Woo Daves recalls his early days as a professional bass angler and the role spinning rods played in tournaments back in the 1970s. Essentially, they had no role. Baitcasters were the rage, and few professional bass anglers used spinning rods for much of anything."I think it was a macho thing. Guys thought you were a wuss if you had a spinning rod in your boat. Everybody figured you had to use big lures and a heavy baitcasting rod to winch the fish into the boat in a hurry," he recalls."There were a few guys who used spinning tackle, and when they started winning some tournaments, the rest of us took a hard look at what they were doing. Now, every pro uses spinning rods for at least one application, and most guys use them for the bulk of finesse fishing techniques."Whether you just can't master the complicated task of using a baitcaster without turning the spool of line into a maddening puff of coils and knots, or if you simply prefer the way a spinning rod handles, there's an outfit that suits your needs. Crankbaits, worms, jigs, jerkbaits and a wide assortment of other baits all work just as well on a spinning rod as they do on a baitcaster.In fact, Daves, who won the 2000 Bassmaster Classic with spinning rods, figures at least 90 percent of the bass he catches in all of the tournaments he fishes are caught on spinning tackle. And a quick survey of his rod lockers will reveal a ratio weighted heavily in favor of those types of rods. Although several of them are indeed finesse rods, he uses the rest for techniques many, if not most, pros reserve for heavier baitcasting outfits.Kentucky pro Mark Menendez shares Daves' enthusiasm for using spinning tackle for tasks normally performed with baitcasters. In fact, he's convinced that spinning outfits offer a distinct advantage over baitcasters from the perspective of sensitivity."When you hold a spinning rod, your hand is actually wrapped around the rod more than it is when you grip a baitcaster, so you get more sensation coming through your hands," he says. "I also think you get less fatigue from using spinning rods than when you use baitcasters. You can cast all day with a well-balanced spinning rod and never get tired."
Menendez actually modified several baitcasting rods and turned them into spinning rods. Although he admits there are suitable spinning rods on the market, he just likes the feel and action of his modified rods."I took a 7-foot medium action Pflueger baitcaster and replaced the handle with a Tennessee-style cork handle. Then, I replaced a few of the lower guides. It's a great rod for pitching and flipping light worms," he says.Most anglers, however, don't want to go to the trouble of stripping a perfectly good baitcaster and turning it into a spinning rod. There are plenty of other great spinning outfits on the market — outfits that will stand up to the best baitcasting rigs for a variety of applications.
When the bass are hunkered down far up under docks and burrowed deep within overhanging limbs and brush, Woo Daves reaches for a Bass Pro Shops Woo Daves model Extreme spinning rod. He likes a 6-foot, 6-inch rod combined with a Bass Pro Shops Extreme spinning reel loaded with 10- to 12-pound Stren line. However, if conditions call for it, he'll move up to line as thick as 17-pound test."It's tough to fish line that heavy on a spinning reel, but I'll do it if I'm expecting to catch bigger fish, if the cover is real thick, or there are lots of barnacles. The problem with heavy line on a spinning reel is that it tends to jump off the spool, and it's harder to make long casts," he explains. "To solve those problems, I put less line on the spool, and I limit that rod for places I only need to make short casts."Daves will use that spinning outfit to skip jigs and worms, and he also uses it to pitch and flip those same baits. It's the perfect tool for skipping jigs and soft plastics far up under low cover. And, he adds, you just get a better feel for bites with a spinning rod than you do with a baitcaster."If you use heavy line, you need to make sure you use a heavier lure to keep tension on the line. It's going to be tough to use at first, but with a little practice, you'll get the hang of it," Daves says.
Light worm flippin'
When the rest of the competition is struggling to flip light worms on baitcasting outfits, Virginia pro John Crews is busy dropping a 4-inch worm rigged with a 1/8-ounce sinker among lily pads, around brush and under docks. Crews uses a Shimano Symmetre 4000 reel coupled with a 7-foot Shimano VSA70M spinning rod. The longer rod allows him to flip his lure a little farther, and it also gives him more accurate casts. In addition, it's the perfect outfit for skipping that light lure far up under low docks, a technique that simply can't be done with conventional baitcasting gear."I started out using that outfit on the James River, and I quickly learned that it's an ideal rig where smaller worms and light weights are the best choices," he says. "You just can't make accurate casts with light baits, and you can't skip light worms up under docks with a baitcasting outfit. I'm very accurate with that spinning rod."Crews loads his reel with 15-pound Triple Fish camouflage monofilament or Triple Fish RX co-polymer."I was paired with Larry Nixon in a tournament when I first started fishing professionally. When I told him I was using 15-pound mono on a spinning reel, he couldn't believe it," Crews says. "It works great, and I've never had a problem with the line jumping off the spool or tangling up in loops."
If Crews does get a severe case of line twist, he simply removes his lure and lets the line trail behind the boat as he idles across the water."Another trick is to spray the line with a silicone reel dressing. I use Blakemore's Reel Magic. If I do get a loop that is tangled pretty bad, I'll spray it with Reel Magic, and that makes it a lot easier to untangle," he says.
Skipping floating worms under low docks is an important part of Tim Horton's fishing arsenal, so he relies on a 7-foot Pflueger Trion spinning rod coupled with a Pflueger 4735 reel to get his soft plastics in places a baitcaster simply won't allow him to go."The problem with trying to skip a light soft plastic like a floating worm under a dock is that if the cast isn't perfect, you'll get a real bad backlash. That will happen nine times out of 10 for most of us," he says. "I don't have to worry about a backlash with a spinning reel, and they just cast better when you need to make a low, sidearmed cast."Although line twist can be a problem for this technique, Horton uses a small barrel swivel about a foot above his floating worm. He also makes sure the worm is rigged straight. That helps keep the lure from spinning and twisting the line.He loads his reel with 10-pound Realine copolymer and says that combination will also work for soft plastic jerkbaits, Texas rigged worms, and tubes."I might go up to 12-pound line, but that's the heaviest I'd ever use. I know some guys do use heavier line on spinning rods, but they are using heavy lures, which helps keep the line tight," says Horton.
When stiff winds and light lures are the order of the day, Ken Cook breaks out his spinning rods and works crankbaits around rocks and wood, and over emerging grass in the spring. Baitcasters and light crankbaits just don't mix, but a spinning rod will deliver these lures to the places they need to go, without backlashing."I just get better casting distance with a long spinning rod than I do with a baitcaster when I'm using something like a Rapala Shad Rap or a Husky Jerk jerkbait," says the Oklahoma pro .Cook also says a spinning rod allows him the freedom to use his left hand for casting, a task he reserves for his right hand when he's using baitcasting equipment. That reduces the inescapable fatigue that comes from casting with a single hand for hours on end.His favorite outfit for crankbaiting is a 7-foot medium action Berkley Series One (OS701M) paired with an Abu Garcia Cardinal 504. Cook typically loads the spool with 8- or 10-pound Berkley Sensation. He prefers a 6-foot, 6-inch Series One spinning rod when he fishes a hard jerkbait.Cook says the best way to avoid those incessant loops that all spinning rod anglers get is to close the bail with your hand instead of using the reel handle to close it. That, combined with a quick tug of the line after the bail closes, keeps his line tight on the spool so it doesn't loop and tangle on the next cast.
Lake Anna, Va., guide Chris McCotter regularly fishes with clients who wouldn't know how to hold a baitcasting outfit, let alone cast one. That's why he keeps an entire rod locker filled with spinning rods."We use suspending jerkbaits a lot in January, February and March. When the bass are just starting to come up out of deep water, those are killer lures," he says. "A spinning rod actually works better for jerkbaits than a baitcaster does."McCotter favors a 6-foot, 2-inch medium action Berkley Professional Series Lightning Rod paired with an Abu Garcia Cardinal 500. The shorter rod, he says, allows his clients to work the lure better than they would with a longer rod, because they can hold the rod tip in a downward fashion as they give the lure the necessary jerk-jerk-jerk action. A short rod won't slap the water like a longer one might."There's also a real good chance it's going to be windy that time of year, so you either better be a darn good caster with a baitcaster, or you'll have to do all your casting downwind. It's hard to cast a bulky lure or a light lure into the wind with a baitcaster without getting a backlash. Very few people can do it. A spinning rod allows you to cast with your rod low to the water, and that helps keep your line from billowing," he explains.McCotter also suggests using your hands to open and close the bail instead of relying on the reel handle or the automatic bail trigger that opens the bail. By opening and closing the bail manually, you not only help prolong the life of your reel, you force yourself to look at the spool. That helps you reduce the problems associated with loops that form when loose line remains after the bail is closed.
Balance your outfits
The key to a good spinning rod-and-reel combination is balance, says Mark Menendez.You can find out if a reel is suited for a particular rod very easily. Just attach the reel, and then lay the rod across an outstretched finger where the rod and the forward end of the reel seat meet. That's the balance point. If the rod tips forward or backward, you need to try a different rod or a different reel, because an unbalanced spinning outfit will cause fatigue," he says. "You'll notice a huge difference if you fish with an unbalanced outfit and then go to a balanced one."