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Customizing Your Spinnerbait

Customizing the original search lure.

New Johnson Beetle Spin'R Bait(willowleaf blade, left; Colorado, right) is intermediate size suitable for panfish or largemouth bass.

Spinnerbaits are made for customization.

Bent-wire spinnerbaits have been around since the 1950s, and today are available in countless sizes, colors and patterns. And, with the online availability ( and other sites) of components like skirts, trailers and blades, you have the ability to come up with baits bass have never seen: flashy blades of all sizes, shapes and color. Unlimited skirt colors and patterns. Trailers. Unusual heads and eyes.

The most critical component on the spinnerbait is the blade, or blades. Single, double, even trips and quads. Throw in size and finish and it gets crazy quick. Blade configuration will change the overall attitude of a spinnerbait by increasing or decreasing water resistance. Willowleaf blades for flash and speed, Colorado for vibration and lift allowing a slower presentation. Pretty basic until the finish comes into play: smooth, hammered, painted, silver, gold, realistic fish pattern.

All these choices give you a headache? Just think clear, stained or muddy. Silver or gold will handle most stained or clear conditions, with all finishes working in muddy or low light conditions. There are even some holographic blades that look like baitfish. In dirty water, you may want the thump of Colorado type blades for vibration and a slower presentation. This will help bass to zero in on your bait better.

For skirt selection, ask yourself, “Am I trying to match a particular bait or just get attention?” In clear water many anglers favor spinnerbait skirts that mimic color combinations found on the baitfish in the area. Shad are white with green or blue backs, while bluegill and sunfish have greens, purples and yellow hues. Gold is a great skirt color in Florida's stained water and has a golden shiner type flash. Muddy water calls for more radical stuff with chartreuse and other fluorescents getting the nod.

Spinnerbaits generally work best when they make a big entrance. Crash it into the side of a log and have it suddenly appear on the other side and fish crush it. Bust them through vegetation and have it pop into an opening or suddenly flash out of the murky water and Mr. Bass reacts with a strike. Hungry or not, it's just in their nature to react quickly or they don't eat. This makes spinnerbaits great “search” baits, quickly covering water.

Of course there are times when the big entrance doesn't work. Spinnerbaits are still a good choice. If the fish aren't aggressive, try a lighter spinnerbait, with less flash, such as a ¼-ounce model with gold willowleaf blade over a silver Colorado and a brown/green pumpkinseed skirt with purple plastic trailer. Worked along a sandbar with light vegetation, it looks like a small bluegill. Imitative spinnerbaits are an interesting option many anglers haven't considered. Fishing wise, there's little you can't do with a spinnerbait. Top to bottom and everywhere in between, they will work. Vary your retrieve until you find the right rhythm.

The original Beetle Spin in the larger size was responsible, at one time, for catching the largest bass ever weighed in a B.A.S.S. event. The smaller sizes will catch just about anything that swims and are easy to customize due to the snap lock for changing the head size and weight. Throw on any of the thousands of soft rubber bodies in a million different colors and with a few frame/blade combos, you can achieve lots of different looks from the same bait.

Some of the newer “mini” models even have silicone skirts and still come under the Beetle Spin name. These mini-spins work great with lighter tackle and are great options for kids to throw. They catch everything and work on just about any type of retrieve. Small (and large) bass in ponds and canals or creeks and streams attack them with gusto as do all of the panfish varities. Simply put, no other single lure offers anglers so many customizable options. Toys or tools? I think they are both. Fun to play with and they get the job done. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman May 2014

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