Updated Sep 16, 2022 2:03 PM
It’s been 60 years since Les Davis of Tacoma, Washington, was granted a patent for his “fishing spinning lure” that centered on a single heart-shaped blade rotating around a wire form with a weight and hook trailing behind: the spinnerbait. Though the spinnerbait may have taken a backseat in conversations about the latest vibrating jig or swim jig to hit the market, it’s never lost its place in the tackle boxes of anglers who know it’s simple, nearly snag-free design. Many top anglers still consider it one of the three bass lures you should never go fishing without.
And even after six decades, the fish still can’t tell the difference between the good vibrations and flash of a spinnerbait and the frantic action of a panicked baitfish. Unlike soft-plastics that focus solely on bass, tiny tube jigs designed to dangle at the end of a line for crappie or hand-tied flies imitating insects that tempt primarily trout and panfish, the spinnerbait triggers a reaction strike from any species with a taste for smaller fish. Thankfully for anglers, all sportfish in North America are born with that desire to chase down and gobble up any fish small enough to fit in their mouths. Here are a few of the best spinnerbaits to match up with some of America’s most pursued species.
Best for Largemouth
Why It Made the Cut: Dozens of options offer versatility, but this series sticks to the bass-busting basics at its core.
- Multiple variations
- Red “flicker” blade and red head options offer old-school appeal
- Available in weights from 3/8 to 1 ounce
- A variety of options to match up with any bass-fishing condition
- Color choices stick to the tried-and-true bass-catching hues
- Top-quality components, including a wire trailer keeper
- A little expensive for a spinnerbait
The spinnerbait is probably one of the first lures any angler throws for largemouth bass. And the relatively new Covert series from Booyah gives up some of the best features you’ll find without going to a small custom shop. The flared head design bulks up the profile of the lure but, more importantly, served as a rudder to counterbalance the pull from the blade. The spinnerbait ran true during a fast retrieve, even with larger blades that can cause some spinnerbait models to rotate head over heels if you’re wanting to reel quickly. The Booyah Covert series is available in a variety of blade configurations to match any condition and the color selections let the angler match the look of the lure to the type of baitfish prominent in their home lake.
While most offerings from large manufacturers only offer configurations with two willow leaf blades, two Colorado blades or a tandem option that combines one of each, the Booyah Covert is available in one of the best early season options that’s been largely forgotten by the modern bass-fishing world, a single Colorado blade. Single Colorado blades are mainly relegated to night fishing duty by many anglers, but when prespawn bass are on the hunt, the heavy throb of a single large round blade gives just as much fish-attracting power as any bladed jig in a package you will have no fear of losing cast alongside heavy brush.
These spinnerbaits are offered in sizes from ⅜- all the way to a heavy 1- ounce model devoted to fishing deep on offshore ledges and along bluff walls. The ½-ounce model in chartreuse/white with a single Colorado blade probably stands out as the most versatile model in the series, matching up with practically any water color and depth, depending on how fast or slow it is retrieved. Adding a 3-inch Keitech swimbait or Zoom Swimmin’ Chunk to the wire trailer keeper can add some bulk for anglers who feel naked without adding something to the tail end of their spinnerbait, but the lure caught fish straight from the package with accessories needed.
Best for Smallmouth
Why It Made the Cut: This small profile lure has multiple personalities to trigger reactions from schooling fish and aggressive predators.
- Intentionally undersized Colorado blade for speed
- Shortened skirt for smaller profile
- Available in weights from 3/8 to 1/2 ounce
- Casts like a bullet
- Low drag enables fast retrieves for reaction strikes
- Small profile delivers attraction for many schooling species
- Double hook offers twice the opportunity to catch on woody cover
Sure, you can catch brown bass on the same spinnerbaits you launch for lazy largemouth. But if you’re wanting to step up your smallmouth game, speed kills. Smallmouth are hardwired with a bad attitude, and the Strike King Rocket Shad takes full advantage of that mean streak. By bumping up the weight and slimming down on the skirt and blade size, Strike King designed the Rocket Shad to fish as a drop bait with a lift-pause action to imitate a dying baitfish.
The compact lure also adds plenty of fish-catching power when burned back to the boat on a fast retrieve. It can be fired at schooling fish from a long distance, and draws vicious strikes from not only smallmouth, but spotted bass, white bass and crappie too. Any fish with a tendency to school up on structure in open water is likely to make a quick reaction when this small spinner comes blazing by.
Even though it was designed for open water, the safety-pin body still deflects many snags should you decide to work this Strike King spinnerbait in moderately heavy cover, but it’s not as weedless as standard safety-pin spinners. The double hook hinged on the back of the Rocket Shad lets the lure hold tight during the violent head shakes and thrashing fight smallmouth are known for, but it does tend to grab a few extra snags during the course of a day’s fishing.
Best for Pike
Why It Made the Cut: This juiced up spinnerbait begs for abuse from one of freshwater’s nastiest predators.
- 0.45-gauge wire
- Stainless steel leader included
- Available in 1/2 ounce
- Triggers pike and other large gamefish
- Heavy-gauge wire withstands deforming
- Designed to work with included 12-inch stainless leader
- Only available in a double willow leaf blade option
If you’ve fished a spinnerbait anywhere that a member of the Northern pike family lives, you know that these aggressive predators just can’t lay off the vibration and flash of a spinnerbait. The only problem with this is the damage these large fish cause to the lure being fished. While titanium spinnerbait wires like those found in a Terminator spinnerbait can hold tough against the thrashing, the sharp teeth of the pike family sever most fishing lines leaving the angler and fish with a bad taste in their mouth after the lure swims away in the pike’s gullet. The Booyah Pikee has a heavy .045 gauge stainless wire body that withstands bending under the heavy load of a pike or muskie, and the bulked up size prevents the need to sift through countless hammer handle-sized pike while searching for a stud.
The closed eye of the spinnerbait provides a secure connection with a speed clip at the end of a leader, and Booyah even throws a 12-inch steel leader into the package to protect against the sharp chompers Northern pike and muskie use to clamp down on their prey. The flattened silicone strands are durable but still flare out nicely during the retrieve to keep the fish charging at the bait and striking the body instead of the blades.
Best for Trout
Why It Made the Cut: This in-line offering combines the best of fly-fishing and spin-fishing in one trout-catching package.
- Hand-tied bucktail streamer
- Traditional in-line spinner design
- Available in weights from 1/4 to 1/2 ounce
- Finesse and flash combine to get even reluctant trout to bite
- Combination of in-line spinner with classic streamer adds attraction and realism
- Various sizes match current and wind conditions
- Exposed hook can snag in heavy cover
- Treble hook may not be legal in some trout waters
They may look like a distant cousin to the safety-pin style of the spinnerbaits bass anglers have used for decades, but the patent for the in-line spinner predates the venerable Beetle Spin by a few years. There’s still no better option to cast for trout on a light spinning rod and reel combo than the classic in-line spinner from Panther Martin, the Sonic Streamer. Add in the hand-tied detail of a full-length hair and feather streamer fly pattern, and you have the makings for a deadly one-two punch.
When cast in the current of the clear streams trout favor, the oblong single blade flutters around the central wire. This creates the flash needed to grab the attention of trout, especially those large brown trout that seem to fill the minds of most anglers searching for a trophy catch. Once drawn in close, the pulsating natural fibers of the streamer body mimic a variety of baitfish, depending upon the color pattern the angler chooses. Unlike other inline spinners that use insect-imitating fly patterns or simple brass bodies, these Panther Martin spinners stay true to their purpose as a baitfish imitator, so there’s no last-second rejection from a following brown or monster rainbow.
Lifting and dropping the rod tip while retrieving during testing caused the bucktail hair in the streamer body to flutter in a way that soft-plastic minnows, crankbaits and other spinner styles just can’t match. The treble hook on the end of the lure kept the package balanced during the retrieve to prevent too much line twist, but it did cause more than a few snags when cast too close to woody cover or overhangs. Many highly regulated trout streams also require lures with a single hooking point, which would prevent an angler from using this streamer as it is packaged. Anglers focused on these fishing waters may want to opt for one of Panther Martin’s single-hook offerings.
Why It Made the Cut: Downsizing doesn’t have to mean giving up on quality components with this little number.
- Micro-sized spinner with high-quality construction
- Miniature tandem-style blade configuration for multiple species
- Available in 3/16 ounce
- Inexpensive option for bank anglers looking for anything that will bite
- Top-quality components in a small package
- Variety of colors “matches the hatch” on small bodies of water
- The light weight makes it difficult to throw on stiffer rods
Anglers chasing crappie and other panfish have always known the value of a small spinner tied to a jig. Booyah borrowed a page from the Beetle Spin’s size to create a spinnerbait with the classic looks of a bass-busting spinnerbait but in a bite-sized package ideal for anglers who just want to feel the tug of a fish and don’t care what species is at the end of their line. The Booyah Pond Magic crushes white bass and large crappie as well as small spotted bass and largemouths, especially during spring when these fish move to the shallows preparing to spawn.
The small willowleaf blade rotates on a ball-bearing swivel, which is a nice upgrade from the barrel swivels found on most spinners in this size range. The bait doesn’t produce much vibration, but the tandem blade configuration offers a nice flicker that can be seen in clearer water.
Casting this lure on a standard medium-heavy power bass rod proved to be a bit tricky, but stepping down to a medium power gave enough flex to get some decent distance. Adding a small 2-inch twister-tail grub as a trailer added a little weight and action as well to complete the package. The color choices matched the sorts of critters a person is likely to find around small marshes and ponds, but the basic white and silver of the color titled “shad,” and the chartreuse “firebug” version were the two that most anglers should start with in their Pond Magic collection.
Things to Consider Before Buying Spinnerbaits
The blade is the single most important aspect of a spinnerbait. Three primary blade styles exist: the long, tapered willowleaf blade; the teardrop-shaped Indiana blade; and the stout, rounded Colorado blade. As the blade shape shortens, the lure puts out more vibration, calling out to the lateral line predatory fish use to home in on their next meal.
As a tradeoff, the rounded blades produce less flash, which can be a difference maker in clear water, when fish are using their sense of sight to feed. Volumes have been written about how to pick the best spinnerbait blade for the conditions, matching blade style with the water clarity where you’re fishing. In short, clear water calls for willowleaf blades; muddy water is the home of the Colorado blade; and the Indiana blade falls somewhere in-between.
The blade can’t spin if it’s not attached with a top-quality swivel. With so few components that make up the simple design of the spinnerbait, there’s no reason to skimp on quality when it comes to the swivel. Many of the “bargain deal” spinnerbaits you find hanging freely from the pegboard of a sporting goods store use cheaper barrel swivels that let the blade spin, but only with a little push. Instead, opt for baits that have ball-bearing swivels made from stainless steel that can’t help but turn when you pick up the lure and give the blade the slightest tap.
Next to the blade, the skirt really offers the only other bit of attraction for fish to commit to the lure. The type of skirt material can dictate how lifelike the body of the lure looks as it slides through the water. Old-school spinnerbaits often used flat rubber in their skirt that was permanently glued to a rubber collar. While popular, this style soon was overtaken by skirts designed with silicone strands offering many more color options and the opportunity to pull a strand or three to modify the look of your spinnerbait. Silicone skirts flare and collapse, creating a lifelike action when the lure is paused or twitched during the retrieve.
Q: Are spinnerbaits good for deep water?
Many anglers use spinnerbaits in five feet of water or less. But with some modifications, spinnerbaits can fool suspended fish as well as those close to the bottom in deeper water. Suspended fish can be incredibly difficult to target with crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics that drop underneath the school but a spinnerbait, much like a swimbait or Alabama rig, can be presented at practically any depth.
Unlike deep-diving crankbaits, swimbaits and Alabama rigs, a slow-rolled spinnerbait won’t wear down your shoulder by the end of the day. The trick to fishing spinnerbaits in deep water is to slow down the retrieve or upsize the lure’s weight to counteract the lift of the blades. If you can find deep grass, a spinnerbait reeled just fast enough to occasionally touch the vegetation can draw some monster strikes from fish that rarely see this sort of lure from other anglers.
Q: Do spinnerbaits catch big bass?
While the Alabama rig, big swimbaits and jig-and-trailer are known for catching big bass, the spinnerbait is a bit of a forgotten giant in this category. Spinnerbaits excel at catching large fish, particularly in the fall. When the Bassmaster Classic was held in fall months during the first 12 years of its existence, spinnerbaits and crankbaits accounted for the lion’s share of the winning stringers caught. In fact, a spinnerbait named the Fleck Weed Wader was responsible for three wins in a row from 1974 to 1976, with the 1976 win being in the hands of bass-fishing legend Rick Clunn.
Q: What size spinnerbait is best?
The size of the spinnerbait is dictated by two things: the type of fish you’re after and the depth you’re fishing. A panfish or trout rarely go for anything larger than ¼-ounce, but big largemouth have no qualms about scarfing down a 1-ounce spinnerbait with oversized willowleaf blades.
As you upsize blades, however, you need to add weight if you’re going to keep the lure deeper in the water column. Some companies even market their 1-ounce spinnerbaits as “ledgebuster” or “dredge” models designed specifically for deep water. As a general rule of thumb, smaller profiles are intended to be reeled quickly near the surface to elicit reaction strikes from sight-feeding fish, while larger-bodied spinnerbaits are meant to lumber through the depths to trigger a feeding bite from fish using their lateral lines to find their prey.
Spinnerbaits have been a part of most anglers’ tackleboxes since they were children wading in their local creek or casting from a fishing pier. The lures selected in this article stand out as specialists for certain species and situations, but anglers should always make room for this tried-and-true lure when things get tough. With its go-anywhere attitude and attractiveness to pretty much any fish that swims, there simply isn’t a more versatile bait available.
During my 35-year fishing career, I’ve had the opportunity to chase many species, including bass, bream, crappie, trout, walleye, pike and tiger muskie. The choices in this article are based on what has worked for me with as little expense as possible. But since most spinnerbaits are fairly snag-resistant, I don’t mind spending a few more dollars for top-quality components that I know are going to last. Each spinnerbait chosen in this lineup was compared to similar lures for the quality of their build, components used and innovative designs to be more than the run-of-the-mill lure found by the dozens on tackle store shelves.