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View From The Beach Renowned surf angler, Rich Troxler, shares his thoughts, tactics, tips and tricks for surf casting success!


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  #1  
Old 07-23-2011, 02:11 AM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default The Color of Money

by Rich Troxler

What are the colors of your favorite plugs? What are the colors of the plugs that catch you the most fish? Mine are pretty basic, the same old white, yellow, blue and black, in various combinations, that I have been using for years. I’ve always wondered how much color actually has to do with the fish catching abilities of any given plug. This is not an easy question to answer, because unless we know exactly how a fish tracks a plug, and why it ultimately commits to it, we are simply relying on consensus. And we won’t be talking to fish any time soon to get their version.


So, consensus is what we use. We talk with our fellow fishermen, discuss what plug was hot under what conditions, who caught where and on what, etc. Over time we correlate the data and develop theories, and one of those theories is what we think fish see. Scientists take fish, cut up the brains, dissect the eyes, examine what they find, and make declarations on how fish see. But again, it is based on correlated data. The old intellectual two-step LOL.

There is a saying in the study of statistics that “correlation does not imply causation”. What this means is that just because something shows a relationship to something else, doesn’t mean that the relationship is the cause. So what am I getting at here? Simply put, because eyes are very important to us, we assume they are of equal importance to fish when they feed.

But is this really the case? No one can say for sure, but my inclination is to feel that vision plays less of a roll than we may think, and that color, in turn, may play less of a roll in the fish catching abilities of a plug, than we give credit to. I do feel color and vision play a part, particularly when fishing under the light of day, but I also feel that it is far from the whole story of why a fish hits a plug. And that many of the assumptions of why we caught, or why we didn’t, had a whole lot more to do with other factors than the color of the plug we were using.

Pretty bold statement on my part? Yeah probably, so let’s break it down a little and start by working it in reverse. Let’s start by asking the question, what is it exactly that fish see? What is “sight” to a fish? I think it’s safe to say that it is not in the same category as human vision. For starters, fish have a lateral line that runs down their body, full of receptor type neuromasts cells, that detect vibrations in the water. Some species may also have electroreceptors that detect minute electrical impulses and magnetic fields. These are all part of the “vision” system of a fish, and probably play a much greater part in their feeding habits than we give credit to.

When choosing plug color, I’ve always followed the age old edict that states, light colors for light nights, dark colors for dark nights. And it has worked out pretty well for the most part. But how many times have you heard of guys catching well on yellow darters during a new moon! What about picking bass off the bottom in 35 feet of moving inlet water, with white bucks and white rinds, all in the darkness of a new moon. Or my favorite, a small Vision Sand Eel getting picked out of the tumbling wash, once again, no moon in sight! I’ve always wondered exactly how the hell this stuff works LOL.

So what do fish actually see when they “see” our plugs. Well, it must be something very different than we see! Why else would anything bite on a chunk of wood or plastic with a bunch of hooks hanging off it. So let’s start with hooks. Do fish actually “see” all these metal things hanging off of our plug? I don’t think so, at least not the way we see them. And why is that?

We like to attribute “intelligence” to the quarry we seek. I think this is a human trait, a nod to our ego so to speak, that makes us feel “smarter” when we catch a dumb animal, or in this case, a fish. I don’t think fish are smart at all, highly instinctual yes, intelligent, not really. I think evolution has provided them with a species specific set of sensory “tools” that allow them to feed in the natural world. Note the word “natural”.

This means that their decision making processes when feeding, are strictly based on stimuli that match a set of parameters programmed into their instinctual behavior, and these parameters have their basis in the “natural” world. So hooks have no point of reference for them. They are not included in their parameter set, so in effect, they don’t “see” them. If you think about it in these terms, it does help to explain why in the world they hit plugs anyway LOL

Let’s take movement, and it’s the same basic concept here. Somewhere in their simple parameter set is the evolutionary priciple that in the natural world, if it moves on it’s own, it must be alive. And their sensory organs are very attuned to this, for it is necessary to their survival. Same for vibration, the lateral line, a sofisticated evolutionary adaptation that assists both the predator and the prey in detecting vibration and movement in the water.

Same for size and shape. If their sensory organs perceive the approximate size and shape of something it has been successfully feeding on, match it up with a few other variables like motion and vibration, then it’s a go. No intellectual processes here, simply matching a quick set of parameters.

So IMHO, fish perceive only the stimuli that their sensory organs are designed for and then make decisions based on their particular parameter set. So to them, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. Except the “color” of the duck is probably the least important aspect in their decision making process. This is probably because their other sensory organs are so highly attuned, through evolutionary success, that vision, as we know it, becomes a subset (or small part) of the “whole” set of sensory perceptions they use to base their decisions on. And these decisions are based on a set of parameters that pertain to the natural world.

My belief is that they have little or no reference of things that do not fit into their parameter set of information, so intially, they do not “see” them. The information is simply dropped. However, I do believe that fish are capable of learning, and in many cases learning quickly, as this is neccessary for any species to be successful over time. But making decisions in the middle of the night about whether a plug is yellow or white, I don’t think so.

Many times we let our misinterpretation of events mislead us in our own decision making process. I’ve seen and heard stuff like this many times. Two guys throwing darters on the beach and catching, and a guy 30 yards away throwing everything in the bag, and not catching squat. The conclusion 9 out of 10 times that I hear is that “I was throwing a darter also, but I didn’t have the color they were using.” Faulty reasoning 9 out of 10 times.

Chances are those fish would have hit anything that approximated the profile and vibration of the predominant bait. Hell, many times you don’t even have to be close, as they’ll wack anything that moves. But you have to be on them, and the guy 30 yards away was throwing at a piece of bottom that didn’t have/hold the bait, or the fish. His problem was location.

So the next time you pull out your favorite plug, the one that’s so chewed up, it looks like the dog got at it, ask yourself if you think it’s the color, or whatever is left of the color anyway, that caught, and continues to catch all those fish. While I think too many fishermen place too much emphasis on color, I still think it is a factor, just not a very big one.

And that’s my view from the beach.

Feel free to offer your opinions on this, or any topic I may write about. To me, surf fishing is an on-going process, subject to constant revision and updating. What members provide in the way of experiences and opinions is all part of that process and I will thank you in advance for your contributions.

-Rich







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  #2  
Old 07-23-2011, 03:34 PM
Slug1959 Slug1959 is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

I am enamored, from an artistic standpoint at some of the custom builders out there. For sure they are overkill from a fishing and cost standpoint but some of the makers work astounds me. Soldati's custom blackfish color is unreal, Greenpoint's are sweet, RM Smith, Beachmasters, Fixter, Lordship (a real good buy), Choopy and Hab's Jr. to name a few. I only have a few really nice ones that I won't swim and it drives me nuts when you see photos of people hogging 60+ of one maker. Years from now much of these makers work will be considered an example of Americana.
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  #3  
Old 07-23-2011, 04:05 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

Hi Scott. I agree with you that there are some absolutely beautiful paint jobs out there, and I have great appreciation for them from an artistic standpoint. I specifically stayed away from talking about paint jobs because I don't want all the plug manufacturers out there to think that I am trying to discourage readers from buying their plugs. They make beautiful plugs that catch fish.

I was just trying to get people to think outside their own realm when it comes to what fish actually see, and fishing in general. Chasing color is one of the symtoms of "swapitis", an all to common condition amongst surf fishermen. I'll be doing a post on this condition soon LOL.

Thanks for chiming in.
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  #4  
Old 07-23-2011, 10:18 PM
Slug1959 Slug1959 is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

All too true. I have also heard you (and others) state that confidence in your lure is extremely important and almost every fisherman hasn't done well with a particular pattern because they have no faith in it and don't fish it enough.

Fish aren't that smart, they are creatures of habit and conditions. Two years ago I was at a New Rochelle eatery on the water. As the tide came in folks were tossing french fries in the water that got eaten by keeper bass (true story). They told me the bass come in every day. Now they are on Lipitor.

One time I was up on the Mohawk reservation in the St. Lawrence River and was murdering the bass on literally $5 worth of plastic, which is all I ended up using for two days. This is while I have a milk crate with 7 Plano boxes packed with lures. I still love my toys but it can be overkill. Simplicity with a sound game plan can work well with a plethora of endeavors. Which leads me to my favorite quote, bar none:

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.
—Charles Mingus
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  #5  
Old 08-11-2011, 11:33 PM
ChefBX ChefBX is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

I find myself using yellow and yellow white combos the most and then the blue and white or blue colors the most, like you said previously I think its partly what I feel comfortable with, they take the most fish for me and I tend to use them more, I have recently started using some blurple's and black gold finishes at night and so far they have done o.k. for me I think these colors are made more for the nightime. I used to fish days and mornings exclusively but I now try to put some night plugging in the mix. So far I have always been pretty focused on not allowing myself to buy every plug I like and see and try to stick to the few productive ones. There are some absolutely beautiful works of art out there but i just cant see having all that pricey work sitting at home. I carry to 6 compartment clear boxes and I like to carry a few things in different sizes and only a few colors for each particular trip out for the conditions i am fishing. I have one giant plano phantom at home which is the base station for all my tackle and just load what I need for each trip. I also think that the different combos with yellow and combos with blue also tend to be the most popular in the stores with some whites and black combos also. so I would think that these variations also get fished the most hence catch more fish, not including other types of lures, tins bucks etc. just for the plugs

ChefBX
The Beach can Teach!
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  #6  
Old 08-12-2011, 12:13 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

Hi Chef - Admittedly I fish almost exclusively at night, so I do believe that color plays a different role at night than it does during the day. At night, I think color is far less important than in the day. I feel it's just a matter of them being able to pick up the profile, and then other senses kick in like vibration, sound and speed. That's why I equate yellow and white on equal terms the same way I equate blue and black, as being "equal", or basically the same color, when fished at night.

During the day, I feel sight plays a larger role in getting a fish to commit, but that it still uses it's other senses when tracking and deciding whether to commit. I use the term "sight", as opposed to term "seeing" simply because we do not know for sure what a bass "sees". I have to assume it is something very different than what we "see", or why else would a fish hit a plug festooned with hooks hanging off of it LOL.

When I think about what fish see, I also tend to think in terms of what they DON'T see, and I think this is important. If they can SEE a plug too well, then they may see how different it really is from their preferred prey item of the moment. But if they can get just enough information to make them think that it is their prey item, then the go button gets pressed, and they commit to your plug.

However during the day, it's probably safe to assume that color and flash play a more important part in the fish catching abilities of a plug, than they do at night. This is why day fishermen will fish blue when mullet are around, pink tones when squid are around, gold for juvi weaks, etc. And if those are the colors that produce for you under those circumstances, then by all means, fish the crap out of them.

Good stuff Chef, and thanks for the contribution.
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:51 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

And like Slug, I do own some absolutely beautiful plugs that I pick up at shows during the winter. I don't fish them, but instead, stow them away for posterity as a form of art, or as he said, Americana.

100 years down the road, when kids are catching virtual fish on the Internet, they can look at these things and laugh at what "cavemen" we were, actually throwing these things in water to catch real fish.
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Old 08-12-2011, 02:24 PM
ChefBX ChefBX is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

Rich I agree that in the day it may take a little more sometimes whether flash, or noisy commotion to get that hit. I have seen fish follow all the way to shore almost eyeing the offering and sometimes i feel the same fish or multiple fish may follow on repeat casts, not really sure what it is they are following, thats when I go for the reaction strike or the piss off as I like to say.Then I will some times switch to an erratic almost spastic retrive or pop and splash the hell out of it. Sometimes I like to, what I call power pop and let a real rip into it and echo a loud chug and 10ft. splash then pause it then repeat sometimes it is just the trick. I am slowly gaining comfort with the night game and do think that and agree with you that a profile or a wake or vibration in the water would play a larger role at night as it would help them hone in a specific location as opposed to actually seeing something, but I will say that it would be cool as hell to actually see what fish and animals do see! Maybe one day with technology. And I agree with you and slug, I am only 38 and have fished since a little guy and worked my way up and now love surf fishing more and more with the nuances of it. I cant wait to one day look back on all my reels and beautiful lures whether used or not will make a sweet case of beauty.

ChefBX
The beach can Teach!
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  #9  
Old 08-16-2011, 11:02 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

Hi Chef. The good news is that you do not seem hesitant to try different things. Especially in the day, presentation is all important, so running through a whole different set of variations on retrieves can make all the difference between success and failure.

During the day, the one thing I've learned is that bass have no trouble running anything down that they decide is on the menu. You couldn't reel fast enough if a bass really wants your plug LOL. OK, might be a slight exaggeration.

But in my book, if the bass is look'in, then you're reeling too slow, if the bass is nosing or bumping, then you're reeling too slow. I may be alone in my beliefs, but I do not fear faster retrieves for bass, especially under light conditions.

The contribution is much appreciated.
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Old 08-27-2011, 04:44 AM
pieapple pieapple is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

All too true. I accept aswell heard you (and others) accompaniment that aplomb in your allurement is acutely important and about every fisherman hasn't done able-bodied with a accurate arrangement because they accept no acceptance in it and don't angle it enough.
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Old 08-27-2011, 03:29 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

Personally Pie, I have no acceptance of anything, but I do agree that the angle of the dangle is all important when trolling for clams.
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:07 AM
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emgred emgred is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

Rich
Sorry for the late response, just signed up for this site.

As far as I'm concerned, color wise, there is light, medium, and dark.
When I'm choosing what plug to throw, I use the following criteria:
Profile, action, where in the water column, conditions, confidence, and last, color. I'm not even sure I believe that dark is better for dark nights; too many contrary experiences. All that being said, there are times when contrast is a deciding factor. That is the reason I will use black over gold or black over silver.
It wouldn't be fishing if there weren't exceptions to the "rules." Things like white bucktails or pearl shads or black sluggos or, dare I say it, gold darters.
By in large, surfcasters would be better served worrying less about color and more about bait patterns and structure and tides.
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  #13  
Old 09-03-2011, 01:40 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: The Color of Money

Good stuff - thanks Ed.
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