True Colours—Choosing the Right Lure for the Job

The debate between pink vs brown lures gets settled at Northwest Ontario fishing clinic.

Put eight avid anglers around the breakfast table at Temple Bay Resort on famed Eagle Lake in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country, and you can bet the fishy discussions will flourish. And that is what happened last Sunday morning when I joined the Kingfisher Boat team from Vernon, British Columbia for two-and-a-half days of fun fall fishing for walleyes, smallmouth bass, northern pike and muskies.

walleye-fishing
The colour of your lure is only important after you sort out several other important factors, but then it can be a game changer.

Buddy John Butts, only the second Canadian angler ever to win an event on the Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) stirred the pot quickly when he grinned and asked, "How important do you think lure colour is when you're selecting a bait?"

Now, I've always contended that the colour of your lure is meaningless until you locate the fish. After you've found them, you then, have to determine the depth at which they are swimming, the speed with which they want you to present your offering and the preferred size and shape of your lure. So, the colour of your bait is way down the list of priorities.

But—and it is a big but—get these initial priorities out of the way and picking the turn-on colour can make a huge difference in your success.

catch-and-release
Kingfisher Boat President, Byron Bolton put on a Lac Seul fishing clinic, catching beautiful walleyes like this one using a pink jig tipped with a minnow

Having said that, too, I knew that John had spent a couple of days on the water, scoping it out in advance of our arrival. I was certain he had several aces stuffed up his sleeve.  And they were 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jigs, tipped with lively minnows, fished close to the bottom and popped up gently. Oh, did I mention, the jig also had to be brown?

In hunting circles, it is often said that... if it's brown, it is down... but this was the first time I can ever remember walleyes preferring brown-coloured jigs over one of the more traditional shades. And I wasn't going to argue with the fish.

So I tied on a Reel Bait Flasher jig that I had crudely painted brown to each of the rods I had on the deck and handed one each to Brad and to Dante who were both joining me this day. Then I tipped each jig with a lively minnow, pinning it lightly between the lips, and we lowered them over the side of the boat.

lac-seul-pink-bait
Flint Laroye held the hot hand on Lac Seul using a pink 3/8-ounce Reel Bait Flasher jig.

"Got one," Brad said, within nanoseconds of his jig touching the bottom and I turned around to see his rod buckling under the weight of a nice size walleye that I quickly netted. But before I could get it untangled and back into the water, Dante hollered that he had one, too, and the fire drill went into operation.

smallmouth-bass
Even the husky smallmouth bass were chomping Flint Laroye's minnow-dressed pink jig.

It stayed like this, fast and furious, throughout the day with more brown-jig-caught-walleyes than I cared to count, coming over one side of the boat and promptly going back over the other side, save for a few small eaters that we kept for a scrumptious shore lunch. 

As a matter of fact, the action was so frenetic that Mike Clements, who was fishing only a few feet in Kingfisher Prostaffer, Dave Bennett's boat, set the hook into a beautiful 40-inch muskie. Understand what I am saying? Eagle Lake is renowned for its musky fishing and there were plenty of hardcore muskie anglers out on the water casting and trolling big toothy critter lures. And Mike landed his first ever muskie, as a bonus accident, on a brown-coloured walleye jig.

But it gets even better—much better.

The next morning at breakfast, John sauntered up to the table again, pulled up his chair, sat down, pulled a package of jigs out of his pocket and asked with the same sheepish grin from the previous day, "Who has pink jigs in their tackle boxes?"

catching-walleye

Now, let me explain.  For a change of scenery and to show the boys from British Columbia some of the diverse fishing opportunities for which Sunset Country is famous, we decided to visit nearby Lac Seul for the day. So, was John saying that the big walleyes over there wanted pink jigs after we had walloped their brothers and sisters on Eagle Lake using brown-coloured lead heads?

You better believe that is what he was saying.

I’ve gotta confess too, that I like to take the path less travelled, so I usually need to see something firsthand before I believe it. While Kingfisher Boat President, Byron Bolton, and Flint Laroye dabbled pink minnow-tipped jigs over the side of the boat, I showed the fish a spirited chub-lipped hooked to a drop shot rig.

happy-accident
Mike Clements relied on a brown jig and minnow combination on Eagle Lake to catch his first muskie ever, and he did it while fishing for walleye.  Talk about a "happy accident".

Byron and Flint crushed me, hauling in one big walleye after the other, until I ran the white flag up the pole, surrendered and tied on a pink jig as well. It was only then that I kept pace with the boys, although having said that, Flint crushed both Byron and me hooking fat-bellied fish as fast as he could bait his jig.

muskie-fishing

It served to prove that after you sort out the ever critical decisions about depth control, speed control, size and profile of your lure, the colour of your bait can factor heavily into the day's success. And when you get it right, well, you're in like Flint.

About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

Recommended Articles

5 Places to Shore Fish

Fish’n Canada shows you where to go shore fishing in Ontario.

Top 5 Flies for Smallmouth Bass

The inside scoop on bass flies from the hosts of The New Fly Fisher.

Lake of the Woods

10 Facts You Didn't Know

Top 5 Baits for Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

What baits do you use to target bass? Find out why these 5 are the best!

The Tigers of Sunset Country

The most picturesque of all freshwater fish.

Top 5 Musky Destinations in Ontario

The Musky Hunter shows you where to land the best musky in Ontario waters.

Summer Fishing Patterns for Multi-Species

Bob Izumi discusses tips for different species and how to catch them when summer temperatures soar.

Eating Northern Pike

The Best Recipe to Cook This Fish

Don’t Be Afraid Of Muskies

Muskies are fish of 10,000 casts and are found in large bodies of water in Northwestern Ontario.

Steelhead of the Upper Ganaraska

Known to most trout and salmon anglers as one of Ontario’s most popular fishing destinations.

The Eagle has Landed

If you're looking to make your Ontario fishing dreams come true, this is the place to do it.

Stalking Prehistoric Long Nose Gar

Hosts Angelo Viola and Pete Bowman took to the waters with the objective of 100% sight fishing.

3 Great Ontario Walleye Destinations

Karl of Extreme Angler recommends must do walleye lakes in Ontario.

Pleasant Cove Resort

Setting sights on Georgian Bay Northern Pike

Lake of the Muskies: An Angler's Paradise in Northwest Ontario

It’s not a question of will you catch a musky, but of how many.

Summer Brook Trout

Expert Advice for Fishing Ontario Lakes

5 Ontario Fish Species to Target on Fly

As technology has improved fly anglers have the ability to target multi-species on fly.

Long Nose Gar

A Fish for the Bucket List

Ghost River Lodges

Remote, Boat-in Fishing on Marchington Lake

Awesome Algonquin

World Class Brook Trout Fishing in Algonquin Park.