The effectiveness of artificial lures should never be questioned. Inline spinners have successfully lured fish into biting for over 100 years. For most anglers, fishing with inlines is not a foreign technique. But to some, it is an unknown concept. They are a lure category that is underrated, often forgotten about, and left ignored in the tackle box.
With the advent of new lure concepts, and the technological advances in manufacturing, design, and mass production, it’s no wonder why certain lures have taken the back seat in the boats of many anglers. Inline spinners are one of them. Most lures available nowadays are so high-tech with flamboyant colors, realistic images, and enticing smells that they’re too hard to ignore. Often times, however, they catch the anglers rather than the fish themselves. Far too few baits and lures these days remain productive under the simplistic design properties and triggering effects that inline spinners have.
There is no type of lure sold in such quantity with international acclaim as the inline spinner. Its origins and history are unknown, but it has been a perennially popular freshwater lure for all species of fish such as muskies, northern pike, bass, salmon and trout.
For those of you who have never clipped on an inline spinner to your rod and reel, they are a family of fishing lures that have a metallic shaped blade, weighted body, and dressed treble hook attached to the wire of the lure. As the lure is in motion, the blade spins several rotations per second creating varying degrees of flash and vibration that serve as the triggering effect.
The Triggering Effects
Inline spinners are productive fish producers for a multitude of reasons. While their uniqueness and simplicity can be analyzed with great detail, there are four predominant qualities within the lure that entice fish. These qualities are the following:
Blades: The blade is central to the effectiveness of the spinner. Not only because of the visual appearance and illusion it produces when retrieved, but because it generates a great amount of vibration that is detected by the sensory organs of fish.
In my opinion, the blade is the most significant component of the lure, and the allure of the entire presentation. The unique design feature of the inline enables the blade to pump and push through water, producing a tremendous amount of flash and attraction.
Blades are available in different styles from size 0 brook trout and panfish models to giant size 10 muskie and massive gamefish size. In addition to size, blades also come in different styles, and each performs differently from the other. The most common blade types are Indiana, Colorado, and willow. For instance, Indiana blades are accommodating of fast, streamlined retrieves when a speed presentation is required. Colorado blades are best served with a power and pound approach when vibration and larger profile is necessary, including bulging the surface. Meanwhile, willow blades are often utilized for slower presentations and when fishing deeper water.
Last but not least, blades come in an overwhelmingly large variety of colors and patterns. Most are commonly polished and painted to offer a metallic color and finish. Some are simply powder coated to emit bright and stunning colors. In addition, others are even printed with holographic designs for imitating fish scales and natural prey through sunlight reflection.
Weight: The second key feature of spinners is their weight. Most inlines today are produced with a weight-forward design. This is an important feature because their heavy weight and compact, balanced design makes them effortless to cast. The weight of spinners ultimately plays a big role in being able to retrieve at different depths of the water column. Most lures are available in weights from 1/32 ounce to several ounces.
Speed of Retrieve: Another key to fishing with inlines is the speed at which these lures can be retrieved. The general consensus is the faster the better, but preferably the speed that enables you to cover vast amounts of water with a perfectly streamlined retrieve is best.
Factors such as blade design, weight, and surface area are all related to how the lure is retrieved. A spinner does not begin working properly until it is being retrieved. For example, if a spinner is fished too slowly, the blade may rotate erratically, or it may not even rotate at all. Meanwhile, if it is retrieved too quickly, the blade won’t catch water, may catch the body or hooks, and definitely won’t catch fish.
The speed of retrieve is also dependent on your rod and reel. To attain fast and powerful speeds, reels with high gear ratios have been developed just for this style of fishing. In order to maximize speed and proper presentation, it is important to factor your gear into the equation.
Dressing and Tails: Depending on personal preference of bait profile and action, the treble hook can either be dressed or not. By itself, the lure’s flash and vibration may serve as the only attractors. However, anytime you add a modification to a lure, its action and appearance changes, and the presentation alters.
Traditional hook dressings are available in several different colors, and are comprised of hair or fur such as marabou and squirrel tail. Nowadays, however, flashy artificial materials such as flashabou are increasingly popular as they add a fluttering flash in luminous, multi-colored, or solid flash colors, increasing the complete flash profile of the lure. In my opinion, flashabou entices more strikes and followers rather than conventional marabou and hair.
Many anglers believe that a dressed treble presents following fish a target that follows the flashy blade ahead of it and that it may entice more strikes than a bare treble hook. For this reason, anglers often add soft plastic trailers to the hook to add even greater attraction. The most common trailers are curly tail grubs and reaper tail plastics. The speed of retrieve is always dependent on the blade size and design, but trailers change the appearance, profile, action, and dynamics of the inline spinner.
The Big Two . . . . Maybe Three
If you were to walk into a tackle shop and look around in the spinner aisle, you may be overwhelmed by the number of different spinners and available brands. To my knowledge, there are two major spinner brands that strictly cater to the needs of multi-species anglers. They are Mepps and Blue Fox.
Mepps is the pioneer of inline spinners, and quite possibly the most popular lure brand in the entire world. Invented in 1938 by French engineer, Andrew Meulnart, it didn’t take long for Mepps to revolutionize the fishing tackle industry. It’s difficult to imagine being in a tackle shop that does not carry a stock of Mepps inlines. But for those of you who have never used one, they are high quality spinners that that are available in all shapes, sizes, colors, and profiles for a multitude of freshwater gamefish from trout to muskies. As successful as they are, Mepps isn’t called “World’s Number-1 Lure” for nothing. Since day-1, they have sold millions of lures to anglers around the world.
Meanwhile, Blue Fox spinners, currently owned by the Rapala brand, are another very high quality lure that utilizes different blade styles than Mepps. What makes these spinners unique is the concept of the “vibrax” body system which allows the entire tail of the spinner to rotate an entire 360 degrees while retrieved. By enabling the tail to rotate 360 degrees, the lure generates a triggering effect for fish which helps them take notice of the spinner pumping through water. Just like the Mepps brand, several Blue Fox spinners are designed for specific applications from the classic vibrax and flash for salmon and trout, to the musky buck.
In addition, there is good potential for a possible third company to include on the list; the ever-growing, little-known and Chicago-based Sims Spinners. Established in 2010, this two year old company already rivals the big name brands and has even enjoyed days of outfishing the competition. This company strives to build durable, affordable, custom, and innovative hand crafted inline spinners by offering anglers multiple blade designs and patterns, and never-before seen color schemes. Unlike the major companies, what sets Sims Spinners apart is how they conduct their business through personal interaction with customers for the basis of establishing long-term relationships, and catering to the needs of the anglers using their product. It’s rare to have such great service in the fishing industry like this. Sims Spinners are proven winners and have become my personal weapons of choice for all freshwater gamefish.
Besides these three companies, I also give recognition to Panther Martin and Roostertail but they are dominant within the trout and salmon markets. I can also mention the dozens of companies who have revolutionized the sport of musky fishing with the production of unique bucktails and flashabou spinners, but that might be better served for a different piece at another time.
Multispecies Weapons of Choice
An inline spinner merely represents a suggestion of something for fish to eat rather than an imitation of it. Through flashy appearance and rapid movement, it triggers fish to feed through retrieve speed, pulsating blade rotation, and lateral movement. It commonly emits a reactionary strike from fish. It may not be the best lure to use in most circumstances, but when fished in the appropriate place along with the proper size, it is a lure that will catch most species of fish.
Most inline spinners are used for casting. They are uncomplicated to use, and in most sizes they consistently hook fish. Below I outline certain scenarios and techniques that are applied to some of my favorite species of gamefish.
Without question, bucktails (oversized inline spinners) are the most popular style of musky lure. They catch records, and they catch incredible amounts of fish. They are fished successfully in lakes and rivers. Their spinning blade and wiggling tail fascinate more muskies than any other lure. Bucktails are my favorite musky bait because strikes tend to be aggressive, follows are frequent, they are excellent search lures and enable anglers to cover lots of water, and they are easy to fish with.
I have caught more muskies on bucktails or on some type of variations of them than any other lure. In order to better understand bucktails, you must realize that each type of lure style is a tool for fishing different depths in the water column as well as habitats. Also, each blade style is unique in flash and vibration, and each color combination has an extraordinary affect on fish to the point that there is never a wrong color to use.
Bucktails are available in several different brands and styles. The most common types are single and double bladed models that come in size 5-6-7-8-9-10 blades. Some may be single hook while others are tandem. They can be fished with or without plastic trailers, and most popular bucktails are made with marabou, hair, and flashabou. Some of my all time favorites are Mepps Musky Killers, Musky Mayhem Showgirls, Sims Spinners in the double-6 and 7 models, Blue Fox Musky Bucks, Buchertails, and Esox Assault Tackle’s Inline Spinners.
A number of lures have been designed to trigger the pike’s naturally bad attitude. Many of these lures have been around for years, and the inline spinner is no exception. Just like they are for muskies, inline spinners and bucktails are extremely popular for northern pike, and my favorite when fishing weed oriented lakes and rivers.
When targeting northern pike, I tend to use spinners with number 4, 5, and 6 blades. Whether the lure is single or double bladed doesn’t make a difference. When trophy hunting, I am also unafraid to use oversized lures. My favorite pike spinners are Mepps Aglias with no. 4 and 5 blades, Mepps Musky Killers, Buchertail 500’s, Blue Fox Vibrax Musky Bucks, and Sims Spinners no. 5 and 6 singles and doubles.
Inline spinners are excellent year round lures for pike, but some of the best fishing can be experienced in spring, early summer, and fall when water temperatures are cooler and fish are most aggressive. When conditions are optimal and a feeding frenzy is encountered, 50 to 100 fish days can be had. Amazingly, these events have happened to me before and I didn’t have to go to Canada or fish an unpressured lake to do it!
Inline spinners are forgotten, underrated lures amongst bass anglers. If you were to ask any angler what his first artificial lure was when he began bass fishing at a young age, the answer will likely be an inline spinner. Although old fashioned in comparison to many of today’s modern bass fishing lures, inline spinners still catch largemouth bass with excellent results.
Although inline spinners hold more angling records than all other lures combined, few bass anglers would even consider using one as a tournament weapon. For reasons unknown, I can only think that they aren’t glamorous enough.
Like spinnerbaits, inline spinners can be successfully fished just about anywhere bass live. However, most of my inline spinner fishing takes place in the shallows, in depths less than 8 feet, and almost always around weedbeds and wood.
As an alternative lure to the spinnerbait, inline spinners are perfect for pre-spawn and summer pattern fishing, especially when fish are displaying a reactionary bite. They also work under different circumstances too. Oftentimes, fish become so accustomed to being bombarded by spinnerbaits that inlines actually excel in pressure situations, including cold fronts, and post-frontal conditions.
For largemouths, I frequently use no. 3, 4, and 5 Mepps Aglias, along with no. 5 Sims Spinners. For river fishing, colors don’t seem to make much of a difference due to murkier water clarity. But for lakes, I usually try my best to match the hatch to the forage species which are mostly shad, shiners, and minnows.
Fishermen have long known that inline spinners are a traditional favorite for river smallmouth bass. In fact, it’s how I even began to fish for them in the first place; by wading rivers with inlines. Fished in cool running rivers and streams, or large deep lakes, inline spinners are dynamic lures spring through fall.
Smallmouth fishing in the Upper Midwest is often associated with rivers or streams, reservoirs and natural lakes. In rivers and streams, an inline spinner is hard to beat when burned through the seams of current, past boulders, and downed timber. Oftentimes, fish will hold above, next to, or behind this structure to opportunistically ambush prey such as crayfish and baitfish. In most situations, Mepps Aglias and Sims Spinners with no. 4 and 5 blades in an assortment of colors are excellent choices for catching fish.
Anglers who fish lakes on the other hand will find the same inline spinner choices to be outstanding for shallow structure smallmouths during the spring and summer months when feeding sprees and insect hatches are taking place. In addition, you may even be surprised while musky fishing and you could end up catching a number of smallmouth bass by surprise on oversize bucktails. It happens more often than you think.
Now that you remember
Due to their varied applications and overwhelming number of sizes and models, it’s difficult to note the proper tackle that is best suited for fishing with inline spinners. Since inline spinners are a lure category that can be applied to fishing for any and all species of fish, the best course of action is to use a rod and reel that is suited for the particular species of fish you are fishing for.
One thing I must stress with inline spinners is that it is always necessary to use a snap swivel to counter the tendency of the rotating blade which ultimately leads to line twist. Some spinners such as the Blue Fox vibrax are very good at resisting line twist, but it is a serious problem that degrades their performance. Also, if fishing for large predatory fish such as muskies and northern pike, it is just as important to use wire, titanium, or fluorocarbon leaders to prevent breakoffs.
The versatility of inline spinners is amazing. Its neglect from anglers is staggering. This is a lure category that appeals to so many different species of fish and has withstood the test of time; an experiment that many other lures have failed in. For decades, the concept of the inline spinner has remained unchanged and it still catches fish with the same frequency as it did decades ago. Despite its simplistic nature and ease of use, it is such a basic lure that still works a good game with fish.