Understanding how, when, and why to use a spinnerbait will produce more strikes. Learn to hook more fish with this tackle, no matter the conditions.
Last updated: April 16, 2023
By: Jon Stewart
Do you have a spinnerbait in your tackle box?
Understanding your gear is fundamental to catching fish, and using a spinnerbait is no exception. This lure has a reputation for attracting fish and getting reaction strikes but often stays in the tackle box except under certain fishing conditions.
But it’s time to rethink that! Let us explain why…
Here, we’ll dive into what a spinnerbait is and how or when to use it most effectively. The goal is to improve your success on the water and ultimately land a lunker (or three). If that sounds good to you, let's get started!
A spinnerbait is a lure that takes the motion designs of swimbait tackle and adds elements of spoon lure blades. Its name comes from the propeller movement of the blade(s) through the water as it is retrieved. Spinners come in several designs, including beetle spin, in-line, overhead or safety pin, and tail spinners.
When you are fishing with a spinnerbait, it mimics the bait fish those big bruisers are feeding on. Bright and metallic colors provide a visual flash, while darker colors help create a silhouette in low-light conditions.
The blades generate vibrations that bass can sense with their lateral line. This combination triggers the predatory instinct and helps generate those famous reactionary strikes on the lure.
One of the keys to using a spinnerbait successfully year-round is your ability to swap out components to match fishing conditions. The blades change how a spinner functions, making them the focal point of modification. It all begins with the blade style you equip.
Colorado blades are more round and produce the most vibration, making them ideal for water with poor visibility. Willow Leaf blades have a more slender body that creates less vibration but more flash, making them a better option for clear water where visibility matters. Indiana blades sit in the middle and can be an option in stained water.
Most blade sizes range from 0 to 8, and matching component sizes can affect performance. Larger blade sizes can run slower and offer more lift. You can match Willow Blade sizes to bait fish or hatches, while you want to increase Colorado blade sizes to create more lateral sensory input.
You should also consider blade colors. Gold offers a good flash attraction in low light, while silver works well in bright and clear waters. Colored blades can produce strikes (data shows largemouth can distinguish greens and reds well), with the darker colors best for murky or night fishing and patterned colors in high visibility settings.
There are a number of different methods anglers can use when fishing a spinnerbait. Some are simple while others are a bit more complex.
Let’s dive into a few common techniques.
Simply casting and reeling in at a medium speed is the most common method — and is the option most anglers learn at first. It’s pretty straightforward: You toss out the lure, and reel it back. The average water depth you’re aiming for here is between one and five feet.
To use this technique, cast out the lure and let it drop once it hits the water. When you reach the desired depth, begin retrieval. It’s usually best to wait a few seconds after casting before you start to reel in the spinnerbait. The reason for this is because you want the lure to sink a little bit in the water.
This method is a good search cast for locating bass. The simple and quick presentation lets you cover lots of water in minimal time. Some folks will cast and retrieve when fishing for suspended bass, but most use it to locate fish before switching techniques.
Also called waking, this technique is easy for beginners because it keeps the lure directly below the surface. The retrieval speed is enough to keep the blades moving and to generate a wake at the surface but not enough to bring the wire lure out of the water.
Lighter spinnerbaits in the 1/4 to 3/8 ounce range work well with this method. Use a Willow Leaf blade to prevent unwanted lift during the retrieval.
Waking the bait is preferred when you see bait fish getting chased to the surface. Let the lure drop in the water column by stopping before reeling it again to encourage strikes.
As you gain experience, you can try to jig your spinner above the grass. You want to keep the lure above the grass patches to prevent fouling the movement.
Slow rolling your spinnerbait can work well here, and Colorado blades function well at these speeds. You can also use a tandem setup with one Colorado and one Willow Leaf.
It will take time to master, but you can learn to keep your spinner from dropping into grass patches. Use undulating movements with your rod tip to lower and lift across the grass as you reel.
A technique you can apply near underwater stumps and partially submerged blowdown is to make contact with these structures. Fishing your lure this close puts it in the crosshairs of bruisers using this structure for shade and as an ambush point.
A 3/8-ounce single blade works well for this application. Equip a Colorado blade so that the lateral line on the bass gets to work.
Cast your spinner within a couple of inches of the structure. Start with your rod tip higher and lower as you retrieve along the laydown or stump. Start with a slow-roll retrieve and switch to waking to find what the fish want.
Many reservoirs have those rocky shores that drop like stairs. Walking the spinner down this slope can produce strikes.
You will learn to feel when your spinnerbait falls from a ledge. Let it drop, and the blades will helicopter spin to the next rock. Some of these areas can be difficult to access when fishing from the shore, but the mobility of fishing kayaks can enable anglers to reach such places.
You can quickly go from shallow water to depths exceeding 20 feet. Strikes often occur right at the start of the fall, so be ready.
Sometimes, especially during the summer, the bass is in deeper water. The trick is to let the spinner hit bottom and then move it quickly a short distance before it sinks again.
A 3/4-ounce single blade is ideal. Equip a Willow Leaf blade to reduce snagging and use a heavier line.
Cast out and let the lure sink to the bottom. Make a half dozen full cranks quickly, then stop. Once you feel it hit bottom, repeat. Keep your rod tip pointing at the spinner and ready to set.
Make your colors and blades match the hatch.
Research locations ahead of time on the internet to determine the best gear and spots before you arrive.
Maps and fish finders will help you identify the structure and locate fish in the water.
If more buoyancy or lift is required, add a plastic trailer to the spinnerbait.
A stinger (trailing hook) can help hook more fish if they are nipping the tail of the spinners.
If standard colors are not working, experiment with something over-the-top bright or flashy.
Set the hook at any sign of a pause in the blades.
Near spooked fish, cast onto the shore and reel into the water for a quieter cast.
When traveling to new bodies of water, visit nearby local shops; they usually stock the best-suited spinner styles for the area.
Anglers fishing with a spinnerbait will usually add a trailer to improve hooking capability or to entice more strikes. You might be interested in trying a trailer for those reasons as well.
You can improve the chances of hooking that wall hanger by attaching a trailer hook (referred to as a stinger by many anglers) that swings freely behind the spinner. It connects to the lure hook at the curve, allowing you a chance at the fish the spinnerbait hook misses. Some anglers attach the trailer hook facing the opposite direction, hoping to improve the odds of converting a strike into a catch.
Adding soft bait trailers to bass lures like spinners is another popular option for largemouth bass anglers. Different trailer body and tail designs can change the look and movement. You can add to the vibration, bulk up the spinnerbait in hopes of attracting a bigger fish or add to the color scheme.
Throwing for big bruisers in cover or skipping under overhanging trees near the bank is what most people associate with bass fishing from a boat. That is unfortunate because fishing with a spinnerbait while trolling can be productive, especially in the warmer parts of the day when fishing gets slow in the shallows. Trolling covers a lot of water and helps you pinpoint where the baitfish and bass are.
Trolling is a good option between late morning and later in the afternoon when your targets have moved into deeper water. At first, you might think using a Colorado blade setup would be the right choice since they produce more vibration. These blades push the lure up the water column at trolling speeds, so it is a better option to use a Willow leaf blade.
Weight is a factor when trolling, as heavier gear can run deeper. You can also let out more line to gain depth as you move or shorten the line to bring your spinner closer to the surface. The blade arm helps prevent the hook from snagging, making spinners a great option when trolling through vegetation and other types of cover the baitfish you are imitating enjoy.
These lures can produce reaction strikes in any weather, putting them at the top of the list when it comes to bass lures that will reliably entice a strike. Yet some conditions make using a spinnerbait more productive.
Cloudy days are a good time for this type of lure, so if you notice clouds covering 50% of the sky, it might be time to bust out your box of spinners. Overcast conditions (complete cloud cover with no open blue sky) are a favorite time for anglers to pull out their spinners because these lures do not depend on visual impact alone. As we previously mentioned, a spinnerbait is one of the best options for when fishing during rainy conditions.
The secret is that the blades create vibrations that perk the interest of fish or stimulate a reaction strike. While low-light conditions can negatively impact some lures, spinners are still attractive in these conditions. They might even perk the interest of a hungry hawg over nearby baitfish, and you cannot ask for more than that!
While fishing with a spinnerbait can generate strikes year-round, seasonal changes and the water temperature fluctuations they create will affect bass. The best times of year are spring through early summer and again in the fall season.
Most fish are cold-blooded, so their metabolism is slower in cold water and faster when water is warmer. A faster metabolism makes them more active, and they need to eat more often to support this. Bass and other species do not eat much during winter, making spinners less effective. When it gets too hot during the summer, these predators will go to deeper water, where most people fish with other gear.
The temperature likely influences the baitfish more than the bass, making them a better indicator to follow than the thermometer outside. Still, a decent temperature range for active fish is between 55 and 85 degrees. Spring and fall produce these temperatures, with summer and winter producing temperatures outside this range.
As you can see, using a spinnerbait is an option you should not just consider in specific fishing conditions. A spinner has the potential to be a year-round star in your tackle box, so give it a try the next time you are out on the water. You might find that fishing with a spinnerbait becomes your favorite method for bass!
While getting ready for the next trip, check out other articles to help you get the most out of your equipment, including an in-depth look at the different variations of fishing line. Happy fishing!
Spinnerbaits are good for catching bass thanks to their ability to draw visual attention and generate vibrations in the water. These characteristics allow spinners to function well in a variety of conditions.
Bass think a spinnerbait moving through the water is a baitfish. Its appearance and movement mimic the small fish that bass eat, especially when you present the lure to match the colors of native prey, water conditions, temperature, and time of day or night.
You can put weight on a spinnerbait to help you cast it farther. It can help you throw lighter spinners similar distances to heavier gear or get farther out in windy conditions. Using weights like a rubber grip lead sinker with the rubber removed provides a channel for the hook shank to sit in and is easy to crimp in place or remove later.
Learning to cast a spinnerbait involves using a snap or underhand casting method in a line that minimizes the line from arching. As the spinner approaches the end of the flight, slightly lift your tip and slow the line speed. That helps orient the lure properly during retrieval and makes using a spinnerbait effective from the moment it enters the water.