Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Few lures beat a tailspinner in cold water
is the sixth and final installment of a series of articles titled “Fall Fishing
Festival” profiling the productive fishing on Kentucky’s lakes, rivers and
streams in fall.
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Some lures on the
market have stood the test of time, catching fish decade after decade. The
Dardevle spoon, the Panther Martin and Rooster Tail in-line spinners, the
Jitterbug and the Hula Popper still catch fish today like they did when swing
music topped the charts.
The tailspinner is
another old-time lure that still catches fish consistently, and one of the best
winter lures for black bass.
is one of the only lures to catch a documented 10-pound smallmouth bass and a
documented 10-pound largemouth bass,” said Chad Miles, administrative director
for the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
They are not just
bass lures, however. They also catch sauger and walleye below locks and dams
during the winter months. Trout also hit tailspinners as do white bass during
their spring spawning runs.
The lure is a
simple design; a piece of lead impregnated with wire and a small Indiana or
hammered Colorado spinner blade attached behind it with a treble hook
A Bowling Green
businessman named Cecil Pedigo began tinkering with a tailspinner design in the
1960s. He employed a triangular-shaped piece of lead with a concave face to
help the lure sink slower, along with a hooked dressed in marabou behind a
small Indiana spinner blade.
He called it the
Spinrite, still held in legendary regard among smallmouth anglers in Kentucky
and Tennessee. The Uncle Josh Company purchased the Spinrite from Pedigo and
discontinued the lure many years ago, but a Kentucky company is bringing the
lure back, appearing in tackle stores in the state soon. Tailspinners are also
found in tackle stores around major reservoirs in Kentucky and from most
The late Billy
Westmoreland, considered by many the greatest reservoir smallmouth angler of
all time, caught a 10-pound, 1-ounce monster smallmouth on a Spinrite in late
winter while slicing points with one on Dale Hollow Lake. He also hooked a
smallmouth on Christmas Day of 1970 that he believed weighed between 12 and 14
pounds, larger than the world record. The Spinrite popped out of the fish’s
mouth during a long fight. The memory haunted him for many years.
with a tailspinner is a highly effective and easy presentation for black bass
in winter. Fire a tailspinner to a main lake or secondary point and let it
flutter down to bass suspended near the point. Reel just enough to keep the
line taut and watch intently. Set the hook if you see your line jump, go slack
or you no longer feel the blade of the tailspinner thumping in your hand.
is deadly on difficult-to-fish steep points that grow in importance to bass
when water temperatures drop to 50 degrees and below. Fish the front and both
sides of the point.
tailspinner is the most popular, but a ¾-ounce works well in windy conditions
or on deep lakes. These weights work best for smallmouth and spotted bass on
our clear, mountainous lakes such as Lake Cumberland or Laurel River Lake.
tailspinner works fantastic for sleepy, lethargic winter largemouth bass in
shallower reservoirs such as Barren River Lake, Green River Lake, Yatesville
Lake, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Largemouth bass are the toughest of the
black bass to catch during winter.
The late Ted
Crowell, former assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of
Fish and Wildlife Resources, used to catch largemouth bass from Lake Barkley in
winter on a Spinrite. He said many of the fish were so fat they weighed 5
pounds, but were only 18 or 19 inches long.
“You can cast it
out and fish it like a spinnerbait over grass or mud flats,” Miles said. “The
flats near deep water often hold big largemouths in winter.”
The compact design
of a tailspinner makes it easy to throw one a country mile. Increased casting
distance lends more stealth for the low, clear winter conditions on reservoirs.
distance also comes in handy for walleye or sauger below locks and dams in
winter as well as during the spring white bass runs. Sauger strike tailspinners
fished just off the bottom below locks and dams on the Ohio and Kentucky rivers
during the coldest days of the year.
Walleye in the
tailwaters below Lake Cumberland, Green River, Carr Creek and Nolin River lakes
strike tailspinners as well.
fishing below dams replace the treble hooks with a sharp single hook to reduce
lures lost on the snag-prone bottom common in these areas. This is a good idea
for those throwing tailspinners for trout in tailwaters as well.
White bass running
in the headwaters of Nolin River, Taylorsville or Herrington lakes strike
tailspinners with abandon, often soon after the lure splashes down.
Tie on a
tailspinner this winter and let this old war horse work its magic.