A Seasonal Guide to Spinning Tackle
article by Kenny Covington
When I won my very first bass tournament on Cheniere Lake in 1983, I did so by using a spinning rod and reel combination to flip and pitch around the numerous Cypress trees the lake is famous for. My underhand pitches, with the small 6-inch snake worm, an 1/8-ounce sinker and 3/0 Tru-Turn hook, were something I had done for a few years and over time had become very precise and efficient with that presentation. A silent and deadly way to present a lure that conventional flipping and pitching wouldn’t allow for, is the advantage of using a spinning rod.
Back then and surprisingly, even today a lot of the older bass fishermen consider using spinning tackle as a step below normal when it comes to catching bass. I am not one of them. I always have at least two spinning rods in my rod box at all times because I have seen times when these set-ups can be to the angler’s advantage. In this month’s article I want to give you some personal tips and a seasonal guide to help you become better at using spinning tackle.
One of the more common complaints I hear from anglers is their lack of confidence in throwing lures of any size with this particular rod and reel set up. My response has always been the same, “Have you taken the time to learn how to use a spinning rod?” The answer is usually, “No.” Like anything else in this great sport, you have to experiment in order to learn the “how’s” and “why’s” as well as the ins and outs as to why something is effective. Take the time to learn how to use this equipment, I assure you that you will become a much better angler.
First, let’s start off with the rod itself. What kind of rod do you need? While there are several brands to choose from, no matter who makes it, I prefer a 6’6 and a 7-foot medium action version. These rods will handle any technique I choose to incorporate when using spinning equipment. To make things easier on myself, I put the same sized spinning reel on both rods. This allows the transition from one rod to the other to be much easier due to the similar weight factor. On the 6’6 rod I use a 6/20 braided line and an 8/30 braid on the 7-foot version. I rarely use monofilament and I never use fluorocarbon. The reason? I haven’t seen where using the braided line costs me a number of bites, no matter how clear the body of water I am fishing.
So now that we have our spinning rods set up, what lures do we want to throw on them? I will break the lure selection down by taking a seasonal approach to make things easier. The idea behind the spinning outfit is to use lures that you might not be able to effectively throw on standard baitcasting tackle. Wind is usually the biggest factor for this but you just might be surprised at how many fish you catch when the normal way of doing things isn’t working.
In the spring time when bass move shallow to spawn, a couple of baits really shine on spinning tackle. The first one is a floating Rapala. Due to its light weight, the Rapala can be hard to throw and control on standard baitcasting equipment. A spinning rod makes it much easier to throw and also present the bait properly. At times the Rapala, with its more subtle approach, will out fish the ever-popular Smithwick Rogue.
The second spring time lure of choice for spinning tackle is the floating worm. When rigged on a spinning rod the floating worm can be skipped under limbs, docks or any other overhanging cover that will protect shallow bass that would rarely see a lure otherwise. Remember, you are using braided line so you can handle even the biggest of bass in the nastiest of places. That is another advantage to this type of fishing.
In the summer months I like to use Zoom Flukes and other soft plastic stick baits. Once again, the ability to skip these lures in tight places will reward you with fish you normally wouldn’t catch. Another great lure to use this time of year are the smaller hollow bellied frogs made by Spro or other small topwater lures such as a Heddon Tiny Torpedo. These techniques are often overlooked and can produce even when shallow water bass are at their finickiest.
During the fall I have found that a spinning rod is my best choice when throwing small crappie style crankbaits. One important aspect of fishing braid on a spinning rod is to learn the drag adjustments needed for the technique you are using. When throwing the smaller crankbaits I want the drag to slip easily when I hook into a fish. Remember braid doesn’t have the stretch of regular line so you want the rods action to penetrate the hook for you, this results in fewer lost fish.
In the wintertime I like to throw a spider grub or finesse jig on my spinning rod but only when I am fishing areas that don’t have a lot of wood cover. One of the drawbacks to using braid is it tends to cause more hang-ups when fishing areas where wood cover is in abundance. Another technique that works well in the wintertime, even though it does take a lot of practice, is skipping jigs and Senkos under boat docks. This presentation will allow you to target fish that rarely get pressured.
No matter the time of year, most of the fishermen who specialize in finesse tactics for bass will be equipped with numerous spinning outfits. Drop shots, small Carolina rigs, shaky heads, Ned rigs or whatever the finesse presentation you can think of, are more effectively fished using spinning tackle. The younger generation of anglers, the video kids as they are commonly referred, are excellent at reading their electronics and using these finesse tactics to catch bass.
What about flipping small creature baits and worms? Or maybe throwing small spinnerbaits and ¼ ounce Rat L Traps to schooling fish? Or sight fishing for bedding bass? As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Spinning tackle is an excellent way to scale down your favorite bass fishing presentations and give the bass a different look the next time you are on the water. Oh, in case you are wondering, it’s a great way to catch big bass as well.
But first, as we mentioned earlier, you must become comfortable using this equipment. Go to a pond or a small body of water where you can take the time to get a feel for the rod in your hand. Catch a fish and learn what the bites feel like. Learn how to set the hook and control the drag system. All of these things are vital parts of fishing with a spinning rod. I promise, once you learn it, you will be glad you did!