Ask ten anglers at the tackle shop what their favorite color line is, and you’ll probably receive ten very different answers. Everyone has their hunches on what works best, and they’ll be quick to tell you why their favorite color supposedly outperforms all others.
The truth is, there’s some science involved in what fishing line works best. You can use this science to your advantage, ensuring you’re using the best color for the way you fish, or you could take whatever Bucktail Bob at the tackle shop told you at face value.
Read on, and we’ll cover everything you need to know about selecting the ideal color fishing line so that you can put more fish on the deck during your next trip.
The Science How Color Appears Underwater
When it comes to colors underwater, there’s a bunch of science involved, such as light reflection, light refraction, and light absorption, that affect how colors appear underwater.
The critical bit of science involved in how the fishing line appears underwater involves light absorption in water. Water can absorb different wavelengths of light to varying levels, affecting how color appears underwater at varying depths.
Colors disappear in water in the same order that they appear on a rainbow, so it’s helpful to remember the mnemonic device we learned in kindergarten, Roy G. Biv, to identify which colors disappear first.
The longer the wavelength, the easier it is for water to absorb light. Colors with longer wavelengths, such as blue, indigo, and purple, are the last to disappear underwater, while colors like red, orange, and yellow disappear more quickly in water.
Unfortunately, just because the color disappears from the line doesn’t mean the line itself disappears. Instead, most lines simply appear as darker versions of themselves. In the case of a red line, it seems black at depths below 10-15 feet, while other colors, like green, appear as a much darker green at similar depths.
The best way to illustrate this phenomenon is to see it in practice. Check out this video of a diver demonstrating how color appears underwater, and it’ll give you a much better idea of what your line will look like underwater, depending on its color.
Keep in mind that this video is shot in crystal-clear water, and the conditions of the water you’re fishing in can have a significant effect on how quickly colors disappear in water.
How Weather Conditions Affect Colors in Water
The ambient conditions you’re fishing in significantly affect how quickly light disappears in the water.
Light can penetrate water more deeply on bright, sunny days, which means your fishing line color will still show up deeper in the water column. Your line will be most visible during the time of day when the sun is at its highest point. So, expect visibility to be greatest between 9 am and 3 pm.
The less light there is, the more quickly the color will disappear from your fishing line. On cloudy days, the color will fade more rapidly, and when fishing at night, the color disappears almost instantly.
How Water Conditions Affect Colors in Water
The type of water you’re fishing in also significantly affects how your line appears underwater. Saltwater and freshwater both transmit light fairly equally, but color can appear quite different depending on the color of the water in your area.
It’s helpful to think of camouflage when selecting a fishing line color to suit the water conditions. In crystal-clear water, a clear or blue line provides the highest level of camouflage. Meanwhile, in stained or turbid water, colors like moss, green and yellow are far more challenging to see than others.
What Colors Should You Be Using for Your Fishing Line?
Now that we’ve covered a bit of the science that influences how your fishing line will appear underwater, here are the best colors to use depending on the type of line you’re using and where you’re fishing.
Best Monofilament Colors
If you’re fishing with monofilament, here are the best colors for you to use, depending on the conditions you’re fishing in.
- Clear – best for clear water and bright sun. Remains clear at all depths.
- Pink – best for all water types and conditions. Turns clear at depths below 10 feet.
- Blue – best for clear water and bright sun. Turns clear at depths below 15 feet.
- Yellow – best for stained or dirty water and any weather conditions. Turns clear at depths below 15 feet.
- Green – best for algae-stained water and any weather conditions. Becomes darker at greater depths.
- Red – best for stained or dirty water. Turns black at depths below 15 feet.
Best Fluorocarbon Colors
Most pro anglers prefer fluorocarbon, either as their mainline or leader material, because it offers better light transmission than monofilament does. Since light can more easily pass through fluorocarbon, it virtually disappears underwater.
Clear – Ideal for all conditions, especially in clear water. Remains clear at all depths.
Pink – Ideal for all conditions, supposedly the least visible of all fluoro colors. Turns clear at depths below 5 feet.
Green – Ideal for algae-stained water with a green tint, all weather conditions. Turns darker green at depths below 10 feet.
Yellow – Ideal for stained or turbid water and cloudy or low-light conditions. Turns clear at depths below 15 feet.
Best Braid Colors
Unlike monofilament and fluorocarbon, which are translucent, the braided fishing line is solid throughout. So, you can throw all of the science out the window as far as your line disappearing underwater. The trick when fishing with a braided line is to try and choose a color that’s camouflaged against the water.
- White – Ideal for clear water and all light conditions. Low visibility at all depths.
- Blue – Ideal for clear water and all light conditions. Loses color after 15+ feet.
- High-Vis Yellow – Least visible in brown or cloudy water. Easy to see the line above water. Turns darker after 10+ feet.
- Moss Green – Ideal for algae-colored water and all light conditions. Appears darker after 15+ feet.
- Black – Ideal for fishing in all water, especially with low light conditions. Retains color for 15+ feet, virtually disappears at night.
What Color Is the Hardest for Fish to See?
Most fish have a fairly decent sight, and depending on the water conditions, most species of fish can see 10-20 feet away from them in all directions, except for directly below and above. Virtually all fish that spend time in shallow water see in color, while fish that live at greater depths see primarily in shades of black and white.
The color that’s going to be the hardest for fish to see is dependent on the water conditions you’re fishing. In crystal clear water, colors like clear, white, or blue are ideal. Shades like yellow and moss green do particularly well in stained or murky water, and black and gray are more challenging to spot at night.
Is There a Color That Scares Fish Away?
While every angler has their thoughts on the matter, no evidence suggests that there’s a particular color that scares fish away. We know that some colors are more visible than others in certain water conditions.
We’ll never know if fish are inherently line shy, so why not air on the side of caution? No matter what color fishing line you use, a clear fluorocarbon leader ensures your fishing line will be as difficult to see as possible.
Can a Fish See Your Fishing Line if the Color Disappears?
Depending on the color, fish might be able to see your line long after its color disappears. Red fades the fastest, and it reads as black at depths beyond 15 feet, while green appears as darker shades of green until it appears black, too. Even after the color can no longer be seen, the form of the fishing line itself is still visible.
Happy Fishing & Tight Lines