With the opening of Pennsylvania's regular bass season Saturday, June 18, one of the biggest decisions recreational anglers face is what color bait is the right color bait and when is the best time to fish that color.
In the Northeast, from the St. Lawrence to the Potomac in the south, from the Allegheny to the Delaware and all rivers and lakes in between what works one place is almost always going to work at another. All that is needed is finding the right color for the bait being fished.
With the popularity of bass fishing, there are plenty of suggestions from the professional anglers that can be seen and heard daily on the various outdoors television channels about what is the latest must-have color. Almost as alluring are the full-color advertisements in magazines that display soft and hard baits available in more colors than a rainbow.
It has long been said that many lures seemingly are designed to catch more fishermen than they are to catch fish, and that certainly seems to be the case with some of the newer colors used for baits. Even if baits in basic black and various shades of brown consistently produce bass, some anglers are just unable to resist adding a selection of baits in bubblegum or watermelon to their tackle.
Sooner or later, if an angler is persistent enough in fishing a particular bait color, it will entice a bass to strike. Usually, in the copy-cat world of bass angling, that is all it takes for a percentage of anglers to become convinced that color is the latest must-have, hottest-ever for that upcoming vacation or weekend buddy tournament.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider for the recreational angler, however, is fish the baits that have consistently produced fish – regardless of color. In other words, if an angler has confidence in a certain color bait, that is the right color to use.
Most professional anglers and guides agree that the four key factors to consider when targeting bass are bait selection, color, presentation and retrieve and rigging. Interestingly, not even these anglers are always in agreement on where color ranks in the order of importance when targeting bass.
For example, Rod Bates of the Carlisle-based Koinonia Guide Service ranks color selection No. 2 when he guides on the Susquehanna River. He clarifies that ranking, however, by saying that all four factors go hand in hand and compliment each other.
Meanwhile, Doug Amos, who guides on the St. Lawrence River out of Caiger's Riverside Resort in Mallorytown, Ontario, ranks color selection No. 4. In order, he ranks presentation, rigging and bait selection ahead of bait color.
"Even the best bait in the right color fished incorrectly will catch nothing," Amos said. "About the only exception might be a Senko, because when anyone fishes them, it's hard not to catch a fish.
"If I had to take one bait to fish anywhere in a wide variety of environments, it would be a watermelon/red flake fluke style bait. It catches bass shallow or deep, in weeds, rocks, wood, sand and mud, around docks in fast and slow current, but only if its rigged properly."
Obviously, the main concern for guides is having their clients catch fish, so they are most likely going to use baits in the colors that consistently produce fish. For that reason, successful guides will often use different baits in different colors than another because of the confidence they have in their tackle – experimenting during practice time or when trying to improve their luck during a tournament.
"One of the things to consider is that sometimes the best bait and the best bait color may depend on the time of the year, water conditions and the weather," Bates said. "Some of my most consistently productive baits are the YUM Dinger and the Craw Pappy.
"In the Susquehanna, we fish the Dinger weightless and rig it wacky style, and fish the Craw Pappy on an eighth-ounce jig head. Even though these are scented baits, I always spray my soft baits periodically with YUM Spray Scent in either crawfish or shad.
"It's easy to get caught up in all the various lure colors, but once you find a bait that produces, I recommend getting a selection in see-through colors for clear water, bright colors for stained water and dark colors for muddy water. If I had to fish just one color, no matter the bait, it would be green pumpkin."
Both Amos and Bates agreed on one thing when it came to selecting bait colors. That is, if the color being fished is catching fish, that is the right color – no matter what they or any other angler advises.
For information on Susquehanna River bass fishing with Rod Bates, access the Koinonia Guide Service website at www.koinoniafishingguides.com;  for information on St. Lawrence River bass fishing with Doug Amos, access 1000 Islands Guide Service at www.fishing1000islands.com/doug.html .