In a tail spin, you say? Back in the 1970s, every bass angler’s tacklebox had several 1/2- or 3/4-ounce compact, teardrop-shaped lead body baits with a single treble hook and a rotating Colorado blade for a tail. The original one – the Little George – was created by famed angler and lure maker Tom Mann of Alabama. Even back then, when anglers discovered a good thing, it didn’t take long for imitations to appear, and soon there were numerous copies on the market.
However, as bass lures became more sophisticated in the ensuing decades, the simple tailspinner apparently didn’t have enough ”bling” to maintain a top ranking. Yet, a handful of fishermen continued to use the bait religiously. Without a doubt, the tailspinner – when presented properly – still catches bass today.
Perhaps no angler on the Bassmaster Elite Series these days knows more about tailspinners than Pete Ponds of Mississippi. “I was raised fishing tailspinners because my Dad made them. To this day, it remains an important lure in my arsenal.”
Pete’s dad, Bob Ponds, fished early Bassmaster tournaments, including the first Bassmaster Classic. Like Mann, Bob was a tackle innovator. Bob loved fishing the Little George but lost fish when a bass would shake its head. The heavyweight body affixed to the hook gave bass leverage to throw the bait. So, in the interest of a better mousetrap, Bob came up with the Wing Ding in 1969 — a tailspinner with the line passing through a center hole in the body and tied to a treble hook, allowing the lead to slide up and down the line like a slip sinker.
“Even though I’ve tried many different copies over the years, the original Wing Ding is the tailspinner that has proven itself time and time again,” Pete says. “Dad sold the company some years ago and modifications were made to the Wing Ding, so I ardently guard my remaining supply of original ones. I would not feel totally prepared for a tournament if tailspinners weren’t in the boat.”
With sliding-body models, such as the Wing Ding, Pete pegs the body to the line lightly with a toothpick, which still allows the bait to move away from the hook when a fish slams it.
Of course other Elite Series pros know the magic of tailspinners, too, including Bassmaster Classic winner Boyd Duckett. “In a tackle market filled with fancy lures, not a lot of fishermen use the tailspinner these days. But I do! I find them highly effective in certain situations.
“Until about a year ago, the one I used almost exclusively was the McSpin out of California. Then I was introduced to Sebile Spin Shad. This new bait has filled a niche in my tailspinner patterns when larger profile baits are desired for ledge fishing on big bass waters such as Lake Eufaula and Kentucky Lake. Meanwhile, the McSpin gets the nod for clear water lakes with suspended bass and smaller baitfish.”
Both Elite pros favor natural preyfish patterns. The vibrating, flashing tail blade coupled with baitfish hues are triggering factors for bass.
Ponds: In the late summer and early fall, nomadic schools of bass will chase shad near the surface. Many bass groups simply keep following the baitfish, pushing the shad to the surface and attacking. Since these bass are not relating to structure, they are referred to as gypsy schools. By watching a sequence of jumps, you can usually tell the direction the bait and fish are moving. Position the boat so you can cast ahead of the school. The tailspinner is absolutely the best for this situation because it casts like a bullet. When the bass attack, cast beyond the action, reel the bait into the path of the last observed jump, and let the tailspinner drop. Bass shadowing the bait will nail it instantly.
Tailspinners are one of those lures that lends itself to “cottage manufacturing” with regional baits offered across the U.S. Visit a local tackle shop at a particular lake where tailspinners are popular, and you may find several different baits for sale that are found nowhere else. But in terms of nationwide offerings by major companies, the selection of tailspinners is somewhat limited. The McSpin mentioned by Boyd Duckett may no longer be available; no website or point of sale could be located, and the email address provided by Duckett is no longer active. Some of the following tailspinners you will find in tackle shops around the country, while others are only available from websites.