Not long ago I heard a discussion between a couple of collectors about why some of the older baits they found had red thread tied to their treble hooks. The following article, from the September 1917 Forest & Stream, details why this became a popular trend.
A Bait That Kills
A couple of trailing streamers of red flannel will accomplish wonders at times, if inserted on the hook. Often big clumsy bits of this cloth look queer on the spoonhook lure, and yet they work wonders in attracting pike. The addition of this red flannel is often the means of contriving a capture when other methods have failed. See that they stream in the water: when they produce an undulating motion they are the most attractive.
It is said that red acts on preying fishes much as it does when flashed in front of an angry bull. This is the reason why so much red is used on artificial minnows, bucktails, etc. And no doubt it fulfills a purpose, for red seems to be without any doubt a winning coloration in the eyes of the fish.
As for the strips of flannel attached to the spoonhook, I think it is chiefly the undulating motion and apparent animation that creates in the water that arouses the fish to strike. This I have proven by using white cloth strips with good success.
You will, likewise, have agreeable luck if you attach a pair of small red trailers to your plebeian pork rind lure; some use red yarn. These threads have a peculiar motion in the water that arouses curiosity in the fish and adds animation to the lure.
In using pork rind lures it is a singu larly good idea to have a spinner up ahead of the rind. Hooks with these spinners already attached are to be had in many forms on the market. The glitter and the pork rind form a double attraction. My best results have been had with the spinner in collaboration with the rind.
It is wrong to believe that the larger the lure the more attractive it is. Rather it can be said that the smaller, lighter lure has many points to its favor that the large lure has not. This has been evidenced in the smaller artificial minnows that are being put out by all the manufacturers. In fact I have come to believe firmly that a too large artificial rather frightens than causes a bass to be attracted to it to strike. This may be said to be especially true where the waters are very clear. I do admit there is a place for the large artificials, and that is where the waters are murky, or not out and out clear, or when the day is cloudy. But when the day is sunshiny and the waters are clear I would, on all counts, recommend for use the smaller sized minnow. Also in murky water, as after a rain, the pure white minnow is best seen, and the drabcolored minnows will not be seen.
The best minnow that the bass fishermen in the south can use is the white colored one, since much of the water in the south is not too clear.
-- Dr. Todd