Going through some fishing notes recently, I came across some information I received once upon a time regarding one of the favorite springtime angling tactics of legendary Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour pro Jimmy Houston.
You know, the always smiling blond-haired, fish kissing angler and television show host who loves to laugh and is widely known as America’s favorite fisherman from Cookson, Okla.
When I read through those notes again, I couldn’t help but smile too as one of bass fishing’s all-time great baits — one that is often thought of as an old school tactic by today’s young gun anglers — came crashing to the forefront again.
And that’s the time-honored spinnerbait, a lure that Houston has used successfully over the years in catching a boatload of bass, all the way from his days with Terminator spinnerbaits on through his use of the Booyah Blade spinnerbait.
Regardless of the brand of spinnerbait that Houston — the longtime host of Jimmy Houston Outdoors on World Fishing Network — has used down through the years, the results have usually been the same.
He consistently lands largemouth bass — and often good ones, at that — during the springtime seasons that range from the pre-spawn phase on through the breeding season and on through the post-spawn phase too.
In fact, in some ways, you could say that Houston, a frequent visitor to Lake Texoma and Lake Ray Roberts over the years, has used the lure to literally spinnerbait his way through the spring season from start to finish.
How does the 1976 and 1986 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year use the lure during the first phase of the season, the pre-spawn phase?
“In early spring, when water temperatures are ranging from about 45 to 62 degrees, big bass are in the pre-spawn mode and they tend to be positioned in front of potential spawn sites, usually in four to seven feet of water,” indicated Houston, a 2008 inductee into the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) Hall of Fame.
“At this time of year, bass are gorging themselves in an effort to stockpile energy to get them through the physically taxing spawning ritual so they’re seeking larger food items, and lots of them,” he added.
With that in mind, Houston will tie on either a 1/2-ounce or a 3/4-ounce tandem willow leaf blade spinnerbait with a chartreuse and white skirt. At times, he’ll also add a long trailer to the spinnerbait’s hook to add some bulk to the bait and give it a larger profile in the water column.
When the spawn kicks into high gear and bass go into the skinny water to breed, Houston said the spinnerbait can still work.
“When bass do finally move on to a spawning bed, contrary to popular belief, they are not impossible to catch,” indicated the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame member.
“The key is to cast right at the bed instead of past it, as you might to other types of fish-holding objects,” added Houston.
“An erratic movement of the bait just above the bed will many times force the fish to snatch the lure more out of frustration and defense of the eggs than in an effort to eat.”
And what about the post-spawn phase that many North Texas and southern Oklahoma lakes are currently moving towards?
“After bass spawn, they are (almost) always near the water’s surface,” indicated Houston. “In fact, often they are suspending in flooded trees, just a foot or two under the surface, regardless of the depth underneath them.
When Houston uses the spinnerbait to target these post-spawn bass, he often opts again for a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce spinnerbait.
“However, during the post-spawn, I usually use a large turtleback blade instead of a willow leaf,” said the angler often referred to as the Cookson Kid.
The bottom line here is that despite a myriad of newer lure options now available at local tackle shops, the time-honored spinnerbait is a Hall of Fame lure that still can catch bass with the best of them each spring and then some.
Just ask Jimmy Houston, the three-time hall of fame fisherman that hails from eastern Oklahoma.
He’s the one who has probably caught yet another springtime bass on a spinnerbait, laughing out loud as he sits on the front deck of his bass rig while a couple of television cameras look on.
Showing that an old school spinnerbait can still get the job done each and every spring.