Flying colours
  |  First Published: August 2004

ONE of the most common questions anglers ask me is: “What lures should I bring to Weipa, and what colours should they be?” The first part is easy to answer, but when the topic moves to colour selection things become a little murky!

I’ve always believed that how a person fishes a lure is much more important than what brand or colour it is. A less appealing lure cast in the right place every time will nearly always outfish a top-shelf offering that doesn’t adequately cover the strike zone. Ditto for wrong colour, right colour.

Over the years I’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe different coloured lures in action in a wide range of fishing scenarios. The results of such encounters were as predictable as the weather – in most cases the lures worked as predicted but there were a couple of wild cards in the pack.

There was the occasion I was sent a new range of soft plastic shads in eight colours to field test. The barra were really on the chew the morning I chose to give them a try, and I ended up catching fish on every colour variation. Obviously, the retrieve style and lure action appealed to the fish much more than the shade of the product. If the fish had been less aggressive, as is often the case, would a particular colour have worked better than others? Further tests have been inconclusive at best!

In the late 1990s I fished one of the Northern Territory’s major barramundi competitions, the Barra Nationals, on the wonderful Daly River. Fishing with Jeff Reid of Reidy’s Lures, a long-time friend, I experienced the most interesting episode of lure colour preference in my 40-odd years of fishing.

Now, I’m not a big fan of green lures; even today, you’d be hard pressed to find a green-tinged offering in my tackle box. However, I readily admit that if you didn’t fish with a green lure on the final two days of the 1998 Nationals, you were at a major disadvantage.

The morning session of the final day told the story. About 20 boats were lining up to troll the favourite kilometre-long stretch of productive water, and the boats trolling green lures – predominantly green Reidy’s Goulburn Jacks – were the ones that were heading midstream out of the line when their lures were taken.

Our Reidy’s team won the Nationals that year and it was green coloured lures that consolidated that victory. Why I’m still reluctant to choose green lures is probably due to old habits dying hard, but if I ever get up to the Daly again I’ll be sure to take green deep divers.

These two anecdotes do little to help you, poor readers, with your lure selection. What it does illustrate, however, is that sometimes the place you’re about to visit may have idiosyncrasies. For this reason it’s always a good idea to check the scene out with the locals.


In the rivers, it’s always a good idea to check the clarity/colouration of the water before choosing your lure. In clear conditions, try lures that have a gold, silver or light brown base with a contrasting top colour. For cloudy water, go more for a predominantly pink, yellow, green or pearl tinge – or those gaudy multicoloured offerings so popular these days.

Gold is a good all-rounder that works well in all water conditions so, if in doubt, go for gold! Always be aware that changing colours may not be as important as getting the lure where the fish wants to eat it.

Heading into the offshore realm, colour preference tends to take on another hue (couldn’t resist that!). Here, the red head/white pearl body is a definite inclusion along with mullet/silver, black back/silver body/red stripe and red back/gold body. Other colours like blue back/silver body and brown back/pearl body also can work very well.

Again, getting the lure to the fish is paramount. It’s no good trolling a lure that runs 2m deep if the fish are feeding on the bottom in 5-6m. Fishing the right lure at the right depth is the best way to catch that big one.

The most productive shades of soft plastics is another debatable subject. A couple of consistent performers are those tails that feature pearl and pink colourations. Gold is another worth including, but then, my favourite (Saltwater Assassin) tail is the pink/green electric chicken colouration!

My choice of fly colours is more basic. Nearly all of my flies are tied with a white underbody, plenty of silver flash and various coloured shoulders (including all white). The ‘father’ of Australian saltwater flyfishing, Ron Pearson, prefers all white flies. According to Ron, it saves on having to buy a wide range of fly tying materials, which sounds pretty good advice coming from somebody of his vast experience.

As long as there are fish to catch, the debate on which colours are best will continue. Who would have it any other way?


One of the founding fathers of the sportfishing movement in this country, the legendary Jack Erskine, has joined The Fishing Party! A founder of the Australian National Sportfishing Association, Jack has been spent almost his entire working life as an industry leader in gamefishing technology and development, both within Australia and overseas. Like the hundreds of anglers now joining The Fishing Party (TFP), Jack is concerned about the future of what has been his lifelong passion.

The Fishing Party launched its bid for a senate seat with a successful rally held in Cairns recently. The next day local talkback radio was jammed with people supporting the party’s policies, so much so that one radio personality pleaded with callers to talk about another topic! The general opinion is that TFP has hit the nail on the head when it says current governments are being successfully lobbied by the green movement to phase out recreational fishing.

Political rallies are scheduled to be held in Townsville and Brisbane in the short term. A major representation at the Brisbane Boat Show is currently being planned with the assistance of metropolitan members of TFP.

As a single-issue party, TFP senator(s) will cooperate with the government of the day in all matters other than those damaging to the future of recreational fishing. Anglers need to realise that a vote for either Labor or Liberal is a vote for the political status quo to continue, and that means more erosion of our fishing rights. It’s your call.



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