Cast cold water crankbaits with spinning tackle

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All photos Alan McGuckin

Bass fishing’s funniest man, Gerald Swindle, said it best on the Classic weigh-in stage a couple years ago. “I’m headed for a hot shower. I’ve been standing in a cold wind all day casting a Rapala Shad Rap, which is about like trying to cast a potato chip in a hurricane.” 

If you know Swindle, you know that a Shad Rap might very well be his favorite cold water lure. But if you’ve ever tried to throw the legendary balsa bait, or a suspending jerkbait, on baitcasting equipment, especially when the wind is more than a whisper, you may find yourself cussing under your breath, or heck, possibly even out loud.  

I’ve been there and done that more than I’d like to admit, and amid a recent bout of maddening backlash based frustration I flashed-back to 25 years ago, when I first learned to throw suspending jerkbaits for cold water bass – on spinning tackle. 

Yes, believe it or not, the best anglers in the Ozark Mountain region who helped make these wintertime baits famous, used spinning tackle in nearly equal proportion to baitcasting equipment. And then, for whatever reason, spinning sticks and "egg beater" reels seem to fall out of winter fashion.

And that’s unfortunate; because spinning tackle truly offers a multitude of performance-based reasons to be paired with your favorite cold-water treble hook laden lures. 

Basic physics favor spinning tackle for lighter lures

With lighter lures like a Shad Rap, it’s tough to generate enough momentum on a baitcasting reel’s spool to spin sufficiently. So in turn, the friction slows the lure’s launch through the air. And by the time the spool finally does get up to speed, the momentum in the lure is too low, and the result is often a backlash. 

Longer casts, and fewer backlashes 

The positive result of pairing lighter balsa baits and jerkbaits with spinning tackle is simple, you’ll get far fewer backlashes, plus, much longer casts. And longer casts help increase your catching success, not only by allowing these diving lures to stay in the strike zone longer, but also to spook fish less in the clear cold waters where these visually oriented lures work best.

Upsize your spinning reels 

Size 25 and 30 are the most popular spinning reel sizes for bass anglers, but legendary pros like Kevin VanDam nearly always use a size 40 spinning reel.