Custom Painted Hard Baits: Do They Make a Difference?

By Chris Mason

Customizing baits and tackle is something serious anglers have been doing to gain an edge since the advent of the first lure.  Having your hard baits, such as crank baits, jerk baits and swimbaits custom painted has gained a lot of momentum in the last 2 years or so.   With the rise in popularity of Facebook, we’re now able to see those who are painting lures, pouring worms and inventing cool new gadgets for our beloved sport.  There’s good and bad in that. Some think it’s cool to see all of the trick stuff that you can get, while some don’t want their “secrets” out and give up that edge.  Do they really give you an edge? Here is my take on it.


There are those who think that those type of hard baits are purely reaction baits. One might argue that since the fish is just “reacting” to the bait and biting it purely out of  predatory instinct, that the color doesn’t really matter. I don’t disagree with that point, but I also think it’s a matter of timing. For example, just because you caught fish one day on three different colored crank baits, may not mean that color doesn’t matter. There are times when bass are simply “on the chew” and would have probably eaten any number of reaction baits.  Conversely, what do you do on days where the water is clear, there is a lot of pressure or the fish just don’t seem to cooperate?  Let’s all bear in mind that bass are a catch and release species at most of our impoundments and even where they can be legally taken, most avid bass fishermen still release the fish. Therefore, the greater portion of the bass population has seen roughly the same patterns and colors of lures for most of their lives.


I am one of the believers in the theory that the bass become conditioned. In a book written by Dr. Keith Jones, his studies revealed that bass “remember negative experiences with lures for 3 months, and maybe longer”.  Another 4 year study conducted inIllinois, documented the recapture rate of Largemouth Bass.  The average bass was caught twice each season, but some bass were caught up to 16 times in a single season.  Both of these studies showed me that I need to be creative and attempt to show the bass in my area something new and that does not have a negative memory associated with it.  This was my personal basis for “buying into” the theory of using colors and lures that could not be found on the shelves of a tackle shop.


There are many painters out there, but I have been exclusively using Paul Smith from Pizz Customs. His color patterns are creative and his realistic FX Series have fooled some of the toughest fish for me.  Here are some of the general rules I follow when selecting colors and types of custom paint on my hard baits. When the scenario calls for “Matching the Hatch”, I select an FX Series lure colors because it looks more like a real Bluegill or Threadfin Shad. When the water is clear, I select “Ghost” colors or translucent colors to help fool the bass into biting. When the water is stained, I select brighter colors and patterns like white, chartreuse, orange, etc. When the weather is overcast or dark out (I.E. night), I use dark colors like blue or black.  In low-light conditions, the fish see the silhouette or outline of a bait much more clear with a dark colored bait.


So, why not try something new and formulate your own opinion.  Come on, we all know that having some cool looking baits that your friends and fishing partners don’t have is never bad!

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