Spinnerbaits are some anglers' bread and butter lures. Other fishermen feel they would have to use a dynamite trailer to catch fish on a spinnerbait.
Two anglers can tie on the same spinnerbait body, clip on the same blades, and slip on the same skirt, and one might catch fish after fish while his buddy on the other end of the boat comes up empty.
Why? Lure placement is one explanation. When fish are inactive and holding tight to cover, a foot one way or the other or a few more yards beneath an overhang or behind flooded timber makes the difference between catching fish and a nice boat ride.
But just as important as where is how the lure is retrieved. Even conventional spinnerbaits are incredibly versatile and can be presented in many ways. If one retrieve doesn't produce, fish might respond to a faster, slower, deeper, shallower, horizontal, or vertical presentation.
According to the Old Spinnerbait Master, Bob Rickard, anglers typically fish a spinnerbait too fast. The vibration and flash of the blade are maximized at slower speeds, so as a general rule, slow it down. In warmer water, pick up the pace a bit, and in colder months inch your lure along like a sluggish crayfish. No matter what season, under any condition, improve your catch by presenting your lure in a variety of ways. Let the fish tell you which to use.
Below are fourteen spinnerbait retrieves that all expert anglers should keep in their bag of tricks:
1. Buzz :: Retrieve the bait with your rod tip high, keeping the blades on the surface the entire time. Bend a willowleaf blade to increase the commotion it causes on the surface. Curl the blade around your forefinger, or put two kinks in it to create triangular panels, or just bend the back part of the blade. Experiment with angles to get the drag, flutter, and action you like.
2. Bulge :: Swim the bait just below the surface so that it produces a bulge and wake. Allow the blade to break the surface every now and then like a skittering shad being chased by a predator.
3. Burn :: Clip on undersized blades and retrieving the lure a foot or so deep at an extremely high rate of speed. For lakes with Kentucky bass, this is particularly effective. I recommend a 5/16-ounce Quickstrike with a couple of #3 willowleaf blades for spots.
4. Rip :: Sweep your rod tip to the side to create a burst of speed, and then slow it down as you reel to take up slack and rotate the rod back toward the lure.
5. Steady :: Crank the spinnerbait in at a steady rate in the "twilight zone," keeping the lure just within sight during the entire retrieve. A variation on this is to every now and then twitch your rod tip during the retrieve. This causes the skirt to flare and the blades to flutter erratically, which can trigger strikes from following bass.
6. Troll :: Anglers usually use their reel and rod to swim the spinnerbait, but don't overlook this lure when trolling. The vibrating, flashing blades and pulsing skirt attract hits as the bait passes ambush points, and the spinnerbaits' ability to bump across the bottom and crash through vegetation without hanging up is an advantage over crankbaits, especially for trolling shallow, weedy areas. To maintain depth at trolling speeds, clip on smaller, narrower spinner blades, or increase weight by clamping a rubber-core, lead sinker onto the frame (in front of the head) or to the hook shank under the skirt.
7. Bottom-bump :: Count the lure down or retrieve slowly until you feel it strike something. Keep it just off the bottom, but make it bounce on submerged brush, rocks, and vegetation throughout the retrieve.
8. Slow-roll :: Keep the bait in contact with the bottom most of the retrieve. Especially if you use superlines, you'll feel your bait scrape across gravel, sticks, and rocks. Keep it moving just fast enough to feel the "lub-lub-lub" or a big Colorado blade. In-line blade attachments spin at slower speeds and impart clearer vibration up your line than do swivel-mounted blades.
9. Drag :: Particularly effective as a cold-water technique around ambush points, I drop the bait just beyond ambush points (cypress trees, standing timber, brushpiles, dock pilings), let it settle to the bottom, and then pull it slowly along the bottom like a scuttling crayfish with plenty of pauses. Use a short-arm spinnerbait like a Sidearm rigged with a single Colorado or turtleback blade.
10. Drop :: On bluffs and channel ledges, cast your spinnerbait close to the vertical face or slope. Lift or gently pop your rod tip so the lure clears the bottom, and then allow it to flutter down. Stair-step the bait all the way down the slope. Secret Weapon spinnerbaits are particularly effective as a drop bait because the free-floating inline blade assemblies swing upward and all blades rotate freely while the sinking lure remains horizontal so the hook is properly positioned for the hook-set.
11. Bump :: Any time you are able to guide your retrieve so it brushes against pilings, standing timber, stumps, boulders, brush piles and other structures or cover, kill the retrieve as the lure contacts the ambush point. Allow it to drop on a semi-slack line for a second or two. Blade vibration alerts predators to the approaching meal, and the erratic flutter of the "dying" bait launches the attack.
12. Flip or Pitch :: Swing the bait up against bridge pilings, dock structures, brush piles, grass lines, and into pockets in floating vegetation mats. Pitch or flip it to the trunk of standing timber or cypress trees and shake your rod tip to make the bait flutter down through the branches. If there's a bass there, you'll know it. If you reach the bottom without a pickup, then carefully work your lure back up through the branches, and then repeat the process one time. This, too, is best with short-arm spinnerbaits like the Sidearm.
Caution: This is a high-risk but potentially high-reward presentation. If you don't feel like losing a few spinnerbaits, switch to a flipping jig with a brush guard, and clip a spinner blade attachment to the hook. You'll still get the fluttering blade action, lose fewer baits, and the ones you break off won't leave such a dent in your wallet.
13. Yo-yo :: Similar to stair-stepping your lure down a bluff or slope, but with more of a lift between each drop. Start with your bait on or near the bottom (or at the maximum depth you prefer in open water) and point your rod tip almost directly at the bait. Lift the bait with your rod tip and then start lowering your rod tip, letting the spinnerbait flutter back down on a semi-limp line as you take in slack with your reel.
Another yo-yo presentation can be used with horizontal branches or the near edge of a hole in a vegetation mat. Bring the lure up to the branch or obstruction and then raise and lower it eight or ten times by lifting and dropping your rod tip. Secret Weapon's Sidearm with a single CO blade on the compact frame is ideal for these methods.
And, if you ever make a cast into cover and your line ends up across a branch with fishable water underneath, you might as well try this next technique...
14. Doodle :: Cast across a branch above the water, and then pull the line up until the lure is right on the surface, and then start shaking and vibrating it to create splash and flash right at the surface. Not as good as a baby bottle nipple with a treble hook, maybe, but a lot less embarrassing to fish. Good luck retrieving that bass!