Spinnerbait Magic

From skirts to blades, here’s how anglers use spinnerbaits to load the boat with bass.

Brad Gill | March 1, 2003

As water temperatures finally climb into the mid 50s, more and more bass anglers will be removing the cover from their bass boats, filling up their tanks and heading to the lake.

The next three months will be a fun time to be a fisherman. It’s just so much fun to catch a bass when beating the banks is the way to do it. And just how are you going to do it? One answer out of many an angler’s mouth will be, “on the blade.”

Spinnerbaits become an effective bass-catching tool during the spring. However, with different combinations of blades, colors and wires, it may get confusing to some as to what the bass prefer during certain times and under certain conditions. And if you do have the right bait, some anglers claim there’s more to it than just chunking and winding when it comes to catching bladed bass.

Bob Williams lives on the banks of Lake Sinclair, and he spends a lot of time fishing with a spinnerbait. Besides Sinclair, he’ll throw the blade on Oconee, Eufaula and Hartwell, just to name a few of his favorites. Even though Bob can be found slinging blades on any given day, it’s probably been years since he’s actually had to go to Wal-mart and buy one. He makes his own.

“I never got into making spinnerbaits with the intention of going commercial, I got into it to be able to make something better and something different for myself and friends in tournaments,” said Bob. “It didn’t take long to realize that I could turn out a better-quality bait than you can generally buy off the racks and do it a lot cheaper.”

Bob’s favorite size spinnerbait is a 3/8-oz., but he’ll throw a 1/4-oz. occasionally if he’s fishing in grassy areas. He says you need to be ready when the dogwoods start to bloom. That’s primetime spinnerbait season shallow, he says.

“As a general rule of thumb in the spring time, I lean more toward chartreuse colors in the bait itself,” said Bob. “In the fall, I lean more toward shad patterns since that’s when shad are shallow back up in the creeks. I will fish shad patterns in the spring in areas that have a shad spawn, but when I’m just beating the banks in the spring, and there’s no shad spawn going on, I like muddy water and chartreuse baits.”

Since Bob targets muddy water, he wants a bait that’s putting out good vibration, which is acquired through your choice in blades.

“You really have a couple of options that give you good vibrations in the blades, those being either the Colorado blade or the Mag willow (turtleshell) blade,” said Bob. “The Mag willow is much wider than a regular willowleaf blade, and it’s cupped like a Colorado blade. This blade is pointed on both ends, and it’s a good muddy-water vibration bait.

“Occasionally I will throw an Indiana blade, which is a cross between a willowleaf and a Colorado. One end is pointed and the other is rounded like a Colorado. It’s tear-dropped shape.

“Sometimes bass seem to show a preference to that. As a general rule of thumb, unless fish are keyed in on shad and you’re throwing your willowleaf blades, a lot of times when you can show the fish something that the 63 boats in front of you haven’t, it makes a difference.”

The wire size you choose is important when you’re depending on vibrating blades for your strikes. Bob builds all his baits on a .035 diameter wire. Not only does it provide a good vibration, but it’s heavy enough that a fish won’t tear it to pieces when it bites. A greater diameter wire dampens the vibration, and a smaller diameter wire gives more vibration. However, when the fish hits, it will bend your wire into a pretzel.

In muddy water, when vibration is so important, Bob prefers his leading (smaller) blade to be a No. 3 Colorado blade, and his trailing blade will either be a No. 5 Colorado blade or a No. 5 Mag willow.

“The bass will show a distinct preference at times for different-colored blades. Most of the color blades I use are chartreuse or white,” said Bob. “If you’re going to go out and don’t know what the fish are hitting, gold is a good place to start if you have a little sun to work with. Let me specify gold and not brass. Gold gives you a lot better flash. Under most conditions, you’ll get five bites on gold to one on brass. Sometimes they’ll show a distinct preference to copper blades. This is usually in muddy water and bright sunshine situations.

Some anglers prefer double willowleafs when shad move shallow or while fishing grassy areas. The back blade on this spinnerbait is sized at 4 1/2. The front blade is 3 1/2.

“If it’s sunny and the water is clear, I’ll usually go with chrome or silver. Silver and chrome both set off a good flash. Usually in a clear-water situation, I’ll go with a double- or triple-willow combination.”

For the double willow, the trailing or end blade will be a  4 1/2 or 5 size and a 3 or 3 1/2 will be the second blade. With three blades, he’ll go with a 4 or 4 1/2 on the end with a 3 1/2 and a 3 in front of it.

“Most spinnerbait fishermen now   days are going to throw a willow blade with a single Colorado in tandem with it,” said Bob. “If they don’t get bit, they’ll say the fish weren’t biting. But if you show them something different, like a double Colorado, a triple willow or change up your colors, like sometimes they want a single willow in the fall, that type of thing can pay off.”

Not only will Bob experiment with different types and colors of blades, he’ll change skirt colors quite often until he finds what the fish want. Bob said one spring eight or nine years ago there was a local rage where the fish were on a firetiger skirt real strong. Anglers really caught fish that one year, and then it just faded out. Bob said he doesn’t feel like the fish quit liking that color, he just figures people got tired of throwing them.

“That color still works well,” said Bob. “I try to get more realistic with my skirts than a lot of people do.  A lot of people go out there and throw a plain white skirt. I’ll throw a shad pattern skirt, which is usually not entirely white. I’ll mix in some blue or a silver-scale pattern. I might have three or four different components to make my skirt up.”

One of those components, one that he adds to every spinnerbait he makes, is called Flashabou Accent.

“This is a reflective strand that has about the same consistency of human hair,” said Bob. “On all the skirts I make I put some Flashabou Accent in them to give them extra flash. A spinnerbait is a reaction bait anyway, and the vibration, the color and flash attracts the fish’s attention. When he homes in on it, he sees the small flashes jumping off the Flashabou Accent. I think it’s similar to what they might expect to see from scale flash from a real minnow, and it’s like that last-second incentive to eat it.”

Bob makes a blue spinnerbait, one that he proclaims as a secret weapon. When he makes it up, he adds a shade of blue, a translucent scale pattern along with a softer white. On this particular bait, he’ll use what is called the rainbow Flashabou, which consists of several different colors of Flashabou. Blue is real good in clear water, and it’s real good in lakes that have grass lines. You can pull it over the edge of a grass line out of sight, and they’ll come get it. Blue isn’t the only different-colored skirt that Bob says will catch fish.

“I made my tournament partner up a solid pink spinnerbait one time as a joke,” said Bob. “His home lake is Clarks Hill, and he fishes the muddy headwaters of the creeks a good bit. He called me back and said, ‘Bob, last weekend there were several boats in the area throwing spinnerbaits in front of me, and I tied on that pink one and the bass just started eating it up.’ He was actually fishing behind other boats with the pink one, and it was working.

“Pink is sort of a mood color. It’ll work on Sinclair at times, too. If you think about it, people throw pink and yellow floating worms and catch fish.”

Hopefully you can select your blades and colors a little easier as you head out to go fishing this spring. Now that you’ve got a bait you like, how are you going to fish it?

Seawalls are great places for a springtime bite on the blade. Andy Yates from Tennille is excellent at Oconee when the bass make their way up shallow and start hitting spinnerbaits. Turn to page 96 to see how he’s doing it this month.

Blowdowns are also awesome places that will hold big fish, and a spinnerbait can catch them from this woody cover year round, according to Charlie Baldwin.

Charlie is from Fairburn, and he is an excellent fisherman. With his son Chris, he fishes the R&R, Dixie Bass and H.D. Marine tournament trails. He has won a boat, a truck and received numbers of paychecks to prove his success, and he thanks an Ol Nellie spinnerbait for much of that success.

Charlie’s best tournament day, as of late, was one spring day a few years back at West Point. He had five spinnerbait fish that went 31 pounds! How did he do that?

“I throw spinnerbaits year round,” said Charlie. “I fish Sinclair, Oconee and West Point in March. We fished at West Point this past weekend (February 15) in blowdowns. I caught one that went 7-lbs., 2-ozs.”

Charlie doesn’t get real picky when it comes to selecting different colors for his skirts and blades. Charlie’s emphasis is on how and where he fishes the spinnerbait.

“You put it in front of his face, and he’s going to bite it,” said Charlie. “I don’t care what color the blades are. Most times it’s a reaction strike anyway. I run two gold blades this time of year because the water is usually stained. Now if the water is clear, I’ll go to a silver blade.

“On my skirt, I’ll throw a chartreuse/white. Sometimes I’ll just throw white if the water is clear. I don’t have any other colored skirts.”

Using a 3/8-oz. bait, he runs a No. 3 Indiana blade and a No. 5 Colorado blade, and he’ll throw that combination about year round. He’ll use a white split-tail trailer, and sometimes he’ll use a chartreuse chunk in stained water. Charlie’s blade choice gives him a good feel, and he runs it so much that he knows exactly how the vibrations are supposed to feel.

“If I’m fishing in stained water I don’t have to watch my line so much,” said Charlie. “I can feel the difference in the vibration.”

Charlie uses a medium/heavy, 5-ft., 8-in. Lew’s Laser rod with a pistol grip, and he said a 6-foot All-Star rod is another good choice.

“I go with the pistol grip because I make short casts, which gives me that good feel of my bait,” said Charlie. “I don’t throw over about 25 feet, which allows me to detect any strike I get. These guys that make long casts can’t tell when the fish hit it sometimes. A lot of times they’ll think they’ve lost the vibration of the blade, and the fish has it in his mouth is what it is. I can stay at the end of the blowdown and make short casts, and I’m in control of my bait.”

Charlie said the biggest mistake anglers make when fishing a blowdown is not being thorough. He said most people throw down the front and along the sides, and they’ll leave. The biggest key is to fish inside that blowdown.

“I’ll throw as far up in a blowdown as I can,” said Charlie. “I’ll pull it out, if I hit a limb I’ll let it drop. I’ll pick it back up, with just a slow retrieve bumping the limbs as I come out. When I get to the end, I’ll just let it fall. Very seldom am I just chunking and winding a spinnerbait.”

Charlie will get hung up, but he’s fished enough blowdowns to know how to get unhung without having to pull in there. It just takes practice.

“I’ll probably throw at one blowdown 50 or 60 times. If you’re fishing a lake where they’re pulling water, look for fish on the ends of the blowdowns. I’ll still throw up in the tree because one may sneak up there to get something to eat.”

If you haven’t been successful with spinnerbaits in the past, try something new. Change blades or blade sizes. Maybe the problem is in your skirt colors, or maybe you’re just not fishing in the right places. No matter what, it is a fun time to be a fisherman. Try something different, and go have fun.

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