Oak Orchard River Bass Anglers

June 2018

It does my heart good to see spinnerbaits back in the lime light.  If you haven’t been paying attention, spinnerbaits have suddenly reappeared as the lures of choice in high level bass tournaments.  I am not surprised.  In my boat, spinnerbaits have never really disappeared.

I well remember way back in 1972 when I first became aware of spinnerbaits.  I had joined B.A.S.S. that year and one of the first things I learned from reading Bassmaster magazine was just how effective spinnerbaits and plastic worms were at the pro level.  There was only one problem.  I couldn’t find plastic worms or spinnerbaits anywhere up here in the North Country.

One of the first pro anglers I took a shine too was the late Tom Mann, owner of Mann’s Jelly Worms.  Out of desperation I sat down and wrote a letter to Tom inquiring as to how I might purchase his worms.  Believe it or not, Tom took the time to write me back personally.  Unfortunately, I didn’t keep those letters.

To make a long story short, I ended up buying plastic worms directly from Tom through the mail.  In addition worms, Tom introduced me to his spinnerbait, the Tom Cat spinnerbait.  I ended up buying those directly from Tom as well as Jelly worms.  For several years, until plastic worms and spinnerbaits became more readily available up here in the North Country, I bought all of my plastic worms and spinnerbaits through the mail directly from Tom Mann and Mann’s Bait Company.

While it took a couple of years for me to become confident using plastic worms, I fell in love with spinnerbaits right off the bat.  The fish up here had never seen anything like them and I immediately started catching fish like I had never caught fish before.  Not just bass either.  If a fish would hit an artificial lure, I caught it on spinnerbaits.  Suddenly catching limits of bass was no longer a problem.  I simply tied on a spinnerbait and start fishing.  At the end of the day, I almost always had a limit.

A few years later, in 1976, I helped start the Oak Orchard River Bassmasters club.  As luck would have it, I won the first tournament that club ever held and I won it using a spinnerbait.  For several years the only lure I used during club tournaments was a spinnerbait.  While I did not continue to win every tournament or even most tournaments, I did manage to stay at the top of the annual point standings.  Back then I used to joke that if club tournaments were decided by the first angler to return to the dock with five bass, I would win most of them.

Of course, no lure catches bass all of the time and any effective lure soon becomes over used.  In addition, tournament bass fishing was growing like wild fire back then.  Fishing pressure was increasing by leaps and bounds.  That is still true today.  As a result, I was forced to diversify my lure choices.  It was either diversify or fail.  I have never taken kindly to failure, so I switched.

While I quit relying on spinnerbaits as my main go to lure choice, I never stopped using spinnerbaits completely.  One thing that I had obtained after all of those years of using a spinnerbait exclusively was a master’s degree in the use of a spinnerbait.  I doubt that there was anyone up here in the North Country that knew how to use a spinnerbait more ways than I did.  I know that is a bold boast, but you don’t use a single lure type to the exclusion of all others for over 9 years unless you understand how to use it every way possible.  Trust me, I knew every way possible to use a spinnerbait.

Today I use swim jigs much more often than I do spinnerbaits.  I don’t even own bladed jigs or chatter baits.  A single bladed spinnerbait works better for me.  I never, ever, fish a tournament without a rod rigged with a spinnerbait.  There are certain conditions and certain positions that spinnerbaits cover better than any other lure type.  When those conditions or positions present themselves, I use a spinnerbait. 

Of the last 4 bass weighing 5 pounds or more that I weighed in during tournament competition, 3 were caught on a spinnerbait.  The other one was caught on a jig and pig.  I doubt that I made more than a half dozen casts with a spinnerbait on the days that I caught those 3 big bass.  However, I made the right casts with the right lure to the correct position.  Often times it isn’t just what you use, it is where and how you use it!

One thing that I have learned over all of my years of tournament bass fishing is that almost any lure can be manipulated to cover almost any position.  That is why there are thousands and thousands of different techniques for almost every lure type.  However, I have also learned that an angler is always better off using a lure designed for the specific position he is covering rather than forcing his pet lure to do the job.  Listen, you can drive a nail with a screwdriver, but a hammer does a better job.  Always use the right lure for the position you are trying to cover!

Spinnerbaits are an outstanding lure type and will no doubt be around forever.  In certain situations no other lure type works better.  However, today I consider spinnerbaits to be situational lures.  They are lures that I will always carry, but lures that I will seldom use exclusively.  Like top water lures, spinnerbaits are probably most effective during spawning season and I would never fish during spawning season without having a spinnerbait and a top water lure tied on. 

Back in the day, a spinnerbait was the only lure a bass angler needed to use to be effective.  How effective were they?  The first 4 Bassmaster Classic Tournaments were won on spinnerbaits.  However, times changed.  As an angler, I had to change as well.  Still, some lures are classics and will probably work forever.  A spinnerbait is such a lure.  Don’t ever go fishing without one.       


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