I have to be very honest. Yes, they do work, but not all the time and not for all fishermen. Do I use them? Yes. Have I always used them? Well…kind of. In fact, even though I have been fishing northern Minnesota since 1981, I never had the desire or the need to put on a spinner to catch a walleye up here even though I had used them on Mille Lacs as a kid growing up. Did they work? You bet they did, especially when we drifted the flats in mid-summer. When our rigging fishing went flat, our main presentation turned to a spinner/crawler combo which worked very well.
That said, I was still not that enamored with the spinner bling at that time, even though they caught fish. When I moved north I fell in love with jigging and forgot about the spinners. I would jig in the spring, run a rig, or a shad rap in the summer and then I was back to jigging in late summer and fall. That’s all I needed.
Even though now and then a client or two would put on a spinner and maybe even catch a fish, I would just downplay it and hope they would go back to what I was doing. Deep down I was hoping I would not have to go back to the bling of my younger days.
Then about three years ago…it happened. We were guiding a pretty big group trip and at the end of the day some of the guides came in with a nice limit of walleyes while I had not done all that well. If you have ever fished with a group of fishermen and your boat didn’t do well you know the ridicule and it’s never good.
I learned right there I wasn’t going to let that happen again when the right situation come up; I have been working the spinner presentation ever since. Here are a few things I would like to share that I have learned over the last couple years.
First, I only run the spinners in the summer months when the water warms and the fish are scattered around weedlines and flats and chasing moving baitfish. The fish I target with spinners are usually in the shallower water, anywhere from 5-15 ft. As I am cruising these flats running spinners, I watch my graph for little pods of fish. When I find some and they are active I will keep running over that area from 50-150 yards and then go back over them until I run out of biters. Then I just keep cruising until I find another pod and do the same thing.
When running spinners, I like to keep my speed from .8-1.3, that way I’ll cover a lot of ground and the spinner will run just right. I normally use a bullet sinker with my spinner because I am usually in or around the weeds. The bullet sinker does a surprisingly good job of going through the weeds with very little fouling. When I am in water between 5-10 feet, I use a 1/8 oz. bullet sinker and when I go deeper into the 10-15 feet I will move up to a ¼ oz. to get down to the bottom. Sometimes if I need just a bit more weight I will add a small split shot to drop it to the desired depth.
As for spinners themselves, everybody has their favorites and a lot of people tie their own. I like the holographic baitfish image spinner from Northland Tackle. It uses 14 lb test xt line with a 60-inch long leader, which works well for me. I like the shiner and the perch colored ones. I also use the live forage spinner and the hammered gold spinner from Northland; they all work well at different times. As for what to tip them with, I use a minnow, a leech or a piece of a crawler. I never use a whole crawler. It’s harder to hook the fish and a waste of money.
Basically, that’s all you need to know to run spinners effectively. Once you try them you will find they are a lot of fun. Given the success I have had of late using spinners, I wonder why I bucked this presentation for so long. Additionally, one of the coolest things I found out about using spinners is that you will catch all kinds of fish; northerns, perch, and even panfish bite them.
So, if you’re out fishing this summer and things aren’t going well using traditional rigs, jigs, or crank baits, tie on a spinner with a bullet weight and start cruising some flats and see what happens.
Good luck fishing
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Charlie Worrath talks early season walleye for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
Jason Boser appearing on an episode for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
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