Since the introduction of the Spro BBZ-1 swimbait, we've been getting a lot of questions about lure color, and specifically, the choice between gloss and matte finishes. Pardon us, while we take a deep breath.
While asking about lure color is not wrong, worrying over it is. If you think of your BBZ knowledge as a pyramid, with the base layers – the foundation – built from concepts such as spot-on-spot presentations, top-middle-bottom and one-cast discipline, lure color doesn't rate a single brick until you get to the very top of that structure.
For most anglers trying to focus on big bass, choosing the most effective color or finish is the very least of their problems. Getting a lure in the right zone, at the right depth, making the proper directional change and finishing the deal with correct mechanics should fill most of one's thoughts.
Still, we recognize that when you're standing in a tackle shop or ready to fill your shopping cart on-line, the question always arises about lure patterns. It's a good question to ask, but a bad one to use in building confidence.
If you've addressed the foundation of your BBZ pyramid, then we don't have a problem with helping answer it. If you think it'll make a significant difference in your success without due diligence to the things that really matter, you've veered down a dead-end street. (If you're already irritated that we haven't answered the question yet, you qualify.)
In the alpha-world of big-bass fishing, there are so many other factors that may limit or enhance your success that to place any real value on lure color is self-defeating. Even when you're consistently pulling up bigger fish and feeling good about your skills, it's rare when an angler can separate lure color or finish from the thousand other elements as the pivotal ingredient. Those days are few and far between.
First, the color pattern (silver vs. rainbow for instance) can only make a difference in your "illusion of realism" when the bait is being presented properly. If your waters don't harbor rainbow trout, you may feel better with a silver pattern. But it's only a feeling. Don't be surprised when a gifted BBZ angler pounds you into submission with a rainbow version.
An excellent illustration of this mindset is found in the old Robert Redford movie "Jeremiah Johnson." In one scene, a grizzled veteran schools Redford – playing the title role of a novice mountain man – in the art of stalking elk. Using a horse as cover, the two hunters crouch behind the horse as they slowly approach their quarry.
Johnson (Redford) asks, "Won't the elk see our legs?" The old trapper responds, "Elk don't know how many legs a horse has got!"
The same holds true for bass that rarely will refuse a lure based on color if the illusion of a single baitfish has been accurately produced.
The discussion over gloss or matte finishes is a little more detailed, because usually the issue of "flash" is raised. In standard bass-fishing disciplines, "flash" has always been touted as a key element in drawing fish to a lure. With big baits, flash is an overrated commodity, particularly with swimbaits.
First off, the water displacement of the lure is already sending out big-time seismic messages to any bass in the vicinity. Furthermore, the silhouette of the lure is a sizable billboard for any bass to see. In fact, this entire discussion about drawing fish to the lure is so much bullroar.
Every lure has a "sphere of influence" – some much larger than others. The beauty of swimbaits is the range at which bass are drawn to the lures. While flash may sometimes be a component, there are other more important things at work, i.e. silhouette, water displacement and sonic waves.
Remember, a swimbait is not a spinnerbait. It represents the illusion of a single baitfish. Using a flashy finish in clear, bright conditions is probably better suited to big tubes, since they're more closely duplicating the undulating flash of a baitfish pod.
On a super-clear, sunny day, what happens if you place a mirror in the water? Obviously, it'll send out a bright signal, but one that quickly blurs as it refracts through the water. An attention getter? Of course. But does it create the right attention, or a more attractive silhouette, than the subtlety of a matte finish?
This is when the "sphere of influence" concept really comes into play. Your spot-on-spot presentation, directional changes and depth selection are the factors that bring the fish into this "sphere." Now it becomes a matter of selling that "illusion of realism."
In the BBZ swimbait, gloss finishes are perhaps best suited for darker conditions where the flash is not of police-cruiser intensity. In bright conditions, the matte finish sells the silhouette of the lure with a ghostly presence. But these are just broad rules of thumb. If you have to remember one catchphrase, remember this: Lure finish only finishes the process. If you've done everything right up this point, the number of refusals - based on this one small factor - are negligible.
Unless you've experienced one of those truly rare days when you've caught enough fish (and more importantly, been able to honestly place a cause-and-effect judgment on missed fish) to confirm a significant difference between gloss or matte finishes, you have to accept the broad guidelines we suggest, or those you believe to be more suitable for your water conditions.
If it sounds as though we're evading the question, we're not. The basic credo of the BBZ is "Everything matters, yet nothing matters." With lure color and finish, the trick is to WORRY ABOUT SOMETHING WHEN IT REALLY MATTERS. Until then, shut up and throw.