How Wahoo See Lure Color
Are you planning to visit the Florida Keys to go wahoo fishing? This beginner’s guide describes how wahoo may see color will help you catch more and bigger wahoo consistently.
Match the Hatch of Local Bait Fish
When it comes to selecting wahoo lure colors, many anglers get overwhelmed because there are so many different wahoo lure colors to choose from, and it can be tough to know which one is the right one for the situation. Therefore, the very first thing I recommend you learn is how to effectively “match the hatch.” If you’re looking to catch some wahoo on your next Islamorada fishing trip, you’ll need to know what baitfish the wahoo is feeding on( match the hatch). In addition, you will want to use lure colors that match their natural prey. Below is a list of primary baitfish species that wahoo in the Florida Keys feed on:
- Flying Fish
- Blackfin Tuna
- Goggle Eyes
- Rainbow Runners
- Speedos Mackerel
- Cigar Minnows
- Blue Runners
Wahoos are voracious eaters and will take advantage of any opportunity to feed and eat their own young. When cutting open the stomach contents of large wahoo a few years ago, it had a smaller wahoo in its stomach. So it is always best to have a few smaller trolling plugs with “tiger stripe” profiles in your arsenal.
Here is One of the Best Wahoo Fishing Lures
A well kept wahoo fishing secet for many years. If you are planning a fishing trip to the Florida Keys, I highly recommend purchasing one of our locally made lures called the Islamorada Flyer. This awesome flying fish lure with wings should be your number one purchase.
Purchase this lure from the Tackle Room by clicking here
There’s some contrast in virtually every prey species, often between the head, body, and tail. That’s why I always like to use lures with contrast when fishing for wahoo. It makes them easier to see against the background, and it also seems to make wahoo more responsive to the lure.
The Power of Iridescence
Iridescence is found naturally in the fish and squid cells. The definition of iridescence is having or showing shifting changes in color or an interplay of rainbow-like colors, as seen from different angles. Interestingly enough, baitfish use iridescence as a means of camouflage. For example, if you look at a baitfish, its scales might change color depending on its angle. Some fish and squid use iridescence for communication purposes, while others use it for directional movement or to avoid predators. When a wahoo is hunting from below, that same iridescence coloration baitfish use to hide from predators makes them an easy target.
So along with the contrasting colors, all my wahoo lures have some iridescent reflection or pearlescent color hue built into them, either as mylar or an underskirt or reflective iridescent mylar wings. The wahoo is attracted to silver and pearl iridescent reflective material, especially on overcast pre-frontal days. They have evolved to look for this type of prey since it typically indicates healthy fish.
On a recent charter, a client of mine caught a 75-pound wahoo using live goggle eye. If you want to learn how to catch wahoo using live bait, check out this podcast. At the cleaning table, a pink /pink pearl iridescent mylar color lure was rigged over ballyhoo within the stomach contents of the fish.
The lure was I removed from the stomach of the wahoo. This could possbile be one of the best wahoo fishing tips.
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On cloudy days if you are not fishing a Baitstrip, you are missing out on the true power of iridescence. Many years ago I put a Baitstrip out on a lifeless day and within 20 minutes my client landed his first wahoo. Since then my clients have caught numerous wahoo, blackfin tuna, mahi-mahi and kingfish on these amazing artificial bonito strips. Purchase your Bait Strips here.
How Fish See Color
So before digging into the technical stuff about selecting lure colors for wahoo fishing, remember, for the most part, a wahoo is color blind. However, wahoo eyes have a superior assortment of rods that allows them to hunt at night, in low light, and on rainy or cloudy days. Wahoo may also be able to see contrasts and distinguish differences between select colors. A few scientific studies support that wahoo can see blue pigmentation and shades of yellow and green. How Wahoo See Color mentions that a wahoo can see blue pigmentation. The study also discusses how the fish’s brain patterns and retinal systems are structured to hunt silhouette patterns against the background. Therefore, when choosing a lure color for wahoo fishing, we should consider how the fish will see it in the water against the background, more so than the color. Different colors fade away at different rates because water absorbs specific colors of light more than others. So, for example, red and orange lures will disappear the quickest, while blue and green ones will remain visible for longer. Honestly, I could care less because I am not a fish and have no idea what they see. 90% of all the sport fishing articles quote this study by the University of Wisconsin. So if you have the time to go down a rabbit hole, check out this study, how Fish See Color-Vision Depth Study. What amazes me is why most of these charts and articles do not talk much about white colors. White is prominent in all sorts of conditions, especially in green water. I’m not sure about you, but every fish I have seen that a wahoo eats has a white belly with silver or pearl iridescence. Here is another dive study that you may like to watch. Note the ultra UV pink canister. Dive Study
UV and Florescent Colors
Ok, so all marine animals adapt genetically to survive. So I can’t help but think, are wahoo utilizing more UV light to recognize fish colors, patterns, and profiles more today than ten years ago? Take what I just said with a grain of salt; that’s my inner fish conspiracy mind talking. We all know a wahoo has excellent night vision and loves hunting on dark days because its eyes have a superior assortment of rods, but what if it can also use UV light for visibility? Wahoos are voracious predators, and in my opinion, they can use UV light to gain a feeding advantage, especially in low-light situations. So here is the thought, are wahoo seeing more pink colors than ever before because of changes in the ocean and environment? But, again, that is my inner fish conspiracy theory, mind talking.
It’s a dreary day out, the sky is a dismal gray, and the surface water is dirty. But for the experienced wahoo fisherman, this is a good thing. UV light becomes dominant when fluorescent colors come into play on these gray days. UV light “activates” fluorescents, and even though we may not see much of a difference, the wahoo might be able to. That often makes fluorescent wahoo lures a prime choice for anglers looking to catch wahoo.
Dark and cloudy days are good wahoo fishing days; could the wahoo may have those special UV-sensitive cells in its eyes that allow it to see fluorescent colors? (again, inner fish conspiracy mind talking) These colors become very dominant in low-light conditions and green water. Therefore, solid fluorescent colors, UV-coated lures, iridescence pearls and silvers built into them, and light glow material are good choices. There are different fluorescent colors available on the market today, but one of the most popular choices and one of my favorite is UV pink. My favorite near-surface wahoo bait that I run 5-10 ft below the surface is a UV blue/UV pink hair sea witch tied with pearl mylar and UV mylar and glow mylar. When you mix pink and blue, you get violet purple, so is the fish seeing more violet purple than he is pink and blue? Unless we get our advice from a Captain Aqua-man, we have no idea.
Murky Green Water Lure Color Selections
Depending on the water clarity and the nature of suspended solids, different depths might appear in different colors. For example, a murky green water layer might have a pretty shade of nice blue/purple water below, depending on how deep it is. The wahoo will hunt just below this green slime layer; it is only a guess how deep this layer of suspending green water extends. It’s hard to tell what is happening there, especially in the early morning hours. Fish like wahoo will adapt to see in green water; just like us, our eyes adapt from light to dark, and just maybe they are using UV light to help.
My lure selection for dark days/green water has fluorescent colors with a built-in glow and iridescent silver and pearl colors. These highly reflective fluorescent UV lures are kept separate from lures I use when we have 100 feet or more visibility, bright sun, and blue skies. But, of course, “too much is not a good thing,” and that goes for using lures packed with “bling.”
Lure Color Selection for Green Water
A moss green color lure hue matches the watercolor. Over the years, I have found that moss green is near perfect green watercolor match, and it has close as you’re going to get to match the exact color of the back of a goggle-eye or speedo. After the moss green, next in line are florescent colored lures and UV-colored/coated baits.
My favorite wahoo lure colors are:
- Iridescent pearls and silver
These colors tend to stand out the most against the green water background and often result in strikes. When fishing dirty green water, I always try to have a diving plug in my spread, just for the silhouette of a baitfish. In my opinion, the Halco Laser Pro 190 is one of the best wahoo fishing lures on the market today. I kept this lure a secret for many years, until this video was release by Land Shark Outdoors. There are many wahoo lures on the market that catch fish on easy days, but the Halco Laser Pro 190 gets fish to bite on them challenging days.
Even if it doesn’t catch any fish, it still makes me feel better knowing I have one. It always seems to catch fish on days when the water quality is not excellent. So what’s an angler to do when the water quality is unpredictable? The best solution is to have a variety of lures in different colors, hues rigged, and ready for the conditions you may encounter. Below are a few of my favorite wahoo fishing lure colors:
- Blue/Fluorescent Yellow-Rainbow Runner
- Moss Green-Speedo and Goggle Eye Color
Weather and Water Quality Forecast for the Region
When it comes to wahoo fishing, it’s essential to have the right lure color hues in the water to catch the wahoo you are targeting. But what about when the weather isn’t ideal? Sunny days and clear water call for light-colored lures, while cloudy days or murky water call for darker lures. Right? Things are a bit more complicated than that when it comes to picking the best wahoo fishing lure colors. So what’s an angler to do when the forecast is unpredictable? The best solution is to have a variety of lures in different colors, hues rigged, and ready for the conditions you may encounter. On sunny days when the water is clear, light-colored lures are the way. I prefer contrasting color hues for a more realistic presentation. My personal favorites on these types of days are the following:
- Carolina Blue/Crystal Hair
- Blue/Crystal Hair
Conversely, on overcast days or in murky waters, darker lures are more likely to catch fish’s attention as silhouettes or shadows. Remember that in the Florida Keys, our UV index is extremely high, especially during a cloudy day so selecting a few florescent color hues is a good idea if you encounter cloudy water/murky day conditions. Below are just a few of my favorite color hues to fish on cloudy days are the following
- Blue/Crystal-Remember crystal is more of a violet /purple color.
- Blue/Florescent UV Colors like pink and yellow
- Moss Green-Matches the color of the green water in the Florida Keys
- Neon Green/Yellow Florescent
- Blue/Pink(Bubble Gum)
- Black/Fluorescent UV Colors
Match the Lure Color the Surface of Water
Last but not least, the standard. Match the lure color with the surface of the water. On sunny days when the water is clear, light-colored lures are the way work very well because they mimic natural patterns and help draw in fish from a distance. However, I prefer contrasting light color hues for a more realistic wahoo fishing lure presentation.
Change Out Lure Colors
A good captain will change his lures throughout the day to keep up with the environmental changes around him. Remember, as the light changes, the cones, and rods in a fish’s eyes adapt to the light they are hunting in, so what you lure may have worked at sunrise may not work at 10:00 AM. Learn more about why you should change out lure colors during the day by reading How to Catch Wahoo on Cloudy Days.
Fishing Logbook Photos
Take time-lapse photos of your surroundings throughout your day and make short video clips of your prop wash every time you go fishing. What lures you start in the morning will change over the day as the conditions change.
So I have given you the formula to help you pick the best wahoo fishing lure colors. One thing to keep in mind is that wahoo can be very fickle when it comes to what they’ll eat on any given day. So if you don’t have any luck using one particular color lure, don’t be afraid to switch things up and try something else. So until Elon Musk decides to create a wahoo cyborg that will tell him exactly what the wahoo sees under the water, we will have to guess.