The shad are spawning at Lake Wheeler. So a lot of Bassmaster Elite Series pros have a baitfish-impersonating willow leaf spinnerbait tied on; most of them provided by sponsors.
But no surprise, just like the underspin horsehead lure he used to win the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, the spinnerbait Casey Ashley has tied on is one he and his dad Danny make themselves.
“The art of spinnerbait fishing has gone away,” said Ashley who slapped 19 pounds on the scales to sit in second place on day one at Wheeler, including the biggest bass of the day, a 6-pound, 14-ounce beast.
“Very few tournaments allow us to think we can tie on a spinnerbait, ride it for four days and win with it, but if I need one, I can build it using components from a couple plastic jars I carry in my boat,” Ashley said. “And when I build it, I’m confident the blades are always gonna spin, no matter how slow or fast I retrieve it.
“The spinnerbait Daddy and I build came from my buddy Trad Whaley. His dad’s name is Danny too, and he fished B.A.S.S. events back in the Hank Parker era. If there was a fish to be caught on a spinnerbait, Trad’s daddy was gonna catch it—and usually big ones—using this bait right here that they built and called the Big Train.
“Dad and I pour our own heads from that original Big Train mold and Trad was kind enough to have some plated for us. But a lot of times, I’ll just fish it with no paint at all on the head; just plain lead.”
“Most of the time, I’ll start with a 1/2-ounce but if I realize I need to keep it shallower, I’ll move to 3/8-ounce. On a rare occasion, if I need to get deep I’ll go with a 3/4-ounce but day in and day out, I use a 1/2-ounce.”
Blades and beads
“I put a lot of beads between my blades for a reason. That keeps those blades separated, spaced apart and always spinning. That’s really key. I like a No. 4 blade in gold up front, and a No. 4 1/2 silver blade as the main blade in the back. I’m almost always throwing the smooth finish, even though I carry a few hammered ones in this jar.”
Speed of retrieve
“A lot of people wind a spinnerbait way too fast in the springtime. It’s a tool you can get more bites with if you’ll take your time and make contact with cover. A lot of that comes from choosing the right reel. I use a 6.6:1 Quantum Smoke.
“Spinnerbaits may not get a lot of use anymore, but they still catch fish—big fish. And there just aren’t many lures you can tie on that flash, replicate shad and offer the versatility they do.”