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Color, Commotion: What Fills The Bill?



Hawkins Leadin

    The wall is intimidating. It is decorated with pretty yellows and whites and pinks and reds, blues, purples. There is glitter and colored hair and the eyes are full of dazzling reflections. It is here that a billfish angler wonders and wanders. Certainly, everyone has a favorite colored lure. Almost everyone knows that you must pull a blue and pink on the left short and that the green is always more productive on the right long. Yet, there are the shapes and purposes of the head of these lures; some wobble left and right, some skim the top, some swim long trailed bubbles and every third wave, they pop crisp. And then there is the guy behind you that reaches beneath your left arm pit and grabs a green and black flat head lure and says, “This is a hot lure,” even though you did not ask, and when he is gone, you also grab the lure that is hot.
    To further complicate this wall of lures and the countless options and colors available to the modern marlin angler, there also exists theory, opinion, observation, and the best and worst form of logic about what works and what is hot and why a fish might favor the long trolled green lure from the right, or is it the pink and blue on the left, or is it the red and bronze that always gets a bite, everywhere.
    So, I began to wonder: “Is it color or commotion that brings a billfish to bite?” Over my tenure as an angler I have been lucky to ride the bridge with winners of noted tournaments and share the ocean with countless souls who have all the knowledge about everything, according to them, and I have been even more fortunate to talk with noted angling humans who have thousands of blue marlin experiences between them. These people are changing or contributing to how marlin fishing is changing, and whether it be opinion or theory or experience, they represent much tenure and experience in what it takes to get a marlin to bite a manmade lure.
    “It’s the boat,” said Bill Pino, the founder of Squidnation, of why blue marlin bite. I wasn’t looking at him when he said this, yet I am almost certain this man who makes his bread and butter selling colorful combinations of things that create commotion while offering color, actually smiled. Down in Florida, Ronald Beamish of Beamish Custom Tackle said: “It’s not color or commotion, it is simply if the fish wants to eat, it will eat.” Jim McKeral of Carolina Lures said, “I truly believe it’s not a question of either-or, but rather both color, action and illusion that counts.”
    For Joey Massey, the founder of Laceration Lures who hadn't slept in days between being a new father and because orders for a Big Rock-winning lure were coming fast, the question of commotion or color is this: “I think the fish sees the prop turning, gets curious and comes in and eats based on what it sees as the easiest meal. Maybe it’s the bubble trail or maybe it’s a flash of red or green, but the boat is where it begins.”
    These anglers and tackle producers represent several decades of experience and observation and they all sell products that catch blue marlin. Yet, as we humans do not know exactly what elicits a strike or why a marlin only comes to the left on a particular boat or why it is informally required by an unwritten rule that anglers must pull a blue-and-white lure when fishing the Western Atlantic, what is vetted from discussing color and commotion is that there are some basic shared philosophies on what brings a marlin into a trolled spread.
    “More than color and more than the bubble trail, you have to have lures that swim correctly. I use bright color lures, not for the fish, but so I can see the lures. If I cannot see the lures then I don’t know if they are swimming as designed,” Beamish said.
    “We just fished a four day FAD trip and what I thought about lure fishing was changed as now I think that color is not as important as the action a lure creates,” Pino said. “At about 30 feet below, it begins getting dark. What we know is that marlin are particularly sensitive to sound and vibration. Sound and vibration travel faster in the water. Think swimming pool and you are holding your breath beneath the water and someone jumps in, it is very loud. In salt water, sound travels even faster. So it is probably not as much the commotion of the lures that actually inspires a fish to raise as it is the boat,” Massey said.
    “The goal is to raise a fish to the boat, once it is behind the boat, you have to keep it interested, and this is where color and agitation work together,” McKeral said.
    “A captain told me that if he finds a fish on the sounder deeper than 120 feet, he won’t even make a turn to fish for that fish. If he finds one 120 feet to 60 feet, he is going to make three turns. If he finds one 10 fathoms or less, and he doesn’t get that fish to raise, then something is wrong with the boat,” Pino said.
    “Assuming the lures are running as they should and the boat has raised the fish, it is more important to match the hatch than to choose colors that appear to appease the human eye. If there are tuna around, we are going to have some yellow and white and dark lures. If there are flying fish or dolphin, we will pull those colors. Whatever they are feeding on, whatever the bait we see most, is what we are going to pull in terms of color. But I will always say that it is more important for that lure to swim appropriately, than the color it is,” Beamish said.
    “We know that red is the first color to dissipate and pink is in the red family, and yet almost everyone pulls pink. I think the color of the lure really is the last element that causes the fish to pursue,” Massey said.
    “I heard a lecture recently that discussed the eye of a blue marlin and there is some scientific evidence that the fish has a much sharper range of eye motion upwards. What this tells me is that the fish can see up and that when it sees the boat pass and the teasers and dredge and lures, that’s what brings it to feed. What happens next, in terms of what they bite, I think is a product of what gives off the most prey-instinct,” Pino said.

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