Bioluminescence: Natures Bling

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Bioluminescence is the light (glow) that many forms of life produce, such as fireflies, jellyfish, phytoplankton, ferns and mushrooms to mention some. Bioluminescence occurs in terrestrial and marine vertebrates & invertebrates, microorganisms including some bacteria also present this characteristic.

This kind of light does not produce any heat, that’s why it’s also called “cold light”, only less than 20% generates a minimal form of thermal radiation.

However bioluminescence it is not the same thing as iridescence, structural coloration or phosphorescence.

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Humboldt Squid and Glow

Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas), also known as jumbo squid, jumbo flying squid, pota or diablo rojo, is a large, predatory squid living in the waters of the Humboldt Current in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Humboldt squid are among the largest of squids, reaching a mantle length of 1.5 m (4.9 ft). Like other members of the subfamily Ommastrephinae, they possess bioluminescentphotophores and are capable of quickly changing body coloration (metachrosis). They notably rapidly flash red and white while hunting, earning them the name diablo rojo (Spanish for ‘red devil’) among fishermen. Interestingly, these chromatophores (which belong to more than one set and are of different sizes) may rapidly cycle through colours other than red and white, flashing too quickly for the human eye to see the transitions.

 Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence. Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria

The uses of bioluminescence include counterilluminationcamouflage, mimicry of other animals whether for offensive or defensive purposes, and signalling to other individuals of the same species, such as to attract mates

 A photophore is a light-emitting organ which appears as luminous spots on various marine animals, including fish and cephalopods. The character of photophores is important in the identification of deep sea fishes. Photophores on fish are used mainly for attracting food or confusing predators.

Pelagic Fish Feeding Habits

There are many opinions about what pelagic fish eat. Geographical location, the year, the time of the year, water temperatures and prey availability all play a role. When I ask numerous professionals this question, it is surprising the variety of opinions I hear – often from Captains on the same dock!  The real facts matter, particularly when developing effective lures and color combinations. The only factual answers to these questions come from stomach content analysis. No opinion, just fact. The fish’s vote is all that matters.

I spent a few days digging around looking for information on pelagic fish feeding habits. I found that a lot of research has taken place over years past, analyzing stomach contents of the different pelagic species, particularly Marlin. But the most comprehensive, multi-specie report I could find did not set out to determine what pelagic fish eat. The purpose of the research was to determine what preys on Cephalopods (Squid, Octopus and Cuttlefish) in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This research was generated by the Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR) and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. The title of the research report is “CEPHALOPOD PREY OF THE APEX PREDATOR GUILD IN THE EPIPELAGIC EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN”. The links below each provide a chart that reports the stomach content found in that specie. This data was collected in 6 different years during a 14 year time frame.

Yellowfin Tuna Chart

Bigeye Tuna Chart

Billfish Chart

Dolphinfish Chart

Wahoo Chart

The entire 28 slide presentation (in scientific language) is here: what pelagic fish eat

This is interesting information, and maybe helps to explain why some lures are hot one year and not another, and why some lures work consistently year to year.

The report lumped all Billfishes together. But I found a lot of this same type of information specific to Sailfish, Striped Marlin, Blue Marlin and White Marlin that is included in our category “Billfish Feeding Habits”. There are some similarities but also differences. Black Marlin information was a bit scarce.

Lure Color, Glow and Flash

Lure Head and Skirt Colors

Nothing in the world of marlin, tuna, dolphin fish (Mahi, Dorado) and wahoo (Ono) fishing draws more discussion than lure color. Pelagic fish feeding habits, water temperature and clarity, seasonality, prey base life cycle, light conditions, location etc. all play a role in color selection. There are lure color patterns that have been effective certain times of the year for decades.

Eric White
Eric gives instructions for his tuna at auction


Only years of on-the-water experience can narrow the thousands of possible combinations to a few dozen that produce results. BFD’s Eric White (known by many as ‘allyearfishing’ on eBay) has decades of experience in open water commercial and sport fishing,  and his expertise helps narrow the field. BFD’s skirt combinations are produced from Eric’s recommendations. 

When he isn’t busy skirting lures, Eric contributes to the website with a blog article now and then. Be sure to read his seasonal installments that discuss the intricate changes in the ocean at different times of the year, and the effect these have on our quarry as well as their own prey.  You will quickly see that his knowledge of marlin and other pelagic fish behaviors is extensive, and extremely helpful when considering what to use in your spread during different seasons.

You can always ask us for advice when you order lures: we’re more than happy to help.  But if you read up on the sizes and colors of baitfish teeming in the oceans during the different seasons of the year, our choices and recommendations will mean that much more to you, and will make more sense.

Glow and Flash

We’ve done a lot of research and spend a good deal of time and energy thinking about glow and flash in our lures. Why?  Because we’re trying to replicate baitfish, of course, and as Humboldt discovered, baitfish basically ‘glow.’


Around 1802 Alexander von Humbodlt wrote:

“The luminous animals of the ocean appear, from these conjectures, to prove the existence of a magneto-electric light-generating vital process in other classes of animals besides fishes, insects, mollusca, and acalephae. Is the secretion of the luminous fluid which is effused in some animalcules, and which continues to shine for a long period without further influence of the living organism merely the consequence of the first electric discharge, or is it simply dependent on chemical composition?

You can read a full article about Humboldt and bioluminescence here or you can read this article in it’s entirety here in our blog: Nature’s Bling.

Today, we know that Ultraviolet (UV) light is invisible to human beings.  UV light has shorter wave lengths that contain much more energy than the longer wave length light humans can see.  As a result of this higher energy, more materials and things will glow under this shorter wavelength light. The shortest of the UV wave lengths have so much energy that they will burn your eyes & skin – which is exactly why they are used in tanning machines. This high energy UV light is the only light that penetrates several hundred feet below the ocean’s surface.

These short light waves excite certain atoms in things that populate the pelagic zone – like fish, algae, plankton, crustaceans and bait fish. These atoms absorb the invisible UV light, change it and emit the changed light that predators apparently associate with prey. Some of this changed light is in longer wave lengths that can be seen by humans. We attached the words “florescence” and “phosphorescence” to this re-emitted light that we can see.


floUV light also activates atoms in fish causing them to temporarily emit visible light of various colors. This light emission is known as “fluorescence”. They glow with an amazing array of vibrant colors in sharp contrast to their color under conditions of normal illumination.



Firefly Squid display phosphorescence.

Ocean dwellers said to be fluorescent, stop glowing when the light source is turned off. Ocean dwellers with “phosphorescence” can glow for a brief time after the light source is turned off.

Super bright and super long glow time powders are a new generation of Phosphorescent (Glow in the Dark) material based on Rare-Earth elements are the brightest, longest lasting, non-toxic, glow-in-the-dark material known and are at the cutting edge of chemical phosphorescent technology.

You are probably familiar with the old Zinc Sulfide based glow-in-the-dark material that is commonly found in glow toys and glow paints found in hobby stores. As you know, that material only glows for a very short time and then is completely invisible – even in a totally dark room.

Rare Earth elements are nothing like that.

Rare Earth elements produce some of the most spectacular fluorescence and the longest lasting phosphorescence….of any mineral known that can be safely used in a manufacturing process.

The additives we use were developed after years of research. It is doped with Rare-Earth elements that give it an astonishing glow time as long as 30 hours… and equally important… it can be recharged indefinitely. Even after 1,000 hours under direct exposure to intense mercury vapor light it retains 96% of its glow output. Ordinary glow material properties are permanently reduced to a fraction of original after only 15-100 hours of exposure.

Charging Up

Sunlight, ordinary indoor lighting as well as UV (blacklight) can be used to “charge up” our Glow lures. The more UV wavelengths the light contains, the faster it will charge. Sunlight will charge the fastest, requiring only 5 minutes of exposure. A ‘workshop type’ Fluorescent lamp is rich in UV light – holding the powder close to a bright fluorescent lamp will charge it up in about 10 minutes. An ordinary 60 watt incandescent bulb will take 30 minutes. UV (black lights) will charge up the material extremely fast as well.

When fully charged, all glow powders will produce a very bright afterglow for a short time, level off to a moderate level of brightness and slowly dimming over the remainder of their glow durations.

The Green and Aqua colors will remain clearly visible for as long as 33 hours. The Green and Aqua are comparable and by far the brightest and longest afterglow. Obviously, the level of glow at 14 hours is not nearly as bright as it is at 10 minutes after light exposure, but you can plainly see it in the dark.

The Blue glow has a lower glow brightness and shorter afterglow duration compared to the Green and Aqua. This is partly due to the response of the Human eye. Our eyes are much more sensitive to the color green as compared to blue. Green will always appear brighter to the eye.

Newly developed, Violet powder is an absolutely stunning color in the dark. Different than our ultra-long glow time Blue, Green & Aqua colors, Violet requires a much longer charge time and has a shorter glow duration and brightness as compared to the other colors. But it is truly a breathtaking color.

One or more of these Rare Earth based additives is used in BFD Glow lures.


White Marlin Feeding Habits

White Marlin Feeding Habits

This is a summary of research reports on actual stomach contents of White Marlin. The White Marlin is a very important sport specie in the Atlantic Ocean. In some ways, White Marlin habits are a bit different than other Marlins. Included are links to the reports and a pdf from the Brazil study if you care to dig deeper.

Common themes in these reports are:

  • The White Marlin is smaller than the other Marlins.
  • White Marlin spend most of their time in the top 33’ of the water column.
  • White Marlin dive deep more often than other Marlins but don’t stay down very long.
  • White Marlin prefer 75-84F degree water – and migrate to find it.
  • The mean length of prey found in a White Marlins stomach was 4”.
  • White Marlin like flying fish and squid and will “run down” their prey.

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Blue Marlin Feeding Habits

Blue Marlin Feeding Habits

Having read a lot of opinion on Blue Marlin feeding habits, I decided to dig around for research reports on actual stomach contents of this apex ocean predator. The only opinions that count are stomach contents. This subject has been studied more often than I would have thought around the world. Below is a synopsis of what I could find. Included are links to the report and a pdf if you care to dig deeper.

Common themes are:

  • Blue Marlin prefer water in the 80F+ temperature range
  • Due to the above point, they feed mostly toward the top of the epilagic zone (0-82 fathoms)
  • Blue Marlin are opportunistic, not passing up an easy meal of anything
  • Blue Marlin are efficient, not expending more energy than consumption of the prey will replenish
  • Due to the above point, Blue Marlin consume mostly various tunas, mackerels and bonito
  • Squid are an important component of a Blue Marlin’s diet
  • Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi – Dorado) are mentioned often

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Striped Marlin Feeding Habits

Striped Marlin Feeding Habits around Cabo San Lucas Mexico

You have probably already read this research on Striped Marlin Feeding habits, published over 20 years ago. But in case you have not, here is a summary and a link to the original report in its entirety. This report is based on stomach content analysis – not opinion.

Key Points:

  • Striped Marlin feed several times a day.
  • Striped Marlin prefer water temperatures of 68-77 degrees F. (20-25C)
  • Striped Marlin spend most of their time in surface water – the top 33 feet or 10 meters.

Diet Based on Stomach Content Analysis:

  • 29% of a Striped Marlin’s diet is Pacific Mackerel
  • 16% of a Striped Marlin’s diet is California Pilchard (Sardines)
  • 10% of a Striped Marlin’s diet is Jumbo Squid
  • 8.5% of a Striped Marlin’s diet is Herring

To read the full report, visit this link: daily.ration.striped.marlin.2011

Hook Rigs for Marlin Lures

One question that we are asked often, second only to questions about color is, “What hook rig do you recommend?”

The opinions on this subject are not only strongly held, but are as widely varied as color.  The owners of BFD even have differing opinions.  So what you get here is only one opinion of the best hook rigs for marlin lures.

Dan Magers provides you with his own experience and a brief tutorial on rigging marlin baits below:

I have tried all of the different rigs that I am aware of with many charter captains using different set-ups.  I have read the blogs and hook-up percentage claims and the opinions.  My experience has been that on 7”, 9” and 12” lures, the single hook swivel rig far and away provides me with the highest hook-up percentage.

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All Resins Are Not Created Equal

Premium Resins for Premium Trolling Lures

Pelagic lures are not cheap, particularly the unique and handmade varieties, and those that use premium materials.  The heads of some big name trolling lures are injection molded in mass quantities, while others (like ours) are handmade one at a time.  On the surface (pun intended) clear shiny “plastic” is clear shiny plastic.  But there are differences.

We made this bullet to test traditional hard resins and Cinnabar. 5 Wahoo later … at least the Cinnabar passed the test. BFD’s are not made from this resin.

There are hard resins that polish quickly, but unfortunately they chip and crack easily.  Hard resins are not very UV stable, which allows insert colors to fade.  You may have noticed with trolling lures like these that the resin will develop a yellow tint over time.

There are soft resins that come right out of molding machines nice and shiny, and don’t need polishing.  This is handy for the lure maker that churns out mass marlin lures for a lower price, and can’t afford the cost of polishing.  These lures come out of the box looking new, but they show use quickly.  Their short life span makes UV a non-issue.  When they start to look all beat up, you can just toss them away and buy another one.

Finally, there are premium resins, which are more difficult to use in the manufacturing process.  These resins don’t chip like hard resins, and are more durable than soft resins.  They are UV stable, resist yellowing and stay beautiful longer.  These high quality resins, and the extra work it takes to use  them, are a part of what makes every BFD a premium trolling lure.

We chose to use these premium materials in BFD Lures because they work better for YOU and give you more value and longer life for the money you spend.

Have confidence in our choice of premium raw materials and quality control.  BFD design, materials, expert color and skirt combinations give you an edge.

BFD Big Game Lures – Durability, Hard Core Quality.

Shell or Hologram Fishing Lures?

Shell or Hologram … flash … subtle or bright?

We have all spent years rationalizing reasons why some things work some days and other days they don’t. Opinions as to why this happens are like belly buttons. There are lots of pretty, colorful and flashy lures on the market today and we all have given them a swim. Every lure maker wants their products to be successful and BFD particularly is no exception.

I always wanted to ask a famous maker like Joe Yee which seemed to work better – lures with shell inserts or lures with flashy hologram fishing lure inserts. I had the opportunity to ask Joe Yee and Eric White both this question at dinner one night in Honolulu. When I asked Joe and Eric this question;

Joe replied, “I don’t know … if there are no fish around, they won’t hit either one.”

Eric replied, ”Shell is definitely better.”

Phil Rabedeau is the color consultant for Mepps. His book “Master Angler Using Color Technology to Catch More Fish” is fascinating. It is geared more toward fresh water obviously but light in the water is light in the water and salt doesn’t change it that much. Algae rich “green” fresh water or plankton rich “green” salt water are about the same optically as well. There are some nuggets in this short book.

When I spoke with Phil, he told me about repeated experiences on different species where silver flash in warm clear water wasn’t working and when he switched to gold flash his ”luck” changed. Phil contends a fishes eyes get more sensitive as the water warms. So, in say 82 degree water, when fish see bright flash it is like you and me looking into the sun – it is uncomfortably bright.

In warm water, “cool” colors work best (and gold flash or pearl iridescence). In cold water “hot” colors (and silver or hologram flash) work best he says. This fits with Eric’s partiality to shell. Eric fished 80 degree plus water commercially most of the time for Tuna who like 80+ also. Eric didn’t do much Marlin fishing in 70ish degree water as the Blue Marlin that Hawaii is famous for are sparse when water gets this cool. And thus, shell worked better in the conditions Eric fished and he again paid attention.

Winter Striped Marlin fishing in Cabo finds water usually in the mid to low 70’s. Flash and bright work well. In summer, pearlescent and shell and cool colors work well. Eric will tell you in Hawaii in warm water summer, Marlin like lure colors in the blues, black, purples, frog and Opelu. None of these are “hot” colors and are easier for fish to look at and identify – per Phil’s recommendation.

BFD decided to make lures with several different insert materials possessing different color and flash attributes. There is bright hologram which flashes different bright colors at different angles. There is dark hologram which produces muted, almost opalescent reflections at different angles. There is shell which reflects iridescent, pastel colors at different angles. And there is semi-precious stone which reflects the single color inherent in its makeup (the exception being quartz).

Take Marlin Off the Menu

Take Marlin Off the Menu is a joint campaign of Wild Oceans and the IGFA. For more information, go to

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