By Bernie Barringer
Look No Further for the Best Bass Bait!
As I reflect on 40-plus years of fishing with my five kids and my work as a part-time guide, a few things stand out. One of them is the fact that when we target bass or northern pike – bank on this – at least one person in the boat is using a spinnerbait.
In guiding, it’s common to have a novice angler in the boat, and when raising five kids who like to fish, well, “novice” just sort of goes without saying. Any rookie can fish a spinnerbait, and even the smallest child can cast one out and reel it back in. Plus, spinnerbaits flat out catch fish. I’m certain that if each of my kids would think back to the largest bass they caught, they would remember a spinnerbait in the fish’s mouth. In fact, probably seven of my personal top ten would be spinnerbait fish.
While the beauty of spinnerbait fishing is in its simplicity, there are a few things that can be done to fish it more effectively. Let me give you a basic course in “Spinnerbait 101.” My syllabus covers the many variations in blade design, shape and color. Next time you hit the water, take your final exam. If you’ve been a good student of the spinnerbait, you should boat more bass.
Lesson One: Colorado vs. Willow Blades
Most spinnerbait fishing for bass is associated with some sort of weedy cover. Spinnerbait hooks are usually protected by the wire arm and the blade, making them more weedless than other lures. A dozen or more blade shapes and combination of shapes fall primarily into two categories – Colorado blades and willow leaf blades. Colorado blades offer more resistance, more lift and more vibration. Willow leaf blades offer less lift and resistance so they can be fished faster and deeper. They also offer more flash and vibrate at a higher frequency.
One of the most popular combinations offers a small Colorado blade in front of a large willow leaf blade. This offers an appealing combination of flash and vibration.
These two designs make the spinnerbait a great “search” lure. Generally when the water is cooler a Colorado blade fished slowly will be more productive. When the water is warmer I’ll go with the willow leaf blade and fish fast to cover more water, trying to locate active fish. Then I may go back through the area again with a slower presentation for fish that aren’t quite as aggressive.
The Colorado blade is also great for heavy cover. Buzz it just below the surface over the tops of weeds, and when the bait comes to an opening, just lower the rod tip and stop reeling. The bait will flutter down into the opening in thick weed cover, while the blade “helicopters” in a tantalizing way.
Mack’s Lur Company has come out with a spinnerbait that offers a wing-shaped mylar blade specifically designed for this type of fishing. It’s called the Stan’s Spin after its designer, bass fishing great Stan Fagerstrom. Nothing beats it for fishing holes in weedbeds.
Lesson Two: Color Effectiveness
When choosing the color of a spinnerbait keep in mind that most bass will see the bait moving along above them, silhouetted against the sky. As a general rule it is a good idea to choose dark colors on dark days and bright colors on bright days. This might seem opposite to what you would think, but blacks and dark browns have better visibility from below when they are against a background of white or gray cloud cover. Conversely, a dark blue sky would swallow up a dark color, but a white or chartreuse will show up well.
Also keep water clarity in mind when choosing colors. In clear water, I like to use colors that match the natural forage. If the forage tends to be perch, I like to use a fire tiger because of the orange and greens. Shad forage would call for something with silvers and whites. Think of this as the bass fishing version of “matching the hatch.”
When the water is murky or stained, choosing colors is all about visibility. Bright-range chartreuse and yellow are good choices. The bass will be attracted by the vibration, but good visibility means once they get within range, high-vis colors will trigger more strikes.
Lesson Three: Size Matters
The three most common spinnerbait weights are ¼-, ⅜- and ½-ounce sizes. The ⅜-ounce is the most versatile, but I often use a ½-ounce if I want to fish it deeper, or need fire it out there like a bullet against a stiff wind.
The smaller sizes allow you to keep the bait near the surface for fishing over the tops of weeds or weaving your way through the lily pads. For fast fishing, the 3/8-ounce is the way to go. I often use spinnerbaits to fish parallel to a deep weedline and that’s when the ½-ounce size is perfect. It allows me to make a long cast, count the bait down, and reel just fast enough to keep the blade turning on its way back to the boat. It’s hard to beat a large Colorado blade for this presentation.
Like most kinds of fishing, spinnerbait fishing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Anyone can cast the bait out and reel it in; it doesn’t get much simpler than that, so it’s the perfect bait for a novice or a child. Yet, if you want to make it more sophisticated, you can delve into blade sizes, shapes and colors. And you can fish it in a variety of ways, some of which take some skill and practice to perfect.
The spinnerbait may not imitate anything in nature that a bass would normally eat, but then it doesn’t have to. The bait has flash, vibration, color – all the triggering features that cause a bass to strike it out of instinct. It’s just my opinion, but it’s hard to deny that these features make the spinnerbait the best bass bait.
Bernie Barringer hunts a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 400 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored ten books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is Bear Baiter’s Manual. He is the managing editor of Bear Hunting Magazine, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.
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