About the Author:
John Merwin lives in Vermont, where, when he's not tying flies, building lures, or digging up worms with his backhoe, he writes the monthly Fishing Column for Field & Stream magazine.

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October 03, 2008

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Merwin: Free Crankbaits!

Well, sort of free. This is another one of those great giveaways here at The Honest Angler, but I’m also looking for some honest opinions.
First, the stuff: I’m giving away a set of 12 Cabela’s Jointed Rad Shad crankbaits. Each one of the 12 is a different color. These baits run 3 to 5 feet deep and will suspend, so you can twitch and jerk them, too. My local smallmouths and largemouths have been jumping on these things all summer, but I have a surplus of samples that I’m willing to share. There will be one winner, who gets all 12 lures.
Now the question: What is your best lure color (or color pattern) and why? Silver or gold? Firetiger or Yellow Craw? Whatever you fish for—trout, pike, walleyes, bass, stripers—I’d like to hear your color favorite and why you think it works so well.

Hey, maybe we’ll unearth some secret lure-color thing here, and we’ll all get rich! Then again, maybe not. In any case, let’s hear it. I’ll declare a winner—based on what I think is the most astute answer—in a couple of weeks.


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Travis DeGolier

For me the go to color is black and white. I live in northern wisconsin and i like to target all the different species of fish. Last year i think i had a black and white crankbait of somesort on the whole year. I started using them colorsfor smallmouth bass in tournaments but as i fished with it more i started catching northerns, muskies, and walleyes. I think the black gives it the natural dark look but the white/silver can make the bait look bigger when the sun hits it just right.
Black and white baits of any kind seem to give me the best chance of putting that trophy fish in the boat.

Rory Cramer

Up hear in the Finger Lakes region of New York my lure color of choice is black on silver. This pattern ethier on a jointed rapala fishing 2 to 3 feet for those great small mouths or trolling for lake trout with a tamped silver king. This color combo is dynamic and will land you your prize of the day. And keeps the drive for fishing alive any season of the year.

Leo Pasnik

To be honest with you i have caught fish on everything So if you are asking me to give you a favorite color of my lures i would say all of them since i have caught fish on all my lures. Its all on what you prefer and what works at the time of year and the condition of water as we all know so i prefer all my lures Thank you for letting me share.

J Balmer

My favorite crankbait colors vary on when, where & for what.
Generally, if I'm trolling deeper than 5 ft, regardless of species, it's pearl. Part of the reason is visibility, part is it comes close to several types of bait fish & especially because over time it's proven to consistantly catch a variety of game fish.
If I'm casting, whether to shore or to deeper water from close to shore, I'm more likely to throw shad or bass colors; matching the hatch so to speak.
When the usual doesn't work, my second choice will be either something w/ chartreuse or yellow.

Dan O'Brien

My favorite lure color/pattern is the firetiger. A close second is chrome with a blue back. These two will catch walleye, bass and wipers on my home water consistently. While other colors can and do work well in specific situations, these are my go to colors.

Brian Munn

When I was a boy my Grandfather and I would float our favorite creek fishing for bass.

My Grandfather had several different colored lures to chose from in his tackle box. My favorite was the perch colored lure.

This lure worked well for both large and small mouth bass, and we more often than not came home with a couple of good sized bass.

To this day I carry the same perch colored lure in my tackle box. The last time I fished that creek, I pulled out the purch colored lure, and was able to catch two small mouth bass around 3-4 lbs each. The perch colored lure cetainly has stood the test of time.




I am from Massachusetts where there seems to be no rhyme or reason for catching bass. Matching the hatch works one day and not the next.
Recently, I have been dropping wacky rigs in chart. or pumkinseed, with varying results. In spring I "lucked out" with a aglia spinner (gold),I caught about 12 fish of various species a day and even caught a 43lb carp on it (I have the pictures to prove it).
During the summer I threw a lot of wiggle warts in 6-10' of water and caught the most fish on chart./white. As for the shallows firetiger was loading up my boat with fallfish and bass. I guess of all the lure color combos that I have used this past year my personal favorite is a chart./white jighead with a pumkinseed or chart. swimming grub. I was catching fish right next to annoyed fishermen (even two fish with one cast).Thanks to all of you out there who posted I will try some of your color suggestions. <")))<

Jason Patzer

I would have to say the best color I have found so far that will catch whatever I target up here in northern Michigan would be gold and black. True I throw a lot of diiferent patterns and colors and they all produce to varying degrees. But I have to say I have never been let down by gold and black, specifically a gold body with a black back. The gold gives just enough flash in the water no matter the clarity and I have caught smallies, largemouth, pike, crappie, trout and salmon on that combination. My favorite lure in this color is the Storm Thunderstick Jr. In the 4 inch length it's deadly for most inland lake and river fish. I have also had success with it (in gold and black and other colors) for whitefish in the the late fall (october-november). Now I know everyone has their favorited lure that they'll throw time and time again. But I believe that if you have confidence in the lures you are using you'll catch more fish. It works for me!

Dr. Ralph

Bassmaster Ballard I read your post and remembered something I had forgotten long ago. I caught a Kingfisher on a topwater bait once... I'm sure a loon would put up a much better fight!

Mackenzie Chauvin

This summer I had the most succes with a perch colored lures. I caught everything from wallye to largemouth bass on them. One of my favorite color patters now, mostly always matches the baitfish present in the lake.

Glenn Hurlbut

My favorite color lure, whether using a crank bait, spinner bait or a plastic worm is one with black, blue, white and a touch of red.If one of these colors is missing I would replace or use a hook or skirt of the missing color.

Paul F.

This is a rather unorthodox method of fishing for Steelhead on the Great Lakes tributaries that really stresses the importance of color. I like to wade these fast moving streams and have found a small diving lure (such as the Norman Little N and Deep Baby N) when fished slowly (near the bottom) to be very effective. The fast moving current and the resulting rapid tight wiggle of these lures can drive these fish into violent strikes. One color (chrome with black back) has proven to be far superior to all other colors. But, as important as this color is, it will be totally ineffective without the proper presentation. Note: Please check local laws when using this presentation as some streams will not allow the use of lead (floating lures only) and some streams will prohibit the use of treble hooks, (single hooks only). GOOD LUCK and PLEASE PRACTICE CATCH AND RELEASE!


I think by far the best lure to use is a shiny blue rat-l-trap lure in the morning and a green rat-l-trap during the evening the best at night are rapalas such as the sx minnow because they tend to be of a darker tone which makes a better presentation at night or as it is getting dark.

Brandon D.

When fishing with rubber worms, i have the best luck with redish-marunish type colors-i get a bite almost every cast for largemouth bass. I also like the Mepps Aglia red and white Spinnerbait-catches lots of fish. Also like Green and Yellowish-orange rapalas, i've had bites on them by fish that weighed 4+lbs,(big in my area, not many fish left after drought), and on my rapalas, ive also caught fish as small as the lure on them. I think that it's because the worms look like one of the most common fish foods here, earthworms. I think the spinners look look like golden shiner minnows, (a preferred food for fish Here), and i think the rapalas look like smaller panfish or some other type of food fish for bass.

Jesse Cornell

Here in Kansas we have a great mix of smallmouth and largemouth bass. You can't really pick a best crankbait color unless you specify the season of the year in which you are fishing. In the spring it is hands down a brown/gree pumpkin crawfish color. Then as you more into the early summer its definetly a bluegill color. As summer approaches the mid to late end of the season the lake is turning over so the water is alittle stained. At this time a chartruse brown back crankbait is the best option. And as you approach fall-winter a white bodied bait with a black back and a black speckled side will out produce any other bait! Hope this helps in the search for the best crankbait color.


I use a Bluegill color on most of my baits. Crank baits, spinner or chatter bait,and soft plastic. All fish will feed on Bluegill of all sizes.

Mike Mallick


I'm 56 years old and have been fishing ever since I could Hold a Rod. I've found that the best all around pattern for any Freshwater Species would be a Yellow Perch. I don't think you could do better. I've caught everything from bluegills to Muskie With a Perch Pattern type crankbait etc.

Jeremy Dickey

I fish mostly around North Central and East Texas. I'd have to say any thing white or mostly white is my all around favorite bait color. Over all I have cought more fish with it than any other with a variety of baits. Crappie jigs, crank baits, spinners, even my most productive two topwater baits are 90% White. Either a gray, black, or blue stripe down the back or the side. Jigs are the same way, white body and or tail and just a different color head may be the only difference. The secondairy accent colors often dont make much difference. I usualy start out or end up with somthing white on the end of my pole wheather I'm here on my personal pond or one of the nearby lakes.

David Feinberg

I prefer brown crawdad and similar color. I fish mostly for bass in Masachusetts and htis color is a consistent producer. I switch to fire tiger, deep reds, bright greens, and yellow but none are as reliable and as durable as the brown crawdad. It produces strikes all season long. My favorite crank bait is a jointed Rapala at 4' to 6' of water.

William L Webb

Ya know, I can't say I have just one favorite color or pattern. Those that seem to work best here in Central Illinois seem to change constantly. I guess the most consistant are Firetiger, Red Craw, and Chrome Blue-backed patterns. At least in Crankbaits.Although Yellow-Chartreuse and White are right up there too. I guess my very favorite is whatever they're hittin' at the time.

Gene Brown

I have had better results with bright “Kodak” yellow no matter what kind lure I use. I have caught fish on all colors but yellow is by far the best. I fish for largemouth bass and crappie in north Texas. Hot pink works pretty well for crappie, but if I could only use one color it would be yellow.

H. F.

I think gold lures work the best for me. I don't know why...but maybe because they are really shiny and the fish think they are winning the "big" prize because they are gold.

James Dillon

Large Mouth Bass color or pattern. Any water with LM in it I use this pattern. I carry a permanent magic marker with me and if my crank does not have a LM lateral broken line I put it on with the marker.

George C Atkinson

Hands down, Black is best. The fish have no problem locating it in clear or dirty water, day or night. Here in central Texas, I fish a lot at night on a full moon and black is the color that I have had the best luck with. Black also works well in salt water back bays as well as the surf. Fresh water or salt, go black to pick up the slack.

Scott in Ohio


I still clearly recall an article I read in Field & Stream as a kid in the mid-80s about silver-bladed spinners with a yellow body being the "Farah Fosset" of lures for trout and bass. I still use 'em and generally clean up on my buddies who use red hooks and other gimmicks.

In the past year I also saw on the Discovery Channel that the yellow-colored scuba suits originally used by divers are no longer made as it was determined that sharks are attracted to yellow more than any other color.

Hell, that works for me (and so does Farah!)

Mike Sullivan

The two crank bait colors that work best for bass in eastern Missouri and western Kansas are pumpkin in shallow, dark or muddy water and silver in deep and clear water.

John Merwin

Contest over as of 6 p.m. on October 23rd. Check the blog post for 10/24 for the winner.

Andrew Foote

I have to say that my go to lure varies by the water conditions. In high light, clear, shallow water conditions I go to an old-school rapala silver and black diving/floating minnow. The silver color combined with a jerky retreive, gives off flashes that the fish can see from a long way off. I often cast to an area and see the fish coming from long distances. In low light conditions, I favor a deep diving shad in an orange and black pattern. It works especially well in the heat of summer when the big bass go deep during the day and start to emerge as the sun goes down. I have used these combos from New York to Kentucky and lots of places near the highway in between.

Andy Brasseur

I think the best color crankbait color has to be crimson. The reason I think this is because I have a "go-to" crimson Bomber crankbait that I've had for years that has caught everything from pike,bass,walleye,panfish(just about everthing in Michigan but trout). The reason I believe it works so well is because of it's versatility in different water colors and weather. Small lakes, big lakes, ponds, rivers,creeks it doesn't matter. In fact, I should just keep that lure on all the time instead of spending so much damn money on tackle. But hey, I can't not buy a new lure that looks cool when I run to the store just to buy bread and milk.

Jim in Mo

Dr. R,
Maybe we should fish together someday. The rattletrap has always been my favorite for lakes and streams here in Mo. My favorite type of RT is made by Bill Lewis lures, getting hard to find. But they have smaller and more bb's in them than the others and the higher pitched sound seems to make a difference especially on smallmouth, white bass and walleye. Also, I can't say color seems to make much difference with them, I generally get the blue/silver pattern. Congrats