Spinnerbait bass fishing

Are Spinnerbaits Dead? Part 1

Fishing Lures
Bass Fishing Spinnerbaits

Are Spinnerbaits dead? That's the informal but long-contemplated question posed to a bass fishing panel of eight men, including living legends like Gary Klein, Ken Cook, and Kevin VanDam. B.A.S.S. photographer James Overstreet, who has tracked bass fishing trends nearly every week for the past six years with his Canon lens, was also surveyed.

Overstreet, in his always sincere and beloved Little Rock drawl, provided the most insightful proof of cause for contemplation regarding the current health status of spinnerbaits. "Dude, you'd have better luck trying to find Sasquatch than finding a recent event where a spinnerbait was the primary lure used to win an Elite Series tournament," said Overstreet, an avid hunter and angler in his own right.

Overstreet's response was classically hilarious, but equally sad is the fact that a category of lures that once won Bassmaster Classics frequently 20 years ago and carried a "don't leave home without it" dependency throughout the 1980s and 1990s has seemingly fallen so far out of fashion in recent years. Overstreet commented that you'd be hard-pressed to spot a spinnerbait lying on most Elite pro's front decks at morning blast-off. Ultimately, the panel of experts had to scratch their heads to the point of debate to cite a recent spinnerbait-dominated win.

Bass Fishing Spinnerbaits
Ken Cook and what remains of his 1991 Classic winning spinnerbaits.

Perhaps the best answer from the expert panelist regarding the blade bait's most recent memorable week of stardom came from Elite Series pro and BoatUS Angler member Marty Robinson, who cited VanDam's win during the shad spawn on Lake Guntersville five years ago as the most recent win to involve a spinnerbait heavily. Still, that was five years ago, and KVD's win involved a crankbait, too.

Panelist Mike McClelland provided a hard-to-argue explanation as to why the Bassmaster Elite Series trail has been void of a spinnerbait presence for a long time. "I think a lot of it has to do with our Elite Series schedule involving a ton of clear water fisheries like Amistad, Smith Mountain, and Clear Lake, where swimbaits and other lures are typically more effective than spinnerbaits, " said McClelland, who once claimed two Bassmaster Invitational victories just weeks apart 14 years ago in the off colored waters of the Arkansas River and then Ross Barnett. A spinnerbait was used as the primary lure for both of McClelland's wins.

"I can tell you this …War Eagle still sells as many spinnerbaits as possible," said McClelland. "Maybe it's a generational thing," he pondered. "My son didn't think it was possible to catch so many fish on a spinnerbait until he and I wore 'em out with War Eagles at Grand Lake (Okla.) one day last November," concluded McClelland, who typically throws his spinnerbaits with a 6.6:1 gear ratio Quantum Smoke reel spooled with 20-pound Sunline fluorocarbon line.

Bass Fishing Spinnerbaits
Gary Klein

Gary Klein says spinnerbaits aren't the lead car on the fashion train these days, but like all lures, they are tools and undoubtedly not dead forever. "I always tell folks in my seminars that lures are just tools and that most of the time, there's more than just one tool that could have caught a particular bass," said Klein. "There's no doubt that spinnerbaits are still fantastic tools. They're just being passed over by trendier squarebills and swimbaits right now," explained Klein.

Ken Cook, who many regard as one of the greatest spinnerbait anglers ever, backed by his willowleaf spinnerbait driven 1991 Bassmaster Classic victory, offers great perspective, "Apparently, they're not dead yet," grinned Cook a few days ago. "I whacked 'em with a spinnerbait last week at Lake Ellsworth," said the Bass Fishing Hall of Famer about the relatively small 5,600 surface acre lake near his Tarbone Ranch home not far from Lawton, Oklahoma. The retired legend isn't one bit concerned with big bodies of water or where he sits in the final-day standings anymore. He just wants to catch bass. And for Cook, a spinnerbait still works very well.

No, spinnerbaits aren't nearly as en vogue as they once were along bass fishing's most high-profile tournament trail. But to pronounce them dead would be dangerously inaccurate.

(Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part article on the perceived near disappearance of spinnerbaits along the Bassmaster Elite Series trail. In part 2 of this story, we’ll talk closely with bass fishing’s most dominant angler – who ironically, is still perhaps the biggest current proponent of pro bass fishing’s seemingly Sasquatch-like category of lures.)