June 29, 2011
By Ned Kehde
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. BassFan.com'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.
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.