How to Fish with Spinner Lures

Go to any shop designed with the outdoors in mind and you’re likely to find yourself in a sea of multicolored fishing products. These days, there’s a staggering array of sparkly toys designed to be more attractive to the eyes of shoppers than they are to fish. Sorting through the nonsense and getting down to what works isn’t always easy, but it pays to find a reliable lure that you can take out again and again. So what’s the best way to pick out a lure? 

The answer is, know what you’re looking at. A lot of reviewers will swear up and down that their choices are the be all and end all of lures. Plenty of advertisers try and shove their products down your throat as if you’re a hungry bass. The truth is, not one lure works in every situation and what works in one lake might not work on the same fish upstream. Becoming educated is the only way to sort through the baloney and pinpoint what’s going to work for the fish you want on the line.

In this article, we’ll talk about spinning lures, or spinners. They’re just one type of lure, but they come in many shapes and sizes for different conditions. When we’re done, you’ll be able to identify a spinner, tell the difference between a spinner and similar lures, pick out the best spinners for yourself, and know how to rig one. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the wide world of spinner lures.

What is a Fishing Spinner?

Before you can successfully pick out the best spinner for your purposes, you first need to identify one. Put simply, a spinner is an oblong disc, commonly made of shiny metal. (There are some plastics on the market, but they don’t produce quite the same sound as the metal version.) The disc is bent to a slight curve in the center and is attached to the line via a small hole in one end. Because it’s secured at only one point, it’s free to spin and vibrate, and get lots of attention from gamefish. Spoon lures sometimes look similar to spinners, but are usually secured at two points and move differently in the water. 

Spinners are often combined with weights, live bait, or spinner tails. Some are rigged on a split wire with a propeller blade attached to one end that makes a loud clacking sound as it’s retrieved. They’re referred to as buzzbaits. Others, called spinnerbaits, have the spinner on one end of the wire and a hook on the other. They come in single blade or dual blade options and the blades vary in shape and length. Most anglers add dressings, tails, or skirts to their spinners. Overwhelmed? Don’t worry, we’ll break down the world of spinners into digestible chunks.

Why Use a Fishing Spinner?

Before you go shopping for spinners, it might be helpful to know why you’d want one in the first place. Of course, you want them to draw in the fish, but what kind of fish and when? One great thing about spinners is their versatility. They can be used for just about any gamefish out there. Any time the fish’s sight is impaired, you want to appeal to its other senses, like sound and smell. Because spinners are flashy and make noise, they have the advantage over other types of lures in murky water and on cloudy days. 

Small spinners will lure panfish and small trout, medium-sized spinners will pick up larger bluegills and crappie, and a big spinner will attract smallmouth bass and walleye. The more you scale up in size the more likely it is that you’ll end up with largemouth bass, Northern pike, and musky on the line. Water temperature is a big factor that must be weighed in when choosing a lure. Since fish don’t produce their own body heat, they move to warmer waters when they can. This could mean lower depths in a lake or lower latitudes in the ocean. When fish get cold, they get sluggish and don’t want to go chasing everything they see. So, you either have to find some really hungry fish or give them something interesting to look at.

Spinners are that interesting thing, sometimes drawing in fish on curiosity alone. Really territorial species of fish will strike on a spinner just because it’s invading their part of the pond. They’re designed to be cast and steadily retrieved, but the different shapes and sizes of a spinner will retrieve at different speeds. Here’s a little more info on how spinners work.

How to Choose a Fishing Spinner

Let’s break down the different spinners into their component parts to simplify choosing one from another. First, let’s look at the blade, or the part that actually spins. With the exception of buzzbaits, all spinner lures have a blade. The largest and slowest blade is called a Colorado blade. It’s wider than it is long and shaped like a fat teardrop with the hole in the narrow end. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a willow blade. It’s longer than it is wide and tapered at both ends. This one is the fastest-moving spinner blade. 

Imagine that you’re holding a teardrop-shaped piece of rubber. It starts out looking like a Colorado blade. But, grab a hold of each end and pull. At the extent of its stretch, you’ll have something that resembles a willow blade. As you stretch that rubber, it goes through several changes on its way from chubby teardrop to sleek willow. And, there are blades that match the shape of each of those in between stages. Generally speaking, there are seven shapes of spinner blades: Colorado, Indiana, Indiana fluted, turtle back, French, inline, and willow, going in order from wide to thin. The wider the blade, the more vibration it will produce and the slower you can retrieve it through the water.

To produce sound in addition to the spinning motion, the blade will be paired with beads or rattles. Inline spinners have a blade, then beads or weights, and treble hooks on the end. The hook can be hidden with a skirt or soft plastic lure or left bare. A flash inline spinner has two blades strung together with beads and a tinsel skirt. 

Spinnerbaits are hung on a bent wire, like objects on a baby’s mobile. One end has the blade only and the other end has a jighead buried in a soft worm or a skirt. The leader attaches to the bend between them. Buzzbaits are similar, but have a propeller where the blade would be. When drawn quickly through the water, they vibrate and make a buzzing sound. Since they have to be retrieved fast in order to work, they’re most suited to large top-feeding fish. To get even further in detail about the variety of spinners, check out this article by Learning How to Fish.

How to Fish Using a Fishing Spinner

Now that you’ve got a few spinners in your tackle box, let’s take a look at how to rig one up. There are a few different styles of rigging these lures that work well. If you’re using a spinnerbait or a buzzbait, you’ll use a different technique than if you’re rigging an inline lure. It’s best not to use a swivel with spinner lures, as they interfere with the motion of the lure. Normally, weights like split shot won’t be necessary either, since they come pre-weighted with what they need. 

For fishing trout, steelhead and other freshwater species, choose a long rod (around nine feet), with plenty of flex in the tip. Fishing from the bank, use a thirty pound braided line with a fifteen to twenty pound fluorocarbon lead tied together with a blood knot. Cast out and then allow the lure to sink to about four or five feet. Use the tip of your rod to adjust the spinner depth. You want to work your way across the entire river, so start out a few rod lengths from where you’re standing, or just to where you lose sight of the bottom. Give that spinner an initial pop, just to get it moving and then retrieve. Then, cast out a little further and retrieve. Do this until you’ve covered the width of the river and then move a few paces downstream and repeat.

For saltwater fish, stick to the flats or near dropoffs. A Colorado blade is a good choice here. The motion you want is about the same as in freshwater, with a short pause or two along the retrieve. 

Spinners are simple and most are customizable so if your setup isn’t working, it’s easy to switch out to something different. The spinnerbait style lures often fasten with an open safety pin attachment, making it easy to go from a rubber worm on a jighead to livebait with a weedless skirt. They’re a very reliable lure and you don’t need a special type of spinner to switch between salt and freshwater fishing, even though sturdier saltwater versions are available. As always, be safe and remember the number one fishing rule – have fun!


The founder of Catch and Fillet, “Chum Charlie”, has been writing articles within the fishing community for over 9 years. He got his nickname due to his preference for chumming while he is fishing. Chumming is a common practice that is used in the ocean to lure various types of fish to the boat. Chum can consist of various fish parts that attract fish due to its overbearing odor.

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