Back in the day the only anglers that used fresh water spinning tackle were chasing walleyes or panfish. No right thinking bass angler would use one of those buggy whip rods and little reels to catch bass. Real bass anglers only used the tried and true bait-casting reel, which dominated the reel market back then. Oh! How times have changed.
The spinning rod and reel still dominates the market among serious muti-species anglers, walleye anglers and panfish anglers. But the increased use of spinning rods and reels by the hard-core bass angler is amazing; it has jumped by leaps and bounds. So what happened? Well it’s really pretty simple and one word explains it all: technology. Technology changes everything and usually for the better; the rod and reel industry is no different.
I know it’s hard to believe, but I think the fishing line industry may have had one of the biggest impacts on the development of better spinning rods and reels. Follow me on this one; back in the 1970’s and 1980’s the only line you used on spinning reels was monofilament line. And using anything stronger than 12-pound test line was asking for line management problems. So spinning rod and reel combinations got a reputation as a light line, open water application. If you were going to fish in the heavy cover, throw big baits or chase large fish like northern pike or catfish, you needed a bait-casting outfit.
Around 1992 or 1993, high performance fibers like Spectra and Dyneema where introduced to the fishing market in the form or super-braid lines. Slow to catch on at first, the fishing public finally embraced the new super-braided lines. As the new lines became more popular the fishing public started to demand both spinning rods and reels that would stand up to the rigors involved with using high tensile strength lines.
We wanted better guides, reel seats and blanks, along with a better selection of both lengths and actions in our spinning rods. In our reels we wanted better bail systems, bearings and tougher bodies; and like the rods we wanted a larger selection of spool size and styles. That demand and a willingness to spend hard earned dollars on better equipment spurred on development, which continues to this day. We got exactly what we asked for.
A good example is the new C3 Carbon Cone Concept rod released by Okuma Fishing Tackle Corporation. They have a 7-foot spinning rod, rated for lines up to 20-pounds and will handle lures weighting up to 1-ounce… that folks, ain’t your fathers spinning rod.
One question I get asked quite frequently in one form or another at seminars is; “Will a spinning rod work to fish (fill in the blank) for bass?” So when it comes to bass fishing lets look at which techniques the spinning rod and reel excel at, which it will be OK to use and finally which techniques are probably best done with a bait-casting outfit.
But first a little clarification on ground rules. I’m not going to talk too much about spinning reels. For bass fishing two sized reels dominate the fresh-water market, size 20 (200, 2000) and size 30 (300, 3000). If you go smaller than size 20 you can run into line management problems with fluorocarbon lines. And if you go larger than size 30 you have a weight issue and balance issue to deal with. Just a note; if you go to a size 30 reel for some applications (and I do) use some inexpensive backing on the reel, you will never need all the line that a size 30 reel can hold and you will save some money on line.
Talking about saving money, it’s nice to have a top-of-the-line spinning reel if it doesn’t break your bank. However, on most brands of spinning reels once you get over that sixty-dollar mark, you’re purchasing a very good quality spinning reel. My best example is the Okuma Trio. Retail price wise, it’s about 3rd from the top-of-the line V-System reels made by Okuma, but has most of the same features. The Trio has a suggested retail price of $84.99, but you frequently see them on sale for $69.99 and it comes in three different gear ratio’s (4.5:1 – 5.0:1 – 6.2:1) all at the same price point.
Rod length is pretty much a personal choice, some folks like long rods others like shorter rods and some like all their rods to be the same length. It’s pretty much agreed upon that longer rods cast farther and pick-up line quicker for a hook set. Shorter rods on the other hand are more accurate when casting. That being said I will indicate when I think a technique calls for a longer rod. Rod weight and action is also important so to save space let’s use the following abbreviations:
• M/M-medium weight moderate action
• M/F- medium weight fast action
• MH/M- medium heavy weight moderate action
• MH/F- medium heavy weight fast action
• MH/XF- medium heavy weight extra fast action
• H/F- heavy weight fast action
• H/XF- heavy weight extra fast action
Spinning tackle is a great choice for:
• Drop shotting: Whether you chose a braided line or fluorocarbon line, spinning is the choice of most anglers. Actions M/M to M/F both work. Here a longer rod works better as it moves the vertical presentation away from the boat.
• Trick worm: Small floating worms, smaller hooks and braided lines makes spinning a great choice. Add in windy days and it looks even better. Action choice is MH/F, as you will usually be shallow and around cover.
• Jig worms/Shaky head: Spinning always has been the primary choice with both these techniques. Good actions are both M/M and M/F.
• Wacky rigs: With Senko style baits and small hooks most anglers both pro and casual will reach for a spinning rod. Longer rods excel in open water situations in M/F actions. When fishing deep weedlines then a MH/F action 7-foot rod might be a better choice.
• Split-shotting/Twitching: A light finesse technique, similar to an ultra-light Carolina rig. A longer rod works better as longer casts are the norm. This is not a heavy cover technique; it is more of a finesse technique. So a M/F action shines at this technique.
• Small crank-baits: When the fishing gets tough you can usually force some bites using small cranks like Strike King’s Mini 3 or Bitsy Minnow. These small 1/8th ounce to 3/8th ounce baits are much easier to cast on spinning gear. Here accurate casts are important so a shorter rod is the ticket. And since small cranks have diminutive hooks your going to need a M/M action rod, as it will be more forgiving than a stiffer action rod.
• Jerk-baits/Stick baits: These slender light baits call-out for a spinning rod. You’re usually tossing stick-baits in clear water so light lines and longer rods are called for. A good choice is a 7-foot M/F action rod.
• Small Buzz-baits/Small Spinner-baits: Things like Strike King’s Mini Pro-Buzz or Micro-King generate a lot of bites anytime, but on tough bites they can be a go to lure. But they are light baits weighting in at a mere 1/16th ounce, tailor made for spinning gear. The same 7-foot MH/F rod you used for Wacky Rigging will work great here. The longer rod not only lets you cast these small baits further, but allows you to steer them into or around cover and lay-downs, just by pointing the rod to the left or right.
There are other techniques that a spinning outfit may not be the absolute best choice for, but will certainly work on. Add braided line into the equation and it makes the spinning rod just that much more versatile.
• Dock skipping: To this day I still use a spinning rod to skip docks. I like a shorter rod for skipping, as it gives me better control and accuracy. Combined with a size 30 spinning reel and 65- pound braid it’s a combination that is hard to beat.
• Texas rigging worms: I use a bait caster for T-rigging. But my tournament partner Mike DaLoia, who is a custom rod builder, having built well over 250 rods in the last five years, uses a spinning rod for T-rigging worms and small creature baits. Mike could use any rod he wants, his rod room sometimes looks like a porcupine shed its coat there, rods all over the place. But he chooses to use spinning gear and braided line. If you use a spinning rig for T-rigging then go with a MH/F action.
• Top-water baits: For tossing smaller prop-baits, chuggers or poppers you can certainly use a spinning rod. Again, go with a longer rod. You will get more distance and pick-up line quicker on the strike. The same rod you would use to fish Jerk-baits. However, the same rod recommended for small cranks will work for fishing around or along side docks where short accurate casts are called for.
• Spinner baits: The most popular spinner baits are in the 3/16th ounce to 3/8th ounce categories. I like a bait-casting rod for blade baits. But a MH/F spinning rod will certainly handle blade baits in these weights. A longer rod with braid would be my first choice for open-water presentations. When you’re fishing heavy cover where short accurate casts are called for then I would opt for a much shorter rod and heavy braid. The same spinning rod you would use for dock fishing would work great here.
• Carolina rigging: This one is a toss up. I’ve seen Mike DaLoia do it; I use bait-casting rods for this technique. But, a 7’0” to 7’7” H/F action rod should work… and they actually are pretty common. I think they are designed primarily for fishing swim-baits.
There are techniques that are better done with a bait-casting outfit. You can certainly use a spinning rod for these techniques, but using a bait-casting outfit makes using some techniques much easier and more efficient.
• Flipping/Pitching is the first one that comes to mind. With a spinning rod even a H/F action rod it can be frustrating. You would be better off skipping the bait.
• Deep Cranking: Again you can do it with spinning tackle. However, by the end of a full day of fishing cranks your wrist is going to be really tired and sore.
• Slow Rolling Big Blades: Just like above, you can certainly do it and they now build rods that are heavy enough to handle it. But, slow rolling 1 and 2-ounce spinnerbaits for hours is tough on the wrists and just as tough on a spinning reel bail springs.
• Swim Baits: The big baits from out west are best fished on a technique specific bait-casting rod. However, I fish the smaller swim baits on a spinning rod with braided line. My choice of rod is a 7’2” H/XF action. This rod lets you make extremely long casts. A heavy action rod and braided line is a must as some swim baits have heavy thick shanked hooks; on the end of a long cast it takes a lot of energy to drive those big hooks home.
Well as I said in the opening, “these ain’t your father’s spinning rods”. And thank heaven for that. We have so many more options to choose from now than they had back in the early days of spinning rod and reel development.
As always, stay safe and we hope to see you on the water.