In the eyes of some observers, spinnerbaits for bass have lost some of their luster from the glory days of the early 1980s or their renaissance in the late 1990s. In the practiced hands of early bass pros like Jimmy Houston and Hank Parker, blades became the go-to bait in almost every situation. Nearly 20 years later, new alloys breathed new life into the genre, as technological advances allowed improvements in blade color, skirt materials, and head design.
Did spinnerbaits recede to the dim recesses of your tackle trays? They sure didn’t for pros Kevin VanDam, Aaron Martens, and Scott Rook, who used blades to sack big limits on Day 1 of the Bassmasters Classic on the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana. They switched to shallow cranks in later rounds, as the prespawn bass turned finicky. But the blade was the deal in the dark, warming waters of that backwater lake. And Skeet Reese took the title on the Red River, Louisiana, in 2009 on a Lucky Craft Redemption he helped design.
Recognizing when a lure’s features match the inclinations of nearby bass is one of the hallmarks of pro anglers, who fish several hundred days per year on diverse waters. It’s also a key for all anglers seeking a handle on what baits to use when. Spinnerbaits should always enter this decision process.
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New Life for Blades
Charlie Campbell of Forsyth, Missouri, was an early spinnerbait aficionado and inventor. In recent discussions with In-Fisherman Field Editor Ned Kehde, Campbell noted environmental changes in reservoirs that have helped bring spinnerbaits back. “Decades ago,” he said, “reservoirs were full of newly flooded timber and brush that harbored growing populations of largemouth bass. These environs were ideal for spinnerbaits, as the cover was widespread, so horizontal presentations excelled, and only a spinnerbait could pass through the woody mazes without excessive snags.
“Once much of the wood rotted and disappeared, bass generally shifted deeper and anglers began turning to other tactics, relegating spinnerbaits to spring and fall. During the past several years, however, reservoirs like Table Rock and Bull Shoals have brimmed with water, flooding acres of timber once again, and the spinnerbait has undergone a renaissance.”
Walleye and panfish anglers have finally recognized the power of spinnerbaits for fish other than bass and redfish. Mini spinnerbaits, like Stanley’s WedgeRunner and Booyah’s Pond Magic have scored impressive crappies. And reservoir anglers have found that trolling spinnerbaits through standing timber can be deadly for big walleyes. Two major tournaments were won on that tactic this summer at Lake Oahe, South Dakota.
In 1997, Outdoor Innovations brought the Terminator to market, the first spinnerbait with a frame of nickel-titanium alloy. In an infomercial, Jimmy Houston and football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw hawked kits with 3 spinnerbaits and accessories for $39 or 5 for $49. Sales surpassed a million lures that first year as word spread of the Terminator’s effectiveness.
Today, anglers are more discerning and a bit tighter with their billfolds. Companies continue to develop products designed to match particular fishing situations, altering blade style, size, and color; head shape and balance; skirt materials; and hooks to interest anglers and catch more bass. Rapala acquired Terminator in 2007, and they’ve continued to promote and expand it as a premium brand, focusing on high-end components. Company spokesman Mark Fisher notes that they continue to sell well, and new additions to the line have been made.
Terminator added the titanium T-1 Twin Spin, with paired SnapBack wire arms bearing Oklahoma blades. A QuickSkirt silicone skirt and a VMC Needle Point Hook finish the package. This design is revered for slow-rolling weedy flats in fall. The T-1 Thump’r has an Oklahoma Thump’r Hydro Flow Blade, with slice in the blade to alter vibration. This large blade creates considerable thump, while a heavy, curved head hugs bottom on slow retrieves. It also works as a drop bait in vertical cover.
Bass champion Kevin VanDam has been given free reign by Strike King’s executives to design lures. The Burner, Baby Burner, and Scorcher can be worked fast as their names suggest. VanDam has a penchant for covering water fast, though he knows when to bear down on an area, as evidenced by his win in Louisiana, where he fished among a crowd in a small pocket.
These spinnerbaits feature a compact but hefty minnow-shaped head and Strike King’s Raz-R-Blade High RPM blades, like willowleaves, but narrower and thinner for fast rotation. This design keeps the bait down in the productive zone during fast retrieves.
In 2003, Strikezone Lures rewrote the spinnerbait book with their 2- and 2½-ounce Gorilla, built for deep ledge fishing and fast current. Since then, they’ve devised a number of new models, including the V-Blade with a notched blade to create an offbeat underwater vibration and shimmering flash. Latest is the Master Blaster, with smaller profile thanks to a head that’s built onto the hook shank. It’s adorned with serrated willowleaf blades of hammered metal for maximum flash. River2Sea’s Crystal Spin also has a hefty, compact body for a smaller profile in a long-casting, deep-running bait. Simms Tackle offers a novel look with their Hatchet Spins, using a pair of walleye-style hatchet blades to create extra turbulence.
Talon Custom Lures unveiled the Shibui Twin Spin Spinnerbait, offering another option in this design, which dates to the 1920s with the Shannon Twin Spin. Overlooked for decades, twin spins can be deadly when slow-rolled across cover-laden flats, particularly in fall when bass move to feed on baitfish in shallow water. They also work as drop bait to fish along pilings and standing timber, or crawled over roadbeds or deep points. With a pair of small Colorado or willowleaf blades, Shibui Twin Spins, in 3 sizes (3/8-, 1/2-, and 3/4-ounce), match any depth. Secret Weapon, which pioneered the concept of packing spinnerbait with multiple blades for versatility, added Sidearm, sporting a pair of Indiana blades on an overhead frame. War Eagle, with decades of success in the spinnerbait market, also released one, the Ultimate Twin Spin, with football-style head, ball-bearing swivels on the arms, and a heavy-duty Mustad needle-point hook, in 3 sizes (5/16-, 9/16-, and 3/4-ounce).
With the knowledge that spinning blades attract fish, companies have produced lures with more than two for well over a decade. In truth, they foreshadowed the umbrella rig craze in imitating a moving school of fish. Strike King’s Quad Shad was followed by Falcon’s Big Eyez Series and Simms’ School N Shads and Hatchet Shads, sporting 3 blades, Booyah’s 4-bladed Super Shad, and Strike King’s 3-blade Scorcher. At the 2012 ICAST Show, visitors were wowed by the unique Scuttle Buzz from Livingston Lures, which sports 4 willowleaf blades, two forward and two at the rear, 3 hooks, brass beads for extra vibration, and an extended skirt.
Another remarkable new spinnerbait is the Death Shimmer, brainchild of Rich Law of Law Lures. The wire arm is bent in a series of loops, which catch water and create intense vibration as the lure’s retrieved, or as it helicopters toward bottom. MegaStrike’s StrikeBack has a hinged head that creates more vibration. This feature also helps keep fish pinned, as their leverage is negated.
In addition to their downsized WedgeRunner, Lonnie Stanley and John Hale of Stanley Jigs combined two unique designs into the Vibra-Wedge Spinnerbait. Vibrashaft Wire allows blades to vibrate freely, as it tapers from .041 inch at the leadhead to .025 inch at the blade attachment. Wedge Blades taper from the swivel attachment to the tip where additional weight increases thump. They’ve also added fine new baitfish hues to the VibraShaft line.
French designer and world-travelling angler Patrick Sebile devised the unique Pro-Shad Spinnerbait for his Sebile brand, now owned by Pure Fishing. It features shad-shaped blades on an overhead arm that’s hinged to run straight and for easy hookups. The Finesse Model has 2 blades while the Trophy Model has a single blade and weighs 1 or 13/8 ounce.
No single spinnerbait works in all conditions. As with softbaits or cranks, consider the capabilities of each model, taking into account visual and vibration factors produced by each of its components. If they’re right for KVD, you might want to find a permanent place for this versatile lure category.