How to fish a spinnerbait – Waking a spinnerbait.

Fish Catching Travel

11/22/11  Spinnerbaits

Other than the plastic worm, spinnerbaits have been a staple for catching bass for as long as I have been chasing them, which would be 40 years.

Spinnerbaits come in all shapes and sizes.  From the standard clothes pin style, the in-line spinner, to the newer vibrating wobble head style.  They can be simply reeled straight in, reeled and jerked, let flutter, ripped, you name it and you can fish it that way.  It  can be reeled deep, crawled on the bottom, fished slow or fast, and my favorite, buzzed right on the surface, making a big wake.  They come in weights from a small 1/8 to heavy 1 or 2 oz made to fish deep ledges and offshore structure.  And there are as many blades combinations, each having a specific applications.

The Basics.  A blade bait, a tandem, a single spin, and a tandem willow leaf.

Spinnerbaits can be fished in as many ways as you can think up.  But there are two times of the year when bass react ferociously to a fast moving spinnerbait.

In the spring, when the fish first really begin to move up, and the water hits that magical 55 degree mark, buzzing a spinnerbait can make for some of the best bites of the year. And then comes fall, my favorite time.

The temperature begins to fall at night as we edge towards winter, and the bass begin their fall feast.  The surface temp drops every night, and as the day warms so does the fishing.  The shad rise to the surface to warm themselves, and the bass follow.  This is not about the general fishing of a spinnerbait, it is about a specialized technique that happens every fall.  So the time is now, lets catch a few.

A fall fatty on a buzzed spinnerbait.

The Equipment.

Buzzing a spinnerbait is hard work.  While any reel will work, I equate buzzing a spinnerbait with crankbait fishing.  Like a crankbait, buzzing a spinnerbait works much better on a slower geared reel.  I prefer an Abu Garcia 5500c in the 5.3 to 1 gear ratio.  The faster reels have to work to hard, and so will you.  The lower gear ratio allows you to grind it out and allows for much greater vibration.  I prefer a longer heavy or medium heavy rod to help with long casts and to stop them in their tracks when they blast it.  Line test is usually irrelevant.  You are fishing it fast looking for a reaction strike and very little line is actually in the water.  This is not a finesse technique, this is hard core cranking.

The Bait. 

While willow leaf blades are often used with slower retrieves, often with a jerking and fluttering technique, a willow leaf blade on the rear is my choice.  Why you say?  Because when you are buzzing a tandem bladed spinnerbait it is all about the wake, the bigger the blade, the bigger the wake.  For me a number 5 willow leaf is perfect.   To make it run the way it should it is better to use at least 3/8 or 1/2 oz head.  Skirt color is white or white and chartreuse.  Remember, we are trying to imitate a fleeing shad.  While some folks like to use a trailer of some sort, this techniques does not require one.  The bottom bait in the picture above, one I make, is a perfect example of a perfect spinnerbait for buzzing.

The How.

Now that we have our slower retrieve reel, heavy line and rod, and big bladed bait, it is time to fish it.

First, absolutely positively have it moving when it hits the water!  This is so important, as the strike may come in the first inch when it hits the water, or right next to the boat.  The minute it hits the water you should be turning the handle and pulling the rod up to force the lure to the top.  It takes practice.

Once it comes up, keep it up.  It is not necessary to reel extremely fast, in fact I try to reel just fast enough to keep the bait bulging the surface.  You should lower the rod as you retrieve until you are pointing right at the bait.  Though hard, you want the speed to be consistent from the bank to the boat.  And that speed is fast, but not blazing.  It is all about making a big wake with the blade right below the surface.  The big blade will make a wake, and a big one.  Keep it coming right on top all the way to the boat,  as the fish are often chasing shad schools and they may be off the bank.  Try to keep it that way, but if it occasionally pops out that is ok in the fall.  This often gets them to react.  Better to have it popping out occasionally than having it to deep.  It is all about the wake!

The bait must run straight.  This is where adding a trailer does not usually help.  The wake is what gets them and a trailer is irrelevant.  And often adding a trailer when buzzing can cause the bait to run off center.  So watch your bait as it comes in.  Are the blades and body in perfect alignment?  If it is running off to one side or another, fix it.  They want it straight.  If it is running crooked look at the bait from above the wire to the head.  Is the wire straight with the body? If not bend it ever so slightly until it runs straight up and down.  Every part of the presentation is critical.  It must be moving when it hits the water, it must be running straight, and it must be making a big wake.  When it is all tuned to perfection it is a thing of beauty when one 4 or 5 lbs. blasts it halfway back to the boat.

Using a trailer hook with this method is simply a matter of preference and location.  I generally do not use one.  We are fishing fast and looking for a reaction.  Usually if they hit it they are reacting and they tend to engulf it.  Also, it can cause the bait to run off center.  I am willing to miss the occasional fish by not using a trailer hook if it means my bait is running true.  The additional fish that come with a perfectly straight buzzed spinnerbait far outweigh the few missed from no trailer hook.

The Where.

Of course where you are in the country, and the type of lake you are fishing, makes a big difference, but there are consistencies no matter where you fish.  Remember, we are looking for the fall shad bite.  Find the shad and you will find the fish.

Again, as the water warms after a cool fall night, the shad often start rising to the warmer water on the surface.  So where to start?

I begin my search near major creek arms.  The perfect bank would have a major creek or river channel adjacent to a main point.  I am looking for the area where the deeper channel begins to flatten out.  In other words the area between the deeper channel bank and a major flat.  And if we have a little wind it can be perfect.  That is why it is so important to having it moving when it hits the water, and keeping it coming steady all the way to the boat.  These types of areas are not to deep, allowing a fish to come up and blast it.  If the shad are dimpling the surface, the bass are looking up as they feed, and that is where a buzzed spinnerbait fits the bill.

Often those are the banks where the water begins to warm and the shad congregate in the fall.  If it is protected from a big blow you can often see the shad dimpling on the surface, a dead give away.  You can catch them in high winds, or no wind, but the ideal is a ripple on a warming bank.  So think about the perfect combination.  A sloping bank, warming from the sun, a slight breeze and you are often in the money.

Water clarity plays a big role.  The clearer the better.  You want them to feel it, and see it, from a long way off.  That is why the big blade is so important, lots of flash and high vibration.  But if I had to stress one thing besides how you buzz a big bladed spinnerbait, it would be the shad.  Keep your eyes open and watch for dimpling.  It is all about shad location, find the shad and hold on.


This is not your momma’s pattern.  It is not for wimpy rods, light line, and little baits.  This is industrial fishing at it’s best.  Wind and crank, often till your arm wants to fall off.  But keep at it.  It is amazing how tired I am until at 2:00 in the afternoon, when the water warms, the shad rise, and the bass begin to smoke it like a ton of bricks.

So try to put it all together.  Finding the right combination can lead to some of the most explosive fishing of the year.

Good Luck and Tight Lines!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *