Our Outdoors: Colorblind

By Nick Simonson

In the modern era of fishing tackle, lures are as much designed to catch the eye of anglers as they are fish.  How else are the 95 different models of Rapala crankbaits explained (and that’s just the ones found on the company’s “best sellers” portion of its website)?  Ultraviolet paint, reflective prisms, baitfish ball techni-seal skins and more sell the angler as well as the fish on the realism of the offering.  While matching the hatch is important, the insanity as to how real these offerings appear is mindblowing.  Certainly, if the lure looks more like a perch than a real perch does to us, the fish must think so too.

Exposed to this hyper-marketization of modern fishing lures, even I have come to expect a certain order in the flies, jigs and lures created at my own bench where that element of technology is lacking, but a spirit of uniformity still dictates my creations.  A copper beadhead nymph has to have a copper-ribbed abdomen.  A pink jighead for crappies has pink thread and definitely some sort of pink accent in its dressing, be it marabou or flash that finishes it out.  A walleye spinner with a gold blade will certainly have gold beads buffering the hook, with maybe a red one thrown in for a gill-like trigger, or some purple plastic mixed in to make it look like a dark-colored chub.  I’ve yet to figure out if these like-color combinations matter to the fish or if there’s something else entirely, like profile, vibration, size or a trailing hunk of bait that is more important.

Like the Lego car that was predominantly red and white when I left the room after an hour of building that suddenly had its back end replaced with a stack of multi-hued bricks, a brown window and little man standing on top of a tree when I returned a few minutes later, it only takes a little imagination and the flash of colored inspiration from a child to hammer the question home.  Fresh off his first fish through the ice this season, my four-year-old came downstairs to my office one afternoon, asking to make some lures with me.  Working on the last of my spinners for the winter season, I obliged.  The half-dozen on the foam rigger were evenly tied, in orderly fashion, moving from green foil, to chartreuse-and-green to chartreuse-and-orange to the empty black foam where the last six would go to round out the trolling box before turning to panfish and walleye jigs.

“Do you want to try one,” I asked.

Excited by the opportunity, he reached for a blade from the splash of colorful options spread out like pennies from a piggy bank on the desk in front of him.  There were big red foil blades, huge firetiger baitfish blades, and the frequently-used silver, gold and chartreuse blades that had done so well on a couple waters for me last summer.  At the bottom and edges of the pile were those lesser-used blades from the online retailer’s variety pack that fueled my winter obsession, with the pink-and-white, white-and-green five of diamonds and the solid green blades that carried over from season to season in a pile of unused options.  It was no surprise he grabbed the latter, as I could see the tree-man-window-car tires starting to turn in his mind.

I selected a small clevis for the blade and instructed him to pick out six or seven beads from the nicely-organized bead box and thread them on to the two-hook snell I had given him.  I turned away to take care of a couple papers on the adjacent desk until an elongated “I’mmmm dooo-ooone,” pulled me back.  There dangling on the monofilament, stacked above the two red hooks was a selection of beads so anti-establishment it would peel the paint off any high-priced crankbait and make an OCD lure maker cringe.  A solid pink four-millimeter bead was followed by bigger ones in orange, red and glow before a tiny black bead capped off the stretch of plastic spacers.  I chuckled at the mix that matched the recent modifications to our Lego car, before threading the green blade on and tying the lure off with a double-surgeon’s loop.

The spinners that followed were the same technicolor marvels with beads of varying sizes and colors, regardless of the shade of the blade my son selected. While they may not have been the most eye-catching lures, we’ll find out in just a few short months about their fish-catching abilities…in our outdoors.

(Featured Photo: Something else.  A green blade and a mix of beads was the first spinner produced by the author’s son. Simonson Photo) 

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