Versatility of Spinnerbaits in Shallow Vegetation
Although a Chatterbait or other bladed jigs are often regarded as being a shallow vegetation-friendly bait, I believe that a 3/8 ounce spinnerbait with a tandem willow blade and colorado blade combination is truly the most weedless bladed bait to fish in a vertically oriented vegetation area. When I say vertically oriented, I am referring to vegetation such as eelgrass, sawgrass, scattered cattails, scattered lily pads, or any other vegetation that does not tangle or form a mat. Typically, these are the types of shallow vegetation that you find yourself throwing a moving bait in and around.
Many people who swear by the Chatterbait have not thrown a spinnerbait in shallow water in so long that they have forgotten how effortlessly a spinnerbait parts the blades of grass or the stems of lily pads. The spinnerbait, through spending a lot of time with it in my hands around shallow vegetation, has shown me that it comes through this type of cover with a much more natural looking, smooth presentation than a Chatterbait. I compare the difference between chatterbaits and spinnerbaits in vegetation to the difference between a paddle tail swimbait and a jointed glide bait. While both have very effective moments, the glide bait just looks so much more real and natural.
“My grandfather with a healthy largemouth pulled out of shallow vegetation with a spinnerbait!”
Fishing a Spinnerbait to Adapt to Water Conditions
In addition to the spinnerbaits agility in vegetation, a spinnerbait can be a deadly tool for covering large, open expanses of water such as shallow flats or large open areas of standing timber. Personally, I think a spinnerbait excels in this setting, and depending on the blade and wire chosen, you can custom tailor the flash and sound to the conditions around you.
For example, in a clear, cool Northern lake, I will often lean toward a double willow blade combination on my spinnerbait for a flashy, natural presentation that does not have too much sound and vibration, which can be off-putting to wary clear water fish. The flash calls the fish in from a distance without being too gaudy and intrusive. By the same token, I will lean toward a tandem pattern for somewhat of the best of both worlds in an average-clarity scenario, and a single Colorado or double Colorado blade in murky water for the big, fish-calling thump.
The vibration profiles of the different blades can be accented by the thickness of the wire used on the bait. For a flashy double willow blade presentation where a smaller profile might be desirable, the blades really spin better on a lighter gauge wire that allows the blades to pick up some drag while being retrieved. In a big, bulky blade situation in murky water, you will need to go with a heavier wire to keep the spinnerbait from burning out and turning sideways. With this being said, none of these general rules are set in stone. If you get into custom making your own spinnerbaits, you will be able to have the baits perfectly match your fishing style and the conditions you fish in.
Spinnerbaits Trigger Vicious Strikes
Throughout my whole life of fishing, I have had around 80% of my most bone-jarring hits come with a spinnerbait tied on. Something about their action makes the bass react so aggressively that it feels like they are trying to rip the rod out of your hand. I attribute this to the “now or never” effect that you get with reaction baits, where it seems like the bait is escaping and the bass only has one chance to eat it.
I believe that the way a spinnerbait skirt pulses creates a fleeing baitfish effect without any dramatic change in speed. With a simple half-turn slow down or a subtle drop of your rod tip, you can make a spinnerbaits skirt flare out in a wave-type pattern. This simple change of pace can be enough to cause the bass to react and strike.
Next time you are on the water, keep in mind that whatever key piece of cover you are targeting should be the focal point for whatever extra action you plan on imparting on your spinnerbait, whether it be burning it by cover for a couple of cranks, slowing down and making the skirt flare, or giving it a touch of slack to make it die down in the water column. This strategy is particularly effective around those “landmark” pieces of cover, such as big logs or laydowns, boulders, dock posts, or drain pipes.
“A solid smallmouth I caught on a white and chartreuse spinnerbait while slow rolling it over a cluster of boulders!”
My Go to Color Patterns:
Perhaps the most successful spinnerbait color pattern of all time is a white/chartreuse combination skirt with a white or chartreuse painted head, and either gold or silver blades, depending on your water clarity. This is a great color to use while either fishing in a shad-based forage area, or while using the spinnerbait as a search bait for a reaction bite. It seems to always elicit a reaction bite, and is probably my most thrown spinnerbait color pattern.
Plain white is also a deadly pattern for shad-feeding bass. It takes out the boldness of the chartreuse and leaves a very unassuming, visible target for the bass to hone in on. This is my second most thrown spinnerbait color.
A shiner-imitating pattern, such as a white or smoke skirt with gold flake and gold tandem blades can be a killer on Florida lakes such as Okeechobee and Istokpoga. I attribute most of my spinnerbait bass caught in the deep South to a shiner-based pattern.
Other colors that still hold a place in my box are a green pumpkin/chartreuse pattern for a bluegill imitator and an all black pattern for night fishing – usually with one BIG Colorado blade on it.
Cardinal Rules of Fishing a Spinnerbait
I have several cardinal rules for spinnerbait fishing that I believe are keys to being successful. By deviating from these rules, I believe your success with the bait will be impeded.
Rule #1: Always buy a quality spinnerbait. Baits with cheap swivels, even cheap ball bearing swivels, will never run as good as a well built bait, and they will fail on you or break at the most inopportune times. For an example of a great production spinnerbait, check out the Terminator spinnerbaits. Both their Titanium and Stainless Steel wire offerings are very well built and run great.
Rule #2: Use a trailer hook unless you absolutely cannot get away with it because the cover you are fishing is too heavy. This will catch you many more fish, and stop the heartbreak of watching big bass swipe at a spinnerbait and miss it, only to never come back. Smallmouth are especially notorious for this.
Rule #3: Never, and I mean never, use a snap swivel or other easy connect device to attach a spinnerbait to your line. There is no way the bait will ever run properly unless your line is directly tied to the bait. There is nothing more to it than that.
Rule #4: Painted blades catch more fishermen than fish. There will be handfuls out there who disagree with me, but by painting the blades, you essentially negate the purpose of having metal blades on the bait for attraction other than vibration. The fish will never get a good look at the pattern drawn onto your Colorado or Willow blade anyways.
Rule #5: Always watch your spinnerbait and keep it in tune. An out of tune bait that blows out of line and rolls is essentially useless. Keep it tuned up by aligning the wire with the hook point while looking at the front of the bait.
I hope these tips and information help all of you enjoy and utilize a spinnerbait in your fishing outings. It may not be as much of a commonly used bait anymore, but that might make it even more appealing to wary bass. When the conditions are right and you follow the cardinal rules, a spinnerbait might just become your new favorite bait!