Do Glow in the Dark Lures Work

Glow in the dark lures are nothing new and I have met many anglers who swear they hooked huge fish with them and others who claim it is a gimmick.  Hard core anglers are always trying to find an edge that lands them more and bigger fish.  So I started to wonder, do glow in the dark lures catch more fish?

Not wanting to miss out on the secret weapon of fishing, I did some testing of my own with glow in the dark lures at night and during the day. Here is what I found.

Glow in the dark lures work for certain species of fish.  Many saltwater species readily hit a glowing lure because it closely mimics the bioluminescence of natural prey.  The benefits are not as apparent for freshwater species.  Fishing in deep water during the day with glow in the dark lures did produce more strikes from kokanee and walleye.  However, I found at night that glowing lures may actually scare finicky bass or trout.

There is still plenty of debate over the effectiveness of using glow in the dark lures, but keep reading to decide if you think it’s worth a try.

What makes a glow in the dark lure effective

You can’t just cast out a glow stick on a hook and expect to catch fish.  A glow in the dark lure should use subtle glowing details that add contrast and look natural.  Just enough glow is needed to get a fish’s attention.  If it looks like nothing they have ever seen they will probably steer clear.  

Beyond the looks of the lure, use them for the right species in the proper conditions.  Saltwater fish often feed on prey that is bioluminescent.  Salmon, squid, halibut and rockfish are well known to take bait that glows.  

The big question is whether or not they prefer glowing lures over non-glowing lures.  Most evidence lacks any scientific proof so you may need to see for yourself and ask other experienced anglers.  

Walleye anglers enter fierce debates over the use of glowing lures.  Those that like to fish at night claim that their best catches were with glow in the dark baits.  Some like to add glow beads to their trolling setup during the day to tempt deep water bites from skittish feeders.  

When is the best time to use them

The most obvious time to use glow in the dark lures is at night.  More and more anglers are starting to prefer night fishing and it is reasonable to try out bait that glows.  It may take some experimenting to see what works in your local waters.  If you want to learn why you should try night fishing, check out my post here.   

Glow in the dark lures are not just for night fishing.  They can even work in deeper water during the day.  Jigging for kokanee is a great opportunity to use glow in the dark lures. These fish swim deep in 50 to 100 feet of water. You can read more about it in my ultimate guide to kokanee jigging.

When the sun is shining and everything is bright on the surface, it is easy to think that the sun rays reach clear to the bottom.  However, even in 10-15 feet of water the amount of light is cut drastically.  Certain wavelengths of light don’t travel far through water.  Red and orange colors on a lure fade to grey quickly beyond 15 feet.  Add in some cloudy skies, wind chop or poor water clarity and it gets darker still.   

Day time UV rays penetrate the water deeper than visible light and will make a glow in the dark lure shine to attract predator fish.  When you are fishing at dawn or dusk, hold a small flashlight on the lure for a few seconds and it will glow for several minutes.  

Glow in the dark ice fishing lures

If glow in the dark lures can prove their worth, it’s during ice fishing season.  A bit of light can shine through the ice, but add a fresh layer of snow on top and you get some dark conditions.  Combine that with overcast weather, deep edges or some structure and suddenly light becomes even scarcer.  

Many ice fishermen add a couple glow jigs to their arsenal for just such occasions.  That little bit of glowing flare can entice bites when other methods are not producing.  Glow jigs and spoons tipped with your favorite live bait can make for a good day on the ice. 

Is it legal to use lures that glow

From my research I did not find any information that suggests glow in the dark lures are illegal for fishing.  Some states ban the use of electronic lures that have lights built in, but not lures with glowing paint.  

Sometimes a method of fishing is so successful that it is rendered illegal in order to give fish a better chance and make fishing more sporting.  Glow in the dark lures certainly add an advantage in some conditions but it is hardly a silver bullet. 

Before you spend gobs of money buying a tackle box full of glowing lures, check your local fishing regulations to make sure they are legal to use where you live.  Visit my Fish and Wildlife page to find your state’s fishing regulations.

How to make your own 

Alright, you decided to give glow in the dark lures a try.  Buying pre-made lures for the fish type you are targeting is a great way to start.  For those of you on a budget, making your own is a fun way to test out new designs.  You never know, you might discover a fish slaying pattern.

When I was a kid, glow in the dark paint was limited in color.  Now, a wide range of colors are available.  Your lure is going to be spending a lot of time in the water so choose a waterproof paint.  Also, as you catch fish, their teeth will scratch the paint off.  Occasionally, you may need to touch it up so always give your gear a quick check before heading out.

Pick your paint colors and lure to paint carefully.  Remember, subtle additions are all you need.  It is important to add realistic details.  Your paint should give the lure a sense of directional movement.  I recommend painting the eye or a small stripe to start.  Just avoid making it a solid blob of glow paint.  

Summing it up

Personally, I am still on the fence about the advantages of glow in the dark lures.  On one hand, it makes logical sense that fish are drawn to something that stands out and looks like easy pickings.  But on the other hand, I have not seen it produce substantially more fish.  

I usually switch to a glow in the dark lure when all else fails.  On those occasions, it sometimes works out.  Ice fishing and saltwater fishing are those times when it is worth having a few glow in the dark choices just in case. 

You may just need to try it out for yourself.