Ben Hudson – “Blue Collar Bassin’”
The legendary lure of the early 80’s & 90’s
Is the Spinnerbait an outdated way of catching big bass?
If you’re an angler in their mid-20’s like me, then you grew up watching cassette tapes of The Bassmaster’s on TV in the early 90’s and on the old TNN Outdoors channel. Even rewinding the tapes to shows of the tournaments fished in the late 80’s and all through the 90’s where bass fishing was something a kid dreamed of one day as we would watch our heroes weigh in big bags of bass on TV. It was the golden days of bass fishing for a 90s kid like me where we all dreamed of being on the stage and hearing Ray Scott call out our name and talk about our big bag of bass.
As a kid watching these pros at work on TV, it became clear to me they all seemed to have one common lure that was universally used. It worked week after week no matter which lake they seemed to travel to: the Spinnerbait.
Spinnerbaits were a staple in this age of bass fishing. From the classic pros like Jimmy Houston and Hank Parker, to the newer guys like Kevin VanDam who just emerged onto the bass fishing scene at the time, the spinnerbait was the go to bait in those days. I still can see very clearly in my mind the images of Gary Klein and Jack Hains weighing in 18-20lbs of bass on Buggs Island Lake (a lake nearby to me) all on the spinnerbait. It seemed like the most versatile and consistent bait ever created and I couldn’t help but wonder why it wasn’t being used in modern times like it was in the 90’s?
Let’s fast forward back to the present day. The spinnerbait is nearly non-existent on the pro tour in most cases. New age styles and baits such as underspins, umbrella rigs, swimbaits, drop shots, and shaky heads rule the bassing world. How can such a successful bait fall off the map like it did over a period of 10 to 15 years? Is “the blade” truly an outdated lure?
Absolutely not, the spinnerbait can be just as effective as it was in the 90’s. There is however, a major difference that has caused the bait to decline from the top of the bassing world.
Possibly the biggest factor that made the spinnerbait decline from greatness in recent years is the cleaning of our lakes across the United States. The major lakes across the country have received much work in the last 10 to 15 years resulting in more recreational lakes with much less stained water. Many of them having filters installed on the dams to remove debris. This has caused many lakes to become clearer water tributaries, which in no way favor the spinnerbait.
This cleaning effect combined with the new age baits that have emerged to the “oohs” and “ahhs” of bass anglers everywhere have definitely cut down the spinnerbaits tournament wins. As a fairly bulky bait with lots of sound and flash from the blades, it can spook fish in the clear water and where bass are heavily pressured by more finesse techniques.
So where does the spinnerbait find its role in today’s age of bass fishing? It is definitely still an effective way of catching bass, it just has to be used more carefully in the right conditions. Stained water is definitely the best place to look to throw a spinnerbait if you happen to find it, particularly if you are on a river system or way up a river system connected to the lake you’re on. Sometimes this isn’t enough, on its own the spinnerbait more times than not requires wind to be effective. Moderate to extreme winds help mask the spinnerbait making it easier for bass to confuse for a baitfish, and the flash of the blades also make it easier for a bass to find in heavy winds where finesse baits may get lost in the crashing waves and churned up water.
In the 90’s, the spinnerbait was often used to cover water since it could be fished in heavy cover, rocks, or even grass. While it still has this versatility today, it is used much less frequently due to the changing water conditions and pressure the new age baits have put on bass. FLW pro Zack Birge made it obvious to everyone recently how effective the spinnerbait can still be, as he roared to an FLW victory on Wheeler lake using old school spinnerbait tactics to pick apart wood structure on the Elk river section of Wheeler. This proved the theory even more that the spinnerbait is still effective if used in the correct situations.
It may not be the lure every pro has on deck tied to their favorite rod like it was in the early 90’s, but the spinnerbait is still relevant if used in the right condition. It’s just not as straight forward as it was in the 90’s. If used in the right conditions though, ideally wind and stained water, the spinnerbait can still load your boat with a big bag of bass.
Before you write off the magical bait of the 80s and 90s, remember all baits have their place in today’s modern bassing world, even if it doesn’t work the same way it did in the past. So next time you’re fishing your home lake on a cool spring morning, and see the water a little stained with some wind, Tie on that old school spinnerbait and you may just relive the golden age of the Bassmasters.