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‘Burning’ Spinnerbaits Bring Reaction Strikes from Fall Bass

Posted 11/5/2015

Yamaha Pro Matt Herren Uses a Fast Retrieve to Trigger Bass Into Biting

November ranks as one of Matt Herren’s favorite months of the year, but not because he enjoys deer hunting and most whitetail seasons open this month. Rather, the Yamaha Pro knows November means it’s time to burn his spinnerbaits for autumn bass.

“Burning,” in this case, means reeling the blade baits as fast as he can turn his reel handle, keeping the lures just two to three inches below the surface. It’s a technique the Alabama-based angler has used successfully on lakes around the country for more than two decades, but one many of today’s fishermen frequently overlook.

“Burning a spinnerbait is purely about getting reaction strikes,” notes Herren, who will be competing in his sixth Bassmaster Classic® next March. “Throughout the autumn months, when water temperatures are still generally in the 60’s or high 50-degree range, bass are gorging themselves on baitfish, and a spinnerbait probably imitates a shad or herring as well as any lure made.

“There is a lot of feeding competition among the bass, and they go after a fast-moving spinnerbait without hesitation, just trying to get it before another bass does. It works in stained to clear water, and typically throughout the day, too.”

The Yamaha Pro chooses spinnerbaits featuring what is known as thin wire construction. A thinner wire increases the lure’s overall vibration and also makes it easier to retrieve. Herren’s color choices are simple, too; any color is fine as long as it matches a shad, such as white or white/chartreuse. For maximum vibration, he uses double willow leaf blades, and his weight choices range from ¼ to ¾-ounce. 

“When I fish spinnerbaits this time of year, I usually have three different models tied on and ready to use, depending on how the fish act, and on the size of the baitfish,” Herren explains. “One will be a very compact spinnerbait between 3/8- and ½-ounce, but which looks small, in case the bass are feeding on smaller threadfin shad. I’ll also have two other spinnerbaits weighing ½-ounce and ¾-ounce, but with different blade colors, such as gold or even copper.

"White or nickel blades will usually produce on most lakes, but just in case the bass are finicky, I can offer them something different.”

Using a fast 7:1 reel and 15-pound fluorocarbon line, Herren concentrates in larger tributaries and upper-lake arms where baitfish migrations are often the strongest, targeting steep bluffs, rocky banks, submerged vegetation, standing timber, and even channel breaks. Depth is not that critical, because he’s caught bass suspended in water as deep as 50 feet.

“I really think one key to burning a spinnerbait over deeper water is slowing my fast retrieve just for a second to make the blades change their speed,” he continues. “This can be as simple as stopping my retrieve, shaking my rod tip, or slowing down so the spinnerbait sinks a few inches. It’s just for a split second to change the blade cadence. Then I start reeling fast again.

“Changing your retrieve like this is a pretty standard way to fish a spinnerbait anytime of year, but it’s important to remember to do it even when you’re reeling as fast as you can because it’s a major part of getting bass to react. In the fall, you’ll frequently have a bass following your spinnerbait, even though it’s moving fast, and just a simple change of cadence can be enough to bring a strike.”

In recent years as the spinnerbait’s popularity has lessened and other lures have taken its place, the technique of burning has practically become a lost art, concludes Herren. Nonetheless, it’s a technique the Yamaha Pro will continue to use wherever he fishes this time of year because he knows how effective it still is.