Get more from your spinnerbaits

Spinnerbait Guidelines | Spinnerbait Selection Chart
 "It only makes sense to me," says Denny Gilbert as he discusses making or customizing spinnerbaits. "The better commercial models are great, but sometimes you need something special."

 Special begins with plenty of parts. Gilbert always carries three large plastic boxes full of them. In one he has wire frames and heads; in another he has skirts and trailers; and in the third he carries blades, swivels, clevises, clips, beads and whatever else he may need to make a bait from scratch or customize a commercial model.

"I fish Kerr Lake in Virginia and North Carolina regularly and compete in quite a few tournaments during the course of a year. Spinnerbaits are a great all-season lure if you choose the right one and throw it in the right place," he says. "But you have to have a big supply. If you carry only a few, you won't have the one you need when you need it."

To support that proposition he points to a recent event. Gilbert and his fishing partner needed a spinnerbait that would run deep but with big, gold blades that would make a lot of disturbance and be clearly visible to the bass. None of his commercial models quite fit the bill. So, he made one.


He started with a one-ounce head on a heavy wire frame. To that he attached two huge gold-colored willowleaf blades to the bait along with a couple of bright beads. In a few minutes he had exactly what he wanted — a spinnerbait he could work slow and deep and that made lots of commotion."You can't buy that bait on the market. I wanted to be down deep and not moving forward very fast but I still needed to crank it to keep the blades moving. You have to build that one," he explains.The mechanics of building a spinnerbait aren't all that difficult. You'll need to assemble a wire frame with a molded head; a blade or two (or more); a clevis (it attaches the upper blade to the wire arm and allows the blade to turn); a few beads and spacers; a ball bearing swivel; and a good pair of needle-nose pliers.


Slip the clevis and blade combination on the upper wire. Add a few colored beads or spacers to suit current conditions and then attach the back blade to the end of the wire with a swivel. Keep the swivel securely attached to the frame by hooking it inside a small loop in the upper wire. Use your pliers to make the loop.After that, add a plastic or pork trailer and maybe a trailer hook. You'll be good to go.

 But you don't need to make your own spinnerbaits from scratch to be successful. There are commercial models available that will meet most — but maybe not all — of your fishing needs. And if you're carrying lots of quality brand-name spinnerbaits with you, Gilbert recommends carrying fewer component parts in the boat and customizing only when necessary.


"Customizing a solid, high-quality spinnerbait is really simple," he says. "You can usually change the blades in a minute or two and the skirt takes less time than that," he explains. "Straighten the loop in the top wire with a pair of pliers. A new clevis with a new blade attached will go right on. Swap the back blade using the original swivel. Change the color and style of the beads and spacers to suit conditions.


Change skirts and trailers as required. Add a trailer hook and you're done. Doing this will allow you to get by with a small collection of commercial spinnerbaits if that suits your fishing style or budget."Gilbert cautions anglers to not be penny wise and pound foolish when doing any of this, however. He emphasizes that cheap clevises holding cheap blades on cheap wire rames will not help you catch fish. In fact, they'll do just the opposite.


"Cheap components will ruin a spinnerbait. You need a bait that runs true with the blades turning freely. The cheap stuff won't do that. Use it and you'll be sorry."


Spinnerbait Guidelines


1. Willowleaf blades have lots of flash and very little lift. They work best if the water is clear or if you want the bait to run deep.


2. Colorado blades have a heavy thump and tend to lift the bait during the retrieve. Use them when you need vibration and when lift is a good thing.


3. Dark colors silhouette best in dark water or under low light conditions. Light colors work best in clear water or under bright light conditions.


4. Double blades offer more flash and vibration. Single blades are more subtle on the retrieve. Doubles will lift the bait more during the retrieve.


5. When choosing sizes and colors don't forget to match the hatch whenever possible. This is especially important when choosing skirt size and color.


6. Use plastic or pork trailers when you want more bulk. Be aware, however, that trailers will lift spinnerbaits during the retrieve.


7. Use a trailer hook when necessary, but remember they tend to hang in heavy cover.


8. Widen the gap between the upper arm and the hook to make the spinnerbait "pull" more on the retrieve and lift more.


9. Narrow the gap between the upper arm and the hook to make the spinnerbait run faster.


10. In heavily pressured waters or when fishing for conditioned bass, conventional rules don't apply. Show them something they haven't seen before. Unusual blade combinations, unusual blade colors and unusual skirt materials or colors are often productive. Experiment.


Spinnerbait Selection Chart
































































Head Weight


Blade Size/Color


Skirt Color


Stained, Cold Water


Heavy — ¾ ounce or heavier


Large Colorado — Gold, Chartreuse


Bright or Dark


Stained, Warm Water


Heavy — ¾ ounce or heavier


Large Willowleaf — Gold, Chartreuse Bright or Dark
Clear, Cold Water


Heavy — ¾ ounce or heavier


Medium Willowleaf —Silver, White White, Silver, Ghost
Clear, Warm Water


Medium — ½ to ¾ ounce Medium Willowleaf — Silver, White White, Silver, Ghost


Shallow Water, Active Bite


Light — Less than ½ ounce


Medium to Small Willowleaf — Silver, White


White, Silver, Ghost


Deep Water, Active Bite


Heavy — ¾ ounce or heavier


Medium to Large Willowleaf — Gold, Chartreuse


Subtle Presentation


Light — less than ½ ounce


Small Willowleaf — Silver, White, Gray White, Silver, Ghost


Noisy Presentation Heavy — ¾ ounce or heavier Big Colorado — Silver


Bright, Colorful
Heavily Pressured Bass Light for shallow water, heavy for deep water Something Different Something Different


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