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Blade Burnin' | Print |  Email
Written by Joe Thomas   
Friday, 04 March 2011 16:52

High-percentage fishing. Few things are more valuable for tournament situations than high-percentage approaches, and one of my favorite techniques, burning spinnerbaits, really heats up on clear-water lakes as soon as the water begins cooling in September.

Burning clear-water spinnerbaits is an extremely high-percentage approach because with big, single hooks and heavy line, neither shake-offs nor break-offs present much of a problem. When I hook a fish, I can winch it through the eyelets. It's coming in the boat.

I was raised fishing the Great Lakes, where the water is typically quite clear. Visibility of five, 10 or even 15 feet is common. Conditions are similar on many Western lakes, like Mead and Powell, and I have found great similarities between the Great Lakes and clear lakes of the West.

Surface Burning

In September and October, I enjoy very good success burning spinnerbaits and pulling fish up out of anywhere from six to 15 feet of water. From the beginning of fall, the baitfish begin strongly relating to the surface, and the bass begin looking up to feed. Largemouths, smallmouths and spots will all hit the right spinnerbait burned overhead, as long as the water is clear.

Depending on whether it's cloudy or clear, I use one of two different spinnerbaits. I've tried virtually everything out there, and these two clearly work the best for me. For cloudy conditions, I go big, using a 3/4-ounce chartreuse spinnerbait with tandem No. 4 or 6 chartreuse painted Indiana blades.

For clear conditions, my spinnerbait of choice is a 3/8-ounce Arkie Mirror Glow with tandem blades--a willow-leaf and small Indiana--in a foil shiner pattern. The unique foil finish makes this bait look like a shad or a shiner, and fiber-optic fibers in the skirt exhibit the same rainbow-type, iridescent look you see in a minnow. The Mirror Glow really shimmers and works great in clear water, when I don't want the fish to get a really good look at what I'm throwing. Because the hits come from below and the bait is moving quickly, I always use a trailer hook. I add a free-swinging hook and a keeper that I make with a hole punch and milk jug. That little plastic disk is the best keeper I've found, and it costs nothing. I also make sure I point the trailer hook down, not up. This way, the hookpoint is in perfect position to snare fish that hit from below.

I gear up heavy, using a 7-foot pitching-type rod; high-speed, 6.2:1 baitcasting reel; and 17-pound green Original Stren.

I fish both spinnerbaits exactly the same way, making long casts and reeling them back quickly. Retrieve speed is critical, because the spinnerbait needs to stay within a few inches of the surface, but it should not be skimming the top and gurgling.

I point my rodtip right at the bait during the retrieve, which does a couple things for me. First, it puts me in a good position for a good hookset when a fish smashes the bait. Second, it forces me to reel faster in order to keep the bait in the zone. The spinnerbait needs to be really smoking in the clear water.

Where, When?

The only major conditional requirement for successful burning--beyond clear water--is that there must be at least a ripple on the surface. It cannot be flat calm. Anything from a light ripple to swells of a foot or more is good, with more chop better than less.

Beyond that, it's just a matter of fishing where there are fish. I concentrate on areas that have a lot of chunk rock, boulders or scattered grass. Grass that's "too thick" doesn't seem to be nearly as good. Once I'm able to identify the types of water the fish are in, I'll cover lots and lots of area to find more of the same.

I have enough confidence in this tactic that I will fish it all day, continuing to move as I go. I don't vary the retrieve at all. I just keep looking. If I can find the fish, I feel certain I can catch them. Adding tournament value, I've found that this approach produces a bigger bite overall than most other tactics. Big smallies and spots, especially, really like a spinnerbait in clear water.

Another great thing about burning a spinnerbait is that it remains effective throughout the day. In fact, while most fishermen consider early morning and late afternoon as prime bass-catching times, I find this technique to be at its very best through the middle of the day--from late morning to early afternoon. When you get that higher sky, they'll really hit a fast-moving, clear-water spinnerbait.


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