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When using spinnerbaits, it seems like fish are always biting

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Ray Sasser, Outdoor Writer

While fishing in Mexico recently, I caught more bass on a spinnerbait than I've caught on that particular lure in 10 years. There was a time when the spinnerbait was my favorite, and I kept a tackle box well-stocked with spinners of all sizes, colors and blade designs.

I first fished with spinners because they were inexpensive and  caught fish. In the 1960s, you could buy an H&H Spinner Lure for 29 cents. That was affordable, even for a high school or college student.

One reason the H&H was such a bargain is it did not come fully assembled. You had to attach the double hook yourself. I knew so little about fishing at the time, I sometimes attached the hook upside down. It wasn't very effective at catching fish when assembled badly.

An internet search indicates  H&H is still in business and still a bargain at $1.99 for the original design. I can't tell for sure by looking at the website, but it looks like some assembly is still required. The double H&H hook caught a lot of fish, but it snagged on a lot of bushes. I was fishing from the bank and  seldom could retrieve my hung-up tackle.

Spinnerbaits have changed a lot in 50 years. They remain popular because most of them now feature a single hook protected by a long wire arm. The design is sometimes referred to as a "clothespin" spinnerbait. My Mexico spinnerbait refresher course reinforced the idea that this design is extremely weedless.

I cast my spinnerbaits, mostly Strike King or Oldham brand, into some of the thickest cover imaginable and retrieved them without much trouble. Although they don't much resemble anything a fish might eat in nature, the spinnerbaits work.

Anglers and scientists agree  spinnerbaits draw strikes for two reasons — vibrations from the blades are transmitted through the water and "feel" like the movements of baitfish. A bass detects movement through its sensitive lateral lines. Maybe the vibrations "feel" like another predator chasing baitfish and the flash of blades.

The second reason for the lure's success is that it resembles the flight of a shad, tilapia or bluegill. Spinnerbaits often produce what's called a "reaction" strike from a fish lying in wait by a log or in the edge of a grassline. The fish is primed and ready to attack any helpless critter that passes within striking range.

This time of year, a spinnerbait fished slowly can tempt the biggest bass in the lake. While I was fishing in Mexico, anglers at a different Mexican lake caught two half-pounders on spinnerbaits. Fishing slowly is called "slow rolling" a spinnerbait.

The spinnerbait is a good novice lure because it will catch fish if you just cast it out and reel it steadily back. It gets more bites if you vary the retrieve. In Mexico, Ron Speed Jr. swears by the sweep technique.

"During the retrieve, just sweep your rod tip two or three feet to the side," Speed said. "While you're taking up the slack in your line, the lure will slow and dip down just a little and that's when you get the most bites."

You can also speed the lure up, then slow it down, or let it sink on a slack line, then resume the retrieve. An aggressive bite on a spinnerbait is unmistakable but fish will also take the lure with a subtle bite that just stops the blades from spinning. They also will take the lure while swimming toward the boat, creating a sensation that nothing is there. Set the hook whenever you get a different sensation from the pulsing blades.

Spinnerbait basics

Choose a bright-colored lure, like chartreuse or white, when the water is murky. The more natural colors work best in clear water.

A rounded blade, called a Colorado blade or an Indiana blade, produces the most vibration, can be retrieved slowly and works best in murky water. A long, narrow blade — called a willow leaf blade — is more weedless and hangs up less. When water temperatures warm and the fish are more aggressive, you can move a willow leaf spinnerbait fast enough to bulge the water's surface.

Although you seldom find this configuration in a tackle store, you can mix and match different blade sizes and designs until you find what works best. Any vibrating blade will attract a bass.

Add a curly-tailed plastic grub to the spinnerbait hook. The grub trailer creates more action and its plastic bulk makes the lure more buoyant, meaning you can slow it down and stay in the strike zone.

If you get a lot of bites without hooking the fish, try a smaller lure. You can make a spinnerbait smaller by removing the grub trailer and using scissors to trim the spinnerbait.

CALENDAR

Saturday: Spring turkey season begins in South Zone. Consult regulations booklet for county details.

March 24-26: Bassmaster Classic championship tournament at Lake Conroe.

March 25 and 26: 34th Annual KCKL 95.9 FM Big Bass Tournament at Cedar Creek Lake. Entry forms and details at kcklbass.com or call 903-489-1346.

March 25 and 26: Early youth spring turkey season in the North Zone.

April 1: Spring turkey season begins in the North Zone. Consult regulations booklet for county details.

April 1: Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation Annual Rendezvous of the Guardians Banquet and Fundraiser, 5:45 p.m. at Westin Galleria, 13350 Dallas Parkway. Details at GoOTF.com.