If you are fishing the fabled reservoirs of the East or the clear sprawling impoundments of the American West, you will find top bass fishermen using the flashing blades of a spinnerbait to bring home big bass action each spring.
Even at the young age of 31, Casey Ashley is a self-described “old school” angler in many ways.
“I like to keep it simple – a 1/2-ounce double willow blade combinations,” he explained as he dropped the trolling motor and eased into a promising cove on Table Rock Lake. “The front blade is gold. The Back blade is silver...The head is not even painted, though it does have red eyes on it. And you can see that mine has an ‘old school’ chartreuse and white rubber skirt.”
The 2015 Bassmaster Classic champion has a long history of success with the spinnerbait, and he exercises that lure style’s highly valued versatility a lot in spring when conditions can move bass from aggressive activity on flats to lockjaw lockdown in deep water after the passing of a cold front or other sever weather change.
“You can do a lot with a spinnerbait – build it up to make it bigger, modify it to put out more flash and more vibration,” he explained. “Or you can sleek it down and put on smaller blades, change blade colors, mix a gold with a silver blade. I can change blades and have a whole different bait with different color and different action in two minutes!”
The South Carolina native is a DIY guy, an angler who likes to tinker with baits and shape them to conditions or even whim. Most of his catches come on hand-poured 3/8-, 1/2- and 3/4-ounce lures, but he also carries a one-ounce spinnerbait with modified blades that enables him to hunt 30-foot ledges with the efficiency generally reserved for a crankbait expert heaving his favorite long-lipped lure.
Among the most common adjustments Ashley makes in spring is employing the “slow-roll” spinnerbait retrieve – a technique that he refers to as a “lost art.” The technique calls for fishing the lure slowly and close to bottom, sometimes through cover – more like a jig than a reaction lure. A tandem blade spinnerbait adds flash and water displacement, enabling fish to zero in on the bait from a greater distance than they might with a jig.
Many bass anglers find it too tough to maintain blade rotation at “crawl” speed. Not Ashley!
“Slow rolling a spinnerbait all boils down blade separation,” Ashley explained. “I use beads to separate the blades. I don’t want my front blade to touch or overlap the back blade at all. When the front blade is turning, I don’t want it to take water off the back blade. I still want that back blade to rotate at all times. Blade separation enables you to slow roll a spinnerbait even when you are fishing deep structure!”
A Western Spin
Derek Yamamoto employs the spinnerbait to cover water quickly on big clear waters of the West from his home water of Lake Mead to Lake Havasu, Mojave and countless other waters in the Southwest.
“I love to fish the spinnerbait in spring,” said Yamamoto, Business director of Advantage Bait Company and son of famous lure maker and innovator Gary Yamamoto, as well as a veteran of the Bassmaster and FLW pro bass wars. “As the water warms in early season, the biggest fish provide the most action first, so you have a good chance of getting big fish...The spinnerbait is a big bait, and it attracts big fish.”
Yamamoto insists upon a spinnerbait that he can rely on to run straight and spin true regardless of whether he is burning a bait in warm clear water or slow-rolling it in dingy depths.
That was a primary reason that he was attracted to the Advantage Spinnerbait, created by company owner Jason Schwartz. Yamamoto noted that the lure seemed to draw bass from long distances thanks to the Extreme Flash Technology (EFT) behind its patented blades. When conditions call for a slower – or even extreme “slow roll” –presentation, the Advantage spinnerbait’s sleeve separation of the tandem blades enable it to still maintain continuous blade rotation.
“In spring I use the spinnerbait a lot as a search bait, so I mostly use a steady retrieve,” said Yamamoto. “But if I know or suspect a fish is holding near a bush, a rock or grass, I will try to cast past the object and slow it down as it nears the cover. I may even add a little rod tip action to get the skirt to puff out. Fish react when they see something different like that occur. Any rod or reel action can be worthwhile. Let the fish tell you how much action you need.”
On the big clear waters of the West, bass spread out widely as they near the spawn, Yamamoto noted. Though he might find them anywhere, he keys on smaller pockets and objects that provide cover from at least one side.
“Bass like something to hide behind,” he said. “I always look for bushes, rocks, and small rock piles on the inside of any point going into a bay... Finding good spring bass is a search game!”