Blazin' blades: for largemouths.
Did spinnerbaits recede to the dim recesses of your tackle trays? They sure didn't for pros Kevin VanDam, Aaron Martens, and Scott Rook, who used blades to sack big limits on Day 1 of the recent Bassmasters Classic on the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana. They switched to shallow cranks in later rounds, as the prespawn bass turned finicky. But the blade was the deal in the dark, warming waters of that backwater lake.
Recognizing when a lure's features match the inclinations of nearby bass is one of the hallmarks of pro anglers, who fish several hundred days per year on diverse waters. It's also a key for all anglers seeking a handle on what baits to use when. Spinnerbaits should always enter this decision process.
While it's difficult to obtain sales figures from manufacturers or retailers, industry insiders note a shift in the market, spurred in part by recent economic woes. In a recent interview, Tony Witte of Cabela's noted that anglers have been scooping up top-quality spinnerbaits, but focusing on sale items.
Bruce Stanton, Vice President and General Manager of PRADCO Fishing/Lindy, reports no decline in sales of spinnerbaits over the past couple years. "In these times, anglers don't want to pay $10 for a spinnerbait," he notes. "But they're buying well-made and durable baits at a reasonable price, which is Booyah's niche," referring to their popular brand of spinnerbaits and jigs.
In 1997, Outdoor Innovations brought the Terminator to market, the firstspinnerbait with a frame of nickel-titanium alloy. In an infomercial, Jimmy Houston and football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw hawked kits with 3 spinnerbaits and accessories for $39 or 5 for $49. Sales surpassed a million lures that first year as word spread of the Terminator's effectiveness.
Today, anglers are even more discerning, if a bit tighter with their billfolds. Companies continue to develop products designed to match particular fishing situations, altering blade style, size and color; head shape and balance, skirt materials, and hooks to interest anglers and catch more bass. Rapala acquired Terminator in 2007, and they've continued to promote and expand it as a premium brand, focusing on high-end components. Company spokesman Mark Fisher notes that they continue to sell well, and new additions to the line have been made.
New Life for Blades
Charlie Campbell of Forsyth, Missouri, was an early spinnerbait aficionado and inventor. In recent discussions with In-Fisherman Field Editor Ned Kehde, Campbell noted environmental changes in reservoirs that have helped bring spinnerbaits back. "Decades ago," he said, "reservoirs, were full of newly flooded timber and brush that harbored growing populations of largemouth bass. These environs were ideal for spinnerbaits, as the cover was widespread, so horizontal presentations excelled, and only a spinnerbait could pass through the Woody mazes without excessive snags.
"Once much of the wood rotted and disappeared, bass generally shifted deeper and anglers began turning to other tactics, relegating spinnerbaits to spring and fall. During the past several years, however, reservoirs like Table Rock and Bull Shoals have brimmed with water, flooding acres of timber once again, and the spinnerbait has undergone a renaissance."
Repeat Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam has been given free reign by Strike King's executives to help design lures. The new Burner, Baby Burner, and Scorcher can be worked fast as their names suggest. VanDam has a penchant for covering water fast, though he knows when to bear down on an area, as evidenced by his win in Louisiana, where he fished among a crowd; in a small pocket.
These spinnerbaits feature a compact but hefty minnow-shaped head and a pair of Strike King's new Raz-R-Blade High RPM blades, lowleaves, but narrower and thinner for fast rotation. This design keeps the bait down in the productive zone during fast retrieves, as this blade reduces drag, compared to others. A fourth new design, the Bottom Dweller, is for deep structure, keeping its balance when worked across jagged bottom terrain.
Several years ago, the pro concocted the "sexy shad" coloration that has put the market on its ear. This hue, with a mix of chartreuse, gray, and white, has been offered in new spinnerbaits that bear VanDam's mark. He notes that such natural colors work well in the clearer water found today in many systems, due to vegetation and filter-feeding by exotic mussels.
Rick Clunn, a crankbait expert, also favors spinnerbaits in some shallow situations. He brought his experience to the design of the Trickster for Luck "E" Strike, meant for waking on the surface. "They key to a waking retrieve," Clunn says, is to reel fast enough so the blades wake water behind it, but don't break the surface. The lure must be balanced to match the pull of the blade and the weight of the head. If the blade's too large, it overpowers the head and it turns on it side."
The Trickster has a "drop" blade, a cross between an Indiana and a willowleaf, and it weighs 3/4 ounce to maintain stability and avoid breaking the surface. "It's deadly in clear water," Clunn adds, "particularly from mid-spring into early summer, and again in fall."
In 2003, Strikezone Lures rewrote the spinnerbait book with their 2- and 2 1/2-ounce Gorilla, built for deep ledge fishing and fast current. Since then, they've devised a number of new models, including the V-Blade with a severely notched blade to create an off beat underwater vibration and shimmering flash, and the Ghost Blade spinnerbait with a lexan main blade that cuts flash, for ultraclear waters or calm conditions when standard offerings are too gaudy. Latest is the Master Blaster, with smaller profile thanks to a head that's built onto the hook shank. It's adorned with serrated willowleaf blades of hammered metal for maximum flash.
In a retro move that emulates the earliest progenitor of the modern spinnerbait, the Shannon Twinspin, Talon Custom Lures unveiled the Shibui Twin Spin Spinnerbait late last year. With a pair of small Colorado or willowleaf blades, it can be used as a drop bait to fish along bridge pilings and standing timber, or crawled over roadbeds or deep points. Three sizes (3/8-, 1/2-, and 3/4-ounce) match any depth. Rapala's Mark Fisher reports that Terminator adds the titanium T-1 Twin Spin, with paired SnapBack wire arms bearing Oklahoma blades. A QuickSkirt silicone skirt and a VMC Needle Point Hook finish the package. This design is revered for slow-rolling weedy flats in fall.
Terminator also adds a T-1 Thump'r, with an Oklahoma Thump'r Hydro Flow Blade, with slice in the blade to alter vibration. This large blade creates considerable thump, while a heavy, curved head hugs bottom on slow retrieves. It also works as a drop bait in vertical cover.
Lonnie Stanley and John Hale of Stanley Jigs combined two unique designs into the Vibra-Wedge Spinnerbait. Vibrashaft Wire allows blades to vibrate freely, as it tapers from .041 inch at the leadhead to .025 inch at the blade attachment. Wedge Blades taper from the swivel attachment to the tip where additional weight increases thump.
French designer and world-travelling angler Patrick Sebile devised the unique Pro-Shad Spinnerbait for his Sebile brand, recently purchased by Pure Fishing. It features shad-shaped blades on an overhead arm that's hinged to run straight and for easy hookups. The Finesse Model has 2 blades while the Trophy Model has a single blade and weighs 1 or 1 3/8 ounce.
Uncle Josh's ingenious Bump-n-Run series includes a Spinnerbait that can be easily adjusted to run to the left or right, to bang into docks, seawalls, or barges, triggering strikes with sound and altered cadence. Damiki, a South Korean company that began importing finely crafted tackle in 2008, offers the Gladiator, a compact design with baitfish colored skirts and trailing strands of red to act as a teaser and a wide-gap Viper hook.
No single spinnerbait works in all conditions. As with softbaits or cranks, consider the capabilities of each model, taking into account visual and vibration factors produced by each its components. If they're right for KVD, you might want to find a permanent place for this versatile lure category.
RELATED ARTICLE: BLADED Jigs
* Safety-pin spinnerbaits represent but one form of bladed bait. In-line spinners and bladed jigs, with a blade set below the leadhead, are alternative designs that are deadly in some situations. True bladebaits, such as the Silver Buddy, Zip Lure, and Heddon Sonar, have a special niche for deep structure fishing and vertical jigging. The most recent bladed lure is epitomized by the Chatterbait, brought to market about 8 years ago by Ron Davis under the Rad Lures label.
A blade set ahead of a jighead creates a wild shimmying action. While a few successes were realized with this design, it remained generally under the radar until North Carolina pro Bryan Thrift won a FLW Stren Series tournament on Lake Okeechobee with a Chatterbait. Suddenly it became hot, and similar designs appeared. Its place in the bass angler's arsenal was cemented when Brett Hite of California won consecutive FLW Tour events on the Phenix Vibrator Jig, a bait in this category. Highlighting its versatility, the events were in Florida and California.
Chatterbaits and their kin have proved effective during the Prespawn Period. They pass easily through vegetation, the blade seemingly pushing stalks aside or chopping thinner stuff. They also excel in fall when a shallow bite again dominates, associated with vegetation in some waters.
Expert blade tossers are divided on the best line type to use, but most prefer braided or fused superfine, especially for bladed jigs. This presentation often involves big fish in thick vegetation, which begs for a take-no-prisoners attitude. Moreover, snapping a blade with braided line frees it from the thickest clump or throws off clinging stalks.
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2011|
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