Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

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Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

Column 1: Metallic Silver, Bone White, Citrus Shad, Texas Red, Fire Tiger. Column 2: Baby Bass, Sexy Shad, Crawfish, Ayu, Tennessee Shad.

As a writer/photographer covering the bass fishing scene for over 40 years, I’ve fished with most of the top professional anglers in the nation, several of whom have won hundreds of thousands of dollars fishing crankbaits. All of these superstars are sponsored by lure companies that keep them well stocked with zillions of crankbaits in every conceivable color combination, yet most rely on a surprisingly narrow selection of colors in actual tournament competition…10 of which I’m highlighting in this article. Undoubtedly your crankbait stash already includes at least some of these must-have colors. If you’re missing any of them, run, don’t walk, to your nearest tackle outlet to stock up now!

Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

#1-5: Metallic Silver (shown with blue back), Bone White, Citrus Shad, Texas Red, Fire Tiger.

#1: Metallic Silver, Gold or Blue

Description: A shiny, reflective color, rendered either in a plain, hammered or foil finish, covers most of the lure’s body. Sometimes used with a secondary color such as white.

What it mimics: Shad, alewife, cisco, perch

Use this color on: Lipless and diving crankbaits

Application: Reflective colors work best on sunny days in clear to slightly stained lakes and rivers. They capture the metallic flash of a pelagic (open water) baitfish, so use them wherever schooling baitfish are likely to congregate, such as around points, offshore humps, riprap close to dams, etc.

Pro pointer: Metallic colors lose their flash (and therefore much of their effectiveness) on cloudy days. Under cloud cover, they act like a mirror reflecting the grayness around them.

#2: Bone White

Description: Flat white or cream body, sometimes with light gray back, spots or stripes and chartreuse, orange or red throat or belly accents.

What it mimics: Shad

Use this color on: Diving crankbaits

Application:  Bone white is a good color choice on overcast days, when a metallic finish loses its flash. Especially potent when fished around baitfish schools on offshore structure.

Pro pointer: This light, flat color retains its visibility even in heavily stained water, making it a safe choice when seasonal rains turn a normally clear reservoir murky.

Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

#3 Citrus Shad – one of the top ten crankbait colors favored by leading pros like three-time TTBC world champion Keith Combs.

#3 Citrus Shad

Description: Bright blue back fading into chartreuse sides fading into white; may have orange, chartreuse or blue belly

What it mimics: Shad, perch, bluegill

Use this color on: Medium and deep diving crankbaits

Application: You can go to the bank on this color when your game plan calls for deep-crankin’ offshore structures in hot weather. A bright, highly visible pattern that draws reaction strikes when bass are suspending around ditches and channel drops, typical largemouth behavior once the water temperature tops 80 degrees.

Pro pointer: This color pattern works best in lakes that have a pronounced algae bloom i.e. greenish water color. In clearer or murkier water, other patterns listed here may be more effective.

#4: Texas Red

Description:  Dark red sides, sometimes with black back and black vertical stripes or hash marks; orange belly.

What it mimics: Crayfish

Use this color on: Lipless and square bill crankbaits

Application: Crayfish occur in a remarkably wide range of color patterns depending on region and season of the year, so if bass aren’t biting color #8, try this alternative.

Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

#4 Texas Red – one of the top ten crankbait colors favored by leading pros like Fred Roumbanis

Pro pointer: This color works great in murky water. Fish a Texas Red lipless crankbait on shallow flats and around shoreline pockets in spring when the water temp first hits 50 degrees.

#5: Fire Tiger

Description: Black or dark green back, green sides, white belly, black vertical bars

What it mimics: Bluegill, perch

Use this color on: Square bill and medium diving crankbaits

Application: Stained to murky water; clear water on overcast days. This color may look somewhat outrageous, but it actually captures the hues of live bluegill to a T, so try it whenever bass are feeding on ‘gills around shallow wood cover.

Pro pointer: If you’re fishing a normally clear lake on a windy day, look for discolored or muddy water caused by waves pounding against a steep bank or point – a fire tiger crankbait rules in these conditions.

Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

#6-10: Baby Bass, Sexy Shad, Crawfish, Ayu, Tennessee Shad.

#6: Baby Bass

Description: Green sides fading to white or cream, black or dark green back, black horizontal stripe

What it mimics: Largemouth bass fry

Use this color on: Square bill and “minus” crankbaits

Application: Sounds creepy, but largemouth bass will eat their young, so try a small shallow-running crankbait in this realistic color pattern around spawning flats and sheltered bays after the spawn.

Pro pointer: Unlike several of the color options described here, this one’s a killer in clear water.

#7: Sexy Shad

Description: Blue-gray back and sides, yellow horizontal stripe, cream belly

What it mimics:  Shad

Use this color on: Diving crankbaits

Application: Bass pros have made this relatively new color pattern a top choice for cranking offshore ledges, points and similar main lake structures.

Pro pointer: A long-billed ¾-ounce crankbait in Sexy Shad is the “ledge dredge” that has racked up big bucks in summer tournaments.

Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

This color combines #1 Metallic and #7 Sexy Shad as used by 2nd place runner-up Paul Mueller in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic

#8: Crawfish

Description: Black, brown or dark green back and sides, orange or cream belly.

What it mimics: Crayfish

Use this color on: Small (quarter-ounce) diving crankbaits

Application: Crayfish emerge from hibernation in early spring, which is when you should be fishing this color! It’s especially effective right after an unseasonably warm late winter/early spring rain has muddied up your local reservoir. One of the best crankbait colors for smallmouth bass.

Pro pointer: Try rooting a diving craw-colored crankbait around shallow logs, stumps and rocks to achieve the erratic scooting action of a live crawdad.

#9: Ayu

Description: Olive green back and vertical bars, silvery sides, pearlescent belly, yellow hash marks.

What it mimics: Ayu (Japanese smelt), shad

Use this color on: Lipless and diving crankbaits

Application: This color pattern originated on Japanese bass lures and is currently one of the hottest crankbait colors being featured by American manufacturers. It resembles a wide range of silvery baitfish and can be fished successfully wherever shad or alewives occur.

Pro pointer: Because of its pearlescent flash, ayu is one of the most realistic crankbait colors you can throw in gin-clear water, and is known to rack up impressive smallmouth limits in Great Lakes tournaments.

#10:  Tennessee Shad

Top Ten Must-Have Crankbait Colors

Tennessee Shad is often a good starting point for Keith Combs.

Description: Brown back transitioning to light green with cream sides, often with orange or red throat.

What it mimics: Gizzard shad

Use this color on: Lipless, square bill and diving crankbaits

Application: This is a subtle, nonreflective baitfish color pattern that works well in reservoirs with moderately stained water.

Pro pointer: Try a Tennessee Shad crankbait around current-breaking objects in rivers, where large schools of baitfish often occur.

Don Wirth

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