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Livebait Rigging with Spinners, There’s Differences By Gary Howey

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

August 2, 2018

  Livebait rigging, bottom bouncers and spinners is effective bait anytime of the year and does not take long for an angler to learn and to master them. 

  It is one of those rigs that pretty much fish themselves, where all you need to do is to lower the rig down  to the bottom, put the rod in the rod holder and wait for the rod to bend, indicating you have a fish on.

  Bottom bouncing with spinners or other live bait rigs is very simple.

  The bouncer is an inverted “L” shaped piece of bent-wire with a weight attached about halfway down the longer of the two wires.

  This weight on the rig allows the bouncer and spinner to get down on or just off the bottom, where the fish are located and if used correctly will stand up and work its way through all the rocks and snags, with the spinner following close behind.  The spinner creates a vibration and the flash, which attracts the fish as it, works up off the bottom through the structure, the rock and rubble, areas where the fish will be holding.

  Where the two wires twist, forming a circle, is where you attach the snap tied to your line, there is also a snap on the shorter top wire, which is where your spinner attaches.

  The key to using this set up correctly is to keep a tight line, fishing vertically, allowing the rig to stand up and to work its way along the bottom, with the longer weighted bottom wire keeping the spinner up above many of the snags. If you are not fishing vertically and have too much line out, the bouncer will drag and more than likely become snagged.

  I found that when fishing bottom bouncer in the Glacial Lakes , Missouri River reservoirs,  Lewis & Clark Lake, Lake Francis Case, Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe, that the bottom bouncers most often used are those in the one to two ounce range.  There are heavier ones, but I have never had to use them in the depths of the Glacial Lakes of South Dakota, Minnesota, the reservoirs and the rivers that I fish.

  A good general rule to follow for using bottom bouncers when trolled from speeds of one to two miles per hour is to use a one-ounce bottom bouncer when fishing shallower depths, those from ten to fifteen-foot deep.  If you fish water that is fifteen to twenty-five foot in depth, you will want to go with a one and a half ounce bouncer and when fishing deeper than that, to go with a larger, a two-ounce size bottom bouncer.

    Another thing I learned when fishing bottom bouncers is that its stiff wire helps me to feel the

bottom changes, where it goes from soft or hard bottom to rocks or other structure as it works its way into and through it, I can feel the vibration or change the bouncer  through my rod.

  Now that we have a good idea as to what a bottom bouncer is, let’s talk about spinner blades and spinner rigs.

  Spinner blades come in numerous shapes and sizes with each style of blades performing differently under different fishing conditions.

  You will find most metal blades stamped from brass; those plated or have a painted finish one the top while others are Mylar plastic.

  Their flashy side and vibration of a spinner helps draw the fish in, and once a fish moves up and directly behind it , closing in on your bait, the flash and vibration become less of an attraction as the fish has seen and zeroed onto the bait, the hook and the its movement.

  Which spinner blade you use has a lot to do with where you are fishing, the clarity of the water, how deep you will be fishing and the speed you drift or troll.

  Some spinner rigs, those rigged with the smaller metal blades will not work well or spin when fishing at slower speeds,  less than one mile per hour. The smaller blades like many of the other blades work best when trolled at around one and a half miles per hour and faster.

  Each spinner rig is somewhat different depending on its size, the style of the blade, their color, the way they are painted, the different size beads, as well as the number of beads used on the rig and their different colors. This along with the line test used on the spinner rig, how many hooks are on the rig,  all may making a big difference from one day to the next  when it comes to catching fish.

  The attractor on spinner rigs is the blade, which performs best when fished at a certain speeds and depth.

  Spinner lengths may vary depending on how clear the water you fish,  running from about forty-eight inches long to seventy-two inches long, as anglers fishing clearer water prefer the longer snells.

   There is a lot of discussion out there when it comes to blade or bait color, I believe the best color to use is generally the color of the spinner or bait you use the most.  That color of spinner or bait is on your line and in the water the most, it is a bait you have used to catch fish, unlike many of those other colored spinners and baits you have in your tackle bag or tackle box.

  As I have mentioned before, if I have a choice between a solid color spinner or bait and a multi colored spinner such as the Firetiger, I am going to go with Firetiger. Firetiger has numerous colors on the blade not just one and any one of those colors might be the color that the walleyes want that day. 

  By using a multi-colored spinners or bait, you have it in the water longer and do not have to waste time attaching and retying baits.

   Listed below are several spinner blade variations available to the angler, information I have learned over the years about the spinners and some I have used when fishing different bodies of water, water of different clarities and other fishing situations.

Smile Blade Spinners

  Unlike the metal spinners, Mack’s Lure Smile Blade spinners are not metal, but constructed from a Mylar plastic allowing the angler to change the Smile Blade action by simply squeezing or flattening the blade.

  If you want to make the Smile Blade Spinner rotate slower, flatten the blade and to have it rotate faster, all you need to do is to pinch the blade down.

  This blade works at all speeds and can be trolled or drifted down to one-quarter mile per hour, as the these blades spin at much slower speeds than the metal blades.

  Where this blade really stands out is when fish are not aggressive, how you present the bait where the spinner still has action and catches those non-aggressive fish.

  These blades are available in four patterns, thirty-six colors, available in six sizes, allowing the angler to fish the Smile Blade spinners in all fishing conditions baited with minnows, night crawlers and leeches.

  They come in two leader lengths, the longer seventy -two inch leader, tied with either twelve and fourteen-pound test, longer leaders work well when fishing clearer water conditions where you want your bait farther away from your bottom bouncer and when and if fishing conditions change your leader  length can be shortened.

Professional angler Ted Takasaki, Sioux Falls, South Dakota with two of the three- man walleye limit caught when he, Team Member Larry Myhre, Sioux City, Iowa and the author fished Lake Francis Case using the Mack’s Lure Smile Blade spinners Slow Death Rig. (Larry Myhre Photo)

  Their shorter rigs such as the Slow Death Spinner Rig comes with the shorter  forty-eight inch leader and number two Slow Death hooks when you want your hooks closer to  the blade.

 Larger Bladed Spinners

  You will find that the larger spinners, those rigged with the larger, number four Colorado spinner blades rigged with larger hooks are open water spinners, used when fishing the larger, deeper lakes, or those whose waters are dirtier, more turbid.  They also will work well when fishing deeper clearer water conditions.

  Built to draw fish to the bait in the larger open water areas where you find walleyes suspended in huge schools. These suspended walleyes are located in waters, such as those of Lake Erie and where the average walleye, those suspended fish are bigger than those you catch on and around structure.

  These larger blades, because of their size, vibrate and flash more and work best when trolled quickly, around two-miles per hour.

Colorado Blades

  The Colorado blade is as close to being round as any of the spinners and spins best at slower speeds than an Indiana blade would. Its larger blade has a deeper cup and moves a bunch of water, with its vibration helping walleyes to detect the bait using their lateral line. The Colorado blades spin slower than some other blades. Because of the vibration given off by the blade, they work well when fishing muddy water or in cooler water temperatures. This blade is highly visible when its coming straight at a walleye, but the fish will not be able to see it as well when it is running off to their side. This blade runs the highest in the water and produces the most vibration.

Indiana Blades

  The Indiana blade is narrower than a Colorado blade, a raindrop shaped bait with more flash and less vibration than a Colorado blade, working well when fishing at mid range depth levels. The Indiana blade would be right in between the round, slower Colorado’s and faster Willow Leaf blades as far as flash and vibration. They work well when fishing in river current and when trolling or drifting slower. If a Colorado blade is coming in the direction of a fish, this blade should be easier for a fish to locate because of its shape, but when coming in along the side may not be as easy for the fish to see.

Willow Leaf Blades

  Used quite often in larger bodies of water, the willow leaf blades are narrow and elongated giving off very little vibration while the blade gives off a lot of flash and are a good choice for cleaner water conditions while trolling at higher speeds, two-miles per hour or faster . Because of their elongated size, they have the least drag of the metal spinners, are the deepest running of all of the metal spinners, spinning quicker, creating less vibration and sound in the water.

  They also work well when fishing in weedy conditions as their longer narrower blade and the way it spins kick the weeds away from the spinner. If this spinner is coming straight at a fish, its blade may be hard to see, but when the spinner is running off to the side of the fish, would be easier for the fish to see. The willow blade is a much more natural shape to the fish and may look more natural, resembling a baitfish.

  As you can see, there is quite a difference in spinner’s shapes, their sizes, how they are fished, at which speed each spinner performs the best and under what fishing conditions they work the best. 

  By matching your bottom bouncer, spinner rig to the water you plan on fishing and the speed you will be trolling or drifting it can help the fish to locate your bait quicker and increase the number of fish you catch.


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