The fishing industry is overflowing with innumerable attempts to reinvent the wheel. The slightest modifications in lure shape, material or color is heralded as “new and improved” and placed on the end cap at your tackle shop, while little attention is given to live-bait improvement other than keeping it alive.

And why should it? A live minnow looks real, smells real, feels real, is real. Why fiddle with it? 

Well, there are times when a live bait that stands out from the crowd is going to get slammed first. And that’s the basis for Pautzke Bait Company’s Fire Dye bait dye, which gives anglers the opportunity to change the natural color of their live min into bright red, gold, blue or chartreuse without negative effects.

“Crappie are sight feeders,” said guide Chris Bullock. “They need to see what they’re going to eat before they pull up there and bite it. The farther away they can see it, the better off you are. If you’ve had a lot of rain and the water is stained, those chartreuse-dyed minnows are going to come out on top — no doubt about it.”  

Bullock tested out the Fire Dye (www.pautzke.com) last year while tight-lining a spread of eight, 16-foot rods off the bow of his boat in stained water in the Eno River near Durham, N.C. Rods were fitted with identical rigs, with jigs of varying color. Half the live minnows threaded on the jigs where natural, the other half dipped in Fire Dye chartreuse.

 What Bullock and his party discovered was that the dyed minnows outperformed the others by nearly 5 to 1. Whether the jig color was black, Cajun cricket, key lime pie or even chartreuse, the chartreuse minnows were favored. After the test results were deemed conclusive, all jigs where outfitted with the chartreuse minnows, and a cooler was filled with crappie.

To duplicate that kind of success, anglers must do what they often do poorly — read the directions. While it is tempting to just fill a bucket with minnows and water and pour in the dye, that often leads to wasted effort.

“If you put too much water in, they either won’t dye quickly or dye at all,” said Bullock.  “It has to be just enough to aerate, about 3 to 4 inches deep, then you pour in the bottle. After about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, you dip them out and put them in clean water.  They’ll stay dyed and living the rest of the day.”

Pautzke advises anglers to add one bottle of Fire Dye to 12 ounces of water for a long soak, or one bottle to 32 ounces of water for a short soak.

While Bullock favors chartreuse in stained water, red, gold, and blue can be productive in other circumstances — just like different jig colors. Anglers are advised to experiment and find the palate preference of crappie on any given day.