A Bowling Green businessman invented a lure in the 1960s that looked more like a piece of gaudy jewelry than something that would catch fish.
Cecil Pedigo started by pouring a lead body with a concave face and pointed rear end on a piece of wire. He formed a loop around the front end, threaded a clevis pin with a small Indiana blade attached to it to the wire behind the lead body, then added a treble hook dressed with white marabou to the back end of the wire. He finished it off by painting the lead body. In the process, Pedigo concocted the Spinrite, one of the most effective winter bass lures ever made.
“He had a big business in pork rinds,” said Ted Crowell, retired former assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, who has fished Spinrites since the 1960s. “He invented the Spinrite way before Tom Mann made the Little George tailspinner.”
By placing the lead weight in front of the spinner, Pedigo ensured the blade of his lure would turn even at the slowest speeds. “You can feel that blade lightly thumping when you barely turn the reel handle,” Crowell said. “That’s why they’re so deadly in winter.”
That ability to reel the lure at a snail’s pace while still spinning the blade made the Spinrite excel for wintertime smallmouth, spotted and largemouth bass.
Although the Uncle Josh company discontinued the original Spinrite some years ago - after they acquired the enterprise from Pedigo - the Spinrite design spawned many imitators still on the market today. Locally made imitations of the Spinrite are still available in tackle shops around Lake Cumberland and Dale Hollow Lake, but most of the tailspinners on the market today use a hammered Colorado blade and forsake the trailer hook dressed with marabou.
The most popular weight is ½-ounce, but in deeper lakes or windy conditions a ¾-ounce may work better. A ¼-ounce would be a good option for shallow lakes such as Lake Barkley.
Tailspinners work well in clear water, mountain reservoirs such as Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow Lake and Cave Run Lake during the winter, but also fool cold water black bass from more fertile waters such as Green River Lake, Barren River Lake, Kentucky Lake and even shallow Lake Barkley.
“In Barkley, you could catch late fall and winter largemouth bass that were only 18 inches long on the Spinrite, but the fish weighed up to 5 pounds,” Crowell explained. “It was heaven.”
Tailspinners afford anglers exceptional casting distance. “You can throw them a mile,” Crowell said. “The only thing that limits your cast is how much line you have on your reel.”
This comes in handy fishing the low clear waters of winter. Even on more fertile lakes such as Barren River Lake, Kentucky Lake or Lake Barkley, the water in winter is clearer than at any other time of year. The ability to cast a great distance lessens the chance of spooking fish.
You may stay way off a point and fire a tailspinner near it, allowing the lure to flutter down to suspended bass. Constantly watch your line and reel just enough to keep it tight. You don’t want a sag to form in your line. If you see the line jump or go slack well before it hits the bottom, reel down quickly and set the hook. This is a great way to probe vertical points that are nearly impossible to fish with jigs. Steep points increase in importance as the water temperatures drop into the mid-40s.
Billy Westmoreland, who many consider the greatest reservoir smallmouth angler ever, loved to slice points with a tailspinner like this in late fall, winter and early spring on both Dale Hollow Lake and Lake Cumberland. He worked each side of the point and down the front as well. This technique produced his heaviest smallmouth bass: a 10-pound, 1-ounce whale taken on a Pedigo Spinrite from Dale Hollow in late winter.
Sling a tailspinner into the middle of small coves and cuts and allow it to slowly flicker right down the heart of it. Smallmouth and spotted bass suspend just above the ditch, channel or erosion cut that formed these coves. Anglers fishing the points and sides of these areas with jigs or live bait miss these fish. This is one of the most overlooked and productive of winter bass patterns.
Swimming a tailspinner just above the bottom, especially over a mud flat located near deep water, is a highly productive winter and early spring pattern. The same retrieve along a channel drop or over a stump field is a lethal cold water presentation for largemouth bass; the trickiest of the three black bass to catch in water less than 50 degrees.
Tailspinners also excel for white bass fishing in spring. The ability to cast the lure like a bullet makes it a great choice for casting at surface breaking white, hybrid or striped bass. The slow fall of the lure makes it a more appealing choice than a casting spoon for this style of fishing.
Tie on a tailspinner this winter and catch a trophy smallmouth the old school way. This overlooked and forgotten lure still catches big bass in cold water.
Lee McClellan is an award-winning writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, an agency of the Commerce Cabinet, has an economic impact to the state of $4.8 billion annually. For more information about the department, visit our web site at fw.ky.gov.