Basic Facts About Spinnerbaits

Info on Sizes, Weights, Blade Styles, and Action

A spinnerbait is particularly effective for largemouth bass, but in different sizes it also catches other freshwater species. Photo © Ken Schultz

Spinnerbaits are lures that feature one, two, or more spinner blades on an overhead shaft, combined with a lower shaft that has a lead weight and hook covered by a rubber-tentacled skirt. Primarily cast, spinnerbaits are retrieved so that the blades and upper arm run vertically above the bottom part of the lure. They are different from in-line spinners, which feature a spinning blade on a single shaft, though they are often lumped into the same category. In-line spinners come in a greater variety than spinnerbaits and are used for many more species of freshwater fish. 

Spinnerbaits are popular bass fishing lures, especially for shallow-water angling, but can be used in deeper water and for a few other freshwater species besides bass. They are relatively easy to fish, and fairly weed- and tangle-free when retrieved around cover and obstructions. Although their appearance is unlike natural forage, their flash and vibration draw strikes.


Spinnerbaits are available in a range of sizes from micro to maxi models. The largest ones, from 1 to 2 ounces, are used for northern pike and muskie fishing, and sport two large blades, a big skirt, and often a large soft-plastic trailer on the hook. One-quarter- to ⅝-ounce models are typical for bass, pickerel, ​and small pike, in varying blade and skirt-trailer combinations.

The lightest spinnerbaits, in 1/16- to 3/16-ounce sizes, are used with light or thin-diameter line and light spinning tackle, primarily for bluegills and crappie, but also for smaller specimens of largemouth and smallmouth bass, plus white bass. Small spinnerbaits usually feature a single blade on the overhead shaft and a soft grub-shaped body rather than a multi-tentacled skirt. For the most part, these are fished in shallow areas and near the surface.


In large part, the weight of a spinnerbait is determined by the size of the head on the lower shaft. This is essentially a lead jig head and is usually forward-tapered to facilitate passage through the water and around obstructions. On small spinnerbaits, that head may be rounded, like a ball-head jig, but for most bass models, it is shaped more like a cone or bullet. Some heads may be turned up slightly to resist diving and enhance upward or shallow movement, especially on a fast retrieve.

Blade Styles and Function

Spinnerbaits principally feature Colorado, Indiana, and willowleaf design blades, or hybrid versions of these basic styles. The Colorado is between round and pear shaped and is generally believed to produce the most vibration, although this is a function of how much it is cupped. The more cupping there is to the blade, the greater the vibration. The common size is No. 4, which is roughly the size of a quarter, but the range is from No. 2 to the magnum No. 8. Colorado blades are often found on single-blade spinnerbaits. They are good for slow retrieves, murky water, and dark conditions. A small Colorado may precede a larger willowleaf blade on a tandem spinnerbait.

Indiana blades are teardrop-shaped and produce good vibration, too, though they spin faster, and work well on tandem-blade lures. They, too, are used in combination with other blade types, either in front of a willowleaf or behind a Colorado. Willowleaf blades are shaped as the name implies and come to a sharply tapered tail point. These long blades are mainly used on a tandem rig with a big No. 4 or 5 willowleaf, usually in silver or copper, behind a smaller Indiana blade; however, willowleaf blades can be used in tandem, or as a single, and are preferred in the magnum sizes (up to No. 8) for big fish. The willowleaf doesn’t offer as much vibration as other blade styles, but it revolves freely and produces a lot of flash. It is an attention getter, especially when hammered or fluted or spiced with light-bouncing colors.

The style or combination of blades to use may be a reflection of where and how you fish. Tandem-blade spinnerbaits are generally meant for speedy retrieval. A twin willowleaf combination is the best for quick retrieving, and a willowleaf-Colorado combination is for more intermediate retrieval. To get a slow retrieve, especially in shallow water, you need a blade that grabs a lot of water and spins well. This might be a Colorado combination, or more likely a single Colorado blade, perhaps of large size.

Although some anglers use tandem blades for deep fishing, this lure’s effectiveness there is primarily when being retrieved rather than when falling, because the blades usually get tangled on the drop and don’t rotate. Try spinnerbaits that produce more vibration when the water is turbid or when it is cold, and spinnerbaits that produce more flash when the water is clear or when it is warm.

Change the Action

Spinnerbaits can be used in moderately deep water, but are primarily employed for shallow fishing. After catching and unhooking fish, one or both of the shafts can get bent, which will cause the lure to spin or lay on its side when retrieved, making it ineffective. Judicious tweaking of the shaft can usually get the lure running vertically again.

Finally, don’t make the mistake of retrieving a spinnerbait constantly on a steady retrieve. Mix it up by pausing the lure for a second, giving a short jerk to the rod to pulse the lure forward, or lifting and dropping it in deeper water. Allow it to bump or slow-roll over objects. A slight change in action is often the ticket to getting a strike.