Everyone Dyes

Enhancing natural baits with dye is common practice in a number of arenas. Now the effectiveness of this technique is making its way into our trolling spreads. One look and you’ll see why.

FSF Staff May 6, 2011

There’s no arguing the fact that dedicated anglers are a quirky bunch. Willingly committing acts the general population would consider foolish and going to extreme lengths to ensure success on the water is part of the game. For years anglers looking to outsmart wily swordfish have been dyeing squid to keep them looking natural and lifelike. After a long soak time even the freshest squid appear white and washed out. If you’ve ever seen a pulsating squid you know they take on a red coloration, so it’s no surprise anglers try to match their natural appearance with vibrant dyes.

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Looking for extra appeal? Fortunately you've found it. Photo: doughertyphotos.com

While dyed squid have accounted for impressive recreational catches, commercial longliners have also experimented with dyed baits in an effort to reduce turtle and bird bycatch in pelagic fisheries. While there were promising results, it is uncertain as to the long-term effectiveness. What we do know is that game fish are prone to attack and react to certain color patterns. Taking a tip from anglers targeting broadbills, dyeing trolling baits is a new trend in tricking prized pelagic predators.

…there is no denying that either alone or coupled with your favorite skirted lure, dyed baits appear incredibly enticing…

Although the intricacies of vision among fish vary greatly depending on species, water clarity, depth, etc., the question still remains as to what game fish actually see. While scientific studies have revealed that our favorite big game targets do possess limited color vision, this doesn’t mean they see the many colors of the rainbow the same way we do. What they focus on more is your trolled bait or lure’s contrast and silhouette against the sky. What it comes down to is that initiating a predator’s carnal instincts to seek and destroy is key to enticing strikes. Offshore anglers have had success with specific colors under certain conditions, so it’s evident that game fish respond to color to some extent. Typically, the common philosophy is to pull a spread of darker lures on overcast days and lighter lures on brighter days. Not wanting to be left behind, anglers trolling artificial baits have been experimenting with dyeing natural baits to gain a competitive edge. The results have been outstanding and there is no denying that either alone or coupled with your favorite skirted lure, dyed baits appear incredibly enticing to both fishermen and fish.

Dye On The Fly
If you’ve ever worked with food coloring than you know it will stain everything it comes in contact with. While some anglers dye baits in a bucket with a simple solution of saltwater and dye, with the short soak time and possibility of tie-dyeing your gelcoat and upholstery, this is not advised. It’s best to prepare ahead of time and make large batches of enhanced baits. While you can toy around with Rit dye or food coloring from your local grocery store, companies like Pro-Cure Bait Scents—a leader in potent scents and scented gels—have devised ultra vibrant fluorescent dyes that are biodegradable and specially formulated for use in the harsh saltwater environment. The dyes are extremely easy to work with and come in two forms. One is a concentrated powder that can be added to your initial brine solution or even after the baits are brined, while the other is a liquid that can be used for dyeing ballyhoo, mullet, Spanish mackerel and strip baits on the fly or simply enhancing trolling baits with stripes, spots or contrasting patterns.

Getting your baits to stick out from the crowd and catch the fish’s attention is what dyeing baits is all about. Contrast with the surrounding environment is vital to coaxing fish to strike, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find color combinations that work. Mix and match brightly colored dyed baits with skirted trolling lures for even greater visual acuity. The end result is enticing combinations that perfectly mimic local forage species.

Maybe one day in the not so distant future offshore anglers will even experiment with dyeing live baits…or is a fluorescent pink blue runner too far fetched for the general public to comprehend?

Color Your Way To Better Ballyhoo

Step 1: Gather the necessary items and make sure you prepare a work area that won’t be ruined if you spill some dye. We found it easiest to use heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bags and plastic Tupperware containers to contain the colored solution. It’s also a good idea to wear a pair of latex gloves to prevent looking like a preschooler who just spent the morning finger painting.

Step 2: If your baits aren’t already brined, add brine mix and one teaspoon of concentrated powder dye per cup of icy water. Use just enough slush to cover the baits. Feel free to experiment with colors and concentrations to achieve brighter or more subdued colors.

Step 3: Let baits soak for at least one hour. Give them a quick rinse to remove any dye residue that may drip and stain. Your baits are now ready to go. Troll the vibrant enticements fresh or vacuum seal and freeze for a later date.

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