October 26, 2023
En route to winning a major tournament on Northern California’s Shasta Lake, Joseph Orozco out-fished a stout field of west coast sticks by putting a different spin on targeting the lake’s spotted bass. Specifically, an underspin.
In truth, this unique reaction bait was one part of what Orozco termed a junk fishing arsenal, but for the role it played, the underspin delivered. True to the seasonal norms, the Shasta spotted bass were on the move and looking for baitfish—the ideal underspin scenario in fisheries coast-to-coast.
“When you find schooling fish, if you put that underspin anywhere near them, they can’t help themselves,” Orozco said. “They’ll chase it down and smoke it.
“For the fall, that’s the main thing I use the underspin for—to try and find schooling fish.”
Find the Feeders
Orozco, who makes his own underspins through his Bass Union tackle operation, likes a swimbait body like the Keitech Swing Impact Fat. He’ll use a 2.8, 3.8, or 4.8, depending on forage size and match the color according to baitfish species.
“I feel like the Swing Impact Fat has a little bigger profile and a harder thump to it (than the regular size Swing Impact),” he said. “I feel like if there’s any fish around, they’ll feel that vibration a little easier.”
While he knows well the tantalizing appeal of these lead heads with willow-leaf blades, Orozco found that Shasta demonstrated the versatility that makes this bait such a killer fall presentation.
“I’ll use Garmin LiveScope in conjunction with an underspin to search for the fish,” he said. “I’ll pull into an area, pan around and look to see if I find schooling fish. If I see fish schooling, I’ll fire that bait at them, let it sink down to get in line with them and just slow reel to see how active they are.
“If they get behind it and crack it, I know that’s what they want that day. But sometimes, they’ll just peck it and they won’t eat it all the way. Then you want to switch it up and maybe throw one without the blade; maybe they want it more finessey.”
Read the Room
As Orozco explained, the underspin can certainly support an old-school cast-and-retrieve search plan; but covering water is so much more effective when you’re getting real-time images of fish positioning and behavior. Not only does it allow Orozco to more quickly dial in the areas of greatest potential, this insight also helps him adjust his presentations for maximum efficiency.
“I want to see if there are schools of fish swimming around, are the fish grouped up, are they on the bottom, are they in the middle of the water column,” he said. “I’ll get all that feedback right away just using my electronics.
“If they’re on the bottom, I’ll let that underspin hit the bottom and do a slow drag, to feel all the rocks. If they bite that thing down there—great, because that’s easy. You know where your strike zone is going to be.”
When Orozco finds the spots mid water column, that’s a more difficult scenario, because they’re roaming. Unlike the utilitarian bottom drag, the roamers require greater precision.
“You have to be like a quarterback; you have to line up your cast and get ahead of them,” he said. “You have to vary your weight on the underspin depending on where the fish are.
“If they’re moving really fast, I’ll use a 1/2-ounce underspin to sink down quickly and get in line with them. But if they’re up high in the water column, then you go lighter with a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce.”
During the tournament on Shasta, he found the bait from the surface all the way down to 80 feet. What he found was that the fish started the day near the bottom, but as the rising sun illuminated more of the lake, the spots would rise higher to chase bait throughout the water column.
Orozco offers a few Underspin pointers.
Followup Plan: “In the fall, I like to start with an umbrella rig because the fish typically get behind that bait and show themselves. If they’re short striking, I’ll go to the underspin.”
Tackle: Orozco fishes his underspins on a 7-foot, 3-inch Dobyns Champion 733 XP baitcasting rod with a 6.8:1 Lew’s Speed Spool reel with 12-pound fluorocarbon. In rare occasions, he’ll go with spinning tackle and a braid-to-fluorocarbon leader, but only when the fish are particularly finicky (a common winter scenario).
Stick It to ‘Em: At the moment of truth, Orozco’s not shy about setting the hook.
“When I’d doing a slow reel near the bottom, when I feel that thump, I’ll wait a split second, then I’ll hammer it,” he said. “Some guys will let it load up and then set into them, but I treat it like jig fishing. After that first thump, I’ll crack it.
“If they’re not on and it pops out of their mouth, spotted bass are notorious for coming back like a cat-and-mouse with that thing getting away from them. So, if I miss a hook set, I’ll let it fall back to the bottom and nine times out of 10, they’ll go back down and eat it.”