Anglers have always tweaked factory-made lures in their zeal to become more successful on the water, customizing them with upgraded treble hooks, scented dyes, additional “artwork” and thousands of other minor modifications in an attempt to catch more fish.

But Capt. Joe DiMarco Sr. lets Mother Nature take care of customizing some of the soft-plastics he uses while guiding speckled trout and redfish trips for Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, La.

He simply leaves the bags of lures on the dashboard of his pickup truck, and over time the baits gradually fade — which creates the slight variation in lure color that DiMarco is after. 

“I find that water clarity varies throughout the day, and just a subtle (lure) change is key,” he explained. “You might be throwing a clear beetle in real clean water, and then all of a sudden you’ll stop getting that bite, or it will slow down.

“But you can stay with that clear beetle — with a very subtle color change provided by a sun-faded bait. It’s the same pattern with a slight variation in the color, as opposed to a big change.”

The key is to allow the intense South Louisiana summer sun to gradually fade the plastic — just enough that you can see a difference between a brand-new bait and one that’s been on the dashboard a few weeks.

“It’s basically the same color, but it’s toned down a little bit,” DiMarco said. “And just that little bit of variance — maybe making it an opaque color as opposed to clear — makes it show up different in the water.

“I don’t know how a fish sees underwater, but it obviously changes the way the UV light penetrates the bait.”

DiMarco said myriad factors could contribute to why such a minor change in lure color might get the fish biting again, including the fact they might just be weary of seeing the exact same color day after day after day.

“They’re not ever going to get tired of seeing a live shrimp jump under the water, but when you’re throwing a chartreuse beetle or a clear beetle or a blue moon, they might get tired of that,” he said.  “Or maybe change from a bait without a chartreuse tail to one with a chartreuse tail — it’s the same color, but sometimes that slight change will retrigger them to start feeding again.”

Another trick DiMarco uses is laying chartreuse and purple soft-plastic lures across the backs of clear ones, for an easy custom modification.

“The color will leach on to the tips of the clear lures,” he said. “With purple, it will make the clear look pink.”

That provides a very close mimic to what fish see in natural bait.

“Look at a shrimp when they start molting, and they have a pink hue to them,” DiMarco said. “Pink is really a good color with shrimp in the area.”

As a guide on the water more than 200 days of the year, DiMarco said he’s always on the lookout for even the slightest edge that will catch customers more fish.

“It’s just something that I started experimenting with,” he said. “Now I do it intentionally. If a lure has been on my dash but it’s still almost the original color, I’ll throw it. It’s just something a little bit different, and I’ll start catching fish again.

“I experiment while my customers are fishing, casting around them just to see if I can get the bite to start back up, or to pick up faster or to catch bigger fish. Believe it or not, just that little bit will catch bigger fish sometimes.”