What makes a good fishing lure? When you walk into a tackle shop, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of sizes, colors and shapes available. And if you’re a fishing nerd like me, you might start to wonder: where did all these lures come from?
Sometimes, the answer is simple. Worms make great fishing bait, so a guy figured out how to melt soft plastic in the shape of a worm. Easy money.
Most fish eat smaller fish, so a famous Finn named Lauri Rapala hand-carved a wounded minnow imitation out of balsa wood. After some trial and error, he had a world-famous lure.
But baits aren’t always straightforward. Take, for example, the spinnerbait — an unwieldly hunk of metal teeming with blades and colorful rubber skirting. At times, it looks more like a funky Christmas tree ornament than something a fish would eat.
Some anglers are intimidated by the spinnerbait’s size and collection of moving parts. Or maybe they just don’t believe fish would eat such a thing. But they do — believe me, they do! Here’s a quick rundown on how and why spinnerbaits work so well:
First, let’s answer the most obvious question: what the heck is a spinnerbait supposed to look like? The answer is pretty neat. The bait isn’t meant to mention a single prey item, but rather a small school of baitfish swimming together for safety. These “bait balls” are prime targets for large predators, who attack the entire school and stand a good chance of picking off at least a couple minnows. Any time fish are actively chasing prey, a spinnerbait is a great way to draw aggressive strikes.
Say ‘no’ to snags
Perhaps my favorite thing about spinnerbaits is their uncanny ability to come through heavy cover without picking up snags. Thanks to the “in-line” lure design, the large, single hook effectively hides behind the metal arm that holds the blades, making it easy to pull through submerged weed beds and other prime ambush zones.
Going for distance
One advantage of spinnerbait fishing is that you can cover a lot of water. Standard models range from a quarter-ounce to a full ounce, meaning you can launch them a hundred feet or more in a single cast. With such a long retrieve, there is ample opportunity for a predator to attack. (Pro tip: check the end of your rod before you cast — if there is line wrapped around it, your spinnerbait is likely to come flying off when you cast).
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Bass are the most common fish to target with spinnerbaits. Their large mouths and even larger appetites are well suited for chasing down big lures. I recently spent a couple hours dragging a spinnerbait through weedy lake habitat and racked up more than 20 largemouth! I also catch Snake River smallmouth on a downsized model. But bass aren’t the only fish who will munch a spinnerbait — I’ve also seen them attract large crappie, catfish and trout.
So, on your next trip to the tackle shop, think about throwing a few bucks down on a spinnerbait. Despite their gaudy appearance, they are fun and easy to use. And during these hot summer months, few baits are better at putting a pile of fish in the boat.