I remember discovering spinners as a kid, many years ago, in a barn of my friend’s grandpa. “What the heck are these? Metal blades, wire, and hooks?” Asking my friend, puzzled at what I had found. “Spinners,” my friend said. “They’re a form of fishing lure” he explained. So I asked him, ” Are spinners effective for catching trout”? It was a few years later when I was pleasantly surprised to learn the answer to my question.
Are spinners effective for catching trout? Trout spinners are often referred to as “inline spinners” because the blade of a spinner revolves around a wire attached to the hook. Because of their versatility, different sizes, and colors, they are widely used for trout fishing. Effective throughout the year, whether fished in small streams or trolled in open water lakes, they are used almost anywhere. Spinners are good for trout because they play right into the aggressive behavior of trout.
Fishing inline spinners are really easy to do. Cast and retrieve for the most part is all there is to it. In fact, I think it’s one of the best ways to introduce children to the sport of trout fishing. Once they have the basics of casting down the spinner will do the rest for them. Spinners will catch trout all year long, along with catching bigger trout. Inline spinner trout fishing tactics vary but are also fun to learn. You really can’t go wrong fishing a spinner and as I mentioned it’s not hard to learn either. (Did I say that enough?)
What Are The Best Trout Spinners?
With any question like this it will depend on who you ask, and a little experimentation. Like everything in trout fishing, the “baits” and presentation must match the environment to be effective. Five spinners are on the top of the list for most anglers and are listed below.
- Mepps spinners
French engineer Andre Muelnart invented the Mepps fishing spinner in 1938. They are still hand assemble with many of the components manufactured in France. Mepps sold in the USA are hand-assembled in Antigo.
- Panther Martin
The original inline spinner. The unique design of the Convex/Concave blade with the shaft going directly through the blade was first introduced in America by Panther Martin.
- Rooster Tails
Developed in the 1950s by Howard Worden as one of the most productive lures ever invented. The action of the spinning blade in combination with the colorful, pulsating hackle tail makes the Rooster Tail irresistible to any gamefish.
- Joe’s Flies
Joe Steffick started Joe’s Flies in his basement back in 1961 selling his flies on the side. At age 46 Joe Steffick decided to commit full-time to sell his fishing lures. Joe is retired, but the business is still going strong, operating from a modest workshop in Nutter Fort.
- Blue Foxe
Lauri Rapala invented a hand-carved balsa wood minnow to mimic minnows and baitfish in the 1930s. 242 all-time world-record fish were set on Rapala lures, and 15 new records in 2005. It is also the only fishing lure manufacturer that mass-produces balsa wood lures. Blue fox is a product of Rapala.
Let’s Take A Look At What A Spinner Is
Another reason spinners are effective for catching trout is their simple design. It is basically a convex blade that spins around a shaft with either beads or a solid body attached to a single or treble hook. Sometimes the hook is covered by feathers, fur, or is an attached fly. The blade gives off vibration and a flash as it is retrieved through the water which plays into the trout’s predatory nature. This is why trout find spinners so appealing. What are the different blades types?
Colorado Spinner Blades
These blades are larger and wider in a teardrop shape. They displace a lot of water as they rotate through the water. They produce a lot of vibration and “thump” while rotating. Colorado blades are produced in a variety of sizes from 0 to 8. (0 being small about 5/8th in length). Colors, design, and finishes vary as well with solid, hammered, holograms and spayed as just a few examples of the finish.
A French spinner-style blade is a finely detailed blade with a raised dome. They are a stamped blade using the highest quality .025 gauge solid brass. The finishes are polished and plated which have fish-attracting flash. Genuine gold plated blades won’t discolor or tarnish.
Swing Blades (Willow Leaf)
These blades are longer for the most part and designed to spin close to the body of the spinner. This gives a slender or skinny profile which inmates small baitfish and minnows. They also fish well near the surface at a slower retrieve and in general, these blades stay higher in the water.
Should I Use Only One Spinner Blade Type?
The most important thing about blades to me is vibration and flash. Obviously (duh) the intended feature of the lure is to attract fish by vibration and flash, but stream conditions play an important role.
Some days the flashing of the blade is more important than the vibration, especially if the water clarity is conducive. That said, murky or even muddy water can still be fished at times because the trout will more likely hone in on the vibration of the blade. Some days the vibration of one blade seems to work better than that of another blade.
Note: From a trout’s perspective flash is detected visually while disturbances in the water are detected by the fishes’ lateral line. This line runs along the sides of the fishes’ body and senses vibration.
This is a good example of why I believe using more than one type of spinner increases your odds of catching trout. I often change spinners while fishing in the same pool. Each spinner performs differently regarding vibration and flash. This difference may trigger a trout to strike based on the change in vibration or flash. It’s a good idea to change up before leaving a pool to move to a new spot.
As an example, Joe’s Fly and a Rooster Tail are a good mix. I have had days when a Rooster Tail seems to be ignored, switch to Joe’s fly, and bam! The vibrations given off by the blades are different and as I said, sometimes that is just what it takes to trigger a trout. The combination of vibration and blade flash is why spinners are effective for catching trout. But what type of vibration or flash is key. Experimentation by fishing different spinners will help hone in on what’s working on any given day.
What Is The Best Size Spinner For Trout?
The actual weight of the spinner is measured in ounces running from 1/32, 1/24 to 1/8 ounce and so on. Generally, heavier weight increases the size of the spinner in length and blade size. Blade sizes are indicated by a number usually stamped on the blade starting at #0 and running larger to #8.
Determining what size spinner to use will depend on stream depth, water velocity, and average trout size. Bigger, deeper water, usually means a heavier weighted spinner in order to get down near the bottom more quickly. The same may hold true if streams or rivers are running fast. The blade of the spinner is proportional to its weight, so rarely do you need to be concerned with the blade size.
In my opinion, size, as I said earlier, should be based on creek conditions. Lots of guys will fish deep pools by using a 1/16oz Rooster Tail for example. The weight helps get the spinner down quickly. Sometimes a heavier spinner is helpful when casting across and down a stream to swing it through a strong current.
For many anglers using spinners, the size and body-color has the greatest effect on how well a spinner seems to fish. But generally, I fish a 1/24th size Rooster Tail with color being the least important factor of the two for me. A 1/24th seems to be a good size for Pennsylvania’s creeks. I found over the years that a silver blade seems to catch more trout on cloudy days while a gold-colored blade seems to work best on sunny days. Bright colors catch more rainbows than browns generally. But with that said a black or green color is really all I ever needed.
What Body Colors Work Best?
The argument over color may be a hot topic for many and I’m sure color contributes to the spinner selection often. Color selection may be more important when fishing murky water versus clear water for example. But like I said, I’m more interested in the blade’s color rather than the spinner’s body color. Whether it is an overcast day or sunny determines blade color, again, with silver on cloudy days and gold on sunny days.
A case in point, I caught and released 55 trout one day fishing a Rooster Tail, gold blade, in green color while my buddy John caught and released 56 trout, gold blade with a Red/orange body. It was a sunny day and the stream had been recently stocked. The common ground was the gold blade used that day on both Rooster Tails. (Please don’t look at the above as a brag of numbers, as that is not intended, but rather an attempt to make a point). Spinners, in my opinion, are effective for catching trout because of the vibration and flash of the blade and not so much on color. But if you think it’s the color I won’t argue. Maybe asking Mr. Trout his opinion would settle that!
What Are Some Other Things To Know About?
Light tackle spinning rods with reels spooled with a light line is a joy to fish with. Fishing 4 or 6 lb test line on a 5-foot ultra-light is more fun than you can imagine. These short rods cast well and work well in tight streams with little room to maneuver. Spin fishing requires a lot of casting so rods made from lightweight materials such as graphite, help prevent your arm from aching. This lightness too enables you to accurately cast spinners so they hit the water smoothly and gently.
The reel should match the rod and there are many to choose from. For trout, an ultra-light reel spooled with 4lb test and a higher retrieve ratio is perfect. Higher gear ratios mean faster line recovery. For example, if your reel’s gear ratio is 6.0:1, this means that the spool revolves 6 times with each turn of the handle.
As I mentioned light line is fun to fish with, but a fishing line used for trout also needs to be exceptionally tough. Trout are typically found tight to boulders, sunken wood, and other snags that tear up fishing lines. Abrasion-resistant monofilament or fluorocarbon line that is nearly invisible in water is a good choice for trout.
Using Spinners Can Cause Line Twist
For most inline spinners, the blade rotates around the wire shaft, which tends towards the entire spinner slowly rotating in the water when retrieved. Because of this slow rotation, over time it can lead to a “line” twist. Some guys will tie in line barrels to their line and then tie on a short leader to attach the spinner. Others use small ball-bearing swivels to help.
I can’t recommend either of these solutions, having never used them myself. Instead, as I do on my fly line” leader, I simply run my line straighter down the line or even my fingers to untwist the line. What is important here is that you are made aware that line twisting happens and is something you’ll need to deal with from time to time.
How Do You Fish For Trout In A Creek?
If you have read other articles of mine, you know I fish Pennsylvania waters primarily, and most of these streams are small. I like to wade these creeks the majority of the time. Moving slowly while in the water allows me a vantage point to see trout in close proximity and attack the stream from different angles.
When spin fishing I like moving upstream, covering a lot of water. This is another reason why spinners are effective for catching trout. I don’t waste time fishing the same hole for hours. If the fish are active they’ll hit a spinner quickly otherwise they will simply ignore it or chase it out of curiosity without hitting it.
I make a million casts (ok maybe not a million, maybe 1000…. ok a lot) as I make my way upstream. My casts are long, upstream casts generally. Making long casts is one of the ways to trigger strikes from fish that have not detected anything unnatural in their environment. Sometimes long casting isn’t possible and I use a different technique I have described below, “flipping”. But my point is to try and stay undetected by the trout.
I begin my retrieve the instant the spinner hits the water. I want my blade in motion, literally, the second it hits so I can control and adjust the retrieve. The retrieve needs to be faster than the water’s current or flow for the spinner blade to spin. I try to get the blade to appear as if it is fluttering rather than a tight spin. I can’t always see the spinner which makes adjusting the speed of the spin easier when I can see it. Otherwise, it’s all about feel and that, quite honestly, takes time to develop.
Sometimes, I use a “flipping” technique similar to bass fishing, to get into a tight spot or just behind objects (structure) in the water. Flipping provides a subtle entry by the spinner into the water and doesn’t spook trout as other casts might. This technique requires swinging the spinner back and forth out in front of you, like a pendulum, and then timing the release to swing the spinner away from you and into the water. It takes a lot of practice but once you get the feeling of this technique, it comes in really handy at times.
We talked about weight earlier and most of that referred to the spinner itself. Because I prefer to use a small spinner (1/24 Rooster Tail for example) I rarely if ever go bigger. I’m not suggesting that you don’t go bigger I’m just relating how I do it. I’ve caught many a big fish on a small spinner and for my rod, and me, it’s what I’m comfortable using. That said, to compensate, I add weight (split shot) anywhere from 6 to 15″ above my spinner. At a minimum, I always add at least one and when I feel I need to get down deeper I add more. For me, removing and adding weight is just a normal procedure. It always is depending on the situation which is ever-changing in a day’s fishing.
Swimming The Spinner
There are three “baits” I have learned to “swim” when it comes to my fishing arsenal, spinners, crankbaits, and streamers. By swimming what I mean is, mimicking the movement of an injured baitfish by retrieving these “baits” with an erratic pattern.
Spinners tend to travel a smooth path through the water with a methodical motion. Most anglers I have watched fishing spinners cast across the stream reeling at a steady constant speed. Most, allow the spinner to “arch” across and downstream in a bow-like fashion.
I developed a technique I refer to as “swimming”. (I’m sure I didn’t invent it). Using the tip of my rod and the rod itself, I guide the spinner, darting between rocks, cutting it across the streams and up and over obstacles in the water, as I retrieve it. This erratic movement of the spinners is very effective at attracting and catching trout.
I mentioned earlier that I make a long cast upstream. Immediately after the cast, I position my rod at a 90-degree angle to the spinner upstream. When I do this (during the retrieve) I pull the rod tip slightly downstream while keeping the reeling speed consistent. This pulling and pausing or easing raises and drops the spinner which to a trout appears to be a minnow caught in the current.
Additionally, I will switch my rod position from left to right (or vice versa) to suddenly dart the spinner across the stream. These erratic movements drive trout crazy. Trout love to chase stuff and this is one way to really get them active. I’ve watched trout travel a long way to chase a spinner only to strike it at the very last second before the retrieve is completed. That’s exciting, to say the least.
It’s fair to say that I love fly fishing and it is my main tool in the pursuit of trout. I have friends who don’t fly fish at all and when they ask me to trout fish with them, out comes a spinning rod. Although I do lobby for them to change, I’ll admit using a spinning rod from time to time is fun. And why not right? It’s all about having fun.
Spinners are a great way to fish for trout and are extremely effective at catching trout. For a beginner trout fisherman, I highly recommend using spinners. Unlike using bait which is messy, spinners are clean, easy to use, easy to cast and when a trout hits one, well hold on. Are spinners effective for catching trout when it comes to kids? You bet they are, it’s as if they were specially made for kids. For those of you who have never used a spinner, get out there and give them a try. For you seasoned fly guys, do yourself a favor and spend a half-day tossing metal. Changing up once in a while is a lot of fun and don’t worry it won’t ruin your reputation either. It might remind you of a time when fishing was brand new. Fish on!
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