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  • Writer's pictureSteven Paul

Musky Lure Colors and Confirmation Bias?

Musky Color Confirmation Bias ?

Choosing the “right” color musky lure is an age-old question that keeps getting more and more convoluted as each winter brings forth an onslaught of new and custom colors. And without question these custom and new colors come with the promise of amazing results attached. While it might sound jaded, I have always asked what I feel to be an obvious question “If these custom color are so great, wouldn’t they make them all year long?” 

While that little bit of snark from my end might carry some water, I would say that it is one hundred perfect safe to call me a hypocrite in regards to paint jobs. As the designer of multiple mass marketed lures such as the Titan and Kraken I love nothing more than to sling some musky paint. I often spend winter evenings when I get off the water playing with new paint combinations. Embarrassingly I am a frequent shopper at Hobby Lobby filling my arms with any new airbrush colors I can find as I wade my way through old ladies and cheap home décor. While I find playing with new and interesting lure colors to be more of an artistic and cathartic endeavor on occasion, I will stumble on something that just looks like it will catch muskies.

So yes, I love new and exciting musky lure colors, the more eye popping and gaudy the better. But do new colors make a difference. Well, the answer is just as convoluted as the amount of paint jobs on the musky market with the answer simply being yes and simply no simultaneously. While that was far from a clarifying statement let me expound by looking at a few factors that lean towards yes and few that lean towards no. But remember at the end of the day it’s your musky money and your day on the water, but what you want to buy.

I would say the most import thing that a color pattern can do for an angler is confidence. When a musky angler feels confident in a color it helps remove doubt from their mind. This also applies to lure selection but if you feel strongly positive regarding a selection this tends to shift your focus to things that are far more important like good retrieves and boat positioning opposed to riffling through your tackle box. So yes, a new or custom color that you “feel” confident about or have prior success with can allow for more focus on the water.

The flip side of the color confidence coin is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you throw a certain color the vast majority of the time it is inevitable that the majority of your action will come from that color.  If you throw a sucker-colored Depth Raider the majority of the time when conditions are right for that style of presentation you can easily convince yourself that color was a major factor. This musky color confirmation bias can actually be a detriment to anglers. If water clarity and climactic conditions are screaming for a dark color pattern but your

confirmation bias leads you to your old standby color you can and will miss musky opportunities.

While that might seem like an odd take you might be asking what actually matters regarding musky lure color selection. If we consider the fact that muskies have respectively poor visual acuity coupled with the fact that they use vision as a secondary means to predated color becomes a minor consideration. Muskies rely on their lateral line as a means to “feel” potential prey and also triangulate in during predation, while using their eyes to close the final gap in striking their prey or our lures. This has been studied and proven as even blind muskies are completely capable in feeding with high accuracy.

With this in mind color selection beyond light and dark in reality have little to no bearing on angling success. Dark colors on cloudy days and light-colored lure on bright days have and will always be the core of color selection. One can and should make the case for chartreuse and other hot shades that stand out in stained water but it simply boils down to a harder cleared profile against the current natural conditions.

I would also point out that muskies follow lures from below and behind the lure the vast majority of the time. With this in mind muskies are in actuality only seeing the rear and belly of most presentations. Yes, the case can be made for muskies coming in from a distance to check out a presentation but with their visual acuity being so low they would in actuality be responding to the silhouette of a lure and not the shades of paint at any notable distance. One could also argue that natural and complex paint jobs act as disruptive camouflage. Without crawling down this rabbit hole consider that perch, crappie and other prey fish are not looking to be eaten, their coloration is a means to hide and protect them and are not intended to stand out like a flashing neon eat me sign.

While musky lure colors could be debated and pontificated in a never-ending manner with differing opinions of all kinds I try to end up on the side of logic. Selecting lures that stand out with hard clear out lines against the current skies and water conditions has always served me well. The stark reality of the matter is that muskies just need a clear target and all the fancy paint is to catch us at the cash register. I would be remiss to say I’m going to stop painting and buying new colors but I don’t think muskies care quite as much as we do.

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