Posts Tagged Spinnerbaits

Muddy Creek

This month our featured fishery could be looked at as part of Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park. However we believe that Muddy Creek, the tail waters of the Lake Arthur Dam, deserve to be classified as its own fishery. The tail waters stretch from the Lake Arthur Dam until it runs into Slippery Rock Creek. It can be difficult to fish, but if you can deal with hiking and working to get through brush you can find some really nice areas to fish.

Some of the species that you will find in Muddy Creek include: walleye, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, northern pike, and muskellunge. Near the tail waters you will find that there are gizzard shad. These are often the target of the trophy muskellunge. Just because this in not a large fishery don’t assume that the fish are not going to be big. You may not catch a bunch of fish, but you will catch quality fish. Walleye over 20 inches are common and 40 inch muskellunge are common as well.

Time of year should determine how you fish and the size of lures that you use. In the winter the best rig to use is a single hook a small split shot and a medium fathead minnow. This will catch every species swimming in the creek, especially the muskellunge and northern pike. Once the water begins to warm up in the spring larger lures. Spinnerbaits, stick baits, buzzbaits and frogs are all good options. For bass brings you jigs and trailers and you will not be disappointed.

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Clear Water

Berkly hollow belly swimbaits are great options when fishing clear water.

If you are fishing clear water for any species of fish you must match the forage of the body of the water.  This is well painted jerkbaits and crankbaits can really do well.  Also, life like swimbaits are a good options.  If you are using spinnerbaits or chatterbaits you should use a more natural looking skirt with the proper blades to match.  The same is true with crawfish.  Depending on what part of the country and type of structure that  you are fishing crawfish take on different color patterns.  Knowing which pattern will lead to a higher success rate.

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Oneida Lake – New York

When traveling with the Bassmaster Weekend Series last year I came upon a couple fisheries that are truly amazing. Today I am going to focus on Oneida Lake in New York. Even though we are a Pittsburgh based website and try to keep the lakes local to Western Pennsylvania, I felt that I had to tell people about this lake. I will be the first to tell you that I am not an expert or even pretend to know a lot about this body of water. However, this is one fishery that you don’t have to know in order to have a great day of fishing. Through the article I will touch on the most abundant species, camping, fishing techniques, and geographic features.

First, I feel that it is important to know what kind of lake you are going to be fishing before you get there. Oneida lake is twenty-two miles in length from East to West and is anywhere from one to five miles wide North to South. The surface are of the lake is 50,000 acres. This makes it the biggest lake in New York State. Oneida Lake is located just North of Syracuse and was formed by glaciers during the ice age. Because it is a natural lake the water is clear to slightly stained most of the time. However, you could hit it during the algae bloom and see why it was nicknamed the green lake.

The first thing I noticed about the lake was the pure size of the lake. I had been on some large bodies of water, but next to the great lakes it was the biggest. For its size this body of water is relatively shallow. I fished the lake for 4 days and the deepest water I located was 30 feet. What you have to watch for is the islands and shoals that are thrown throughout the lake. These shoals are not always marked on makes and could be completely submerged if the water level is high. It is my recommendation to get a map or rely heavily on your gps unit while travel on Oneida Lake. Another thing that I notice was that because the lake runs east to West the waves can build very fast and can be very dangerous. High winds don’t necessarily have to seem high at this lake. 15 mph winds will cause three to five foot waves. You add in shoals that are all around and you can have a recipe for disaster.

Located at the South Western corner of the lake is Oneida Shores State Park. They have over fifty campsites which most of which have electric and water hook-ups. The bathrooms and shower house are very well kept. There is also a sand beach in the State Park. Launching your boat is free if you are camping in the campground, but there is a small launching fee if you are just using the launch for the day.

Oneida Lake may be one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries by sheer numbers that I have ever came across. There are many local bass tournaments held at Oneida Lake, but there are a surprising amount of professional tournaments held there ever year. Circuits such as the Bassmaster Elites, Bassmaster Weekend Series, Anglers Choice, and the BFL are just a couple of the many professional bass circuits to come to Oneida Lake every year. This species of smallmouth is somewhat shorter but very heavy. I was very surprised that a sixteen inch smallmouth bass was anywhere from 2.25 pounds to 2.75lbs. What I discovered was that when you found one of these guys there was a pack of them there. Once you turn on that school it was absolutely unbelievable. Prior to my trip to Oneida Lake I had probably only broke a spinnerbait about two times in my life. During my 4 days there I broke 8 spinnerbaits. Most of which were because of how vicious the hits are and how strong the fish are.

For anyone that heads up there in search of smallmouth bass I have a few suggestions as to what depth, structure, and lures to use. Knowing that smallmouth bass are predator fish the depth can vary throughout the course of the day. Also, the time of year will play a part in deciding what depth to fish at. As a rule of thumb, shallow points, points on the islands, or tops of shoals should be fished early in the morning or late at evening. The fish in these areas are aggressive can will hit topwater baits or other moving baits. My recommendation is to throw poppers with a rear red feathered hook or to throw a double willow spinnerbait. You may need to cover water until you find them but when you do watch out. The rest of the morning and the middle of the day I would focus on the eight to twenty foot depth range. I realize that this my seem pretty vague but typically eight to nine foot of water is a weed line that extend to the surface and when you back your boat off twenty-five or thirty yards (a minimum in clear water) you will more than likely be sitting in fourteen to sixteen feet of water. Several techniques seem to really work well in this depth range. I would start by covering water with spinnerbaits. Natural shad colors seem to work best and silver blades seem to be better than gold. Other moving baits that I would try are jerkbaits (hard and soft), lipless crankbaits, and in-line spinners. Yes, I said in-line spinners. These work surprising well up there and got bites when the bite would seem to have died. Dragging tubes and beavers were also effective. Drop shoting a wacky hooked 4” green pumpkin senko is also effective. The smallmouth bass in this lake are not hard to find but when you launch at Oneida Shores, drop your trolling motor and go to the right. There are a lot of tournaments that release a lot of fish there and it is well stocked. Just stay in the 8 to 10 foot range.

There is also a decent amount of largemouth bass in Oneida Lake. The largemouth bass tend to win bass tournaments but they are harder to find. I feel that the reason that they are harder to find is that most of the shoreline is covered in mat weeds and it looks very similar. Plus, the population of largemouth isn’t as high as smallmouth. Unlike the smallmouth I would stay fishing in the mat weeds. I would start by working frogs and buzzbaits overtop of the mat. Once I found an area that I felt would hold fish I would punch the weeds with a minimum of ¾ ounce weight with your soft plastic of choice. Personally, when I flip mat weeds I am using a one-ounce weight with a beaver or tube. I find the sender profile help get it through the mat. Other options are heavy jigs. Something that I noticed was when I can across a log that was in the weeds I typically got bit there. Big Bay and the channel have been known to produce big bags of largemouth bass. If you want to go off the beaten path check out 3 Mile Bay. I had some success there.

Walleye and perch are also abundant. I was able to catch multiple walleye while dropping my senko. I think if I had targeted walleye a little more we could have had a nice bag of walleye at the end of the day. Even more so than normal you are going to need light line because the water is so clear. May is supposed to be the best month for walleye fishing at Oneida Lake.

I found myself catching an unbelievable amount of Pickerel during my time at Oneida Lake. The pickerel were not always big, but they were a lot of fun. White buzzbaits in the shallow water over the weeds really seemed to get them going. Each day I was there I would say that I caught at least ten pickerel. If you like catching these guys this is the lake for you. I know I truly have a blast a throwing topwater and spinnerbaits for them. The first day of my tournament I managed to only land 3 bass, but caught about 30 pickerel. Not something I am proud of because I feel that I am a quality bass fishermen, but that just shows you how many pickerel are in the lake.

If you are heading up I recommend throwing a few other lures. For all of the mentioned species I would try some swimbaits. It is a misconception that northern fish won’t attack these big lures. Give them a try and you might be surprised. Another lure I would try are jigging spoons. I feel that the smallies would eat a lure falling down and hoping across the bottom just was well as a lure being cranked passed them. Don’t be afraid to experiment as well. Burning a spinnerbait over twenty feet of water sounds crazy, but it works and works very well.

The next time you are looking at taking a fishing trip, I highly recommend visiting Oneida Lake. It is close to wine country and offers something for everyone. Not to mention that fishing is some of the best that I have ever experienced. If you have any questions about the lake or information that you would like to share with me or everyone else feel free to add a comment at the bottom of the article or shot me an email.

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Potomac River – Regional Championship

Recently I competed in the Bassmaster Weekend Series regional championship at the Potomac River.  The tournament was held on October 16 and 17, but I decided that with a new triton boat on the line and a bid to the nation championship on the line that I would go practice from Monday the 12th thru Thursday the 15th.  I was fortunate enough to room with a great group of guys from Pennsylvania.  I would like to thank Steve Hughes, Gus Glasgow, Ted Glasgow, Steve Allard, Mark Hughes, and my dad, Ron Cancilla, for a very enjoyable trip.  It was nice to be part of a group of guys that acted like a team to help one another develop winning patterns together.  For me it was my first trip down to the Potomac River and the guys gave me important information on dangerous areas and what to look for as far as fish habitat.

Before I left for my trip all I heard was how great a fishery that the Potomac River has become.  I believe that if we would have got better weather I would have seen that.  Unfortunately, with falling water temps all week, the conditions got more difficult as time went on.  Here is my experience.

Monday was my true first day of practice and decided that I should stay close to the launching site of the tournament.  The tournament was launching from Smallwood State Park on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.  Smallwood State Park is a beautiful facility, but has a $10 launching fee per day.  Smallwood State Park is located on Mattawomen Creek and is known for its number of bass.  That was apparent right away as I boated a bunch of small keepers on white spinnnerbaits, chatterbaits, buzzbaits, and a series 1XS strike king crankbait.  A keep largemouth bass during this season at the Potomac River is 12 inches and most of the fish that I found were in the 13-14″ range.  Around mid day I decided that I would try a couple of my lake spots that I wanted to hit with little success.  I did manage to catch a snakehead.  For those who don’t know these are fish are an invasive species that you are supposed to kill when you catch them.  I however did not kill the snakehead that I caught because I didn’t have a picture of the fish with me to determine if that is truly what I caught.  Later that night I confirmed that is what I caught.  After Some main lake spots, I decided to run to Belmont Bay and the creek in the back of it.  The water looked fantastic, but I only managed 3 keepers in there.  The water temperature was 65+ degrees depending on where we were fishing.  The weather was warm 70’s and mostly sunny.

Tuesday I decided to make my longest run of practice.  I decided to fish Aquia Creek, the Arcandale Flats, and Wades Bay.  There is not a lot for me to right about Tuesday because I only managed to catch 4 bass.  The best was on a series 4 strike king crankbait.  It was Tuesday that I finally saw the results of catching the tides wrong.  However, it would take me until the last day of the tournament to learn how to fish the tide change properly.

Wednesday I decided that I would spend less time running the big motor and more time trying to catch fish.  I decided to fish Chickamoxen Creek, main river areas, and 1 other small creek.  Up until 2:30 I was having very little success only catching 2 keepers all morning.  I had found some rip rap in about 3 1/2 feet of water at high tide.  Feeling a bit defeated I switch to finesse fishing a shakey head worm on a football shakey head jig.  Wow, did it work!!!  I stuck 4 fish on the 400 yards of water and had many more hits.  I figured that I would have had about 13lbs of fish with my best five fish that day and was confident that I would get those fish to myself in the tournament.  The weather starting changing Wednesday though.  It started sunny, but the wind picked up and overcast move in.  The water temperature had started to drop as well.

Thursday I decided to try to find more rip rap for my shakey jigs.  The weather had turned nasty though.  Cold rainy conditions should have allowed for my pattern to hold up, but it killed the bite.  Around 9:30 I decided I would give Belmont Bay and its creek another try.  I had no success.  Around 11:00 I decided that I was going to start at the Occoquan River mouth and fish the weed line with crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and chattebaits, until I found a spot with some fish or I found a lure that worked.  After about 1/2 mile and 15 lures I found a lure and stretch that was loaded with keepers.  They weren’t big keepers, but I figured it got tough these fish may get me into the top 50.  My lure of choice was a lucky craft flat crankbait that had a less aggressive wobble in about 5-7 feet of water.  The water temperature was now around 58 Degrees and falling.

The first day of the tournament was Friday and I managed to draw 1st flight and boat 25.  That made me feel good since there were 167 boats in the tournament.  The weather was rainy and windy and the air temperature would never get higher than 45 degrees.  I had made my mind up the night before that I would start on the best fish that I found with my shakey head pattern.  From 7:15 – 10:45 I worked these fish hard and only managed to catch 1 keeper that was 12 1/4″.  My rider managed a small limit using a white spinnerbait.  At this point I decided to make the run into the Occoquan River and work the fish I had found the day before.  Over the next 3+ hours I caught 12-15 more keepers on the same lucky craft crankbait working a short stretch of water.  The key to the spot was that at low tide the fish located themselves on the weed edge.  Pulling crankbaits through the weeds was frustrating, but it was producing fish.  At 1:30 I decided to leave the fish and try a couple of spots on the main river that I though could give me a big bite.  Check-in came and I managed no more keepers.  I weighted 5 keeper largemouth bass that weighed 8.34 pounds.  For the Potomac River those are bad numbers, but I was sitting in 37th place.  The game planning started for the next day.

Saturday morning came and I was in 2nd flight and was boat 112.  The wait in the morning about killed me, but the weather was even more brutal.  The air temperature would once again never break 45 degree and it would rain/sleet all day.  Through the course of the night I had decided that I was going to sit on the one school of fish I had located in the Occoquan River all day.  What I hadn’t truly realized yet is how the tide effects where the fish were located in the spot I was fishing.  I ran to my spot right away and started working my fish with the same lucky craft crankbait.  After 2 hours of fishing my stretch I had no keepers on my weed edge.  Then I remembered the words that Steve told me before I left that morning.  “You will be surprised how shallow that the fish will go when it is high tide.”  I pulled out my spinnerbait rod opened my box and picked out a spinnerbait with 2 small nickel willow blades and a pink/white skirt.  Normally, I would only throw this spinnerbait for smallmouth, but I was desperate.  Three casts after I started beating the bank I caught my first keeper.  Then it was back to nothing.  Figuring it was a fluke I decide to work my weed edge with some other lures for another hour.  Once again no luck.  At this point the tide was going out so I decided to work the weeds in between the bank and my weed edge.  I decided that I would also drift to not spook the fish.  Oh my how it work.  In the next 10 minutes I loaded the well with a small limit.  But I had my limit.  As I finished my drift I realized that 10 boats saw me catching fish and swarmed my area.  Knowing that the fish were shallow I knew that many trolling motors and depth finders would kill the bite in a hurry.  And it did!  I never caught another fish shallow.  Slowly the boats disappeared and around 1:00 I was the last boat on my stretch again.  At this point I figured that the tide was such that the fish would have relocated at the weed edge.  Since the water had dropped all the water to 52 degree I made a lure selection that even I didn’t believe I was using.  I went to a lucky craft point 78.  You have to understand that if there is one technique that I feel inferior in using is hard body jerkbaits.  But you want to talk about instant results, my first cast I caught a keeper on a 5 second pause.  It would be the first of about 15 fish that I would catch in the next 1 1/2 hours.  Using a 5 -10 second pause proved to be key in getting strikes.  Looking back I wish I would have used the lure all morning because I think I would have caught more fish, but it was the adjustment I needed to move up the leader board.  Day 2 of the tournament I weighed 5 largemouth bass that weighed 7.81 pounds.

As weigh-in concluded I knew that my 10 bass weighing 16.15lbs would be close to the top 20 anglers who would receive a check.  I ended up finishing 21st out of 167 competitors.  I felt very good about my finish because I had never been there, I had a bad practice, and I made the adjustments I needed to.  Like most tournaments I did make a few minor mistakes that cost me probably 2 or 3 lbs and several places in the standing.  Even so, I reached my ultimate goal of going to the national championship at Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas.  Starting November 1st I will be competing against 199 other competitors for $100,000 and a bid to the Bassmaster Classic this February.  Check back in a couple weeks to see how that trip goes.

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Clear Water Powerfishing

In clear water conditions such as most of the finger lakes in New York, Presque Isle Bay or any of the northern section of the Allegheny River power fishing can be very productive.  There are a couple things to remember though.  First, you need to keep the lure moving at a moderate to fast pace.  You don’t want the fish to get too good of a look at  your spinnerbait, buzzbait, or crankbait.  Second, is that color selection needs to be as natural as possible.  Third, don’t be affraid to fish over deep water near the surface.  The fish will come a long way to strike in clear water.  Good fishing.

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Picking the Right Spinnerbait

Variety of Spinnerbaits

Variety of Spinnerbaits

Sometimes the most basic lures really aren’t so basic.  We often feel that when we buy a lure we can take it out of the package and go to a body of water and catch fish on it.  You may be able to catch fish on spinnerbaits straight from the package, but there are many modifications that will allow the lure to work under any conditions.  With so many options it is hard to narrow down which lures to take to the water.  Today we are going to talk about how to narrow down the selection process and eliminate taking a heavy  box of too many lures.  In the following we will talk about different techniques, skirt colors and sizes, blade shape, color, and size, and some lure tuning tips.


It is hard to find a place to start when deciding to talk about spinnerbaits.  Let’s start with one of the two most important parts to the spinnerbait.  The most interchangeable part to a spinnerbait is its blades.  There are many shapes, sizes, colors and textures in which we can choose from.  Some of the common blades styles that we can find regularly are the Willow Leaf, Indiana, and Colorado blades.  

Willow Leaf, Colorado, & Indiana Blades

Willow Leaf, Colorado, & Indiana Blades

These different blades should all be utilized for what they types of fishing conditions they best fit.  The willow leaf blade is great for clear what fast retrieves.  Because of the long slender shape of the blade it disperses very little what, but still puts off a great deal of flash which allows you to cover water faster.  The Colorado blade is a round blade that is good when the water is stained or muddy.  Because the Colorado blade is round it displaces more water and causes a greater vibration.  Due to the low visibility of the water vibration because very important because the fish are no longer seeing what they are attacking.  The Indiana blade is basically a hybrid between the Colorado and willow leaf blades.  Indiana blades are elongated round blades which disperse a good amount of what, but can still be used to cover a lot of water.  This blade is great for waking near the surface for aggressive bass, pike, and muskie.  All of these blades come in common sizes of size one through size six.  The bigger the number means that the blade gets bigger.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t half sizes or larger sizes.  These are simply the most common stock blades which come on prepackaged lures.  Spinnerbait blades come in many colors as well.  The two most common colors are silver and gold.  However, there are painted blades for special conditions.  For example, I like to use white blades when I fish the river for smallmouth bass.  I just think it gives me an edge on everyone else that is throwing a spinnerbait because not everyone is changing out blades.


Next, we should talk about the second most important part of the spinnerbait, which is the skirt.  Stock skirts on spinnerbait may be limited in color because company can only afford to mass produce so many colors.  Remember that you can always buy pre-made skirts from many companies that you can replace the stock skirt with a new skirt. skirts1You can also build your own skirts by buying precut lengths of skirt material or bulk material.  There are two main options when making skirts, which are rubber and silicon.  I have no preference between the two because I feel that both have their advantage at certain times.  Skirts shouldn’t be picked just because you have a hunch.  You have to do a little research about the baitfish and natural forage of the body of water that you are fishing.  For example, if the primary baitfish is gizzard shad then you should pick a white color and not a fire tiger color.  Since you are matching the color of the baitfish, be sure to cut the skirting to match the size or your baitfish.  If the shad are four or five inches long then a bigger skirts is necessary, but if they are two to three inch baitfish then it is necessary to cut the skirt down.  By matching the skirt color and size to the baitfish you will up your catch rate.  

Now let us talk about the different techniques that you can use to make spinnerbaits work for you.  Every angler starting out thinks that all you have to do is cast it out and reel it in.  Even though you can fish a spinnerbait that way it will be a lot more successful if you make the lure do certain things. 

The first technique is called slow rolling.  Slow rolling is basically casting out and reeling in at a very slow pace.  This technique can be used in the shallow weeds during the pre spawn or it can be use on ledges, creek channels, and brush piles to gain strikes during the post spawn and summer months.  Since slow rolling is done mostly in deep water, when fishing a Western Pennsylvanian lake you should be using a ½ to ¾ oz. lure to keep the lure in contact with the bottom or structure.  Making contact is crucial to catching fish because that is what is going to trigger your strikes.

Burning is another technique that can be very effective.  This technique is when you are reeling the lure in so fast that it never drops one foot below the surface.  The water conditions have to be right in order for this technique to work though.  First the water has to be very clear so fish will come from a distance to strike.  It also helps it the sun is shinny, but that isn’t a must.  Burning is very effective when fishing for clear water smallmouth bass and hybrid striper.  I have been told that muskie and pike can be taken on this technique as well.  When you are burning your bait try doing a short pause letting the lure fall slightly and then start burning again.  That will trigger a great deal of strikes when fish are following the lure.

Yo-Yoing is the last technique that I am going to talk about.  This technique can be used any time of year, in any water condition, and at just about any depth.  When using this technique you want to make long casts and let the lure sink to the bottom before you start putting the lure in motion.  Once the lure hits bottom reel the slack line and place your rod at the nine o’clock position.  Then raise your rod to the twelve o’clock position and let the lure fall back to the bottom.  Continue this retrieve until the lure is back at the boat.  You will have to let the fish determine how fast you are able to work the lure.  Sometimes you will be able to use a ¾ oz. spinnerbait and work it extremely fast and other times you might want a 3/8 oz. spinnerbait and slow way down.  I personally prefer the slower approach when fishing in weed beds. 

When fishing a spinnerbait you will have to make some minor adjustments or tune your bait as you fish with it.  The first thing you want to check is that the wire of the bait lines up with your hook and remains straight the length of the wire.  If it isn’t simple bend it back into shape with you hands or needle nose pliers.  Also, you can cut the wire length down to make the lure seem smaller and faster.  This will help if you are getting short strikes because the blades are going to be closer to the hook.  You can also squeeze the wire together placing a smaller gap between the hook and the blades doing the same thing.  On the other hand you can spread them apart to make the lure slower and larger.  Maybe the greatest improvement you can add to your spinnerbait is a trailer hook.  This will just about eliminate short strikes and make them hook ups.  You can add a soft plastic trailer to you lure to give more action and a bigger target for the fish to eat.  Remember to play with you blade and skirt sizes as well to match the baitfish. 

When you are getting ready to head to the lake this year with your box of spinnerbaits remember a few simple things.  Most importantly you need to match the size and color of the local baitfish.  Also, you don’t need to take a bunch of spinnerbaits, but you need a couple in each size so that you can change blade sizes and skirts size and color as you fish.  Try multiple techniques, pauses, jerks and speeds until you find the correct retrieve for the conditions and day.  Good luck to all and remember to have fun.

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