Monday, July 11, 2011

Spinnerbait and Buzzbait Money Saving Tips

Spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are very popular with bass anglers and have been around for years and years.  They are a bit more costly, fancier and more polished looking than those of 30 years ago, but one thing that they have in common is that they still catch good fish.  I will get into some "how to" spinnerbait and buzzbait fishing tips later, but my main focus in this post is to discuss some money saving tips that will help you stock up with some spinnerbaits and buzzbaits by customizing or assembling your own.  After that, I'll discuss some options of how to construct them so that you have maximum options while using them on the water.

Making your own spinnerbaits and buzzbaits will save
 you money and get you lots of bass this size and bigger
Most anglers purchase their spinnerbaits and buzzbaits in tackle shops, retail stores, and on-line stores.  Often they range in price from five to ten dollars each or more.  These baits are usually very high quality, flashy, fancy, and are just as good at catching anglers as they are at catching fish.  Don't get me wrong, these lures are very good at catching bass.  Those that buy and use them feel that they're worth every penny because they really do catch fish.  But, you can catch just as many fish on your home made specials while building these lures with just about the same quality and looks too.  What you get out of your final product depends on what you put into it.  I find that purchasing off the shelf products gives me less flexibility in the field unless I want to either stock up with a LOT more spinnerbaits to do what I want them to do or find ways to modify them.  Again, what you choose to do depends on your needs.  Also, I purchase top quality parts and still save money.

First, where can you get parts to build your own spinnerbaits and buzzbaits?  Your local tackle shop may have some lure building supplies.  But if they don't, just about everything you need can be purchased on-line from several vendors.  I've personally ordered stuff from Jann's Netcraft, Barlow's Tackle, Cabelas, and Bass Pro Shops.  I've been quite satisfied with the products that I've ordered and the service that I've received.  I've heard some good things about other vendors that are also worth checking out but if haven't yet ordered from them yet.  I did check out their on-line catalogues and they have good selections.  These vendors include:  Lure Parts, and  I'm sure that there are more if these don't have what you're looking for and a Google search will help you find them.  These companies have just about everything you need to make your own spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, and just about anything else fishing related that you can think of.

The only tool you'll need is a good pair of long nosed pliers. 
Parts pictured are the spinnerbait head, metal beads, clevis,
quality ball bearing snap swivel, blades, and the final touch
of fish attacting action and color - the skirt.
Now, how to build your own:  The easiest way to get started making your own lures is to simply purchase the lure components and assemble them.  For spinnerbaits, you'll need at a minimum to purchase pre-formed spinnerbait heads, metal beads, clevises, spinnerbait blades, skirts, split rings, and swivels or snap swivels.  As far as tools go, a good pair of long nose pliers is sufficient.  I believe strongly in using quality ball bearing snap swivels to get the best action on your blades.  For buzzbaits, you'll need to purchase pre-formed buzzbait heads, metal beads, buzzbait blades, rivet bearings and skirts.  You can also purchase clacking blades and rattles too.  Again, there are many choices.  And, if you really want to save some money, you can mold your own spinnerbait and buzzbait heads or make your own spinnerbait skirts.  The greater quantity of any item that you order, the cheaper the price.  In some cases, as with skirts, some companies let you mix and match colors to achieve your quantity ordered.  Finally, you can purchase them painted or unpainted if you want to paint your own. 

To make the standard buzzbait, you need a good set of long
nose pliers.  Parts include a rivet bearing, metal beads, blade
and skirt.  You can make in-line buzzers from wire, spinner-
bait or buzzbait heads, split rings, metal beads and a skirt. 
A wire bending tool and a pair of split ring pliers will help.
Tools that make the job easier:  There are many tools out there that make life easier when making these lures.  You may find a wire bender, various pliers and wire cutters, a wire straightener, a skirt making tool, or lead molding supplies and tools helpful in achieving your lure making goals.  The wirebender and split ring pliers are a must for making custom in-line buzzers. Also, if you want to customize, you may need to add some stainless steel wire to your supply list.  You can purchase pre-made wire forms, coiled wire, or wire shafts.  Generally, for bass, most spinnerbaits are made with 0.38" diameter wire and buzzbaits are made with 0.41" diameter wire.

Once you obtain the tools, supplies, parts and are ready to assemble your lures, the only thing left to add is your own creativity.  You can build standard lures or design your own.  I get a certain satisfaction in making my own lures especially when they turn out to be effective fish catching lures.  I am particularly proud of some of the buzzbaits that I've made because they catch fish often when traditional buzzers don't.  I've made several different styles of in-line buzzers and they all work.  Traditional styles of buzzers have their place in your arsenal too.  The skirt and hook ride lower and give you better hook ups than the in-line styles.  In-line buzzers tend to cast better, offer a bigger profile, and if you make weed guards are more snagproof that traditional types.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both types and it's up to you to figure out while on the water which one works best.  Let the bass tell you. 

What can you do to maximize your flexibility and keep your selection to a minimum when using spinnerbaits?  I build the spinnerbaits in a few basic colors.  I purchase spinnerbait pre-formed heads in chartreuse, white, and black in 1/4 oz., 3/8 oz., 1/2 oz., and 3/4 oz.  Of course, if you can find them you can build spinnerbaits in other sizes to suit your needs, but these are the ones that I carry.  I make a selection of single blade, tandem, and double willow spinnerbaits in each size and color.  For tandems and double willows, for each color and size, I make one with an inner blade in the following colors:  nickle, brass, copper, white, and charteuse.  I also build my home made spinnerbaits with a snap swivel instead of a standard swivel because that way I can easily change the blades to any color or size that I want.  I keep a selection of blades and skirts so I can customize and "match the hatch" while on the water.  You can do this at home and carry less with you on the water too assuming that you know ahead of time what will work given the conditions that you're fishing.

Top row - tandem , middle row - double willowleaf,
bottom row - tandem Colorado blades, single spin, and
 short arm spinnerbaits.  This is just a small sample
of the many different combinations of spinnerbait
features that you can assemble yourself.  Note:  some
of these pictured are off the shelf products, but once
you gain experience making these lures then you
 can make any type that you want.
When constructing your spinnerbaits, I use a size 2 or 3 Colorado blade for tandem spinnerbaits, and a size 2 or 3 willow leaf blade for double willows, but you can customize to any size you want.  Try different things and you may discover that one of your creations works better than anything anyone else is using.  You can create unique baits that fish just haven't seen before!

For the outer blades on all types of spinnerbaits, I stock and carry a wide selection including various sizes from 3 through 7, and various styles.  Willow, Colorado, Indiana, French, specialty blades, hammered, smooth, or painted can be used in various combinations to achieve any effect that you want.  The combinations are many and the possibilities are endless.

When on the water, you can make decisions to match the time of year, size of forage, water conditions, and weather conditions simply by choosing the color of the spinnerbait head, color skirt, and blade colors.  Here are some qualities of blades, color, and sizes of baits that can help you decide what to use:
Top row - willow leaf, middle row - Colorado, bottom row-
"musky' willow leaf and Indiana blades.  Carry different
sizes, styles, metal type, and colors for maximum flexibility.

Blade style:  Colorado blades offer the most vibration, followed by Indiana and French, and willowleaf.  Willowleaf blades offer the least amount of vibration.  When it comes to flash that the blades produce, the reverse order is true.  Willowleaf blades create the most flash followed by Indiana and French, and with the Colorado blades producing the least amount of flash.  Vibrations appeal to the sixth sense of bass, the lateral line, which helps bass detect vibrations emitted by prey and allow them to zero in and attack unsuspecting baitfish when visibility is poor.

Blade finish or color:  Metal blades produce the most flash.  Hammered blades and smooth blades produce different flash and vibration patterns, both being productive.  What you offer the fish depends on you.  Flash from a metallic spinnerbait blade mimics the flash of scales that baitfish often display when changing direction.  Bass have excellent eyesight as far as fish go, so appealing to their sense of sight is important for that reaction strike that spinnerbaits are known for.  Bass are also attracted to color.  Chartreuse and white are very effective in murky, stained, and muddy water and allow fish that have detected your lure via the lateral line the ability to visually hone in on your lure for that final strike.  Black is also a nice color for blades.  An all black lure offers a nice silhouette when night fishing and sometimes in clear water provides just enough action to attract strikes without spooking fish.  It works well to imitate a shadow of a prey item in clear water especially when working your lure quickly.  There are many lifelike blade finishes available that give you good options for clear water to tempt finicky bass and match prey items.

Blade and spinnerbait size:  Prey items are larger in the spring because most prey species haven't spawned yet.  Bass are feeding on adult forage for the most part this time of year.  Larger blades and large profile spinnerbaits are good imitations of these larger prey species.  As summer approaches, smaller juvenile prey are abundant.  This doesn't mean that bass focus on smaller prey all the time, but there are times when they'll feed on smaller prey.  Remember, bass are creatures of opportunity, so be willing to adapt and try different sizes to get results.  The old saying that big fish like big baits, and that is also true with spinnerbaits, so they are always worth trying.  I also want to add that if you are planning on using large blades, like sizes 6 and 7, you need to make sure that you match them with heavier weight spinnerbaits so they don't roll over and are sure to run true.  Smaller baits tend to draw more strikes but you may sacrifice bass size in doing so.  Size 7 willowleaf blades effectively imitate large adult forage while the smaller sizes like 3and 4 imitate average minnow and juvenile chubs effectively.  You can see that you can match the hatch by adjusting blade and lure size, so it pays off to learn what forage species are in the body of water that you fish.

Skirt selection depends on you, what you want to present to the fish.  Basic white, chartreuse, and black are always solid fish catching colors.  Also, there are multicolored skirts available to provide different attraction qualities and color combinations.  Just adding a suggestion of something, like red suggesting blood from a wounded baitfish could be enough to tempt bass into striking.  Also, some multicolored skirts are good imitations of forage fish like bluegill or shad.  The most popular spinnerbait skirts are chartreuse, chartreuse/white, white and black.  Colors to imitate baitfish like bluegill and sexy shad are popular big fish catching skirts.

This is one of my best buzzbaits.  You can tell it gets
some use as it's all beat up.  It still calls the fish in
though.  The blades are counter rotating.
When making buzzbaits, you can create a wide varieity of combinations with different buzzbait styles, skirt and lure colors.  Yet, they don't have the same flexibility as with spinnerbaits when it comes to customizing in the field except by changing skirt colors.  I carry several different types of buzzbaits in a few favorite colors.  You can make traditional buzzbaits or make your own in-line buzzers.  The wire bending tool really comes in handy when making your own in-line buzzbait wire shafts.  The only tool that you'll need to make the traditional buzzbait is a good pair of long nose pliers.  Metal blades squeak more, clackers add more noise, and thicker diameter shafts make more of that squeaking noise than thinner diameter shafts do.  Plastic blades are more subtle and come in handy for a more plop plop type of sound but lack the squeak of metal blades.  Sometimes quiet is better.  The bell shaped blades are a bit heavier but work well for the in-line style of buzzer.  Even though they are heavier, they displace a lot of water and keep the lure up high in the water.  The in-line style also casts like a bullet.

The top two buzzbaits are home made in-line buzzers.  The
next row has a traditional buzzbait and a triple wing one
with a clacker for more noise.  The bottom row shows two
traditional buzzbaits, the one of the left has a clacker.  These
versions all have metal blades, but you can assemble buzzbaits
with plastic blades also.

My selection of spinnerbaits and buzzbaits that I carry on the water depends on the body of water that I'm fishing, the species that I'm fishing for, forage base, and the time of year.  I don't carry everything that I own on every trip.  But, I make sure that I have a selection that helps me adapt on the water to varying conditions.  If I was to compare this to any other strategy, it's like a fly angler carrying a streamside fly tying kit.  You can change blades and skirt combinations on the size lure that you select, almost modifying your tackle on the water to "match the hatch".  What you wind up carrying depends in the confidence you have in your selection which comes from your fishing experience and your ability to carry what you need and still fish effectively.  When I fish from a boat, I bring a little more.  When I fish from shore, I pack a little lighter.  But I always carry a base selection of spinnerbaits and buzzbaits in the sizes and colors that I plan to use, and a selection of blades, skirts and trailers to "match the hatch" while on the water. 
This is a cost analysis showing that if you order the minimum quantity of each lure component to make 10 spinnerbaits, you'd spend $35 and your price per spinnerbait would be 16% cheaper than a comparable store bought model, plus, you'd have some extra hardware that you wouldn't have to purchase next time making your next 10 even cheaper.  If you purchased 10 store bought comparable spinnerbaits then you'd spend $5.40 more than if you made them yourself.

I'll defer discussing "on the water fishing" techniques for fishing spinnerbaits and buzzbaits for a future post.  Hopefully this will help you prepare for your next spinnerbait bite while saving you some money at the same time.


Bass.Junky said...

Nice, I have always wanted to build my own spinnerbaits and buzzbaits..Im liking the moneyhound buzzbait idea

Fat Boy said...

Yes, saving money also frees up funds so you can buy more frogs!!!!! It's also fun to make lures on days when you can't get out to fish for whatever reason.

East Coast Canadian said...

I stumbled accross your humble blog in search of weedless inline buzzbaits to buy. I recently lost my top performer buzzer to a monster muskey. It was weedless, with the two prong weed guard. However I do not recall where I got it from and I can not find a another anywhere. I was hoping I could either purchase from you or you could enlighten me on how to modify an existing buzzer. I have scoured the internet mercilessly, with no luck.

Thanks in advance,

East Coast Canadian

Fat Boy said...

ECC, sorry for the late response,. I didn't see your comment until today. if you already aren't a member, you can join or to find me with the same user name. But what I would do if you just want to make one, is to use the parts of two separate buzzbaits. The jig section of the Bass Pro Shops in-line buzzbait, Uncle Buck's Bucktail Skirt Buzzer was the one that I used when I made my first in-line. I liked the in-line concept and the weed guard, and back then it was the only one around. I replaced the bucktail with a standard buzzer skirt (you can tie them on or cut some of the lead off of the base and squeeze it with pliers to get the skirt on). I didn't like the blade of that buzzer, too heavy for me, because I like to crawl my buzzbaits slow. I would team it with the V&M or Stanley Buzz Frog buzzer sections, or make your own using wire, wire bender and order your own blades. You can get the buzz frogs at Tackle Warehouse. Just take them apart at the split ring, and assemble the parts that you like back together. Once you have an example of what you like, you can save money on future ones by ordering the parts and making your own. Then, you can tinker with the design, even make your own wire guard. Thank you for your comment, much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Really nice guide that I will return to. Nice lures! Here in Sweden the interest for spinnerbaits and in-line spinners is on the rise. Since we dont have bass, nothern pike and perch are the species we fish. Feel free to check out my blogg at You will probably not understand the writing if you dont use Google Translate, but I bet you will like the lures. If you leave comments, english will work fine.
Jakob Fagerlund// Sf lures

Fat Boy said...

Thank you for the complimentary comment Jakob, I appreciate the feedback. I certainly will check out your blog and website!