By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
Editor’s note: As part of our continuing Pro’s Corner series, this is part two of a three-part feature on how pro anglers utilize the tried and true spinnerbait to put fish in the boat. Today, FLW Tour stalwart Scott Canterbury reveals how he utilizes a spinnerbait on the ever-changing Coosa River system. To read part 1 about Mike Iaconelli's spinnerbait/smallmouth tactics, click here.
FLW Tour angler Scott Canterbury is a spotted bass specialist who cut his teeth on the Coosa River chain.
While he’s always fished a spinnerbait, the past year’s high-water conditions lent themselves to the strengths of spinnerbait fishing.
“Any time you have high water, water in the bushes, and you have dirty water, you have good spinnerbait fishing,” he said. “There are times in the fall when you want clear water and we had it this year. That’s a big time of the year for fishing spinnerbaits for spotted bass.”
A spinnerbait is an all-season bait that works throughout the water column.
Whenever the water comes over the sea walls in the spring on the Coosa River, Canterbury can’t wait to throw a spinnerbait. Come fall, which is when the blades shine the best, the first hour of the morning around seawalls is prime. After that, he’ll fish shady spots for 2 to 3 hours burning a spinnerbait.
The key ingredient to catching spots in the fall is finding the bait.
“You are burning that blade over their head not wanting them to get a good look,” Canterbury said. “You want clear water so they are up there chasing bait real shallow on those sea walls and you’ll get some of the most ferocious strikes on a spinnerbait. If it’s raining, I’ll throw a spinnerbait all day long.”
Seawalls represent vertical structure for spotted bass to pin their prey against, especially when the water temps get down into the 60s. He’ll make every effort to make contact with the seawall, starting with a quick retrieve and he’ll twitch it, kill it, then let the spinnerbait sink 6 inches. Spotted bass are notorious for following so he’ll switch up his cadence and rig a trailer hook or two.
Targeting seawalls inside pockets and creeks on the main river are key, provided bait is present. Eventually, as the water gets into the 66- to 68-degree range, he’ll follow the bait into the backs of creeks.
Winter time is all about fishing current and rivers are the best place to start.
“I’m going up the river where there are no seawalls and I’m fishing current places,” Canterbury said. “I’m trying to hit eddies where there current is washing bait to them.”
Fishing slow and knowing exactly what your bait is doing is key.
“I’ll bring it out in the current and the current will wash it under a limb while your line is going over it,” Canterbury added. “You’ve got to be able to pull it over a limb and let it fall on a slack line to get back down. Watch that bait as you would a jig – you really have to have control. I fish it a lot slower and let it fall on a slack line a lot.”
Be ready to vary and change your retrieve every day as spotted bass are temperamental. The first two or three fish will set the tone, but be ready to adjust as they day goes on.
Wires and Blades
Canterbury is extremely picky when choosing spinnerbaits. Much like smallmouth, a spotted bass can destroy a poorly constructed bait in seconds.
“If you throw a light wire spinnerbait, and you catch two or three, you can cut it off and throw it away,” he said. “You either have to have a good medium or heavy gauge wire or a spinnerbait with a titanium wire where it won’t tear it up.”
Canterbury favors spinnerbaits made by War Eagle, Davis and Stanley ranging from 3/8- to 1-ounce. Smaller blades offer less resistance making them easier to burn on the retrieve and keep higher in the water column.
Once the water drops into the low 60’s and 50’s, a tandem or a single Colorado bladed bait works well. In colored water, he’ll slow roll a 5/8- or ¾-ounce outfitted with a single Colorado blade. A 5/8-ounce bait rigged with a #5 blade is his favorite. He’s also done well in strong current fishing a 1-ounce bait with a #6 blade. If current isn’t an issue, a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait rigged with a #5 Colorado is standard fare.
In clear water, Canterbury points out that it's the speed, not the disturbance, that triggers the bite. He keeps his color choices simple selecting skirts that are translucent shad, chartreuse or chartreuse/white.
On a sunny day, hammered blades work well as they provide more flash whereas smooth silver and gold blades work best if the water color is off. Painted blades get the nod in the spring when water floods over the walls and he’ll use chartreuse/white, double chartreuse, and double white with matching skirts always trimming the skirt just behind the bend in the hook.
When fishing deeper, 20-pound P-Line 100 percent pure fluorocarbon spooled on an Ardent Apex Elite casting reel with a 6:5:1 retrieve paired with a 7-foot, 1-inch medium-heavy rod Halo Series 2 rod provides maximum power and control. The shorter rod allows him to make pinpoint casts, pull the spinnerbait over limbs, and let it free fall to get the bait deep.
When burning a spinnerbait around seawalls, he prefers 20-pound P-Line CXX monofilament instead for some added stretch to prevent break-offs. A 7-foot, 3-inch Halo Series 2 medium-heavy rod launches the bait a long way while an Ardent Apex Grand reel with 7:3.1 gearing allows him to keep pace.