To UV Or Not To UV

By Capt. Steve Chaconas

Sounds, shape and scent might help fish locate baits, but UV enables fish to see them! When it comes to UV, it's clear fish can see baits better.

Do Fish See UV?

This is a question for all anglers as they tie on their favorite lure. Will fish see lures better with UV? Or will they wander in the dark, looking for lighter conditions? For hard lures, paints and lure plastics contain UV. Dips and dyes contain UV and even soft plastics have UV content. But do fish see UV and does it matter?

Photo of UV worms in daylightUV Worms In Daylight

Photo of UV worms under blacklightUV Worms Under Blacklight

One thing for sure is that the human eye cannot see UV without the assistance of a black light. An otherwise boring Jimi Hendrix poster wouldn't attract much attention, but turn off the lights and turn on the black light and Hendrix glows! And then you look at your buddy. His teeth and fingernails glow. His white shirt glows too! It's because they all contain phosphors, substances that absorb energy and then re-emit as light, visible to humans only under a black light! But will it pass the fish sniff test?

Not knowing for sure that fish see UV, what is for sure is they don't have black lights. Natural food sources like worms, bugs, fish and crawfish all contain UV. Since fish often feed in diminished light, a UV glow would definitely help them find and feed! So, if anglers were to seek UV advantage, it might be in low light conditions. This might be a cloudy day or when the water has a stain to it, or even in deeper fishing situations where light doesn't reach the bait. One thing everyone agrees upon is that if a fish can't see the lure, it won't bite the lure.

Research does exist! Zack Jud, a fisheries biologist at Florida International University, says fish have developed the ability to see reflected UV light for a couple of reasons. Being able to identify UV-reflective patterns helps them recognize friend, foe or food.

UV and fishing have gone together for decades! Northwest trout and salmon lure makers created baits featuring UV-reflective finishes that caught noticeably more fish. Bass anglers are a bit slow to buy into trends, and lure makers are still figuring out how to infuse bass baits with the magic light! For 2009 Toyota Texas Bass Classic Champion Dave Lefebre, UV has crossed his mind, but hasn't found a place in his tackle box. He says this knowing many of his Rapala bass baits have UV finishes and that it can only be an asset. But, his off-season ice fishing outings rely on Rapala's Ice Force jigs to bring fish to his baits under a foot of ice and in depths up to 30 feet deep!

While a few companies have included UV in their soft plastic product lines, Tightlines UV is all in on the guiding UV light. The company infuses baits with UV, rather than adding it on. The magic of UV is that baits look the same to anglers and fish in very clear water, but really shine under diminished light conditions.

A Competitive Edge

BASSMASTER Elite Series pro and 2012 Angler of the Yea Brent Chapman is always looking for a competitive edge and he believes he has found it with UV. Fishing the Elite Series, B.A.S.S. Opens and other events, means crowded fishing conditions. Chapman believes the UV edge sets his baits apart from the crowds piled into heavily pressured fishing holes.

"The guy with something different comes out on top. You always want a competitive advantage whether fishing with your buddy or the BASSMASTER Classic." Over the past 5 years, the Kansas pro has put Tightlines UV through the test. His proving grounds were places like the Potomac River and Lake Okeechobee where many boats occupy small flats or bays. In fact, during the Classic in New Orleans, where he finished 5th, he was catching more and bigger fish than competitors around him. "No one else around had what I was using, and that gave me confidence!" Chapman is confident the Tightlines UV baits, available in most bass bait shapes, put more fish in the boat, especially under tougher low light conditions.

DIY UV Lures

For the do-it-yourselfer, Lure Craft ( has added a UV powder to mix into soft plastic to pour into their molds. It couldn't be easier to use either! Heat the Lure Craft liquid plastic until clear. Add colors and flake. Then sprinkle in a "smidgeon" of the UV powder into 10 ounces of plastic. Stir and pour! Unsure what a smidgeon was precisely, start with a pinch. It doesn't take much!

For more creativity, consider a double pour into the Lure Craft flat molds to create a laminate appearance. Pour a layer without UV, then another layer of a different color with UV. The UV powder doesn't appear to change the color, but will allow the baits to be seen by fish! Sometimes a triple pour is even better. Pour a first layer without UV, then the middle layer with UV and a top layer. By making the top and bottom layers a bit more transparent, the UV core will radiate.

Even Lure Craft injection soft plastics can shine. With the mold open, pouring half of a mold with UV and then closing the injection mold and injecting will create a laminated lure. Or try pouring the tip and/or tail with UV plastic, then injecting the remainder of the bait. There is no limit to the creativity for special situations. Favorite lures can be "modified" with a UV pour for cloudy days or for muddy water. Minute amounts of UV powder might be more effective in shallow water or sunny days with clear water.

Next time out, make your baits shine!