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Gear & Accessories

The Spin on Spinnerbaits

by Ned Kehde   |  June 29th, 2011 11


In the eyes of many observers, spinnerbaits aren’t as lustrous as they used to be. Veteran western writer George Kramer of California says they haven’t been a significant presentation in the West since the 1970s. Instead, swimbaits are the rage.

During editor Steve Quinn’s travels to southeastern impoundments, he’s found chatterbaits and square-bill cranks elbowing out blades in many cases. And In-Fisherman Field Editor Gord Pyzer of Kenora, Ontario, says: “If we have 20 rods rigged in the boat, it’s unlikely a spinnerbait adorns even one of them. Yet it wasn’t that many years ago they were a ‘go to’ bait for bass.” Pyzer notes, too, that spinnerbaits were never as popular with muskie anglers as in-line spinners in the North Country.

This apparent trend is exemplified among pro anglers.’s 2004 survey of top tournament techniques ranked spinnerbaits 4th, behind flipping-pitching, crankbaits, and finesse tactics. By 2010, spinnerbaits had tumbled to 8th place.

Market Trends

While it’s hard to get sales figures from manufacturers or retailers, industry insiders note a shift in the market, but that for everyday anglers, spinnerbaits still are a top option. Tony Witte of Cabela’s says anglers are still buying them, but they’ve altered their buying habits since the start of the current recession. Instead of high-dollar models, they’re looking for sales on good-quality lures.

Bruce Stanton of Booyah Bait Company has seen no drop in sales over the past year or so. He notes that few anglers are willing to pay more than $10 for a spinnerbait. But they’re buying well-made and durable baits at a reasonable price, which is Booyah’s niche.

John Hale of Stanley Jigs points to increasing sales. “Since the reintroduction of the Vibra-Shaft spinnerbait with our new 200-series skirts, sales are up and the future is looking strong,” he says. “Last spring, we saw exceptionally good sales.” Hale adds that today’s models are better than ever, in skirt colors and design, blades, and balance. And at Strike King, Chris Brown reports spinnerbait sales in recent years are on par with past times, and says the company continues to introduce new models with special features.

In-Fisherman Field Editor Cory Schmidt of Nisswa, Minnesota, notes a regional component in spinnerbait use. “In northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, spinnerbaits have long been a top option for bass and pike anglers,” he says. “They remain much more popular in this region than in other areas, where trendy lures have overshadowed blades.”

New Life for Blades

Charlie Campbell of Forsyth, Missouri, was an early spinnerbait aficionado and inventor. He notes that decades ago many new reservoirs were full of flooded timber and brush that harbored bass and were ideal for spinnerbait fishing. Once much of the wood rotted, bass shifted deeper and anglers began turning to other tactics, relegating spinnerbaits to spring and fall, particularly in windy conditions. During the past several years, however, Campbell’s home lakes of Table Rock and Bull Shoals have brimmed with water, flooding acres of timber once again, and the spinnerbait has undergone a renaissance.

Kevin VanDam, a long-time spinnerbait fan, acknowledges that there are more lures for anglers to use nowadays than decades ago. Yet he notes that Skeet Reese of California used one to win the 2009 Bassmaster Classic at the Red River, Louisiana. And he claims that during the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake in Alabama, water temperatures approached the point when spinnerbaits would have been the winning lure instead of rattlebaits.

Like Hale, VanDam says new designs have made spinnerbaits more versatile, while natural-colored skirts work better in the clearer water found today in many systems, due in part to filter-feeding by exotic mussels. For example, VanDam uses Strike King’s Bottom Dweller to probe deep ledges at waterways like Kentucky Lake. And on the clear waters of the Great Lakes, he runs Strike King’s Burner with Raz-R-Blades, which keep lures running straight at high speeds. He concludes that spinnerbaits haven’t lost their effectiveness, and maintains that his favorite way to catch bass is with a spinnerbait fished in tight cover.

Ned Kehde, Lawrence, Kansas, is a Field Editor and frequent contributor to In-Fisherman publications.

  • Drew

    This is a rookie bass fisherman speaking, but as I experiment with different lures including plastics, crank baits, and recently spinner baits I have come to rely upon spinner baits. Whenever I fish a new lake and am making too many casts without anything to show for it I will throw on a spinner bait. It's my new favorite for finding the bass because it will trigger a bite. After finding them I will switch to a plastic and fish it slowly to encourage stubborn bass to strike. I would never head out onto the lake without a good handful of popular colors to choose from to seek them out when fishing gets slow.

  • Josh

    I agree with Drew. I always do well with spinners. On some days you can find something that is working better but a spinner is usually the bread and butter for us.

  • Dean

    For me, spinnerbaits have not produced in MI like they did in the late 90's and early 2000's. It used to be that I had one tied on at all times and used it regularly, now it only gets an occasional appearance on my lakes. Used to be that a sluggo and a spinnerbait was all I needed to catch bass on my main fishing lake. Now, I throw a much broader array of lures and it is hard to predict what technique is going to work the best.

  • Jeff

    While I still keep a large aresenal of spinnerbaits handy, unless the water is really stained, I rely on them less and less each year. They do, sometimes, still work though.

  • Butch

    I will usually have a spinnerbait on deck, but many times I am using them in differant ways than I used to. Slow rolling a big colorado blade in cold water in spring, burning one over a grass bed in summer and probeing ledges and main lake points with a heavy blade. I still look forward to the perfect day when all you need is your spinnerbait and some cover to bump into. It's those kind of days that reminds me to give them a shot.

  • Brian Wilson

    Spinnerbaits (specifically Terminators) have produced my biggest numbers of largemouth hands-down. During hot summer days with a good breeze, I've landed over 50 fish when pond fishing these spinners. In Iowa, casting a spinnerbait in mid-to-late October produces real giants. I'm certainly not ready to pack up my Terminators and I'm of the opinion the rest of the angling world should continue using them.

  • larry

    Ticking the top of weedbeds in early spring, in windy shallow water has produced some great fishing for me

  • chase dodd

    i found that spinner baits work great in a variety of situations. i used to never use them now i always have one tied on the line i fish in a brackish water channel in texas and the color that works best for me is white with silver and gold blades im only 16 but im sure this is a bait that i will be using for a very long time.
    if your new to fishing or just looking for a new way to land that big fish tie on a spinnerbait. ive used one in every single one of my tournaments, and it has never let me down trust me spinner baits where the rage then but to me and many anglers out there they still are the rage.

  • ciaran mols

    man, spinnerbaits have worked well on my lake for smallies. try around bever dams, but youll loose some.

  • Johnny Walker Fame

    I still enjoy using a spinner bait here in central/south Mississippi lakes and ponds for largemouth. Some type of white or chartreuse skirt with double willow leaf blades, either silver or chartreuse work great in late winter early spring. Especially in the oxbow lakes off the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. My favorite is made by Terminator and the color is called “clown”. Great lure. Sometimes I use a trailer grub but I haven’t noticed a difference in using one or not using one.

    • nkehde

      Thanks for posting your observations about how, when, and where you use spinnerbaits.
      Please keep in touch and telling us about how, when, and where you are fishing and catching largemouth bass.
      Best wishes,
      Ned Kehde

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