Best Spinnerbaits for Bass
When many anglers first see a spinnerbait, there’s some confusion about how and why this bent piece of metal would ever attract fish. At rest, a spinnerbait doesn’t look like anything a bass would eat, but in motion under water, the flash and vibration caused by the spinning blades make it one of the most effective lures every invented.
A spinnerbait consists of a rigid wire with a ninety-degree bend in it, where one end of the wire holds a jig head and the other end supports one or more blades. The jig head is usually outfitted with a rubber or silicon skirt. A spinnerbait’s blades are attached with a swivel that lets them move freely. The line is attached at the bend in the wire, and the bait moves through the water with the jig head riding below the spinning blades.
One reason using a spinner bait for bass is so popular is that they are effective when fished with a simple, straight retrieve. All you have to do is crank the reel—a spinnerbait’s blades create a visual flash and a fish-attracting vibration. In many cases, that’s all the action required, but there are a few ways to refine the presentation, such as adjusting your running depth and retrieve speed. You can also employ one of the specialized, condition-specific techniques that experienced spinnerbait fishermen have come up with over the years.
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about spinnerbaits and how to fish them, but if you’re looking for the best spinnerbait for largemouth bass, check out the first section, in which we give our recommendation on the top three spinnerbaits.
Top 3 Spinnerbaits
#1 Strike King KVD
Bass pro Kevin VanDam designed what is, essentially, a universal spinnerbait. The Strike King KVD Spinnerbait is slightly undersized to attract finicky bass and features a flowing skirt that’s available in a variety of natural color patterns. Twin Willow style blades and a super-sharp hook round out the package.
#2 Terminator T1
This spinnerbait is designed to produce a ton of vibration during the retrieve, which makes it a great search bait—you can cover a lot of water and call fish in from a distance. When a bass is in striking range, the Terminator T1’s extra flash seals the deal, giving it the appearance of a fleeing baitfish. All that combined with a pulsing skirt and premium hardware make this one of the best spinnerbaits you can find.
#3 Nichols Pulsator
Nichols Spinner baits are fitted with hand-painted blades that have been designed to create a unique pulsating vibration. They’re hand-made, one at a time, using the finest quality materials. A super-sharp Mustad Needle Point Hook ensures bass make it all the way to the boat every time.
Selecting A Spinnerbait
When selecting a spinnerbait, two critical factors are the depth you’ll be targeting and the speed at which you’ll be retrieving the bait. Different fishing conditions call for different spinnerbait characteristics, and you’ll want to pay close attention to depth and speed when choosing a spinnerbait.
The weight of a spinnerbait has the biggest impact on its running depth. If the fish are deep, a heavier bait will fall quickly into the strike zone and stay there, even with a moderately fast retrieve. A 3/8 oz spinnerbait is a good all-purpose size, but it’s smart to stock your tackle box with some lighter and heavier baits too.
The vibration created by a spinnerbait can be picked up by bass from far away. Bass have a specialized sense organ known as the lateral line that is extremely sensitive to vibration. It’s a line of modified scales that are capable of detecting what are essentially underwater ‘sounds.’
The lateral line begins behind the fish’s eye and extends to the tail, running down both sides of the body. This remarkable organ transmits the vibration to the fish’s brain where the information is used too determine how far away the source is, and which direction it’s coming from.
Spinnerbaits are made with several different blade shapes because each shape displaces water in a unique way, resulting in different vibrations. Some blade types work better when your retrieve is deep and slow, while others put out a vibration that attracts fish that are looking for a fast-moving target in shallow water.
While blade type selection can have a minor impact on running depth, its greatest impact is on your ability to present the right vibration for the current fishing conditions. If your tackle box contains baits with a couple different blade types and you match your retrieve speed to the fish’s liking, you’ll be able to attract bass with a spinnerbait in almost every scenario.
Types of Spinnerbait Blades
Spinnerbaits for bass typically have one or more of the three most common blade types: Willow, Colorado, and Indiana blades. All three types spin and flutter to generate vibration and flash, but there are some subtle differences between them.
In appearance, the main difference between the blade types is their shape. The blade’s outline and the depth of its cupped surface are what determine how much water it displaces. That effects how fast the blade moves at various retrieve speeds and can define a bait’s unique vibration signature.
Spinnerbaits have been around for so long that fisherman have been able to zero in on exactly which blade shapes work best in various conditions. That information is common knowledge and is presented below.
Willow blades are elongated and skinnier than other styles. They’re shaped to slice through the water faster than Colorado and Indiana blade and are effective when you’re fishing for bass that are chasing bait in shallow water, especially around grass.
Willow blades don’t displace as much water as Colorado or Indiana blades. The vibration of a Willow blade is more of a fast flutter than a deep thumping, but in shallow water, that’s a good thing. Plus, the blades spin so fast that, what they lack in vibration, they make up for in flash.
Willow blades are great when fish are locating prey by sight more than by vibration. In clear water, at shallow to moderate depths, is where this blade style excels. Despite the spinnerbait’s unnatural appearance, its flash and vibration are all that matter. With Willow blades, often, it’s the flash that attracts attention first, then there is just enough vibration to convince the bass that whatever just swam by them is food.
Colorado blades have a cupped, rounded shape like a table spoon, and they displace the largest amount of water of all the blade types. Especially when fished with a slow retrieve, these blades create a steady, pulsating vibration that attracts bass from far away.
Aside from the increased water displacement, the slower spin of a Colorado blade contributes to its distinct thumping vibration. If bass are locating food using their lateral line instead of their eyes, the Colorado blade is the way to go.
The lack of underwater visibility is what makes bass hunt by sound. The deeper the water is, the less visibility there is, so the Colorado blade is great for targeting deep fish. This blade style also works well in stained water of any depth.
The Indiana blade is oval shaped and looks like a hybrid of the other two styles. It’s as long as a Willow blade, but wider, almost as wide as a Colorado blade. Indiana blades have the characteristics of both those types, but to a lesser degree.
This is the blade style to select if you’ll be fishing a wide variety of depths and types of structure in search for bass. They’re great when fishing with a moderate retrieve speed and in situations where the water is slightly stained.
By combining different blade types, you can refine your presentation to exactly match the forage that bass are feeding on at the moment. Selecting the right combination of blades enables you to create just the right amount of flash and vibration for the conditions.
A common blade combo is a Willow blade on top with a Colorado blade beneath it. This setup gives the bait a lot of flash while still emitting the distinctive thump that you can only get from a Colorado blade.
When shopping for spinnerbaits, you’ll come across some with three or more blades. Such multi-blade models displace a huge amount of water and generate additional vibration and flash. Plus, more blades mean more combinations of styles, and an even greater ability to adjust your presentation.
Adding a trailer hook to your spinnerbait is a great way to increase your hook-up ratio. Bass often short-strike a spinnerbait, briefly grabbing just the back of the bait before spitting it out or bumping the bait without ever getting it in their mouth.
Once you start using a trailer hook, you’ll realize just how often that happens, because, instead of missing those fish, you’ll hook them.
A trailer hook has an enlarged eye that can slip over the barb of the spinnerbait hook. They are typically used with a small piece of surgical tubing that helps hold the hook in the correct position, that is, trailing straight behind the bait.
When fishing with spinnerbaits, the lure creates the action for you, so a very common technique is to employ a straight, steady retrieve. There are a few other presentations that you’ll need to use once in a while, but fishing with a spinner lure for bass can be adapted to so many different conditions that, one way or another, these baits always seem to produce great results.
One of the best scenarios to throw a spinnerbait is when the sky is overcast and there’s a light chop on the water. It’s good to cast spinnerbaits near weed lines or other ambush points, such as docks and brush.
Speaking of different types of cover, you can actually tweak your spinnerbait to make it more or less weedless by bending the wire. If you close the gap a little bit, the bait will better deflect off dock pilings and wood cover. On the other hand, in grass, a spinnerbait that’s spread to the full ninety degrees has no problem slipping through the cover, and that configuration creates a larger profile.
When you’re in search mode, it’s nice to know that a spinnerbait can help you cover a lot of water quickly, but once you’ve located the fish, sometimes a specialized spinnerbait technique is called for. The rest of this section describes some of the best condition-specific approaches you can use when fishing with a spinnerbait.
When a steady retrieve isn’t working, all too often it’s made worse because you can see bass following your bait; they just won’t hit it for some reason. That’s a good time to try to induce a reaction bite by either pausing the retrieve or twitching the rod tip. The goal is to create some subtle variation in the bait’s movement.
Whether you pause the retrieve or jerk the rod, you’ll want to time it so the movement occurs right near the cover you’re targeting. This often triggers the bass’ ambush instinct and results in a violent strike.
When a spinnerbait runs high in the water column, with the blade just barely breaking the surface, it’s a presentation that makes chasing bass attack. This retrieve is often referred to as “burning” the spinnerbait because you have to reel as fast as you can to keep the bait near the surface. In some cases, you’ll also need to hold your rod tip high to make the blades actually break the surface.
Burning a spinnerbait is almost like fishing with a buzzbait or other fast-moving topwater lure. When bass are in shallow water and you can bump the spinnerbait into a stump or other wood cover, fish will hit the bait aggressively just like they do topwater baits.
A sub-surface retrieve can even be effective in deep water, in one specific scenario—when you see schooling bass busting shad on the surface. It’s a common sight on many lakes, and if you’re lucky enough to be within casting range, run your spinnerbait right through the feeding area. It will look exactly like the fleeing baitfish that the bass are eating.
When you’re targeting suspended fish, they’re usually sitting at a weird depth that’s hard to pinpoint, but it’s typically close to the bottom. That’s a good time to try the yoyo technique.
As the name implies, it’s a vertical presentation in which you move the bait up and down in the water column like a yoyo. After letting the spinnerbait sink to the bottom, you simply lift the rod tip, then slowly lower it while reeling to stay in contact with the lure as it falls.
The blades of a spinnerbait move just as well when you’re fishing vertically as they do with a conventional retrieve, which is to say, they create a ton of fish-attracting flash and vibration. Yoyoing a spinnerbait is a great cold-weather technique to entice bass that would otherwise ignore your bait.
Slow rolling a spinnerbait is a deep-water technique that’s usually employed in winter, when fish stubbornly hold on the bottom and refuse to chase anything. A large, heavy spinnerbait is needed, and it’s a perfect scenario for using a big, thumping Colorado blade.
After making a long cast, allow the bait to sink all the way to the bottom, then begin a very slow retrieve. As your bait follows the contours of the structure, lethargic bass will not be able to resist the easy meal.