One thing I learned early in my career is just how deadly a spinnerbait can be when fished in heavy cover. My confidence in the powerful attraction of a spinnerbait and an understanding of how to make shallow bass strike impulsively played key roles in making many dreams come true and helped me win the 1989 Bassmaster Classic.
Think about it. A bass positioned among logs or brushpiles is there looking for something to ambush, and a spinnerbait is about as deceptive as any lure you can throw. It’s a bait that bass will strike even when they’re a little wary – if you run it by their noses.
To catch bass in heavy cover, you have to choose a spinnerbait that you can put in the thickest section and work quickly without snagging.
Two important characteristics in a lure that make it weedless are the tandem blades and the short wire between the lead body and where you tie the lure to your line. Both of those features are on the Hank Parker Classic Spinnerbait that I designed for Mann’s Bait Company several years ago.
The advantage to the tandem blades is that they extend over the hook, providing more protection and reducing snagging headaches. Also, if one blade hits a limb and stops spinning, the other continues to turn, providing constant vibration and flash. The blade torque helps the lure stay upright, which prevents it from falling onto its side and snagging in the cover.
Few anglers recognize the effect of the shorter arm, something that I discovered when I made some baits for my own use and accidentally made the arms shorter than I preferred. I decided to try them out on a practice day, and I was pleasantly surprised when they came through cover better than more traditional designs.
A variety of blades enables anglers to tweak configuration to suit conditions for each given day. For example, willow-leaf blades don’t produce much vibration, but they do create a lot of flash. That makes them good choices when the water is cold, when fishing over grass or in clear water.
Colorado blades are more rounded and put off more vibration, which makes them the best choice for muddy water, because bass can’t see the baits and rely more on vibration to find their food.
Indiana blades offer a little more vibration and flash than willow-leaf blades but not as much as Colorado blades, which makes them a good compromise. For me, the Indiana/Colorado tandem spinnerbait combination is something that fishes well around heavy cover.
I also like heavier lures, such as a ¾ ounce body dressed with a No. 3 Colorado blade and a No. 7 Indiana blade. I throw that 90 percent of the time because I can fish the lure faster, keep the blades turning and still fish it beneath the surface. Lighter spinnerbaits must be fished slower, and slower speeds tend to reduce your chances of triggering impulsive strikes around cover.
Now if I’m fishing small ponds, I’ll downsize the entire package to produce a more subtle approach, because too much noise will put small-water bass on guard and make them less likely to strike.
As for blade cover, I use copper or painted blades for muddy water, but gold blades for off-colored water. In clear water, I typically choose silver blades. If it’s overcast, I’ll try gold blades, and I have been known to fish black blades after dark.
My favorite skirt color combination is chartreuse and white, although I will fish a translucent white skirt in clear water or a bright chartreuse skirt in muddy water.
Honestly, though, color isn’t that important to me. I think many anglers spend too much time changing colors when they’re not catching fish. Instead, they should be fishing different areas or experimenting with their retrieve speed, which can be critical to getting bass to react to spinnerbaits.
The reason is simple – bass in heavy cover are going to strike if you present the bait properly. Put together a spinnerbait package that works efficiently through heavy cover, fish it where the bass are hiding and I guarantee you’re going to catch fish.