Tailspinners don't look like much — no more than a chunk of lead with a treble hook hanging off the belly and a small spinner blade on the tail. But they've been catching winter bass for five decades and show no signs of slowing down.
"I throw them a lot during the winter in lakes and reservoirs," says 1982 Bassmaster Classic Champion and Elite Series competitor Paul Elias. "They're real bass catchers in cold water. You can work them slow and easy but they still have enough flash to attract lethargic fish. They're good lures."
Elias' favorite tailspinner is the Mann's Little George. Named after Alabama Governor George Wallace by Tom Mann when he was working for the state in the 1960s, this bait has become an industry standard.
Elias offers these tips for successful cold water bassin' with a Little George:
1. Stick to basic shad colors.
"I like silver with blue or black along the back and maybe a little color on the belly. You want to go with anything that looks like a shad."
2. Any color Colorado blade will do as long as it's silver.
"I've used all the colors over the years but my experience is that silver is the best. That's all I throw."
3. Steep drops are the best places to fish it.
"I try to find an underwater island or hump with steep sides. I pick the steepest side when the water's cold and hop my Little George along the break.
"I hardly ever bring it up more than a foot or two and never work it very fast. It's important to let it fall slow and easy. Bass at this time of year won't move very far, and they won't move very fast."
4. Use a high-speed reel.
"Most of your bites will come on the fall. I use a 7:1 Quantum reel so I can take up the slack quickly and get a good hookset. And, the high gear ratio lets you pull the lure through dead water quickly. That gives you more fishing time in the strike zone."
5. Use a stout rod.
"I throw a Little George with a Quantum 6-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy casting rod. It gives me the feel I need to work the bait deep and detect soft, subtle winter bites. It also has the power to get a good hookset and handle a big fish."
6. Pay attention to avoid hang-ups.
"This lure will hang, I'll tell you that. You can avoid a lot of them by paying attention, though. As soon as you realize you're hung, shake the lure hard with your rod tip and don't set the hook. Most of the time it'll work loose and drop out."
7. Modify the hook.
"I like to take the hook off and replace it with one attached with a split ring. Ultimate Lure Saver makes a breakaway split ring called the SmartLink. Use one rated about 10 pounds and line — fluorocarbon is the best — rated about 17-pound-test. That way if it hangs you can pull it loose and the only thing you have to replace will be the hook.
"And don't let people tell you you'll lose fish with this set up. I've never lost a fish this way and I've caught them up to 10 pounds and intentionally put a lot of pressure on my fish. It will not happen!"