Years ago, a group of fishermen tired of repainting their striper plugs were looking for a finish that would last longer. One of the fishermen, who worked for the town, painting the double yellow lines on the roads, suggested using the road paint. The heavy-duty paint not only stayed on the plugs better, but the yellow color seemed to attract more strikes. And so, the surfcasting world was introduced to the power of the yellow plug—or so the story goes.
No matter how surfcasters discovered that yellow is a killer color for striped bass lures, the fact remains, if you don’t have a wide selection of yellow plugs, you aren’t catching as many striped bass as you could be.
A study has shown that a striper’s vision is most sensitive to yellow and chartreuse.
Surfcasters have different theories as to why yellow is so effective. Some believe it imitates the fins and colors of juvenile weakfish, a favorite food for striped bass. Others say that all baitfish give off a yellow sheen when the sun is low in the sky at sunrise and sunset. Some believe that the vegetation and water in some areas put a yellow cast on the baitfish.
All could be true, but a more likely explanation is that to striped bass, yellow simply stands out. A study performed at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science showed that a striper’s vision is sensitive to a wide range of colors from blue to red, but is most sensitive to yellow and chartreuse.
I have all-yellow or yellow-over-white plugs in my plug bag on every trip into the surf, whether it’s at midnight on the night of the new moon or at midday under a bright sun, and more often than not, it’s the first color out of my plug bag.
The effectiveness of yellow isn’t limited to any one plug. Yellow darters, yellow pencils, yellow needlefish, yellow Bombers, and yellow bucktails all work, as do yellow poppers, yellow bottles, and yellow soft plastics.
As for which shade of yellow, let the water clarity and light be your guide. In broad daylight and clear water, a softer canary yellow or a yellow-over-white is the best choice. At sunrise or sunset, and in murky water, a bright yellow or chartreuse will get the most strikes. Break out those bright yellows again on full-moon nights, but switch to darker, mustard-yellow on a new moon or cloudy night.