What Color?By Russ Bassdozer
I must commend Wayne as always and sincerely on his insight on fishing. His post mentions two ways, both of which are successful. The first way, as Wayne says to stick with one bait in one color. Make no mistake, it can and IS done. I know a handful of anglers far better than myself who do that - fish one bait only. These guys are hard to beat, and on certain fisheries, I too will use one bait in one size and color - and do well. I enjoy that approach since it eliminates ALL of the variables except what Wayne says, which is to judge how the fish change fron trip to trip, and thereby catch them every time on that one bait. The second approach Wayne observes is to use a wide variety of colors, styles and sizes, and through trial and error, there is ususally a way to entice a bite if you discover the correct depth, color and presentation. That is what I have been doing on Powell since I got here last June (18 months ago). I have also done this on other fisheries where I could not beat the "one bait" guys at their own game, but I could often times outfish them by applying an ever-changing array of colors, styles and sizes of bait. As you may imagine, it is an exhaustive "needle in the haystack" approach to do that. But if you "listen" to what the bass tell you about each different bait you try, you can start to key in on a pattern that depends on a particular size, color and style that will work for a day, a week, a month or a season - but never lasts forever. In that regard, this approach is a "continuum" that may never repeat itself twice, and it is interersting and unpredictable as it unfolds!
My first experience on Powell was a few trips in October 1999. Those first few trips, all anybody used were chartreuse single tail grubs on jig heads. The guides I fished with opened their bait lockers, and they had loads of bait. What I saw seemed to be ALL chartreuse (with different sparkle variations), and mostly single tail grubs.
So when I moved out here (June, 2000), I used a lot of chartreuse single tail grubs that first year. Having eyes, I looked around me. I saw hardly no green, but everything was shades of brown - sand brown, orange brown and red brown. So, I added lots of browns to my repertoire (and combos of browns and chartreuses). Browns and chartreuses worked well for me straight through the 2000 season into late December, and I hardly used a green bait in 2000. I tended toward smoke baits (163, 200 or 214) when fish wouldn't bite the chartreuses or browns in 2000.
In 2001, I started kicking them on watermelon around Valentine's Day, and I used LOTS of watermelons up until October 2001. I used no browns (except 236) in 2001 and no truly heavy chartreuse usage in 2001. In spring, I went through a big bout of using bubblegum (229) which lost its flavor sometime in summer. About this time, a few hot rounds were fought with cherry red (008 & 009), but I never used cherry again after that. So many colors, so little time!
In the spring on the beds, they whacked the crack out of 901 (black/red) and 904 (black/blue) on the beds, and kept biting watermelons (194, 208 & 297) from early spring through mid-summer. As I said, I hardly used green in 2000 - and I hardly used brown in 2001. I hardly used black/red or black/blue after they left the beds either. Go figure!
Once it was mid-summer and schools of minitature young-of-year of all species were able to flit and flash about by themselves, I made the Senko Shiner (905 clear w/gold,silver, black, or 168 w/black) to imitate these flashing schools of bitty fish in early summer. I do feel bass believed it to be a flashing school of tiny bait, not an individual baitfish. In fact, I often watched bass jump from one side to the other of the Senko Shiner as it fell, seeming to use the sides of their bodies as if trying to herd and "ball" my Senko into a tighter cluster before bashing it.
In mid-August, I started to mix in lots of shad patterns (187, 150, 177, 237). Let's say about October, whites (especially 300) came on strong. Somewhere late in October, blue (240) ruled into November when almost anything with a blue sparkle flake in it worked well.
Now things are coming full circle here. You recall my saying chartreuse was the first thing I used here (because others seemed to use it). As the guides on this lake know (and prefer for their clients), chartreuse attracts smallies. Personally, I just don't like chartreuse too much, and I don't think largemouth do either, except in the spawn or when they are pumped up by an approaching squall. So, I designed the Watermelon Senko Shiner (907) around October as a way for me to "green" a chartreuse bait, and if you look at the 907 under water, you'll see the 907 mimics the bright lime green chartreuse color that largemouth dorsals appear under water in Lake Powell. If it's a good color for largemouth backs to blend into the lake, it's probably a good color for a bait here too.
However, since the whites and blues came on so heavy starting somewhere in October, I haven't had much opportunity as I would have liked to use the 907 much (too busy with the whites and blues). Plus, the catches went down on any kinds of watermelons anyway, (at least for me) in mid to late fall. Even still, guys in the boat with me caught pretty good with the 907 whenever they tossed it this fall, and it has achieved success winning several tournaments across the country too. I made just one cast with 907 last week. As I watched it start to sink slowly, I caught a big largemouth that rose to the surface behind it like a submarine ascending from the depths! The largemouth tore the bait to pieces, so I picked up another rod with a blue on it, and stuck to blue the rest of that day, never trying the 907 again.
In the last two trips, I have just begun to key in on more and bigger bass on purples (157 or 213), and I can't wait to get out again and pick up where that left off.
Now, I am sure I left out a lot of colors and color combos I used here on Powell the last two seasons, but the colors mentioned above were a big part of the fashion parade for me the last eighteen months on Powell. Notice, nothing repeated itself, but it all progressed along the lines of that "continuum" thing I mentioned earlier.
So, do you need all that for Powell? Do you need chartreuse, brown, black/blue, black/red, pink, cherry, watermelons, smokes, 905's, assorted shad patterns, blues, whites or purples?
Do you need several sizes of single tail grubs, skirted double tail hula grubs, two sizes of tube baits, 6 sizes of Senkos from 3" to 6", lizards, 2 sizes of crawdads, wispy drop shot baits in assorted styles, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, propbaits, poppers, topwalking baits, crankbaits, lipped minnow baits, Texas rigs, Pro-Jo rigs, Carolina rigs, dropshot rigs, a variety of jigheads and so on? As with the different colors, the different sizes, styles, jigs and rigs have all had their moments over the last 18 months for me, which have been very much of a "straight line" that progressed for me through trial-and-error, without a lot of repetition or "going back" to what worked last week or last month. In fact, most of my many years of fishing has been just such a continuum of styles, baits and colors, and I have rarely circled back to re-apply any of the fickle fashion parade that passed in prior years and decades.
So do you need all that for Powell? Maybe you do, and maybe you don't! It is however what has unfolded for me, totally unplanned by "listening" to the fish and scrambling to give them what I felt they wanted from me!