Techniques for the Professional and Weekend Angler’
by Bryan Honnerlaw Okeechobee Outfitters
This month we are
going to talk about the spinnerbait.
This bait is very versatile, and can work in many situations. Not only will we talk about how to fish it, we will talk
about the small adjustments you can make that can greatly increase
your catch ratios.
The spinnerbait is a
bait that I have tied on every day I fish.
It is a proven, time tested fish catcher.
There are two major styles of spinnerbaits, the close pin
style bait and the inline. The
close pin style is the most common these days for bass fishing.
They are very weedless, and imitate a fish chasing baitfish.
The inline is often times over looked for bass.
It is a wonderful bait for any body of water, from the
smallest streams to large lakes.
An added bonus with the inline bait is that it has a smaller
profile and regularly catches an assortment of fish, from trout,
bluegill, and crappie, to pike, bass, and salmon.
The only drawback to it is that it is not as weedless as the
first style. With the
inline model, you basically just cast and wind, varying the speed.
I would like to talk more about the close-pin style bait,
because it is more complex and has more room for adjustments.
There are two major
blade styles used on spinnerbaits.
The colorado style, which is round,
and the willowleaf, which is shaped like, well you guessed
it, a willow leaf. There
are also many other blade styles available now that are crossbreeds
between the colorado and willowleaf blades.
The most popular of these include the teardrop shaped
Indiana, and the diamond shaped turtleback. The tandem spinnerbait
is one colorado, and one willowleaf
blade on the same bait.
There are also numerous ways these blades can be configured
together, such as two colorado’s, two willowleaf’s, one colorado
and one turtleback, etc.
So how in the world do
we know which one to use? This
is dictated by the conditions on any particular day.
A Colorado blade puts on the most vibration or ‘thump,’
and is best suited for stained to muddy water.
The vibration helps fish locate the bait.
Also note, one blade puts off more vibration than two,
because when using two blades, the blades somewhat offset each
others vibrations. The
larger the Colorado blade the more vibration it puts off and the
slower you can move it.
A willowleaf blade
puts off little vibration and a lot of flash.
Therefore, it is best suited for clear to slightly stained
water. The added flash
of this bait disguises it, making it look more realistic to picky
clear water bass. Too
much ‘thump’ can also be negative because clear water fish can
be very finicky. The
most popular set-up is a double willowleaf in clear water, because
it puts off the most flash and the least vibration.
A good mix between the
two is the Indiana style blade.
The turtleback blade puts off as much, if not more, vibration
than the Colorado.
As far as blade color
goes, I keep it real simple. Gold
for cloudy conditions, silver for sunny skies.
I will also use painted blades for very dark overcast days.
White or chartreuse blades work very well in the fall and on
gloomy days or in stained water. In cloudy conditions chartreuse looks like a white pearl to
fish and shows up well. I
have seen many times when colored blades have out-produced gold or
Fishing a tournament
one time on Kerr Reservoir in North Carolina, the conditions were
less than favorable. It
was spring and the water temperature was in the low 50’s.
It poured every day of practice and the tournament. The air
temperature hovered around 48 degrees.
My partner and I took turns pre-fishing while the other one
warmed our hands in our pants. I had on a tandem spinnerbait with a
white willowleaf and chartreuse Colorado blade and was barely
reeling through the willow trees.
The water was stained. We
caught numerous fish over three pounds in practice and in the
tournament when no one else was catching any on a spinnerbait.
We caught a few on a gold blade but nothing worked like those
As far as skirt color
goes, I like white and chartreuse or straight chartreuse under
cloudy conditions or in muddy water, and white/silver or
clear/silver skirt in clear water or sunny conditions.
This is just a rule of thumb.
There are skirts with a million different color combinations,
and they can be very good. Just
experiment and branch off of this rule of thumb and you will do
well. Black is
also a very good color in stained to muddy water, such as on the
Ohio River, and during the night because it puts off a silhouette
against the dark sky.
When choosing blade
size, I like to stick with small blades in clear water and during
cold-water temperatures, and larger blades in muddy water and as the
year progresses into the fall.
If you were fishing a fishery with an abundance of large
fish, I would try a larger blade also.
An all around good size is a 4 or 4 1/2 in the willowleaf
style, and a 5 in colorado. Experiment
until you find one that works.
When fishing a
spinnerbait, there are many different ways to work them.
The weight of your spinnerbait depends upon the depth and
clarity of the water. I
will use as heavy as a 1-ounce bait if fishing deep ledges in the
10-12 foot range. In muddy water I will use a ¼ -3/8 oz. bait to
slow down the presentation. In clear water, a heavier bait such as ½-3/4 oz. with
willowleaf blades will allow you to retrieve your bait fast which
can draw more reaction bites. In
clear water you want a lot of flash and you generally want to use a
fast retrieve so that fish cannot get a good look at your bait.
If they have time to examine it, they will not bite.
The speed of your retrieve also depends on the mood of the
fish. When fishing in
frontal conditions when the fish are inactive, you may have to crawl
or slow roll your bait to trigger a bite.
On the other hand, you may have to go Kevin Van Dam on those
fish and reel it quickly to cause a reaction strike.
Experiment, experiment, experiment.
Every fourth or fifth cast I will try a different retrieve
until I find what the fish want.
Try a stop and go retrieve where you pause your bait, try
yo-yoing your bait where you rip or hop it off the bottom, or try
jerking your bait erratically while reeling it in.
Each day is different in what the fish want.
Some small things that
most people don’t know can put you on top of the game by making
minor adjustments. In
clear water, pull out about half the strands on your bait, thus
giving it a smaller and more realistic profile.
In muddy water, try adding another skirt, so your bait has
more bulk to it, putting off more vibration.
Add a curly tail grub in muddy water if you want a little
more vibration, or a straight tailed trailer in clear water if you
want a larger profile, but sleek bait. The smaller the blades you
put on a spinnerbait, the less lift it will have.
Sometimes in clear water I will take the larger blades off a
willowleaf spinnerbait and exchange them with one or two small #4 or
41/2 blades, making it go deeper or being able to run it faster,
especially if fishing for smallmouths.
A faster moving bait often triggers strikes from smallmouths.
If you want a willowleaf blade to have a little more
vibration but not as much as a Colorado blade, and to slow the
presentation, flatten the blade out.
On the other hand, to speed up the retrieve and create less
vibration, especially in clear water, add cupping to the blade.
A trailer hitch works great for this. In cold water, try a
colorado/willowleaf combination, and make the bait bulge the surface
very slowly. When using
a trailer on your bait, use super glue to hold it up on the hook
without having to constantly fix it.
In clear water, trim the skirt to ½ inch of the hook, in
stained water trim it to about 11/2 inches of the hook.
If you want a smaller profile bait but want it to run faster,
add 60/40 solder wire to the hook shank.
Wrap it tightly on the hook.
Rubber core sinkers also work.
Try these techniques
next time you are on the water and make the adjustments that will
give you an edge over other angler.
A spinnerbait is very versatile so don’t be afraid to
experiment until you find what the fish want.
Bryan Honnerlaw runs Okeechobee Outfitters, a professional guide
service on Lake Okeechobee, Florida. He is in Florida December-mid
May. He does instructional fishing in Ohio May-October, and tours on
the BFL and Everstart tournament trails. For those of you
interested in learning in depth bass techniques and get hands on
experience, Okeechobee Outfitters offers a four-day bass fishing
school, twice a year, on Lake Okeechobee. One session is
in April, and one is in December. The school includes six
guides in fully rigged tournament bass boats, classroom and
on-the-water time, lodging, and a tournament where you make the
decisions on day four. For more information on this school or
on guided or instructional trips in Florida, or Ohio, call
Okeechobee Outfitters at (937) 728-1344, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org