Choosing the right lure color is about as important a decision as you’ll ever make, right up there with where you decide to go to college, who you decide to marry, and what profession you decide to go into. Hey, I take my fishing seriously, remember?

Now, I’ll admit that these other decisions have a greater impact on different aspects of your life, such as… something or other. Who cares, since  it’s bound to have less of an impact on your success as an angler—which trumps all else. So, considering the fact that making the correct lure color choice is of paramount importance, how are you going to make it? Use these rules, and you’ll pick right every time.

different color fishing lures

No matter what you fish for or where you go fishing, choosing the right colors is key.

1. The old Chesapeake Bay adage “If it ain’t chartreuse it ain’t no use” is based in truth, and that's because the bay’s waters are usually a greenish color. The standard rule of thumb is that no matter where you fish, start by matching lure color with water color.  If you try tossing chartreuse in the tannic-stained waters you’ll often come up blank; root-beer would have been a much better choice. This even holds true at night, when the water appears to be an inky black—and black lures are effective. The same goes for clear blue ocean waters, where blues and blue/white combinations are effective. And in yellow-tinged rivers, where yellow often is the ticket to success.

2. Certain species favor certain colors. Wahoo are particular to red/black combinations, speckled sea trout seem to love bubble-gum pink much of the time, Spanish mackerel go for gold spoons over silver any day of the week, and crappie are often partial to white, especially in gin-clear waters. These preferences don’t negate other color choice rules, but when the usual pick doesn’t pan out, they often turn out to be exactly what the fish want.

3. Shiny, bright colors usually out-catch dull or pastel colors in bright sunlight. But on overcast days, those pastels often turn out to be the killer choice.

What does all of this boil down to? Matching the hatch. Baitfish are likely to be shaded to match the waters and light conditions they swim in, for camouflage. So in order to match them and fool the predators, you need a similarly-shaded offering. What do you do, when all else fails? Try something crazy—after all, these are fish we’re talking about.