The spinnerbait remains one of bass fishing’s most well known lures, but has lost popularity over the years. Many anglers know the basics about spinnerbaits, but most don't know what really makes one spinnerbait more effective than another. Those that do win a lot of money and catch a lot of bass on spinnerbaits.
FLW Tour pro Terry Bolton kept the spinnerbait a secret to his success early in his career. But he has also seen its popularity rise and fade. That may be due in large part to so many makes and styles of spinnerbaits on the market today and the average angler’s lack of understanding of what makes a spinnerbait good for certain bass fishing situations.
Everything from the head design, length of the wire arm, the type of wire, the blade combinations and even trailers you add will make one spinnerbait act completely different from another. Here is a break down of what you need to consider the next time you look at the rack of spinnerbaits at a tackle store.
Of the several types of spinnerbait heads on the market, round heads, bullet heads and keel heads (minnow heads) comprise the three most popular.
Keel style heads are more for speed applications, fishing higher in the water column (like burning spinnerbaits for clear water smallmouth).
Round heads are more for fishing rock and stumps. They don’t have as many pinch points for wedged in branches or laying over on the side and getting hung.
Bullet type heads have a mix of both advantages although they can at times wedge in the crevices between rocks and branches because of their pointy design. They can be fished high in the water column and also slowly through cover.
Spinnerbait wire arm lengths
“I’m a big stickler, especially for fishing around cover, about my wire lengths,” Bolton said. “I want the back wire to hang over the hook to protect it.”
The shorter the distance from the head to the R-bend, the better a spinnerbait will come through cover. The longer the back wire or the wire from the R-bend to the blades the more it protects the hook in cover.
Night time spinnerbaits typically have a short front wire and short back wire. That keeps the bait more compact because the fish usually strike at the vibration rather than by sight.
Wire diameter varies from manufacturer and model, but has a huge impact on what you feel and spinnerbait durability.
Lighter wire spinnerbaits have more vibration. Which can be good in shallow dirty water. But in deeper applications and long casts, that spinnerbait has more of a tendency to open up on the hookset and the fight, so a thicker wire can often be more advantageous.
“If you’re fishing in the north for big, acrobatic smallmouths, you might want a heavier .0040 gauge wire or thicker so that it can withstand the abuse.”
Some manufactures, like Stanley, actually use a tapered wire to give a bait more durability while maintaining vibration. So it has heavier gauge near the head but lighter near the blades.
“I want a heavier wire in deeper water because I want to get a good hookset on a long cast,” Bolton said.
The thicker the wire, the more of a “pull” you fill while a lighter wire gives you more of a repetitive thump.
Spinnerbait wire spacing
The more you open a wire up or spread it apart from the blades and the head, the more you can slow the bait down and get it to vibrate. It also gives the spinnerbait more lift so it will want to come up in the water column.
Closing the wire gives you more speed, and it will be more apt to stay down and not rise to the surface.
Spinnerbait blade combinations
The makeup of the blade and size of it will have a great impact on how the spinnerbait fishes. A smooth blade has less resistance, where a hammered blade has more flash but more drag.
A colorado offers more vibration and is a good choice for dark or dirty water and colder water where you fish slower. Willow blades have less drag so they can be fished faster and are a better choice for warmer and clearer water.
A good all around spinnerbait for spring and summer is a colorado/willow with gold and silver blades. Try one with a No. 2 Colorado in front and a No. 5 willow in back.
“I throw a Indiana blade more than a Colorado,” Bolton said. “I like the Indiana because it offers a lot of flash, and still a good thump for our water clarity.”
Most standard double willows are a No. 2 and No. 4 1/2 or No. 5 back blade.
“I like the No. 3 and a No. 5 combo better,” Bolton said, “because it gives me more flash and vibration out deep and I’m trying to imitate big gizzard shads.”
One other note, the bigger the front blade, the more vibration it takes off the back blade.
Blades range from a No.1 to a No. 7 in willow leaf styles. You can take a No. 7 blade and put it on a 3/4-ounce head and fish it effectively in 3-5 feet of water because the head and blade work together and the big blade makes that heavier head fish more like a lighter head in shallower water. Conversely, if you put smaller blades on a heavy head, it makes it a lot easier to fish out in deep water. So a big blade on a light head would be for ultra shallow while a small blade on a heavy head would be for ultra deep.
“I use a ribbon tail worm when I’m fishing deep,” Bolton said. “A ribbon tail doesn’t have as much lift as a grub. I like the grub trailer when the water is dirty or cold. It gives the bait more lift and slows it down.”
Rod, reel and line for spinnerbaits
“I almost never fish anything smaller than a 14-pound-test Sufix Fluorocarbon on spinnerbaits,” Bolton said. “Thicker line effects the fall rate and drag on a bait in deep water. In shallower and dirtier water I’ll go up to 20-pound fluorocarbon.”
Bolton prefers a shorter spinnerbait rod. He fishes a 6-foot, 10-inch Lew’s Custom or Lite Series spinnerbait rod always. He’s adamant about lower gear ratio 5:1 Lew’s Tournament Pro in the early spring and fishing deep on the ledges. Most of the rest of the time, he uses a 6.8:1 Lew’s Tournament Pro reel.
Look at the wire lengths, head designs and blade combinations before you buy a spinnerbait or pick up a few different options to cover the bases. Then adjust the wire spacing and trailer choices to match the conditions and your bass fishing spinnerbaits will be much more effective.