Downsizing spinnerbaits

There are times when a unique tactic simply comes to you by accident — like one did for Marty Stone a few years ago.

During a tournament in Alabama, the North Carolina pro was struggling to catch fish on the last day.

"The water was low and really stained," he recalled. "I had been catching them on topwaters and flipping docks, but the water dropped and those techniques weren't working."

Stone picked up a spinnerbait and began covering water, chucking the bait around boat docks. Suddenly he had his limit.

"The bass were absolutely killing it every time I brought it by a dock."
So what's the big deal? Spinnerbaits are good in dirty water, right?

"Yes, but not like this one," Stone explained. "It was a little 3/8-ounce bait with small blades, not what you would consider your traditional dirty water spinnerbait."

Stone shrugged it off as a fluke and resumed fishing his bigger bladed baits when he encountered similar conditions the rest of the season.

"But I kept thinking about those hard strikes I got with the smaller bait and decided to try it again. The results proved phenomenal and it's now a part of my arsenal in shallow, dirty water."

Stone believes smaller spinnerbaits create a comfort level for bass that aren't in an aggressive mood.

"The bait is quieter, and because the fish can't quite see what it is, that makes it even more intriguing and they try to eat it," he said.

Ideal situations for smaller baits include shallow grass, laydowns or rocks when springtime fish are in less than a foot of water; during summer and fall when lake levels drop and bass push into shallow creeks; or when shallow docks are the primary form of cover.

"You can flip a jig around those places and catch fish, but you've got to make a lot of flips, and presentations must be pinpoint accurate. With a spinnerbait, I can still fish slow but cover water faster."
His favorite lure for dirty water is one he created for Gambler, a 3/8-ounce model with a chartreuse head and tandem No. 3 Colorado blades. If that doesn't work, he'll drop down to a 1/4-ounce with No. 2 and No. 3 Colorado blades.

Line size is equally important. He prefers 15-pound-test P-Line CXX for the 3/8-ounce model and he'll drop to 12-pound test for the smaller version. Both spinnerbaits are fished on a 7-foot American Rodsmith spinnerbait rod (medium/heavy action).

"I'm not worried about fish seeing the line in that dirty water, but the bait works more naturally with smaller line and will ride a little lower in the water," he said.

Smaller baits attract all sizes of fish. Not only will they draw strikes from keeper fish that might shy away from big blades, but the giants will eat them, too. But don't fall into a trap of relying solely on the smaller baits, he cautioned. If they've been working but the water rises a few feet or more, it's time to go back to the bigger baits.