When to Use a Spinnerbait for Fishing (9 Situations)

Spinnerbaits are one of the most versatile and effective baits for bass fishing around.  One of the biggest keys to catching more bass with spinnerbaits is using them in the right scenario. Whether it’s the right wind conditions, water clarity, or bait considerations, spinnerbaits are an extremely effective lure to catch bass throughout the year.

A spinnerbait is a type of fishing lure that derives its name from blades (usually, silver or gold in color)  that are attached to the body of the bait.  The blades spin and vibrate as the lure moves through the water creating a flash effect that resembles baitfish.

When trying to decide when to throw a spinnerbait, carefully consider the conditions that I discuss below.  The more of the following conditions that are present, the better option a spinnerbait becomes.   To gain a better understanding of when to use a spinnerbait for fishing,  check out 9 perfect situations when it’s the right lure for the job. 

1. Use a Spinnerbait When It’s Windy to Catch Bass

The most important consideration in deciding when to use a spinnerbait is the wind.   The wind breaks up the water so that fish can’t easily decipher between artificial bait (your spinnerbait) and real prey.  Less light penetration as a result of more wind means a better spinnerbait bite.

Additionally, the wind often causes bait to congregate and “push” together making spinnerbaits (a bait mimicking lure) a great option to search and find bass looking for bait.  Among the best areas to look for bait are windblown banks.  The bait gets pushed up onto these banks where bass love to feed

2. When the Shad Spawn, Throw a Spinnerbait to Catch More Bass

There are many baits that imitate shad but few rival the efficacy of spinnerbaits during the shad spawn for bass.   Spinnerbait blades are excellent look-a-likes for shad when the blades flash in the water.   Bass interpret those flashes as baitfish and jump on the opportunity to seize a tasty meal.   Spinnerbaits are effective in open water for balls of shad, in shoreline grass (work the spinnerbait through sparse grass), and in a number of other settings — wherever you notice a shad spawn.    

3. Spinnerbaits are Perfect for Bass Fishing in the Fall

The fall is a great time of year to grab a spinnerbait to cover water quickly.   Bass use fall periods to actively look for baitfish and forage so they can stock up on meals before winter hits.

As winter approaches, shad begin to move to creeks so targeting areas where they group up is a great tactic. Look for staging areas in the main areas of the lake near creek arms.  Those areas can hold large amounts of bait during the fall and can be a great spot to throw a spinnerbait to catch bass.

If you’re not finding shad in the main lake, begin to venture up into the creeks.  Once you’ve found shad there, break out the spinnerbait setup and go to work.

4. Use a Spinnerbait in Muddy Water to Catch Bass

Many anglers swear by spinnerbait lures when muddy water prevails.   After a hard rain or a series of windy days, rivers and lakes can become muddy in a hurry.  

Muddy water means decreased visibility, so fish will rely on other senses and their lateral lines to detect baitfish movement.  Spinnerbaits with big blades are a great fit for low-visibility situations like stirred-up water.   The vibration and sound that emanates from a spinnerbait make it an ideal way to fish in dirty water. 

5. Spinnerbaits Rule for Night Time Bass Fishing

Similar to muddy water, nighttime fishing for bass means decreased light penetration which means lower visibility.  There’s virtually no better nighttime lure than a spinnerbait.  Again, bigger blades that cause more commotion are the best way to go to attract the attention of bass when fishing at night. 

For new moon or other “darker” nighttime conditions, opt for a bigger blade and/or more blades on your spinner bait.  For full moon or other “brighter” light at night, choose spinnerbaits that have smaller and fewer blades. For a great article on nighttime bass fishing, see Bass Fishing Insider’s article,  Can Bass See at Night?

6. Use a Spinnerbait to Cover Water and Find Bass

Spinnerbaits are generally worked by winding them in at a fairly quick pace.  Needless to say, there are endless ways to work the lure including slow-rolling, yo-yo-ing, and burning or waking. Suffice it to say, spinnerbaits are an excellent tool to cover a lot of water quickly.  Anglers often use spinnerbaits as a search bait looking for areas in a fishery where bass are plentiful.  They are one of the best ways to find fish fast.

Remember to stay flexible and be ready to change your spinnerbait presentation to adapt to current conditions. One of the best ways to change on the fly is by using a modular spinnerbait system like the one made by J3 Fishing.

7. Bounce a Spinnerbait off of Cover to Catch Bass

Spinnerbaits are designed to deflect off cover.  When you encounter isolated or grouped up cover like lily pads, stems, sticks, stumps, dock piling, or any other hard structure, fishing a spinnerbait close enough to the cover to bounce off is a great way to elicit a bite.  The deflection causes the lure to “shimmy” in the water which often ignites bass causing them to bite.   

Rodman Reservoir here in Florida is a flooded timber reservoir. It’s absolutely covered in stump fields which are perfect targets for spinnerbait bouncing.  I’ve spent many a day at Rodman using a spinnerbait to deflect off of stumps and downed logs. Bass can’t resist!

8. Wake A Spinnerbait to Catch Spawning Bass

Many bass are shallow during the spawn busy making, sitting on, or protecting beds.  When you can’t see spawning bass because of water clarity or other conditions, enter the spinnerbait.  Waking (burning) a spinnerbait in known bass spawning areas is a tried and true technique to catch big bass.  

Rick Clunn loves to spinnerbait fish and used it as part of his strategy to win the Bassmaster Elite Tournament at the St. Johns River in 2019.  Check out the video below as he explains how he won. (Incidentally,  my son and I were lucky enough to be there well after the tournament finished as Clunn was wrapping up this very video.  We were able to chat with him and take some pictures.  He was gracious, humble, and kind to spend time with us. Check out the picture in this article at the top under the St. Johns River section)

9. Throw Spinnerbaits to Catch Schooling Bass

When bass school up, they are generally together to feed on baitfish.  The spinnerbait bite can be on fire when you find a school of bass, especially one that is active.   Bass relate the flashes from the spinnerbait blades to baitfish.  Swim your lure through or near the school and you’ll surely get the attention of the school.  

Why Use a Spinnerbait for Bass Fishing?

Spinnerbaits are a great bass fishing lure for a number of reasons.  

  • Versatility  They are extremely versatile, able to be used in a wide variety of settings and in varying conditions.   
  • Snag Proof  They provide a method of fishing that is somewhat snag-proof because the wire body that the bait rests and the weighted head are both built to bounce off of underwater objects.
  • Ability to Cover Water  Spinnerbaits are a great way to cover a large amount of water quickly, making them an effective search bait.
  • Easy to Cast  Because most spinnerbaits are fairly heavily weighted, they are easy to cast which, again, makes them a great way to cover water.
  • Easy to Use  Although there are certainly some variations and nuances available in spinnerbait retrieval, the basic retrieval is fairly simple.  Additionally, detecting a bite is pretty straightforward (usually a  thump or heaviness).  

Insider Tip

If you’re short on storage space or tired of dealing with the hassle of storing spinnerbaits, check out J3 Fishing’s line of products. Their spinnerbaits break down into smaller components for storage, making them perfect for anyone looking to save space.

The Bass Line. Final Word

So, when should you use a spinnerbait?  OFTEN!  Spinnerbaits are perfect for dark water including muddy waters or nighttime fishing as well as windy conditions.  They’re also a great fit for covering water quickly and any scenario involving grouped-up bait.   Finally, they’re highly effective for catching bass during the spawn.

Grab your rod, tie one on and get to the lake!

Related Questions

What is the Best Time of Day to Use a Spinnerbait?

The best time of day to use a spinnerbait is early morning or before sundown especially during a shad spawn.  Additionally, spinnerbaits are good throughout the day for spawning bass or for windy or muddy water conditions.  Finally, spinnerbaits are one of the best lures for nighttime bass fishing. 

Jason Bradstreet

I’m Jason Bradstreet. I grew up fishing tournaments with my Dad who was a well-known Central Florida Bass Guide and tournament angler. I have been bass fishing for all of my life am passing the love on to my family. Now, I serve as a bass fishing coach and captain to my kids who fish tournaments in the Bass Nation circuit. Our family loves to fish. We research, practice together, and enjoy both recreational and tournament bass fishing as a family. We are excited to share what we’ve learned on this site!

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