Rebirth of the Single Blade Spinnerbait


We waited for the summer thunderstorm to pass. As we stood on the dock, you could still see faint bursts of light on the horizon, but it was safe now. A few dock lights across the lake were my navigation markers as we cruised to a special weed flat that was very productive that morning. It was night now; the wake boarders, jet skiers, water skiers and general watercraft that populate this particular lake during the day are gone. It’s just my daughter and me now and 2,000 acres of water to ourselves.

We cut the motor 50 yards from where we wanted to start fishing and slipped into position with the help of the trolling motor and a little post-storm breeze. I rarely use what someone else is using in the boat, but when night fishing for bass, I make an exception. It wouldn’t matter if I had four people in the boat, we would all be casting the same lure. My night fishing motto is, “Any lure works as long as it’s a black spinnerbait with a black blade.” My daughter was almost puzzled by the strike on her first cast but that’s all it took. We tallied a good dozen in the first hour from the same small weed flat. That kind of action is not uncommon for night fishing, especially on busy lakes.

The single blade spinnerbait has accounted for nearly 90 percent of my nighttime bass catches, lots of bonus walleyes, muskies, and even pike. Over the past 35 years of night fishing, I feel like I have the ultimate formula for the perfect single spin spinnerbait and some tips on being successful at night.

If you are an avid night fisherman, you will know what I mean, but if you haven’t gone out at night, you need to experience it. There is a peace on the water at night. As I mentioned earlier, the summer daytime traffic is gone and the winds usually die down. Rarely do you ever see another angler. The beauty is that the fish that are dug into the weeds during the day because of boat traffic or sunlight are out to play at night. Let’s face it; we fishermen are adrenalin junkies. We love that surprise of the strike and the unexpected jolt on the end of the line. Well, at night you increase that element of surprise and mystery even more.

There are a lot of things that will catch fish at night. They all generally involve a lure that makes noise. Surface baits like a classic jitterbug are fun, but fish miss them very often. Crankbaits with rattles are good but they catch weeds and pulling weeds off crankbaits at night is a time waster. The ultimate lure for covering water, ticking weeds, bumping stumps, fishing high, fishing low and slow is the single spin spinnerbait. With one of a variety of Do-It spinnerbait molds you can make them yourself.

Do-It has no less than 20 different spinnerbait and buzz bait molds available for tiny 1/16-ounce crappie baits to 2 1/2-ounce monsters designed to punish monster muskies.  For nighttime bass fishing, I rely heavily on three different weights, 1/2-, 5/8-, and 3/4-ounced sizes. These three sizes are perfect for working depths of 6 to 15 feet where I normally target the nighttime sanctuaries. I also have chosen specific head shapes because of their ability to come through weed tops, and stabilize larger single Colorado blades. There are some heads like the classic Bullet shape that are good for burning tandem willows, but for this application, I like a little more weight in the belly of the head.

My first favorite is the versatile Ultra Minnow Spinner Jig Mold. It features the 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-ounce heads. There are also  5/8-, 3/4- and 1-ounce heads. If I had to pick one, I’d definitely go with the one that makes the larger sizes unless you make a lot of smaller spinnerbaits for other applications. The realistic shape and details of this head get wasted at night but its shape and silhouette really excel for night baits. They also have a great molded socket to accept a stick-on or 3D eye.

My other favorite is a mold that Do-It calls the “Style C” Spinner Jig. The model is dialed in for this type of fishing, offering the 1/2- and 5/8-ounce heads in the same mold. I’m not sure what the “C” stands for, but I think it’s for “chubby.” This head features a nice hefty belly that is perfect for single spins. This head is also perfect for any of you that want to make copies of the famed classic Bass Buster Tarantula. The Tarantula caught a ton of bass in the 1970s for a lot of famous fishermen.

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Whichever head you choose, I like .041 wire and a 5/0 extra long shank spinnerbait hook. I like this “extra long” shank especially for night baits because I have found that you don’t need to use a trailer hook if you use this hook. This may be controversial because many night anglers advocate a trailer for that extra insurance they feel they may need to catch a fish in the dark. Over the years, I have found that the only thing the “trailer” hooks is my hand when I’m trying to land a fish.

The extra-long shank gets the point way back into the end of skirt eliminating the need for the trailer. It also eliminates a lot of tangles and weed fouls. There is a misconception that you need more hooks because the fish have a harder time seeing the bait and striking it correctly in the dark. My experience is just the opposite. Night fish, whether it’s a bass, a walleyes or muskies aren’t chasing out of curiosity. They are eating! Give these fish credit, they can find food and eat at night. If you want to use a trailer hook, use it during the day when they are nipping and nibbling at the tail. Night fish engulf the bait.

Let’s talk head colors: Black. Done. It’s all about silhouette, so black is best. Yes, I splash a little red on the belly and maybe a little gold on the top of the head, but I think it’s more for me than the fish. I have experimented with glow heads. The jury is out. They definitely catch fish, but I don’t know if they catch any more than plain black.

Now let’s talk skirts: Yes, black again, but here we have options. I really love the new silicone skirt tabs and all the creations you can achieve by mixing and matching. For night baits, I really like the movement and bulk of old school round rubber. Plain black is good. I also like the new round “reptile” rubber that has a pattern printed on it. The black and gold is great. Another favorite is a commercially made skirt called a Starflash. It has glitter molded into the rubber that throws a little flash at night. If you really want to go old school, hand-tied black bucktail.

Split-tailed trailers can add a little action and profile to the bait. What I discovered this year is that the Do-It soft bait, the 4-inch Carrot Stick, makes a great spinnerbait trailer. Rig it vertically and the vibration of the blade makes it come alive in the water.

Blades for night baits are simple too. Black nickel is my first choice with painted black or black Crystilina being a close second. The problem is finding them at times. Outside of night fishermen, not too many people use black blades. In a pinch, I have painted my own using Component Systems “smoke” colored powder paint. This is as close to black nickel that I have found and you can paint any standard brass or silver blade you have lying around in a minute. As far as shapes, Colorados throw the most vibes and is the clear-cut winner for night baits. Rig a #4.5 or #5 on a #2 ball bearing swivel and you are all set.

Fishing the black spinnerbait at night is so easy. No pumping, no yo-yoing, no stop-and-go. A slow steady retrieve allows the fish to find it and overtake it. I use a 5:1 ratio reel for all my night fishing. Cast it out and let it sink to the desired depth and just slowly reel it back. If you feel a weed or bottom, speed up slightly. Your goal is to keep it just above the structure, weeds, logs and rocks, making occasional contact here and there. Strikes will be hard at times, but for the most part, the bait just keeps getting heavier and heavier till the fish over takes the bait. That’s when you set the hook. A moderate action rod works well since it slows your reaction a bit.

A warm summer evening, quiet lake after a busy day, and a handful of black single spin spinnerbaits and you are in for a lot of fun. This is a super easy lure to make with one of Do-Its Ultra Minnow or Style C spinnerbait molds. You never know what may go “bump in the night,” and it’s always more fun to catch fish on a lure you made yourself.