Today, Mike Ladle gives us his thought’s on the baited spinner. In recent times this lure has become somewhat neglected, but as Mike proves, it is still worthy of consideration.
The Baited Spinner – a tactic for all sorts
For many years now I’ve been making and using baited-spinners for the purpose of catching mullet and flounders. I was inspired to give this approach a go by reading J.P.Garrad’s wonderful book “Sea Angling with the Baited Spoon.” In it he writes detailed accounts of how to use these gadgets to select for flounders (particularly big ones), eels or bass (mostly schoolies) depending on the arrangement of the spoon used and how it was fished. For some reason Garrad never caught a mullet on his lures (Heaven knows why – there must have been lots of them where he was fishing) but it is a fact that very similar lures are deadly for catching thinlipped mullet. It’s a long time since I hooked my first mullet on a ragworm baited spinner and I now regard the method as essential for these fish. However, I’ve also experimented with them in lots of waters and have probably caught at least twenty species of fish, both saltwater and fresh, on various spinners adorned with bait. Some species (bass, pike, perch, etc.) would take the spoon without bait, others (flounder, bass, wrasse, etc.) would take the ragworm alone but for mullet the combination of flashing blade and tasty bait is essential to get the best results.
Mullet run up my local river in springtime to feed on the bloom of diatom algae which occurs at that time of the year. This season, by mid-June, the river was clearing nicely and I’d seen a few thinlips so I fancied having a spin. Then it rained. Despite the heavy rain the river stayed in reasonable condition (it clears quickly) so I decided to give it a go. I put the gear in my car – Teklon Concept rod, Mitchell reels loaded with Nanofil braid and my bag containing everything but the kitchen sink. A visit to my local tackle shop produced half-a-dozen nice fat ragworms, more than enough for a couple of spinning sessions, and off I went.
It was a sunny afternoon but a strong northerly wind was still blowing. I baited up the Pennel arrangement of hooks on my spinner with a short section of worm and began to fish. For twenty minutes I saw nothing and was beginning to wonder if the rain had sent all the thinlips back down to the estuary. I started at the upstream end of the stretch casting down and across. The spinner was allowed to swing back across in the current before being retrieved along my bank. Between casts I walked down five or six paces, searching for a fish. As I say it seemed almost dead until suddenly I saw a grey shape following and mouthing the worm, my spirits rose. Next cast there was another interested mullet, then on the following one nothing! I walked down a few more paces and cast again. Sure enough there was another follow. I changed the bait for a fresh piece of worm as the scent soon washes out in the fresh water.
I’d moved down perhaps fifteen metres when suddenly a mullet took the bait and was hooked. It twisted and wriggled violently before coming unstuck. Nearly there! It was probably five more minutes, several casts and another change of worm before I finally hooked a fish. I saw this one take the worm and turn away. It tore off downstream dragging off line against a moderately tight clutch. This was more like it. I extracted my little camera from the bag and took a couple of pictures as I played the mullet.
A thin lip takes the bait- at last!
It was two or three minutes before I had the fish on the bank. One or two more pictures, take the hook out and slip the mullet back into the water. Excellent!
A tamed fish and a quick snap
I didn’t catch any more after that and, in fact, there were no more follows as I moved further downstream. I only had another ten minutes fishing before I had to leave as I was going to meet my pal Bill for a trip to the coast. Anyway, I was well pleased with my first thinlip of the year.
A week or two after my mullet spinning sortie my pals and I been anticipating the set of spring tides keenly. Everything looked good, calm conditions, decent weather, weed on the beaches, etc. etc. The first decent tide of the series arrived and Bill, Nigel and myself tramped along the shore to our selected spot. On the previous set of springs there had been loads of feeding mullet and bass so we were feeling quite optimistic. Our optimism was soon dashed when we saw that the little bit of remaining maggoty weed was isolated from the sea by a pile of fresh kelp. Not a good sign! We thrashed away with our spinning tackle waiting for the bass to turn up, but they never came. This was the sea so I was now using my Surespin rod, Stradic reel and 30lb Whiplash braid. We all spun with a selection of reliable lures – not a sniff.
As it happened, and for some reason I can’t explain, I’d decided to take the dregs of my mullet fishing ragworm down to the sea that evening and give the baited spinner a go. As I’ve said already many years ago I did a fair bit of experimental baited-spinner fishing, some of it from the open shore. I knew that thicklips would take the rag baited lures at times but in the past this tactic it had often produced a by-catch of bass and wrasse, including some big ones. Anyway, anticipating the presence of lots of feeding mullet I’d rigged up my biggest (ancient) baited spinner armed with two small hooks and determined to give it another go (after years of sitting in my lure box unused). Fishing alongside my pals with their more normal bass lures I did no better than them. Nothing was biting. A fishless session was on the cards.
It was past high water now and we hadn’t seen or touched anything. I’d got the message and I decided to work my way back to a spot of deeper water alongside a big ledge in one last attempt to catch something. Out went the spinner. Was that a tap? I wasn’t sure. Out it went again and I began to turn the handle of the reel. Bang! I was in. Clearly it wasn’t a very big fish but it was a fish and I was pleased. Soon I was taking a picture of a small schoolie. Excellent!
An obliging schoolie on the open coast
I popped it back and cast again. Once more I hooked and landed a bass. This one was almost a-pound-and-a-half. I returned it thinking “At least I’m going to catch a fair few bass.” It was not to be. On the next cast the bite was less sharp and I landed a small ballan wrasse.
A Ballan wrasse- the first of many!
Well, beggars can’t be choosers so I took its picture and released it. Then I had another wrasse and another.
By the time my ‘still fishless’ pals turned up behind me I’d landed eight ballans of similar size (round about one pound apiece). As they watched I had another bite which turned into the only corkwing wrasse of my session. We ‘gave them best’ and walked back towards the car park, casting here and there as we went. I had one more wrasse and missed a couple of bites before we packed in. All in all, not quite what I’d hoped for or expected but at least it saved me from a blank.