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Customising Soft Plastics #1: Colours

Here’s an earlier blog that launched a popular series…



Natural colours are often best… but not always!

Over the next few Soft Plastic Secrets blogs I want to have a good long look at the fascinating subject of customizing soft plastics. In my opinion, this is an avenue of tackle tinkering that far too few anglers explore. Most buy their supplies of soft plastics from the store and seem to assume that these versatile lures must be used in exactly the form they were packaged in by the manufacturer. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth!

Perhaps this notion that the maker knows best and that anglers shouldn’t “fiddle” with their products is a carry over from the world of hard-bodied luring. Beyond perhaps upgrading or replacing hooks and rings, very few anglers actively modify hard bodied lures made from metal, plastic or timber. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. For example, some switched-on trout chasers have been adding bright, pea-sized red spots with lighter-coloured halos to their minnows, plugs and spoons for years, especially when fishing the pre-spawn and post-spawn runs of trout in autumn and spring. I first helped to popularize this custom colouration almost three decades ago, and gave it the name “spotted dog” in my writings. That label has stuck, and has even been picked up by some commercial lure makers. But I certainly can’t claim to have “invented” the actual spotted dog pattern. In fact, it was first shown to me by a very canny Finnish trout fisher in the early 1980s, and it had been used in his home country (with great success) for at least a generation or two prior to him telling me about it. There is very little under the sun that is truly “new”!

Spike-It scented marker pens are ideal for customising plastics.

The spotted dog pattern works because it mimics the flank markings of mature, pre-spawning brown trout and apparently triggers territorial aggression in other fish. It is one of those rare examples of a colouring tweak that can dramatically increase your catch rates, at least when used in the right place and at the right time.

I’m often asked to rate the importance of colour in the lure selection process, and over time I’ve developed a stock standard response to that common query. It goes something like this: Colour isn’t usually all that important, but when it is important, it can be critical! In other words, in my humble opinion, colour isn’t very often the single. key, criteria in successful lure selection… but on those relatively rare occasions when it makes a difference, colour can make a huge difference.

This answer might sound like a cop-out or a riddle at first glance, but it’s not meant to be. What I mean is that, most times, the running depth, size, action and speed of your lure are all far more important issues than its colour. But sometimes, just sometimes, you can get all of those other key factors exactly right and still only catch half as many fish (or less!) as a fellow angler who adds a particular colour choice to those other selection criteria.

Soft plastics come in a huge array of colours, but inventive anglers can't help themselves and have to tweak them!

Soft plastics come in a huge array of colours, but inventive anglers can’t help themselves and have to tweak them!

We’ve all been in that boat (or on that stretch of bank) where one colour or even one particular shade of colour out-fishes everything else by a country mile. Not having that tone in your collection is a bad situation to find yourself in. This is one reason why those of us who are serious about our lure fishing amass such large and diverse collections of hardware in every hue of the rainbow. You just never know when that day will dawn on which purple or pink or puce or passion fruit pavlova is the killer colour!

Silver trevally love a plastic!

Silver trevally love a plastic!