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The Eyes Have It! Or Do They?

Seriously, what purpose do eyes serve on fishing lures?

You can argue that they add realism to a bait. But if we’re so obsessed with making something look real, why do we all have chartreuse-, gold- and firetiger-patterned baits in our boxes? When’s the last time you saw a chartreuse-colored anything swimming in your local lake?

If we were talking about one of those ultra-realistic, hand-poured California swimbaits I could see where the eye would be important. But on your standard crankbait or topwater – which aren’t even really shaped like fish – how much can they help?

I’ve also heard the argument that eyes somehow act as a mechanism to trigger strikes. If that were the case, why haven’t baitfish evolved to have tiny eyes? And why haven’t any bait companies developed a lure that’s covered in eyeballs from head to tail? 

If eyes trigger strikes, then this is the best lure ever created!

I can’t say that it’s entirely impossible for eyes to trigger some sort of feeding instinct. I honestly don’t know if they do or not. But what I do know is that the fishing world is chocked full of completely unfounded “science” that’s cited over and over by lure companies, savvy marketing folks and anglers hawking their signature designs. Until someone can show me a study (Brian, you listening?) that having eyes on lures somehow makes a difference in catch-rates, I’m gonna’ call BS.

It’s not like I actively seek out lures with no eyes on them at my local Bass Pro (that’d be impossible, because they ALL have eyes on them anyway), I just don’t put a ton of stock in the color, size or shape of the eye a lure has on it. On the flip side, I fish with some dudes that swear you’ll never catch a bass on a bait unless it looks like it just stuck a fork in a light socket. At which point I introduce them to my jig, my Texas-rig, my Carolina-rig, my dropshot, my flick shake and all the other blind rigs and baits I’ve got in my box.

“Yeah, but that’s different,” they tell me. Why? Because they aren’t hard baits? Have you ever seen a Senko? It’s a freakin’ stick of plastic, man! For some reason that’s good enough, but when I buy a hard-plastic bait it has to have 3D prism eyes, a contoured scale pattern and little fins painted on the side? Oh, and don’t forget the gill plate.

And don’t get me started on red hooks and red line. Red either looks like blood and triggers strikes or it disappears under water. It can’t be both!

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Dwain

    April 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Many fish like Red Fish have a more distinct false eye on the tail, and their natural eyes blend in more. This is to get predators to attack the tail rather than the head.

  2. Slicks N Tricks

    April 5, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    There are bait fish/ fish bass eat that have chartreuse but past that Id say it don’t make a difference. The almighty Red Eye Shad drops it eyes faster than Kirstie Alley in a Dance competition and they are the best thing going now days it seams.

  3. 5bites

    April 5, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    “why haven’t baitfish evolved to have very tiny eyes?”

    Simple. They can’t. They weren’t created that way.

    I read(in Bassmaster I think) where a bass will basically “read” a baitfishes eyes to know when to attack. Basically if a bunch of bluegill and bass are chilling out under a dock the bass will apparently wait until the perch isn’t looking at him or is distracted and uses that oppurtunity to attack. I don’t really know one way or the other but I wondered what if my baits eyes are always look like they are looking at the bass? I guess I won’t catch anything. So I’m kinda with you on the eye thing. Not important but it does make me feel good that they’re in there. A wiggle wart wouldn’t be so adorable without them!

    • Dan Roberts

      April 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      “Simple. They can’t. They weren’t created that way.”

      Amen Brother 5bites!

  4. Tumblebug

    April 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    “When’s the last time you saw a chartreuse-colored anything swimming in your local lake?”

    I haven’t because they have all been eaten and the bass are cravin more. Like a kid in the candy store.

  5. Jesse Hall

    April 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Wow! I totally agree with you here. My buddy has some medium-diving cranks that are missing one or both eyes that catch the crap outta the fish some days. So I would also have to conclude that most of the time they do not necessarily matter.

  6. Brian

    April 5, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    “Until someone can show me a study (Brian, you listening?) that having eyes on lures somehow makes a difference in catch-rates, I’m gonna’ call BS.”

    I’m listening Jay, and singing the same song as you…I’d have to dig through the literature in the office, but two studies come to mind, one showing that bass seem to not focus specific attention toward small details (like eyeballs, though those weren’t specifically tested) when feeding, and the other showing that bass and other predators use shape and form to actually target attacks toward a prey’s center of mass for greatest success of capture.

    As such, I don’t go out of my way to remove eyeballs from a lure, but I certainly don’t hesiatate to purchase and throw lures without eyeballs, or with missing eyeballs, either. Add me to the BS camp 🙂

  7. The Bass chronicles

    April 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Well I know someone who won’t be getting a Koppers Live Target sponsor deal. Hahaha!

    This post is exactly why Bass Parade is the best site ever. The last line about red hooks and red line, classic!!!

    As KVD says; “it’s all about the marketing”……or is it the attitude, hmmm……..

    • Jason

      April 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm

      Haha, thanks TBC.

      The Live Target baits are one of the few instances I can think of where having a realistic eye would actually make sense. Those baits are very realistic from head to tail – kinda’ like the swimbaits I mentioned above.

      But I think taking a firetiger crank and sticking eyes on it is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. The dang bait is firetiger for crying out loud! Who cares if it has eyes?

  8. Rick Ford

    April 5, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I call BS on the eyes. Last weekend, after catching a few bass on my one-knocker, I beat both eyes off while slapping grass off the hooks. I still caught caught fish on the same bait after the eyes were gone. Actually, now that I think about it, I caught some bigger fish without the eyes. Maybe the fish thought they couldn’t see them so they attacked…lol.

  9. Cletus Yayhew

    March 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Simple way to conduct a scientific experiment: Take a plug with eyes and glue little tiny Stevie Wonder sunglasses on it. See if the bass say, “Oooh, that one’s blind! It’ll be easy prey!”

    (I suppose you could make weedguards that look like little white-tipped canes, too.)

    Don’t go overboard, though, and put little earmuffs on them to make the bass think they’re deaf, too.

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The best, worst and funniest in bassin'! Jay Kumar is the guy who created BassFan.com, co-hosted Loudmouth Bass with Zona, was a B.A.S.S. senior writer and a whole lot more in bassin™. Make sure you sign up for the BassBlaster email!

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