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.  

beginners guide to wahoo fishing

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 
  • Bonitos
  • Blackfin Tuna 
  • Ballyhoo
  • Goggle Eyes
  • Rainbow Runners
  • Speedos Mackerel 
  • Cigar Minnows
  • Blue Runners
  • Pilchards
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Squid

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. 

Florida Keys Wahoo Fishing

Florida Keys Wahoo Fishing

The Secret Florida Keys Wahoo Fishing Lure

If you plan a fishing trip to the Florida Keys, I recommend purchasing one of our locally-made lures, the Islamorada Flyer. This flying fish lure with wings should be your number one purchase. Purchase an Islamorada Flyer by clicking here

Islmorada Flyer

Islamorada Flyer

Color Contrast

I’ve found that there’s always some contrast in every prey species, usually between the head, body, and tail. For this reason, I prefer to use lures with contrast between the top and bottom when fishing for wahoo. It helps them stand out against the background.

The Power of Iridescence

Iridescence is found naturally in 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, 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, one of my clients caught a 75-pound wahoo using a live goggle eye as bait. I highly recommend checking out this podcast if you want to learn more about catching wahoo using live bait. When cleaning the fish, they found a pink/pink pearl iridescent mylar color lure rigged over ballyhoo in the stomach contents. 

The Top 30 Wahoo Lures

Billy Baits Mini Turbo Slammer Lure, 5/8-Ounce, Pearl and Pink Shimmer

15 Best Wahoo Fishing Lures

Visit Good Karma Fishing Tackle to Purchase this Lure

Click Here

The Best Artificial Bonito Strip

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 unique artificial bonito strips. Purchase your Bait Strips here. If you plan to visit the Florida Keys, stop by the tackle shop at Tavernier Creek Marina and pick up a package of Bait Strips. 

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How Wahoo See Color

When fishing for wahoo, it’s essential to understand how they may see colors . According to scientific studies, wahoo can see contrasts and distinguish between specific colors like blue pigmentation and shades of yellow and green. It’s crucial to choose a lure color that will be visible to the fish in the water against the background, taking into account how different colors fade away at different rates due to water absorbing specific colors of light more than others. Fluorescent colors with built-in glow and iridescent silver and pearl colors are also effective in murky green water. It’s best to have a variety of lures in different colors rigged and ready for the conditions you may encounter. Remember to change out lure colors throughout the day to keep up with the environmental changes.

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.

Some studies have shown that wahoo can see blue pigmentation, and their brain patterns and retinal systems are genetically wired to hunt silhouette patterns against the background. When choosing a lure color, it’s more important to consider how the a wahoo will see it in the water against the background environment rather than the color itself. Different colors fade away at different rates due to water absorption, so it’s good to remember that red and orange lures will disappear the quickest, while blue and green ones will remain visible longer.

Interestingly, most sport fishing articles reference a study by the University of Wisconsin, which you may want to check out if you’re interested in this topic. One thing that I find curious is that many of these articles don’t talk much about white colors, which can be very effective in green water. Most fish that wahoo eat have a white belly with silver or pearl iridescence. If you’re interested, there’s a dive study that you might enjoy watching, which features an ultra UV pink canister. Dive Study 

UV and Florescent Wahoo Fishing Lure Colors 

However, it is true that wahoos have excellent night vision and are known to use it to their advantage when hunting. Additionally, on dark and cloudy days, UV light becomes dominant, and fluorescent colors are activated. It is possible that wahoos may have the special UV-sensitive cells in their eyes that allow them to see fluorescent colors, but this is speculation. As for lure choices, solid fluorescent colors, UV-coated lures, iridescence pearls and silvers built into them, and light glow material are all good choices. UV pink is a popular choice, and mixing pink and blue can result in violet purple, but we cannot confirm what the fish is seeing. Ultimately, the best way to determine what lure works best is through trial and error and paying attention to the fish’s behavior.

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?

It is true that wahoos have excellent night vision and are known to use it to their advantage when hunting. Additionally, UV light becomes dominant on dark and cloudy days, and fluorescent colors are activated. Wahoos may have special UV-sensitive cells in their eyes that allow them to see fluorescent colors, but this is speculation. As for lure choices, solid fluorescent colors, UV-coated lures, iridescence pearls, silvers built into them, and light glow material are all good choices. UV pink is a popular choice, and mixing pink and blue can result in violet purple, but we cannot confirm what the fish sees. Ultimately, trial and error and paying attention to the fish’s behavior is the best way to determine what lure works best.

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 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 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. Different fluorescent lure colors are available on the market today, but one of the most popular choices, and one of my favorites, 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 the wahoo might see more violet purple than pink and blue. We will only know if we get our advice from Captain Aqua-man. 

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, depending on how deep it is, a murky green water layer might have a pretty shade of nice blue/purple water below. 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 happens there, especially early morning. If your prop wash is churning up clean water the slime layer is only a couple feet below the water. Fish like wahoo will adapt to see in green water; just like us, our eyes adjust from light to dark, and they may be using UV light to help.  

 

I highly recommend using larger profile deep diver lures that are are bright in color. The pink Nomad 220 is a favorite. Click here to purchase.

Best Nomad Lure

 

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 the 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.”  

The Best Wahoo Lure Color 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  (Pinks) and UV-colored/coated baits. 

My favorite wahoo lure colors are:

  • Blue/white
  • Pink
  • Orange
  • Blue/pink
  • Blue/black/Red
  • Pink/white
  • White/yellow
  • Blue/yellow
  • Orange/Yellow
  • Black/red
  • 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.

The Best Wahoo Lures

Click here to purchase the Halco Laser Pro that I used to catch wahoo in this video. 

 

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:

  • Green/Yellow
  • Green/black
  • Blue/Fluorescent Yellow-Rainbow Runner
  • Green/gold/white
  • Chartreuse/pink/white
  • Pink/white
  • Pink/crystal
  • 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
  • Pearl/Silver
  • Crystal 

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.
  • Crystal-Violet/Purple 
  • Pearl/Silver
  • Blue/black
  • pink/crystal
  • 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/Gold
  • Black/Red
  • Black/Fluorescent UV Colors
  • Black/Pearl 

Match the Wahoo 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 Wahoo 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.

The Science of Fishing for Wahoo

Taking time-lapse photos of my surroundings throughout the day is a great way to capture documentation for my log books when selecting wahoo lures. Additionally, I take short video clips of my prop wash every time I go fishing. I am seeing how the water reacts to my boat, and the lures I use are fascinating. I’ve noticed that what lures me to start in the morning can change quickly depending on the weather and other conditions. It’s all part of the excitement and unpredictability of wahoo fishing.

Final Thoughts

It’s essential to remember that wahoo can be pretty picky when it comes to what they’ll bite on, so feel free to switch things up if you’re not having any luck with one color. So until Elon Musk decides to create a wahoo cyborg that will tell him exactly what the wahoo sees under the water, we’ll have to keep guessing based on what we know about their habits. 

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