Spinnerbait fishing is a lot different than it was 20 years ago. In the early days of tournament fishing, you could go down just about any bank with a spinnerbait and catch fish. That’s not the case today.
Part of the reason is there was so much quality cover in lakes during the early years because they were still relatively new. That cover has diminished, and the lakes seem to be clearer nowadays.
But there’s a bigger reason why spinnerbait fishing isn’t as easy as it once was – fishing pressure. The bass in our lakes are more educated because they see a lot of lures and catch-and-release fishing keeps them smart.
Aggressive bass will get caught and released several times a year. They wise up quickly, so it’s a lot more difficult to get them to react as impulsively to fast-moving baits as they did in the golden years.
Even, so, I believe the spinnerbait remains one of the most effective tools. You just have to be a little smarter in how you fish it.
Kevin VanDam is a prime example. He’s probably the greatest tournament fisherman ever, and he still catches a lot of bass on spinnerbaits. It’s one of his favorite lures. VanDam insists that the secret to being effective with a spinnerbait is that you must adapt to conditions and make it less obvious. Whereas we used to throw gaudy colors with big, noisy blades, VanDam and other good spinnerbait fishermen use more subtle colors and blades that closely resemble the forage.
You want to choose a spinnerbait that best emulates the baitfish and doesn’t have obvious characteristics that allow the fish to get a good look at it.
Spinnerbaits with thinner wire that are accessorized with smaller beads, clevises and swivels can make a positive difference. Pair them with blades that produce less flash and vibration, and you’ll get more bites on those heavily fished lakes.
That’s also why we now fish more willow-leaf or Indiana-style blades instead of Colorado blades.
In muddy water, you can get away with more flash, vibration and color, but clear-water bass will react more impulsively to a less obtrusive spinnerbait.
One trick I’ve employed with a great deal of success is to fish a heavier bait with smaller blades. I can fish it faster and keep it under the water, yet still fish an erratic stop-and-go retrieve and trick bass into reacting positively.
Since making that change, I have caught a ton of bass on a 3/4-ounce spinnerbait dressed with nickel-colored willow-leaf blades taken from a ½-ounce spinnerbait. With the heavier head and smaller blades, I can fish it fast, and when I hesitate, it falls abruptly. Thus, the fish don’t get as good a look at it. That’s critical these days.
I’ve also used glass blades in clear water with success and have wiped shotgun bluing over silver blades to dull up the shine for dark, cloudy days. They still produce enough flash to intrigue the bass, yet not so much that they look unnatural on cloudy days.
Skirt color can matter, too. In clear water, I prefer more translucent skirts as opposed to the traditional white, chartreuse or yellow skirts. The dancing translucent skirt diffuses the appearance of the hook and emits enough color to resemble a baitfish.
If you’ve shied away from fishing spinnerbaits because you weren’t getting bites, perhaps it was simply a matter of not disguising your bait well enough. Make a spinnerbait look more natural and you’ll be getting strikes that other anglers are passing up.