Shell or Hologram?

by BFD Lures on March 30, 2022

Opinions are like belly buttons. But there is some data and research behind the debate on lure materials.

As fishermen, we have all rationalized why some lures work some days, and other days they don’t. There are lots of pretty, colorful, and flashy lures on the market and we’ve all given most of them a swim. Every lure maker wants their products to be successful and BFD is no exception.

When BFD started, we all wanted to ask an old-school lure maker which seemed to work better: lures with shell inserts or lures with flashy hologram inserts. Dan Magers had the opportunity to ask Joe Yee and Eric White both this question at dinner one night in Honolulu, while researching the Joe Yee book.

Joe: “I don’t know. If there are no fish around, they won’t hit either one.”

Eric: “Shell is definitely better.”

Phil Rabedeau is the color consultant for Mepps. His book, The Master Angler: Using Color Technology to Catch More Fish is fascinating. It is geared more toward fresh water obviously, but light in the water is light in the water -- and salt doesn’t change it that much. Algae-rich “green” fresh water or plankton-rich “green” salt water are about the same (optically) as well. There are some real nuggets in this short book.

jetted shell trolling lure

When we spoke with Phil, he relayed experiences on different species where silver flash in warm clear water wasn’t working and when he switched to gold flash his “luck” changed. Phil contends that a fish’s eyes get more sensitive as the water warms. So, in say 82-degree water, when fish see bright flash it is like you and me looking into the sun – it is uncomfortably bright.

In warm water, cool colors, gold flash, and pearl iridescence work best. In cold water, hot colors and silver or hologram flash work best, Phil says.

This fits with Eric’s partiality to shell. Eric fished in 80-degree plus water most of the time for tuna -- he didn’t do much Marlin fishing in 70-ish degree water. Thus, shell lures worked better in the conditions Eric fished.

Winter striped marlin fishing in Cabo finds the water in the mid to low 70’s, and lures with flash and bright colors work well. In the same areas in the summer, pearlescent and shell and cool colors work well.

Many pros will tell you that in Hawaii in warm-water-summer, Marlin like lure colors in the blues, black, purples, frog and Opelu. None of these are “hot” colors and are easier for fish to look at and identify – note how this falls in line with Phil’s recommendation.

In keeping with all of this research, BFD decided to make lures with several different insert materials, each possessing different color and flash attributes. From the beginning we have offered bright hologram and dichroic film, which flashes different colors at different angles. We also introduced dark hologram which produces muted, almost opalescent reflections at different angles.

As Jana began producing her ‘specials’ over the years and expanding on the offerings at BFD, our shell lineup tripled, giving traditional lure junkies and warm-water fishermen more of their favorite options. She also continues to add new and unique insert materials over time, providing more unusual lures for the jaded fisherman that wants to have what nobody else does.

BFD has also provided a lineup of insert materials that (as far as we know) you won’t find anywhere else – semi-precious stones. These reflect the single color inherent in the stone itself, but more significantly they provide a natural texture and contrast like nothing else.

But that, opinion or not, is a topic for another post entirely.