Like most fishermen my age I originally learned about spinnerbaits fishing for largemouth bass with my Dad. My classroom was the back of an aluminum rental boat drifting the brush flats and rocky points of Irvine Lake in Orange County and Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara. Both lakes were renowned southern California bass fisheries in the 1960's and 70's. Later I refined my techniques from the business end of a bass boat tournament fishing in the waters of the mid west for Smallmouth bass and Muskie.
In the last 30 years I have managed to refine my spinnerbait technique quite a bit. I now do most of my fishing from a kayak but the target fish is still a bass albeit a distant saltwater cousin, the Spotted Bay bass. The proving grounds are now Newport Harbor, the LA Breakwall and Mission Bay. Most of the large harbors of Southern California's coast are filled with hungry bass that are just waiting to try this tasty treat.
Keep your tackle choices simple
I fish a 7' IM7 graphite baitcasting rod, nothing fancy $59.95 retail. The rod is rated 12-20# test and has an 11" cork butt with a trigger grip and 4" cork fore grip. It's built with 1 foot Fugi SIC guides. I use an inexpensive Daiwa, low profile baitcasting reel. Basically the same setup you would use to throw spinnerbaits for largemouth bass maybe a little heavier.
Spotted bass have very sharp teeth and side plates on their heads. With a spinnerbait you don't have to worry about the teeth but you do have to worry about their head platting. Spots have a tendency to trash and roll on the bait. For this reason the money you spend on line is more important than any other expenditure. I use 10# or 12#P-line. I like its overall characteristics, stretch, knot strength, visibility and its tuff! Sometimes if I am going outside to fish breakers or kelp beds for Calicos I will step up to 15# test. Other good lines i've tried include Stren, Trilene XT and the new Cuda line.
Check your line and Re-Tie your spinnerbaits often! I can not stress this enough. At $6 a pop for quality spinnerbaits one mistake is to many.
For bait colors, I choose the basics. In most cases it's a chart / white 1/2oz. with a small gold colorado and a #5 willow or indiana / willow blade combo. I also carry natural Shad for clear water and a Fire Tiger color for stained water and overcast days. Black/red and Purple/blue are good night colors. When fishing the bays the average casting distance is short so I find the 1/2 oz. works in most all situations but I do carry a few 3/4oz. just in case the current is faster and a few 1 oz. models for fishing deep structure.
A few basic tips to catch more fish:
Being a tournament fisherman I am constantly looking for a new edge or technique. And like most serious kayak anglers I try most of the new techniques mentioned on the discussion boards and other kayak publications. But, like the Highlander, I am never far from my blade. For those of you who are new to spinnerbait fishing I have included a few important and easy to remember tactics to catch more Spinnerbait fish in the bays.
If you are tossing into rock piles and shallow structure such as docks and weeds beds the bass will often times slam the bait within moments of it hitting the water. This is due to their predatory instincts and defense mechanisms. For this reason I try to have my reel engaged the moment the bait hits its target. There is nothing more frustrating than missing an opportunity to set the hook cleanly because of a birds nest or too much slack.
A gentle arch cast will put enough slack into my cast to give me the depth I am looking for. So with this in mind I engage my reel just after the spinnerbait starts its decent. Then, hopefully, when it gently plops into the water next to the dock or rock pile I just count it down quickly 1,2,3 . . and start my retrieve. Practice this method and you will eliminate most of the small overcast bird's nests that plague even the most skilled kayak spinnerbait fishermen.
Make an accurate cast the first time and don't be afraid to bump the rocks and momentarily kill the bait. You can let it fall all the way to the bottom and then burn it back to the kayak.
Fishing visible structure: empty docks, pilings, etc.
When possible cast your bait up under the docks or piers and always parallel to the docks. Cast as far back as possible into the shallow water and work your way out. If you're not getting bit try letting the bait sink on the cast and dead stick it for a few moments then a few twitch movements and then burn it back. This method just may aggravate the fish into striking.
Be sure to hit both sides of all pilings, rocks and any visible structure breaks. (Hit the shadow side first if possible)
Fishing the eelgrass beds and deep cover
Spotted Bass Love eelgrass! It affords them the three most important elements, Cover from the sun, Protection from the elements and other predictors and an abundance of food. I have found that the best eelgrass beds are those in about 6' of water. I also find that this area is better on the incoming tide. This depth leaves about 4' of water over the eelgrass. The fish are coming into the area with a new attitude with the sole purpose of feeding.
Cast your spinnerbait into the shallower area and pull it out towards the deep area. Let it get right into the grass. A twitch and a couple of cranks on the handle and your bait will be sliding through the eelgrass with an enticing vibration and a "Bite Me" attitude
Don't get discouraged if you don't get bit quickly just keep at it, the fish are there.
Hint; wear a pair of Polaroid glasses to take the sun's glare off the water. This will allow you to keep better track of your baits.
Fishing Deep cover for your Kicker Fish
I have picked up some very nice fish in deep cover situations. If you have metered deep cover such as a rock pile this is a prime spot for a Big Grump to kick your limit into the top 5 positions. Usually areas like this will hold only a couple fish but their size is usually bigger. Position your kayak so you can cast past the structure up current and let your spinnerbait get deep enough before starting your slow steady retrieve.
Make a long cast and count your spinnerbait down. This is where the heavier model comes in handy. Work your spinnerbait using a lift and drop action. It is best if you can drag bottom or at least bump the structure. Be Careful here; two things can happen and one will cost you a good lure. The other will raise your blood pressure slightly, but only until she's in the net. I've lost a few good baits with this technique but I've landed more than enough real nice fish to make up for the lose.
Spinnerbaits also work quite well on sandbass. For this reason I will also cast into areas that hold moored sailboats and areas where the bay splits into two directions. Sandbass will hold tight to the bottom so try a long cast and keep bottom contact with a lift and pull type action.
Remember, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a fish and structure. When in doubt set the hook, swings are free.
Learning to fish a spinnerbait effectively is not hard, it only sounds like it. Practice is all it takes to become a proficient spinnerbait fisherman. There are a number of good spinnerbait articles available on the internet. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it helps you catch and land more fish. If I can be of further assistance just make a post on the FKPFishing site discussion board and I'll be sure to answer, or send me an e-mail.
Be safe and good fishin'
Short Note from Heidi: We have a great selection of SOB Mini-Me spinnerbaits please visit our page of baits.