How to Use Spinnerbaits

SpinnerbaitsFishing spinnerbaits can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. They get a bad rap as being lures for beginners because they can be so easy to fish, but in the hands of a professional, a spinnerbait becomes a precision instrument.

Spinnerbaits come in different sizes and weights. For the most part the heavier the spinnerbait, the larger the blades and generally the deeper you can fish it. The faster your retrieve, the shallower the lure will run and the slower your retrieve the deeper it will run. The higher you hold your rod tip, the shallower the lure will run and the lower you hold it the deeper it will run. As you can see you have a lot of control over how deep the bait will run.White spinnerbait - 3/8 oz - Colorado Blades with Chartreuse trailer

Don’t let yourself get stuck in the rut of using it only in shallow water! I have often fished a ½ ounce spinnerbait in more than 15 feet of water. I just cast it out as far as I can and wait for the spinnerbait to hit the bottom before beginning a very slow retrieve. Let the lure fall with just the slightest tension on the line so that the lure will swim naturally to the bottom with the blades turning the whole way.  Once it gets to the bottom begin to reel as slowly as possible while keeping the blades turning. You should be able to feel the blades vibrating as they turn. A lift and drop retrieve works very well in deep water and fishing the spinnerbait deep like this tends to produce large bass.

Spinnerbaits come with different shaped blades. The longer “willow Leaf” blades flash a lot of light as they turn. The shorter “Colorado” blades give off more vibration that the fish can feel in the water as they turn. There are some other blade shapes too but Colorado and Willow are the most common. The bass may prefer one or the other depending on the environmental conditions. Generally, I like to use willow blades in clear water and Colorado blades in murkier water.BW holding bass and spinnerbait used to catch it - 1/2 oz white spinnerbait with painted blades

Spinnerbait skirts come in a wide variety of colors but I usually stick to white or chartreuse. The blades also come in different colors such as chrome, nickel, copper, gold, and painted colors that bass may show a preference for from time to time. My favorite colors are nickel, gold, and white painted blades. I use nickel and gold for clearer water and white painted blades for murky water.

Spinnerbait trailers are small plastic baits that you place on the hook of a spinnerbait, but you can use part of a plastic worm or any other soft plastic bait as a trailer. I like to use a spinnerbait trailer almost all the time. If I think that the fish are striking at but missing the bait, I either shorten up my trailer or I may even go without a trailer. I prefer not to use trailer hooks because most of them that I have tried alter the way the bait swims and the trailer hook snags a lot of weeds and branches. If I’m using a white skirt then I pair that with a chartreuse trailer and if I’m using a chartreuse skirt I use a white trailer. I want to have contrasting colors.close-up of white spinnerbait with white painted blades - 1/2 ounce size

You need to tune your spinnerbait If you notice that the it is leaning to the left or the right as you reel it toward you. If it is leaning to the left you need to bend the wire that leads to the blades a little bit to the right to get it to run straight up and down in the water. Do the opposite if it’s leaning the other way. Your spinnerbait will be in tune when all three points of the wire line up as you look at it from the front. After a fish has blasted your spinnerbait and knocked it around a few times you may have to make some of those small adjustments that I just mentioned.

BW holding a bass and the white spinnerbait used to catch it - 3/8 oz painted white willow blades

You can fish a spinnerbait in open water for schooling bass that are feeding on balls of shad in southern lakes, but in Minnesota I’m usually fishing it along or in cover or structure. Weeds and timber make for good cover and rocks and drop-offs are great structures to use a spinnerbait on. You can steer a spinnerbait around objects like weed clumps or sticks by moving your rod tip to either side of your body. A very productive way to get extra strikes is to use an irregular retrieve speed or give the spinnerbait an occasional pause or jerk. I find that if a fish is following my lure this may get it to strike out of instinctive reflex. It is best to do this about the time when the lure is half way back to the boat before the fish gets a chance to see you or the boat.

Keep your spinnerbait clean. Don’t let any scum, crud, or weed matter build up at the line tie or swivel. The bass really do seem to notice that, and won’t want to strike that lure. When using monofilament line, tie the spinnerbait on with a Palomar knot.


The simple spinnerbait is easy to use but it’s a very sophisticated lure. I have no doubt that you will learn lots more about it as you enjoy using it.

Now that you have read about spinnerbaits, watch me use them in these videos: Stella Lake, Bryant Lake, Sarah Lake, Gervais Lake II, Birch Lake.

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