If you’re content to grab any old spinnerbait, throw it out, and reel it back, you’re not catching as many bass as you could be. That’s because you’re not taking full advantage of the bait that many pros consider the most multi-dimensional in their tackleboxes.
You can fish it under the surface or on the bottom. You can pitch it and also let it flutter to the bottom.
But just making your spinnerbait go faster or slower isn’t enough to take full advantage. One weight is not suitable for all situations, contrary to what some believe. You should choose a spinnerbait based on what best corresponds to conditions and how you want to fish it.
The same wisdom applies to sizes, shapes, and colors of blades, as well as skirts. For example, you want a double willow if you're running the bait fast in clear or slightly stained water and a Colorado if you are fishing muddy water.
And whether you’re buying your spinnerbaits or making your own, you will be a better angler if you also understand the role of other components, such as wire arms, clevises, beads, and swivels.
Let’s look at the anatomy of a spinnerbait and some of the variations possible on this most versatile of baits.
In general, choose a body weight according to how deep you want to fish.
Most anglers prefer a 3/8-ounce as their “go to” bait, but a ¼-ounce is easier to handle in shallow water and is less likely to hang up. A ¾-ounce bait, or larger, is a good choice when you want to creep it along the bottom in deeper water or when you want it to sink quickly to entice suspended fish.
A heavier bait also will perform better in windy conditions and/or heavy current.
A spinnerbait can carry one blade or two. If the two, are similar, then the bait is a “double.” If the two are different in shape or size, then the bait is a “tandem.”
Choose shapes, sizes, and colors of blades based on weather and water conditions, as well as how deep and aggressive the fish are. Smaller blades, for example, are better for fishing in current and for fast retrieves because they create less drag.
The willowleaf blade probably is the most popular, although not always the correct one to use. Its slender shape means it gives off more flash than vibration, making it a good choice for clear water. It also cuts through grass easier than wider blades.
The Colorado creates more “thump,” with less flash, making it a good choice for stained water, where vibration is more important to attract bass.
The Indiana is a blend of the two, offering a combination of vibration and flash.
Silver, chrome, and nickel generally are preferred for clear water and sunny days, while gold, copper, and brass are best on cloudy days and stained water. Painted blades also are good choices under low-light conditions, when less light is reflected off the metallic blades.
Skirts are made of a variety of materials, with silicone probably the most popular because it can be produced in a variety of natural-looking colors. Also silicone strands don’t melt and, thus, are less likely to stick together, a common problem with living rubber. The latter still is preferred by some anglers because of its fluid motion in water.
In general, choose the lifelike colors for clear water, where visibility is high. Go with the more traditional chartreuse and white for darker water.
And The Rest
The thinner and lighter the wire on your spinnerbait, the more the bait will vibrate. On the minus side, it also will be more likely to bend or break if it is stainless steel. Some anglers think the trade-off is worth it to attract bass. Others believe prefer to go with thicker heavier wire because they believe that the flash and vibration of the blades are enough to draw fish. Titanium is reputed to offer both strength and lightness.
The length of the wire determines whether the bait is a “long arm” or “short arm.” A short arm is best for vertical presentations, such as along rock walls, when you want to blade to “helicopter” as it sinks. The long arm is better for horizontal fishing and when you want a fast retrieve.
The all-important swivel, meanwhile, can be either a ball bearing or a barrel. Ball bearing generally is better. To make certain that you are getting a good one, flick the blade. It should rotate consistently and slowly come to a stop.
The clevis attaches the forward blade of a tandem or double spinnerbait. The stirrup usually is more durable and reliable than the folded metal variety.
Beads or tubes are used to keep the blades spaced properly. Beads are preferred because tubes can cause more friction on the clevis and reduce rotation.
Put all of these parts together and you have that most versatile of bass catchers, the spinnerbait. But the variations don’t end with the basics.
You can add a plastic trailer to better attract reluctant fish. Or you can attach a “stinger” or trailer hook to catch those short-striking fish.
Most importantly, remember that not all spinnerbaits are created equal and none are appropriate for all conditions.
The spinnerbait is so versatile that you can “burn” it across the top, as well as crawl it along the bottom. But a variation of the spinnerbait--- the buzzbait--- also will provoke explosive strikes on top.
While the spinnerbait relies on flash and vibration to attract, the buzzbait draws bass with noise. The cupped ends of its blade, or blades, give it a distinctive clacking sound as it is reeled across the surface. Today’s buzzbaits offer a wide variety of blade styles and combinations, with some anglers preferring the more subtle sound of plastic to the louder metal.
The best buzzbaits will work even with slower retrieves and possess a head that will cut through water and ride over vegetation.
Son Of Spinnerbait
The chatterbait is another offspring of the spinnerbait. It consists of a skirted jig with a blade attached to the eye of the hook, either directly or with a split ring. As the lure is retrieved, the blade wobbles back and forth, creating flash and vibration, much like a spinnerbait.
As with the spinnerbait, the chatterbait also is extremely versatile. You can simply throw it out and reel it back. But also you can slow roll it along the bottom, or burn it near or on top of the water. In addition, you can let it sink to the bottom, jerk it up, and allow it to flutter back down.