Crack the Code: Picking the Perfect Jerkbait Color for Trout Fishing

When deciding which color jerkbait I am going to fish I have a few guidelines I follow. The most simple rule, when the water is clear I fish natural patterns. When the water is murky or dirty, I fish highly contrasting and vivid patterns.

Selecting the correct color jerkbait or minnow lure can mean the difference between a productive day on the river or going home empty handed. There is no surefire way to know which color will produce on any given day.

Sometimes, every color or pattern will bring success, and at other times the trout will turn their noses up at everything thrown at them. Then there are the times in the middle, where the trout for whatever reasons home in on only a few colors of patterns.

Trout feeding habits can be freckle at times. But there are certainly ways to put the odds in our favor when selecting colors.

Below, I will explain my rationale, on how I go about selecting the colors I am going to fish.

If you want to know what the best jerkbaits for trout fishing are head over to my review page here.

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Start with what work previously

If you have been fishing for a while, and you know that the trout strike a gold jerkbait before, in similar conditions then start with using a gold bait. If you are a new angler, and this is the first time on the river then try and see what other anglers are fishing and copy them.

If you are on the river by yourself, then you just have to take a chance and select a color using my guidelines below.

I really like brown trout patterns when targeting brown trout

These are my three favorite colors

I have three color jerkbaits I fish more often than any other. These colors work well in my local river, and in most areas I fish. But, due to different river / lake ecologies, the trout where you are fishing might be less interested in them.

When the water is cloudy, from sediment or snow melt I like a bright red or orange lure, with a lighter shade on the bottom. Something like the HD Trout Halo Trout pattern or the Rapala X-rap Hot Head.

These bright lures, must be visible to the trout through all of the murk and I have had some extremely successful days on such patterns. Bright orange lures might be difficult to find, i believe most fishermen shy away from fishing them.

My second favorite pattern is a pattern that resembles the trout themselves.

Trout are cannibals, so take advantage of that.

When the water is clear, my first choice is nearly always a natural looking pattern. If there are juvenile trout in the fishery, I will start by fishing patterns that represent them. My favorite pattern to represent trout parr is the Yellow Perch from Rapala. That is due to the prominent parr markings. If the visibility is poor, then the Firetiger pattern is a good alternative.

My back up option is to fish the trout specific designs. So, in a brown trout fishery, I will fish a brown trout pattern, in a Brook Char stream I will fish a Brook Char pattern, if targeting rainbows, I will fish a rainbow pattern. Some brook char minnows are a bit too bright and vivid for clear water conditions, so I trend towards using dull patterns.

My final go to pattern is a dark generic silver pattern.

This pattern represents a small baitfish. It is a very generic pattern that seems to work well almost anywhere. Some examples of this pattern will be the Rapala Silver or Silver Shiner. The Dynamic lures Silver Back is another option.

It is best to have and fish a wide selection of colors of jerkbait colors.

Best Jerkbait Color for cloudy, dirty water?

When the water is cloudy, dirty or simply full of sediment. I like colors that are very bold and easy to see. Trout need to be able to see them through the murk to strike. My favorite is bright orange which really seems to stand out. Also, in deeper water orange starts to appear darker, so the contrast remains high.

If a bright high visibility lure does not produce. I will then change to a very dark, highly contrasting lure. At times, I have even used a black marker pen to add dark stripes onto old lures just to make them a bit bolder.

After that, I will change to a different brightly color lure, maybe bright green or blue due to being on the opposite side of the color triangle as orange. After that, it is really just a guessing game, maybe the trout are simply not interested in jerkbaits or even feeding.

Best jerkbait color for clear water?

When water is clear, and the trout wary I start with natural colors. It is a good idea to try and match the pattern of the jerkbait to resemble the prey fish species in the water. A safe option, for wild fisheries, is to use patterns of juveniles trout patterns.

If the natural patterns do not work, I will then swap to a plain gold, silver, or blue pattern. Then switch back to a different natural pattern, then back to a different plain color.

There is some evidence that silver when it is cloudy and gold when it is sunny works well.

Natural patterns work well in clear water

Best jerkbait color for night fishing?

When night fishing, I try to fish the most contrasty minnows I have in my tackle box. Trout are unlikely to see color, but more so movement and silhouette. I usually start with a very dark silver and experiment from there.

I personally feel, color is the less important variable when lure fishing at night. It is more important to concentrate on action and vibrations.

How many different color jerkbaits should I buy?

We all know that jerkbaits are not cheap, and owning a large selection can be expensive. I personally use the same three or four patterns for 90% of my trout fishing.

If I was buying my first Jerkbaits, I would get one in a natural color, and another in a bright high visibility color. You can expand your collection from there.

Is pattern or color more important?

I find color is more important than pattern. But it is really the combination of the two that will convince a reluctant trout to strike.

If there is one design, I favor above all others is that of Parr markings, these are long diagonally vertical stripes, this is because many juvenile trout carry such markings and trout are known cannibals.

I do not believe dots, or dual colors mark that much of a difference. They certainly does not hurt to fish such patterns, but do not expect it to make a massive difference in catch rate.


What is your favorite color of jerkbait for trout fishing? Let us know in the comments below.

For more information on how, where and when to fish jerkbaits head over to my jerkbait fishing guide here.

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