The Evolution and Science of UV

February 1, 2019

UV Lures

The evolution of UV lures in the fishing industry may be the second worst kept secret ever, right behind Area 51. Much like Area 51, we know about UV, but we really don't know anything about UV. Rumblings in the industry claim that many of the lures marketed as UV, in fact, are not. While it may be difficult to get to the bottom of this, we can get a better understanding on why it works.

Less than a decade ago, salmon fisherman were looking for a way to make their lures more visible. For years they have inserted actual lights or glow sticks on lures and glow paints that shine longer and brighter. UV is different in that no outside work is required, no light to recharge, no batteries to replace. Instead, it relies on what fish use in nature to survive. According to Scott Butz of Fish Vision, humans have three cones in their eyes and are not capable of seeing true UV, hence why we use a black light to identify it. Fish and birds however have an extra cone in their eyes that allows them to see true UV. Butz and his painting company have gone through countless hours to develop different formulas of paint for fishing lures. Much like glow paint there is many different levels of intensity that will alter visibility. He was quick to add that this is similar to why you will catch fish on one type of blue, but another manufacturer's blue doesn’t perform nearly as well. It all comes down to the fact that we don’t see like fish. While fancy machines have been developed to interpret what a fish or bird actually sees, we’re likely to never know with 100% certainty. Butz believes that much of the success, aside from increased visibility, has to again do with nature. Many of the prey for freshwater fish actually exhibit a natural UV “glow”. Perhaps this is why fish are more attracted to UV lures in many cases.

What we do know is that to the best of our knowledge fish see like a semi colorblind person does, just shades of colors. Much of which is actually seeing the contrast or shade change. With standard paints - black, chartreuse, orange, blue and purple are most visible, in that order, starting with black. Much like everything else in fishing - there is a catch: it all has to do with clarity. The same reason walleyes will be in two feet of water when it’s dirty or choppy from the wind. Most of us from experience can agree that a spinner blade that works in bright sunny skies often does not work in overcast conditions. The UV lures have been extremely effective in deep water and at night. In general, UV seems to excel in situations of low light or little visibility.

Butz and his company have a patent pending on UV reflective paint in a fishing application. Unlike many, Butz uses UV paint, not just a UV mixed in his clear coat. This gives his lures a super charged effect. The reflective quality of his paints gives a different level of visibility to lures that are clear coated with it. He claims that these super charged lures are more than 200 times brighter to a fish than glow paints.

The early stages of UV have been so successful that it is difficult to find many anglers willing to admit that they are actually using it. Chip Cartwright, owner of Silver Streak lures offers a full line of UV spoons and walleye spinner blades. He recently had a well known pro who is sponsored by one of his competitors buy more than a thousand dollars worth of his UV spinners blades. Proof is in the pudding!

End result is that UV has gone from what would be a quick fad to a seemingly growing trend that isn’t going away any time soon. The typically conservative Rapala Lure Company has even introduced a series of UV coated lures. Perhaps what we can learn from this is that like most lures, nothing works all of the time, and more often than not we really aren’t sure what ultimately causes one thing to work over another. For the same reason one color will out produce another, UV painted lures on some days will drastically out perform non-UV lures.

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