Anglers are gobbling up red baits, hooks and lines, but does this color really make a difference underwater?
Red is hot. Red is a strong color that conjures up conflicting emotions from passionate love to violence and warfare. Red is power. Red is the color of the tie for business people and the carpet for celebrities.
Flashing red lights represent danger or emergency. Stop signs and stoplights are red to get a driver’s attention and alert him to the dangers of an intersection.
Red is often the color worn by brides in the East, while it is the color of mourning in South Africa. In Russia, the Bolsheviks used a red flag when they overthrew the Tsars; thus red became associated with communism.
Red is used to grab attention and to get people to take action. Red keeps you from sinking into the background. Red suggests speed combined with confidence and a bit of danger. A little bit of red goes a long way.
We can have a red-letter day, give the red-carpet treatment, and paint the town red. On the other hand, we can see red or be in the red.
Red is Cupid. Red is the Devil.
It’s no wonder, then, that red is being marketed as an invisible fishing line and a highly visible hook color at the same time. I guess it kind of fits, though. Red is the most contradictory color in the spectrum. It is this type of egregious inconsistency that is the essence of the color.
The light spectrum is well known. ROYGBIV is an acronym used to remember the colors from one end to the other. From left to right, the letters stand for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
A mixture of all the colors makes white light. If you were to take seven flashlights, each of which was giving off one of these colors, and shine all the lights at a white wall, the spot of light would be white. Therefore, a white light gives off all the colors.
Water acts as a selective filter. If you were to suspend a white light above the surface of a tank that was 1,000 feet deep, the colors from the white light would be filtered out selectively one-by-one. It is gradual, and there is no abrupt interface.
Most of the red is gone after only 10 feet. Some of the orange is gone. Less of the yellow is lost, etc. At 25 feet, most of the orange is gone. At 35 feet, most of the yellow is gone.
This continues through the spectrum until all that’s left is violet light, which doesn’t fade out until hundreds of feet. So, at the bottom of this 1,000-foot tank, there would be little or no light.
Selective filtration creates some interesting conditions. If a diver, for example, is bleeding at 60 feet, where there is no red light, the diver bleeds a greenish-black blood. And remember, this is all assuming that the water has good visibility.
In theory, then, red lures and red line would appear more black than red any deeper than 10 feet. It might be argued that they would appear more orange or yellow since those colors are still reflected deeper than 10 feet. However, since red is a primary color, there isn’t any orange or yellow to reflect assuming the lure or line is a true red.
TTI Companies (makers of Tru-Turn, Daiichi, StandOut and Xpoint hooks) discovered several years ago that bass in a tackle shop aquarium were more attracted to a red jig than they were other colors.
A few years later they observed bass in that same aquarium following a red dot around the aquarium that was emitted by a laser light. TTI began making red hooks shortly thereafter.
The red laser experiment has been repeated numerous times by anglers presenting seminars in the Hawg Troughs often seen at outdoor shows. The speakers, whether trying to prove it to potential customers or to themselves, shine the laser light into the tank and, sure enough, the bass try to attack the red flash.
Mark Barnes, a Strike King pro staffer and accomplished diver from Florida, conducted his own experiment in the fish tank at his local Bass Pro Shops.
“I was working a show, and they allowed me to do a little testing after the store closed one night,” he said. “I spooled up a reel with the Cajun Red Line and tied on a Strike King Bleeding Premiere Elite spinnerbait. I made several pitches into the tank — near the glass, in the middle, and back against the rock wall.
“Tom Mathis of Shakespeare was on the floor observing. We found that no matter where the bait was positioned in the tank, the bait gave off several red flashes during the retrieve — almost like a blinking red light.”
As far as the red line, Barnes said that it was visible for the first 3 feet.
“Any deeper than that, though,” he said, “and we couldn’t see it no matter how hard we tried.”
Barnes’ findings fall right in line with the properties of red light. The spinnerbait was still flashing red because it didn’t go beyond that magic 10 feet where it starts to get filtered.
The line? Granted, it faded out only 3 feet below the surface, but the dark store and dark wall backdrop probably had something to do with that. Also, remember that the filtering of light is a progressive happening that can begin as shallow as 3 feet.
Clearing Up Conflicting Claims
After establishing that the color red is visible only in the top 10 feet or so of the water column, and that it fades out any deeper than that, we are left with one company claiming that their fishing line is invisible and one claiming that their red lures attract bass. Who’s right? Actually, they both are — to a certain extent.
Barnes’ theory is that red lures attract bass because they are solid and reflect light. Just as a gold blade gives off a gold flash, a red hook gives off a red flash. As long as your lure is shallower than 10 feet, and it has red on it, it will give off red flashes. Any deeper than 10 feet and your red lure will progressively become a black lure.
So that red shad worm you’ve been fishing 20 feet deep? Yep, it looks black to the fish.
What about the red line? Since the selective filtration of light underwater is gradual, there aren’t any absolute depths where red light is suddenly gone. Depending on conditions (mud, wave action, etc.), red light could start being filtered as shallow as 3 feet. That means red line will begin to blend into its surroundings anywhere from 3 to 10 feet deep and become less visible to the fish.
The argument that companies hawking red hooks and red line can’t have it both ways is moot. In theory, both claims are correct. If you want to argue proven scientific principles, go right ahead. The facts are that red lures will give off progressively weaker flashes of red down to about 10 feet or so, and red line will progressively disappear from 3 to 10 feet.
Have you ever been someplace where women were wearing sequined dresses? If so, there’s no doubt those women attracted your attention — not necessarily from their beauty, or lack thereof, but from those brilliant flashes of light emanating when one of those sequins caught the light just right.
Once attracted by the light, you moved in and swept her off her feet. Flashes attract attention.
Barnes believes that red flashes are what make red hooks so attractive to bass.
“If you watch a baitfish swimming around in the water, you’ll see an occasional flash of its red gills,” he said. “I feel that a bass, being a predator fish, keys on the red flashes because it’s a familiar sign signaling an easy meal.”
Another theory explaining why red hooks and lures may attract bass is a phenomenon called “gill flash.” Gill flash occurs when a fish’s gills become engorged with blood during a feeding frenzy. This could be a signal to other bass that there is food in the area, and if they want a bite they better hurry up and get on board.
Tournament angler Sid Havard from Simsboro says he first learned of the flash a red hook can emit while fishing a ReAction Salty Dog at Sam Rayburn.
“My co-angler was putting it on me using with the same lure,” he said. “The only difference was he was using a red hook. I talked him out of one, tied it on, and couldn’t believe the flash that hook was putting off. When the bait was falling, it would kick to one side and flash, it would kick to the other and flash. That red hook looked like a red strobe light going off underwater.”
Red in the Real World
Obviously, the big question is whether these red hooks and lines work. Do they actually help you catch more bass?
Barnes admits he was a skeptic at first.
“I saw them as a novelty until I proved to myself that there was a definite advantage,” he said. “I tested the Bleeding Bait theory by taking a plain crankbait and replacing the front hook with a Bleeding Bait hook. The first four fish I caught were hooked on that belly hook.
“Unscientific? Maybe, but it made a quick believer out of me.”
Barnes also had to prove to himself that the Cajun Red Line did what it says it does.
“The test in that Bass Pro tank was enough to make me want to try it,” he said. “I gave it a thorough workout as a leader on a Carolina rig, and have proven to myself that it helps me catch more fish. I challenge skeptics to try the line as a Carolina-rig leader. You’ll see the difference as well.”
Havard, on the other hand, didn’t have to prove it to himself like Barnes. He had it proven to him — twice.
“I think the fact that I’ve been in the boat with anglers who were outcatching me three to one while using red hooks has made me more of a believer,” he said. “One time was when I was with the co-angler at Rayburn, and the other was when I was fishing with professional angler Scott Rook. Rook and I were fishing crankbaits, only his had a red belly hook and mine didn’t. Needless to say, he wore me out until I switched to a red belly hook too.”
Havard has expanded his red line-up to include red trailer hooks on his spinnerbaits and red hooks on his Texas rigged soft plastics.
“There’s definitely something to it,” he said. “I don’t really care whether red attracts bass, it helps me hook them better or it’s a confidence factor. At the end of the day, I firmly believe employing red puts more fish in my boat.
“Another thing I’ve noticed is that I seem to be catching bigger fish now. It may be a mind thing, but right now I’m a very confident angler when I’m using red hooks.”
What does all this red business mean to Louisiana bass anglers? Will the red hooks work here? Will the red line help us catch more bass? Here’s what we know. Red is filtered out of the light spectrum around 10 or 12 feet deep.
When was the last time you actually fished deeper than 12 feet here in the Bayou State? Louisiana anglers can at least be confident that their red hooks appear red underwater.
And what about the line? We know that the red line will progressively disappear the closer it gets to that 10-foot depth, thus making it a viable option for anglers looking for less visible line around heavy cover in water 3- to 10-feet deep — the comfort zone of most Louisiana bass anglers.
But the question remains. Will red hooks and red line help you catch more fish? The best way for you to arrive at an answer is to try them. The questions surrounding the red craze can really only be answered by one person — you. You’re the only person you’re going to believe anyway.
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