A Guide Secret Revealed!!By Steve Huber - January 1, 2001
I could make this a real short article and sum it up in one word...But it's cold, snowing and I'm bored so I'll expand on that one word. The word is... Are you ready??? Here it comes... Spinnerbaits!
That's right. Spinnerbaits. Those goofy looking lures that don't look anything like something swimming in any lake, river or stream. When you think about it, while it's true that they don't look like anything natural, they do have the required components that trip just about all fish's triggers. They have the required flash for sight feeding gamefish like muskies and pike and they have vibration for fish that utilize their lateral line for locating prey. They come in all different sizes, colors and configurations and will literally work for all fish species.
Spinnerbaits are a very versatile lure. If I was stranded in some remote place with just one lure for survival, it'd be a spinnerbait. They can be fished shallow, deep, fast, slow and even vertically jigged. They are very weedless, I fish them in some extremely thick weed cover, around rocks and in/around timber. With the single hook riding up, spinnerbaits will come through most places clean, 'cuz the upper wire arm and spinner acts as a weed guard, protecting the hook quite nicely. I fish them in places that many throw a Texas-Rigged plastic worm, places that a crankbait could never go.
Some things about spinnerbaits that make me look absolutely brilliant are that unlike soft plastics, they require no learning curve to fish. If an errant cast takes the lure into a tree top, pulling slowly and carefully will nine times out of ten get the lure back. With one hook, landing a fish and unhooking it is much safer than with a multi-treble hooked crankbait. While concentration is always vital when fishing, the strikes that spinnerbaits generate are rarely subtle (well, I suppose if you consider a 2x4 upside the head subtle then, spinnerbaits strikes are subtle), you usually don't have to wonder "Is that a fish or is that a weed?" AND, if you can cast and reel, you've got what it takes to successfully work a spinnerbait.
Where do I use spinnerbaits? These lures are great for "search baits". What I mean by this term is a lure that can potentially cover a lot of water in a hurry. While you can use crankbaits and other lures fast, in my estimation, none have the strike generating potential of spinnerbaits. Spinnerbaits are "Object Baits", lures that work best in and around cover. That's something that makes presentational location relatively easy. Look for "fishy" looking spots. Weedbeds, stumps, trees laying in the water, rock piles, boat docks and swimming rafts are all places that I throw spinnerbaits. Lakes, rivers, streams and ponds are all places that spinnerbaits have produced for me.
How do I fish these spots? If I find a likely looking spot, I'll begin by casting the lure in the general area. I do this looking for aggressive fish that are cruising the location. Once I've picked off these guys, then I'll cast in closer to the object, targeting the less active, less aggressive fish. These fish will still strike, they're either on the beginning or tail end of their feeding cycle, not really feeding but they'll take something if it's right there. I think that fish are like teenage boys, they'll eat if the meal is easy and right in front of them.
How do I work the lures? I have a terribly sophisticated method for fishing these lures. Here, lean close to the screen and I'll whisper the secret in your ear. Chunk and Wind. What?? Yup, chunk and wind, "chunk"
But sometimes, particularly in clear water, if they can get a good look at the bait, they won't hit it. I mean, c'mon, what in the heck is that supposed to be?? That's when I speed it up. Members of the pike and bass families are notorious reaction strikers. Bring a lure past it fast and they don't have time to think, all they know is that it's coming fast and if they don't strike, it's gone. Muskies and pike will follow these lures like crazy. If that's happening, I'll throw a 6" twitch or two every half dozen revolutions of the reel handle. It's amazing how many vicious strikes I get as soon as I do this.
When do I use spinnerbaits? Basically, I use spinnerbaits anytime the water temperatures are over 50 degrees. Lower than that and it's a different lure selection and presentation totally. But, once that water hits that magic number of 50, I drag out the spinnerbaits.
Selection of lures. Basically, a spinnerbait is a spinnerbait is a spinnerbait. Well, kind of. I tried the titanium wire baits. Color me unimpressed. My kids got me some for Father's Day, they all broke within 3 days of fishing. I've managed to trash them in as little as 3 hours, something that I've not been able to do with the cheapest sale model spinnerbaits I could find. Your results may vary but you won't see these in my boat anymore.
Single spinner models give off tons of vibration, less flash but they can be "helicoptered". That is, when the lure is coming back to the boat, as it passes an object, I'll stop the retrieve. When the lure falls, the blade will tilt up and spin as it flutters down. A deadly tactic when fishing pockets in weeds. Tandem spins have more lift and flash, allowing them to be fished slower but they cannot be helicoptered. The blades will tangle on the fall with most types of spinnerbaits.
One particular spinnerbait that I've been using this past season is the Secret Weapon. I was heavily involved in the field testing and development of this lure. It's unique in the fact that if you desire to change the spinner blade size, type or color, a quick release arm enables you to make the change in seconds. You can make this lure a single spin, a tandem or daisy chain as many spinner blades as your little 'ol heart desires. Some neat features of this lure are that you can now helicopter a tandem spinner, by changing the blades and skirt, you can custom match the lure to the conditions, in effect having more than one lure when you only paid for one, and they're a lot less likely to roll on their side or come out of tune. Also, if a fish does strike at the blade, the quick change arm folds out of the way, neatly exposing the hook.
For sizes, I use 3/8th oz.,1/2 oz. and 3/4 oz. models. For early season or post cold front conditions, the smaller lures get used. I can fish these slower because the light weight doesn't allow them to sink as fast, so they have a tendency to run shallower. If I want to fish deeper or faster, I go to the heavier lures. I can still change the speed and running depth by utilizing different spinner blade types. The rounded Colorado blade gives off lots of lift and vibration, causing them to run higher and allows the lure to be fished slower. Deeper or faster requires Willowleaf blades. These blades have very little lift, lots of flash and minimal vibration. If the fish are really active and want a fast moving bait, then it's Willowleaf time.
What about color? Well, I'm glad that you asked. Basically, I have three colors. My "GO TO" lure has a FireTiger color skirt, one gold blade, one silver blade. With the green, orange and yellow colors in the skirt, I feel that it effectively mimics a perch, a forage fish that is in virtually all waters in my area. Another color that I won't be without is white. This is a great color on clear water lakes or any water that has a shad/shiner forage base. This color also gets a lot of use on bright, sunny days. The final color is black. I use black on dark, cloudy days and when night fishing. If you have these three, you're pretty well set. But quite frankly, I'm less impressed with color than I am with size and blade type.
Lastly, what type of tackle is required? That's the nice thing about spinnerbaits. They don't require any special rods and reels. I've used them with spinning tackle and baitcasting rigs. I prefer baitcasting equipment for fishing spinnerbaits, using a high speed reel (preferably something faster than 5.5:1) and a 6 to 7 foot double handled baitcast rod. A good spinnerbait rod will have lots of backbone with a fairly limber tip. Most rod makers call this a "fast action." The most important thing to look for when fishing spinnerbaits is to make sure that the rod was designed to handle the weight of the lure that you choose.
Spinnerbait fish are not usually picky and because I fish them in heavy cover, I rarely use less than 12 pound test line. Before the superlines came on the market, I would typically use 17 - 20 pound test. Now, and because most of the lakes that I fish have either big pike or muskies in them, I use 50 pound PowerPro line. You'd be amazed at the number of muskies that my clients and I have taken on "wimpy little bass tackle". 42 of the 107 muskies that clients and I boated this past season came on 3/8 to 3/4 oz. spinnerbaits.
While spinnerbaits were primarily designed for bass fishing, I have caught virtually all types of fish on them. Sure, I've caught largemouth/smallmouth bass on them, muskies bite them all the time and northern pike think that spinnerbaits are the greatest thing since sliced bread. But, I've also caught walleyes, perch, crappie and two really monster bluegills on spinnerbaits. Heck, just for grins and giggles last fall when I was in Canada, I threw a spinnerbait while lake trout fishing and they'll bite them too.
I know that most of you are out on the ice and dreaming of tipup flags flying but me, I'd rather be in my ProCraft, "chunkin and windin." So, when you're out and about, swing into the sporting goods store and take a look at spinnerbaits. While they won't change your life and make you irresistible to the opposite sex, they will make you irresistible to the local fish population. And isn't that what it's all about?
Good luck and tight lines,