Short Answer: Usually you should stick with flat or dull finishes in both dark colors and bright colors, But I primarily stick with dark nonreflective coloring.
Ask any angler what type of weather they prefer for fishing, and most will come back with sunny and clear. Fish like these conditions too. The bright sun makes it easier to find food and pick out flaws in your presentation.
Cloudy and overcast days provide fish with a sense of security. The water darkens, and they’re more willing to roam from cover and strike baits in the open water. Fishing on cloudy days, however, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically catch more fish. You still need to choose the correct size and color of the bait. On cloudy days, color choice is going to matter more than anything.
What Color Lures to Use on Cloudy Days
On a cloudy day, you have two options. The first is to tie on a flat finish bait in a brighter color. A reflective finish doesn’t help in cloudy conditions. The second option is to tie on a dark-colored bait because it increases profile visibility. Fish become more reactionary due to the inability to see prey at a distance.
Strategies for fishing on cloudy days
1. Don’t be afraid to fish faster
On a cloudy day, most freshwater fish are going to be out roaming away from cover. They’ll be looking to feast on moving prey. Their senses will be on high alert, so any bait disrupting the water will likely cause fish to strike. Any sort of spinner, chatter, or swimbait will work well on cloudy days. If it’s cloudy, take advantage of it and fish faster moving baits. Be ready because those strikes are as exhilarating as it gets.
If you’re fishing a river/stream on a cloudy day, there’s not as much need to switch up the pace of your lure. Keep it reasonable with the speed of the moving water.
If you insist on fishing the weed line, don’t think that because it’s cloudy, the fish want something ripping along. Regardless of the conditions, this is an area to stay slow and patient. Deep crank the entire weed line. You can cover more of it due to the cloud cover.
2. Time isn’t of the essence.
Fish have specific times of day they like to feed. The most common times are around sunrise and at dawn right around sunset. These are when the insects are going to hatch. These hatches bring out the frogs and larger prey that predator fish target. On cloudy days, fish aren’t as in tune with the sunrise and sunset. As a result, they’ll be feeding for longer portions of the day. Fish hard throughout the afternoon on a cloudy day. You’ll likely get rewarded.
On a sunny day, fish will dive for cover when the sun is at its peak. They’ll sit in the deep pockets and often refuse anything you throw their way. They’ll wait until the temperatures cools before they begin feeding.
If you’re fishing moving water, fish are going to bite more often throughout the day than they do in lakes/ponds. Either way, fish a larger, dark bait in the middle of the day to anger the fish. They likely aren’t hungry so they’ll strike out of aggression.
3. Fish in places you otherwise wouldn’t
On a cloudy day, there’s not as much need to hug the banks. Tie on a search bait and start covering water. If you have a favorite spot, increase the distance you fish around it. Fish don’t often have a chance to leave cover. They’ll take advantage of it in hopes of finding a meal that’s not easy to find on a sunny day. If you know of a point or flat that holds fish, spend more time on it than you usually would on a sunny day. These are where fish will be feeding.
Water depth doesn’t matter as much on cloudy days. If you have a portion of water you’d like to fish, but it’s usually too shallow and clear, go ahead and try it on a cloudy day. Texas rig a worm and jig it up and down off the bottom. Again, the fish are roaming so chances are they’re in a spot they wouldn’t otherwise be on a sunny day.
If you’re fishing a river/stream on a cloudy day, try targeting the riffles. Fish aren’t as worried and enjoy feasting on the plethora of food floating through the riffles. If this doesn’t work, fish the transition water at the beginning and end of pools. On a sunny day, fish in rivers will hide deep in the pools or under the cut banks. Cloudy days increase their adventurous spirit so capitalize on it.
4. Clouds and the Spawn
The spawn is a bass anglers favorite season. Cloud cover isn’t going to affect your success in the spawn. Bass are always going to be protective of their bed regardless of the conditions. On a sunny day, the bass will hide under wood, sit in the weeds and be prepared to fend off predators close to their bed.
On a cloudy day, the fish are more likely to sit directly on their bed. Go ahead and cast that soft plastic to see if you can frustrate it enough to strike. Be sure to have polarized sunglasses! The darker conditions can cause a glare on the surface. Finding beds is nearly impossible without polarized sunglasses on a cloudy day.
5. Baits to use on a cloudy day
If you’re spin casting, throw a spinnerbait near some cover to tempt the fish further off than they may already be. Spinnerbaits will cause ripples around it and tempt the fish to strike. The roaming fish will likely identify it to be a bait fish trying to flee.
Another great spin casting bait to use on a cloudy day is a swimbait. While they’re going to catch bass year-round, they can be especially successful on cloudy days. Be sure to choose one with a flat finish. There’s no need for reflective material. It’ll act as a mirror and only reflect the minimal light around it. The flat finish will stand out enough in the darker water for fish to notice.
Perhaps the most fun spin casting bait to use on a cloudy day is frog. The bass sit under the lily pads or other vegetation and stare up at the surface looking for a frog that has swum too far from shore. The frogs are unable see as clearly as they normally would on a sunny day and often lose track of how far they are from safety. Throw that frog deep in the pads and start skipping it across. There are few things better than a blowup on a frog!
Any other sort of reaction bait is going to work well. A square-bill along a rocky bottom as well as swimbaits are also going to find you fish. These baits are better for fishing cover and you’ll be less likely to get snagged. They allow for a horizontal retrieve and work well on flats and points.
If you’re fishing moving water on a cloudy day, use a larger bait. If it’s fly fishing, go ahead and tie on a dark green, brown or black wooly bugger size 2-8. Be sure to let it drift through the pools and strip with authority. The more aggressive the strip, the more aggressive the strike!
Again, you can’t go wrong with a dark color on a dark day. The fish will be able to identify the profile and likely eat it. A bright color with no reflection is also a solid option.
Also, be sure to pay attention to the water clarity. If it’s a cloudy day with clear water, a brighter color will work just fine. If it’s a cloudy day with cloudy water, throw a dark bait. The dark bait will look more natural.
You can get away with a bit larger bait in cloudy conditions. The larger the bait, the less natural it looks, but in cloudy conditions fish are unable to make as much of a distinction.
Clouds often bring along a change in weather. The wind has picked up and the barometric pressure has likely dropped. If it’s been sunny for a few days and clouds roll in, the entire dynamic of the water is going to change. If you’ve been hammering the fish on a certain bait, don’t expect it to continue working. Weather changes cause prey species to be on the move and more active feeders. These are great times to throw reaction baits.