want to switch to natural colors including white, black and baitfish patterns if you think they are being selective.  Black is always a good choice in hard surf that stirs up silt or during low light hours.  

Best lure colors for clear water or sunny days

Regardless of the type of fish, boost your catch rate using natural lure colors in clear water.  Green, brown, white and baitfish patterns are less likely to alarm wary fish.  When the sun is shinning, silver finishes send out enough flash to draw in fish and entice a strike.   

Best lure colors for murky water or cloudy days

In murky water or on cloudy days, it’s all about getting fish to notice your lure.  Use bright colors like chartreuse, pink, orange, red and yellow.  High contrast colors like black, blue and white also help to maximize bites.  Don’t forget about using a little metallic flash as well.  Gold or copper baits are better during low light situations or in stained water.

Best lure colors in deep water

Only a handful of lure colors are useful for fishing in deep water as a result of diminished light penetration.  Reds, oranges and yellows fade significantly in depths more than 50 feet.  Purple shades work well for most species of fish up to 150 feet and blue or green maintains the most visible color at depths beyond 150 feet.  

Silver and white are also great choices for deep water fish like salmon.  UV colors are very effective for fishing in depths up to 150 feet and glow colors work extremely well for certain species.  Learn more about how to use glow in the dark lures from our recent article.

Parting words

Unfortunately, there is not a magic formula for determining the best lure color for all situations or species.  Even so, you can eliminate a lot of wasted time by starting out with a few tried and true lure colors.  Use our suggestions in this article and you’re well on your way to catching more fish.