As the fall shad migration reaches full-swing, spinnerbait fishing gives you an excellent chance of catching big bass. With so many lures and techniques flooding the bass fishing world, it’s easy to overlook this classic lure in favor of trendier offerings, but keeping one handy can increase both the quantity and quality of your catch.
Elite Series pro Todd Faircloth turns to a spinnerbait for a large portion of his fall fishing. While other anglers cover water with noisy reaction baits, he’s able to make the most of shad-oriented bass with a more old school approach.
According to Faircloth, there are five things you can do in order to become a better fall spinnerbait angler.
- Understand where the shad will be
- Know when to use various spinnerbait blades
- Tweak your cadence and retrieve speed often
- Keep an eye on environmental cues
- Avoid preconceived notions
Focus on high-percentage areas
If you can find a concentration of baitfish in the fall, it’s a safe bet bass will be nearby. For this reason, Faircloth makes a concerted effort to search for areas shad will use as natural stopping points on their fall migration routes.
- Creek channel flats—“My favorite place to fish a spinnerbait in the fall is around creek channel flats,” Faircloth said. “When the shad are traveling to the backs of creeks, they’ll use these channels the same way we use highways.
“Spinnerbaits will always be a mainstay in any professional’s arsenal,” Faircloth said. “They will never, ever be replaced by any other lure and will continue winning tournaments for years to come.”
Throughout their migration, they’ll pull up on nearby creek flats and the bass will follow them to take advantage of an easy meal. I look for isolated cover such as stumps, rocks or grass that bass can use as an effective ambush point.”
- Feeder creeks—“Spinnerbaits really shine when fishing around feeder creeks,” Faircloth said. “If your area has had recent precipitation, you’ll notice a mud line—or a change in water clarity—in these areas which attracts massive schools of bait. Any type of flat around these feeder creeks can be very productive—once the bass pin the shad in these areas, they can’t escape so it can result in an all-out feeding frenzy.”
- Secondary points—“If you’re having a hard time finding fish on creek channel flats or feeder creeks, secondary points are a great option,” Faircloth said. “Both the bass and bait are going to be relatively shallow throughout much of the fall, so I like to look for flatter secondary points. I just bounce around between points until I find a concentration of fish. It doesn’t take long for them to show themselves when you find them.”
Understand each spinnerbait’s application
Faircloth keeps his spinnerbait selection simple, focusing on three primary models throughout the fall months.
With a seemingly infinite number of color and blade combinations, selecting the correct spinnerbait to match the current conditions can quickly become overwhelming. Faircloth, however, manages to keep his selection process relatively simple by trusting in three specific spinnerbaits throughout the fall.
- Double willow leaf—“When I’m fishing in really clear water, I have a lot of success with a Strike King Burner Spinnerbait,” Faircloth said. “No matter how fast you reel it, it tracks true and the blades barely have any drag in the water. I use it primarily as a sight bait because the bass will come a long way to eat it in clear water. It works best on bright, windy days because the flash of the blades allow the bass to get a good bead on it. If you fish it quickly high in the water column, you’ll get some really big bites.”
- Double Colorado—“In dirty water it’s hard to beat a Strike King Premier Plus Spinnerbait,” Faircloth said. “I really like using Colorado blades in river systems or on the upper ends of lakes where you can find muddy water. The big blades emit a lot of vibration which allows the bass to feel it with their lateral lines in low visibility conditions. Look for visual targets such as stumps, laydowns and even docks and reel it just fast enough to feel the blades spin. I’ve caught countless big bass over the years with this approach.”
- Colorado/willow leaf—“I consider the Strike King KVD Finesse Spinnerbait my ‘in-between’ spinnerbait,” Faircloth said. “It’s more of a clear water spinnerbait, but it can definitely produce in stained water as well. I fish it a lot like I would a lipless crankbait—I’ll crawl it across hydrilla, milfoil and coontail grass and jerk it whenever I tick a piece of vegetation. When you twitch it, the blades put off a bit more flash, which can result in some awesome reaction strikes.”
Experiment with your retrieve speed and cadence
Faircloth pays close attention to his retrieve cadence when he gets a bite so he can duplicate it on subsequent casts.
While you can certainly catch bass by chunking and winding a spinnerbait, Faircloth suggests catering your retrieve cadence and speed to the conditions. Along with his “standard” retrieve, he experiments with two additional retrieves until the bass “tell” him what they want.
- Standard retrieve—“When I first start looking for a solid spinnerbait bite, I use a steady retrieve while incorporating sporadic pops of my rod tip,” Faircloth said. “It doesn’t take much to make the blades flare out, so you don’t have to
Quick Tip: Regardless of his retrieve, Faircloth uses a trailer hook on his spinnerbaits. Bass are notorious for short-striking spinnerbaits and the use of a trailer hook dramatically increases your hookup ratio.
jerk your arm out of socket. If you’ve ever seen a ball of shad next to your boat, you’ve probably seen a few shad kick to the side and create a flash—that’s exactly what I’m trying to imitate. Whenever your spinnerbait comes by a piece of cover, pop your rod tip and hang on.”
- Bulge it—“If the water is clear, I like to burn it through the top of the water column and even bulge the blades,” Faircloth said. “If you barely keep the blades underneath the surface, it creates an awesome ‘waking’ action that will get a lot of bites. This is best achieved by keeping your rod tip high and is extremely effective—just make sure your blades don’t break the surface.”
- Slow roll it—“In dirtier water, bass aren’t as likely to actively chase down a meal,” Faircloth said. “They can’t see very well, so you need to let them feel your bait. When you slow roll a Colorado blade, you’re putting out a very deliberate ‘thump’ that triggers bass’ predatory instinct. You’ll get a lot more bites in off-color water with this presentation.”
Regardless of his retrieve speed or cadence, Faircloth believes that attention to detail is paramount. The bass’ preference can change throughout the day in accordance to environmental variables, so he stresses the importance of experimentation. If he experiences a lull in the action, he begins changing his retrieves until the bites start picking up.
“To be a great spinnerbait angler, you have to pay close attention,” Faircloth said. “When you get a bite, you need to understand that the bass bit for a reason and make an effort to duplicate exactly what you were doing.”
Pay attention to environmental cues
In order to get the most out of your spinnerbait fishing, it’s important to pay close attention to your surrounding environment. Both water temperature and clarity play primary roles in Faircloth’s decision to throw a spinnerbait.
“When the water temperature hits the low-70s, I’m going to start throwing a spinnerbait a lot more than usual,” Faircloth said. “The bite is at its best in the 60-degree range and it slowly begins to fade when the water dips into the 50s and the bass become more lethargic.”
In clear water, Faircloth prefers sunny conditions due to the extra flash the blades will emit. When the sun reflects off of silver blades—his primary blade color throughout the fall—bass mistake them for shad and will cover several feet of water in order to attack it. Because spinnerbait fishing in dirty water is much more vibration-oriented, cloudy weather is preferable as the bass won’t position as tightly to cover and are more apt to chase forage.
Don’t overlook open water
Spinnerbaits aren’t just for shallow, visible cover. They also catch big bass over submerged vegetation and points.
When many of us fish with spinnerbaits, we’re hard-wired to target visible shallow cover. It’s a load of fun when it works out, but what happens when the fish aren’t there? Instead of giving up on the big fish possibilities of a spinnerbait, Faircloth heads to open water and targets two specific areas.
- Vegetation—“You can’t always see the most productive vegetation—often times it’s submerged,” Faircloth said. “If submerged vegetation is prevalent on your fishery, don’t be afraid to chunk a spinnerbait across open water. Targeting small transitions and irregularities in the underwater grass lines can produce some monster limits. You probably won’t get as many bites, but they’ll be a lot bigger.”
- Points—“When the water is clear, I’ll move out toward the points and target suspended fish with a double willow leaf spinnerbait,” Faircloth said. “These bass constantly see crankbaits, jerkbaits and topwaters, but they don’t see many spinnerbaits. If other reaction baits aren’t producing, I never leave a windblown point in the fall without making a few casts with a spinnerbait.”
Although spinnerbaits are overlooked by many, don’t lose faith in them. The fall is a great time to build confidence in them and more than likely, you’ll be surprised by the quality of fish they produce.
How often do you throw a spinnerbait in the fall? When do you think they out-produce other reaction baits? Let me know in the comments!