Technique: Scaling down to attract more bites
Light tackle baits have evolved to have representation in almost every category. The influx of new lures and manufacturers has trickled over to the spinnerbait market. These days there are some very high quality baits available for light tackle fanatics like myself. These special baits perform double duty as both cold water finesse lures and small creek and stream attractors.
Downsized versions of traditional sized baits appeal to all sizes of bass. Utilizing them will ultimately attract more fish to the boat. The 1/8oz spinnerbaits I use have a tendency to attract large numbers of fish with an occasional lunker bass possible. These small spinnerbaits are extremely versatile and in skilled hands can easily be worked at all depths.
I started relying on downsized spinnerbaits about 6 or 7 years ago. I started out with the Strike King Mini King which was the first small bait to be manufactured on a large scale. It was, and is, a solid performer for an inexpensive lure. The Mini King features a compact frame with a bullet style head mounted on a 2/0 hook. The 2.1 diamond willow or Colorado blades swivel on a quality ball bearing swivel. The skirt is sparse and only available in about 6 basic color options. For $1.75, you can't go wrong to start out with this bait. There are a few things that prevent this bait from being elite in its class, however. Firstly, its round circular line tie is big and bulky and less favored than the traditional r-style bend. This one must take into account because with the light line must be utilized, an angler has to remember to retie often. Next, the silicone skirts are too thin, meaning they need to be bulked up a bit and the color selection, like I said, is quite basic. Thirdly, the Mini King has a characteristic that I absolutely abhor – the manufacturer cuts corners by merely bending the wire over on itself to secure the swivel. A few errant strikes and the blade is history. As previously stated, for $1.75 it is still quite respectable.
I have also used some of the new high tech mini's by Terminator and the Bitsy Titanium. I must say that titanium is not my bag! The frames are rigid and brittle. I have broken almost every titanium bait I have used in a matter of a few days. I simply refuse to pay the extra money for this type of problem. I can't remember ever breaking a steel wire bait. I also feel that being able to bend the wire allows you to modify the bait a bit.
I began to tinker with making my own light tackle spinnerbait. I incorporated all of the high tech traits that I desired. Rather than crimping the wire to house the swivel, I added a thin piece of surgical tubing that stretches over the wire bend and holds the swivel tightly yet can easily be pulled down for a quick blade change. I utilize Bioflex silicone because it is the industry standard for awesome colors and suppleness. It is very durable and I can add the amount of thickness that I desire. I'm not a big fan of having to sharpen hooks on new baits so I prefer to add high quality hooks that are sharp out of the package. To spruce the bait up further and to add a focal point for bass, I add 3-D eyes. I believe this actually attracts strikes to the hook area and actually lets me fish without a trailer hook. For my own baits, I have found myself adding a hanging double rattle strap. The extra sound is huge for night fishing. I've done really well with this rattling bait in night tournaments on Long Island. The strap is surprisingly durable and has stood up to 100 fish creek smallmouth outings. I use only gold plated or sterling silver blades for maximum reflection. I have photos of this bait on my website at www.micromunchtackle.com. Go to the bait gallery and scroll down. The name of the bait is the Hailey's Komet Spinnerbait.
For light tackle spinnerbaiting, I utilize 2 homemade baitcasting rods I can best classify as light, extremely fast action with a soft tip. I prefer a 5'6" or 6' model. These allow me to cast the bait easily and provide leverage for fighting big fish. I opt for SIC guides to keep weight down and also protect against wear. The rods feature downsized cork flipping handles that are comfortable and easy to use all day. At times I will fish these lures on spinning tackle. Bass Pro Shops Bionic Blade series has several light action models in the appropriate sizes to match these baits. I go with the 5'6" for wading and the 6' light for boat duty.
I really prefer baitcasters as I mainly rely on braid and superline when using these lures. I prefer Spiderline 6/30 or Fireline 14lb test in most applications. I've been experimenting with Power Pro and like it as well. I do all of my spinnerbaits with a pair of Shimano Calcutta 51's. These tiny, super high-quality baitcasters have all the necessary options available to me, including instant anti-reverse.
"I have no doubt that anyone who starts to use these small baits will start increasing their catch ratio. They are perfect for finessing bass in tough situations."
When and Where
Although the light tackle spinnerbait is versatile enough to be used anywhere, I do use it with confidence in a few special areas. My favorite application for this bait is in small, slow-moving rivers for largemouth bass. I feel that this bait is at its best in clear or slightly stained waters. In small rivers I target visible cover. I try to bring the bait through any cover I can find. I aim to knock the bait into any type of obstruction such as branches, limbs, stumps, rocks, or anything else that will temporarily slow the retrieve up and possibly attract a strike with the momentary pause of the bait as it hits an obstruction. I normally work the bait parallel to the bank as I try to get it up really tight. This is deadly around washed out or hollowed out undercuts. At times bass stack up in these locations and will pounce on a bait that is dragged by them. I normally utilize a slow, steady retrieve, just enough to keep the blades spinning. I have a habit of never using a trailer or trailer hook. I alternate blades depending on season and water conditions. In shallow water that is full of vegetation, I prefer a willow leaf blade. It comes through the grass with ease. For sand and rock flats I opt for a Colorado blade usually going with a deep cup. At times I will change to really small blades. These will throw of less flash while still giving vibration. This is best in very bright conditions. With a traditional sized bait you simply couldn't get the bait to perform unless you downsized the head and frame. That is the only way it would track true. The 1/8oz bait is a dead ringer for a tiny shad or shiner. In really stained or dingy water, you might want to stick with a larger bait altogether. I use a few proven colors. I rely on Chartreuse, White, Firetiger, Gold Shiner, and Silver. I have been using a few newer combs lately that have really paid off. Pumpkinseed – a smallie killer – Junebug, and midnight special – for night fishing – and blue shiner have become my favorites of late.
While I generally rely on small spinnerbaits during the warmer months when bass are being bombarded with other lures, almost nothing can compete with them during the colder weather. A slow rolled spinnerbait can be absolutely devastating . In about March, I will count the bait down on a taut line making sure that the blades still spin. This is slow fishing as you almost can't fish the bait too slow. I methodically plod the bait along keeping contact with the bottom. You can pick the bait up and let it slowly flutter to the bottom. If the bait isn't getting to the bottom as per your liking, add a bit of solder wire around the hook shank. This will sink it without adding bulk.
Fishing small, shallow creeks for smallies is perhaps my favorite type of bassing. A spinnerbait can be deadly here. I use a 1/8oz bait most of the time, but occasionally scale down to a 1/16oz model. My fondness for creek spinnerbaits started with the beetlespin. Man, did I catch tons of smallmouth on that bait, a killer!! It tends to attract smaller fish, but on ultralight gear it is a blast. With small spinnerbaits you must be careful to not work them too fast. They tend to roll over on themselves at fast retrieves causing line twist. Simply slow it down if you notice this. In the crystal clear creeks that I fish, it isn't uncommon to see smallmouths race in for the bait from distances of over 20 feet. On these creeks, I search for dark colored rocks that I believe smallmouth prefer. Usually I work the bait with the current as most small baits will foul if you go against the current. I like to bounce the bait into rocks. This will draw plenty of strikes, but you must continuously check the line tie to make sure it isn't frayed. The weedless nature of the bait allows it to have immunity from hanging up in the rocks. It takes a lot to hang it up in the rocks. Next, I try to locate current breaks and run the bait through them. Most strikes will occur just as you get into the slack water. Perhaps my favorite spots are adjacent to large exposed gravel bars or rock mounds or flats. I try to get the bait as close to the parallel edge as possible. I then slowly work the bait deeper and deeper until I find the bass. For smallmouth, brown or pumpkin can't be beat unless they are on their annual fluorescent kick. Here I will go with chartreuse. If the river has shad I try use a crystal blue or green.
The light spinnerbait is one of my favorite tournament baits and for good reason. It is a great search bait that tends to get bit by fish who have seen the usual gamut of baits. I have no problems fishing behind guys who are throwing traditional sized baits. I am confident that fish turned off to larger baits will readily take this bait.This is the reason that it is so effective in high pressured waters, where bass prefer a more subtle approach. To add a little insurance I often use unlacquered blades to tone down the flash of the bait. They tarnish quickly so you must keep an eye on them. To clean them up I use a polish called "Britestuff" (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The small spinnerbait is a great searchbait that can signal just what bass are in the mood for. Aggressive bass will slam the bait hard indicating that it may pay off to increase size to attract a larger bite. The 1/8oz spinnerbait is a bait that can help to obtain a quick limit. My first tournament this season showed me just how capable a tournament bait it is. I was using a 1/8oz firetiger Hailey's Komet on the Peconic River and took a limit 10 minutes into the competition. I simply changed baits and culled fish to increase the overall size of my bag. Since that tourney, I have relied on this small bait in just about every other tournament that I've fished and it had always produced keepers for me. It has been so impressive that I've made a complete line of nighttime colors for the bait and have been very successful with them. I beef up the baits with deep cup Colorados and rattles to add to the low light attraction of the bait.
I have no doubt that anyone who starts to use these small baits will start increasing their catch ratio. They are perfect for finessing bass in tough situations. Smaller baits appeal to more fish and will produce more action than larger baits. A few of these in you box will surely live things up if you are experiencing a doldrums your fishing. Give them a shot!