Blade spinners for trout fishing

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Blade Spinners for Trout Fishing – Why Not Make Your Own? A look at these old and still popular lures

By Stephen Clark

Blade spoons, also called handle spoons, are an excellent tool for searching for water. They are my first choice in low water conditions. Regardless of what it means to the fish, the lure screams “hit me” to every fish with an attitude. This alone makes it attractive to a large number of anglers. Blade spinners produce “lightning” noises and vibrations that often send trout hunting for the cause of the disturbance. One of the biggest advantages of this type of lure is that the blade spins quickly around the shaft, even at very low speeds, keeping it in the strike zone longer.

As an inveterate lure caster I am no exception and have always handled lures to maximize their performance – single hooks – purple coloring for dusk/dawn situations, “Black Furying” every blade – but nothing overcame their infuriating habit of inexplicably “dropping the fish. Especially the little fish, the ones that would make a bad day that much better, if you took them out. It was this habit that made me wonder why this was so and I began to radically modify the lure that I loved to use, but whose bitter experience was relegated to the bench of substitutes.

The Mepps Aglia no. 2. Made in France.

Using single hooks on spinners, always better than trebles, reduces this problem. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the weight of the lure is next to the fish’s head, giving the fish every chance to use the weight to free the hook. The answer is of course to take the weight off in exactly the same way as a properly rigged Tasmanian Devil. Slide the lure, after hooking up, along the line!

I couldn’t believe blade spinners had been made endlessly without someone else seriously questioning their design, so first I looked for a manufactured solution and therefore a supplier. Even after a patent search some two years later, I couldn’t believe there weren’t any lures on the market to do the job I wanted; even now I expect someone to let me know about the commercial existence of my solution.

The problem, if I wasn’t able to buy the solution, was where to start. My first stumbling effort was to cut a ball needle pump. I attached the blade using a piece of twisted stainless steel wire salvaged from the gut of a Tassie Devil, strung it all on my line and went fishing hoping for success instantaneous. Before I lost this lure, due to too vigorous experimentation, I was sure it had a signature in the water like an air raid siren – it never caught a fish, nor, to my knowledge , followed.

Mepps Black Fury Blade Cone.
Mepps Black Fury Blade Cone. It is one of the most popular blade spinners that has caused the demise of many trout. It is ideal for prospecting in unclear waters and can also be used for slow trolling or harling.

I was devastated! A fan of good lures tickling the sideline, I thought the tube sang like a horror story underwater. It was probably the truth because it was just too heavy, too awful, too monstrous. No self-respecting trout was going to commit suicide on such appalling material. Holding on to that thought, I started over on thinner and slimmer versions. Early efforts to make my own blade spinners were invariably too heavy and offended my ultra light principles and desires.

Eventually I found the thin brass tube I needed for the center shaft. The rest was two years of experimentation, frustration, dreams and bad lures. I cannibalized every type of shaft spinner I owned and a few others, for components (my apologies here to my kids) because when the business possibilities of this arose I realized I had to test my concept against established benchmarks. What follows is an overview of my best efforts which I recommend to you all, to build, experiment and ultimately fish.

Make your own blade tops – The Tube

Go as well as you can. I use 1.5mm brass tubing which can be sourced from good hobby shops. The tube retains the body, the blade carrier (clevis) and the beads, being slightly flared at both ends. Use a nail file with an all-around smoother tip. Hold the tube in a small vice along its entire length to avoid bending the tube. The jaws of the vise imprint in the brass and these should be covered with emery paper to prevent the blade carriage (clevis) from snagging on the tube. This serves a dual purpose in that it thins the tube and frees up the carriage more.

Do not try to spread the tube too far; it doesn’t need it and will only split. In all my experiments, I didn’t need any fancy tools. Low tech is best! Use hand tools and an active mind. Power tools, beyond a power drill, are unnecessary.

Rotating blade body

If you are cannibalizing existing lures you will find that you need a larger blade than what came with the original lure. Consideration must be given to the weight of the tube and its increased drag through the water. A lighter body is therefore necessary to raise the overall weight. For example, I use a #2 Veltic body with a #3 blade. Experiment though. I made a blade spinner fitted with a 3g Jensen blade and three standard red beads. It wasn’t much to see, but the fish loved it.

Beads

These are an absolute necessity as they act as pucks and as an attractor. These lures that I intend to use mainly at night, I equipped them with a luminous bead. It also makes them easier to find in the box. Experiment to find the right combination of beads.

Blades and carriages for driers

It is very important that this part of the lure is correct. I cut the cart out of a thin sheet of brass (good hobby shops have huge ranges) after drilling the 2 holes, which will eventually slide over the tube. The holes should be spaced approximately 1cm apart and drilled for an exact fit on the tube. Remember that it needs to be tight as you will sand away the machining marks later and loosen the blade further. Good sturdy scissors can be used for this job.

The carriage should taper between the holes to prevent the blade from “boxing” or “binding” in flight. When this happens on the water, a quick snap of the wrist on the retrieve usually releases the blade. Drill the hole in the blade to fit the wider ends of this type of cart. Finally, fold the carriage into a U shape, feed the blade and slide the assembly onto the tube.

The body of this Blue Fox Vibrax is flat or knife-shaped.  Features a holographic painted blade, dressed VMC hook and realistic eyes.
The body of this Blue Fox Vibrax is flat or knife-shaped. Features a holographic painted blade, dressed VMC hook and realistic eyes.

The most important factor in making these lures is the length of the tube in front of the blade when assembled. As I stated before, I fish ultralight and all my lures weigh 4g or less. At these weights, 11-13mm of tubing is needed in front of the blade. I have no experience with heavier lures – you will have to experiment. If the tube is too long, the lure blows – too short and the lure wobbles.

Personally I like to get the lures to the point of wobbling – they screw up in the water and I think that improves the signature and is more attractive to predators. I always thread a bead between the lure body and the split ring – or the hook. This avoids line chafing. I also use these lures in salt as they are enjoyed by the kahawai that I like to hunt and a whole host of lesser lights.

Ringed napoleons find those inspired by rooster tails (without the tail) irresistible. Before bashing the lowly banded wrasse, I suggest you try pulling a three-pounder from the barely covered rocks of Kaikoura using your trout stick. Be careful, if you don’t put your hands up and the fish’s head up, don’t expect the lure to come back. The three-pound trout pulls nothing like these guys, in my experience.

You might be wondering now why bother to put in all the effort. The results should speak for themselves. In the past two seasons I’ve dropped only 17% of the fish I’ve hooked, compared to nearly 40% on average over all previous seasons (where I’ve held a record). For me, that was the telling factor. The bad days were made up for by stockpiling fish that I would normally have lost.

Colonel n°3 made in Germany.
Colonel No. 3 was made in Germany. Note that the brass beads have plenty of room to move along the stainless steel wire. The U-shaped part that holds the blade is known as the clevis. When the brass beads all slide towards the hook, almost half of the stainless steel wire is exposed.

You might also be wondering why I’m laying it all out, rather than running to a manufacturer and trying to make a profit. Good . . . I have! They are not interested! They tell me that the cost of the dies and the volumes they can transport to this country do not make it a profitable exercise. I could sell the idea to a manufacturer based overseas, but the costs (and time) of protecting the idea are astronomical. Patent attorneys, the only ones making a profit from this exercise, also inform me that some international manufacturers are “unlikely to recognize” patent protection anyway. It’s a case of “go ahead, sue me if you can afford it”.

Another telltale factor against luring is that anglers are inherently lazy and the experience of makers is that tedious lures don’t sell. If you think that’s not true, check out how many anglers still use the line in the Tassie Devil, even though they know it reduces the performance of the lure. Why do you think manufacturers insist on selling the lure with a thread – and treble!

If you don’t fall into that camp, I hope you find what I’ve described as exciting as I do. Make a few – you never know, you might create a market. I hope! Tight lines!

Incidentally, for the more adventurous, an internet search will show that you can purchase all the parts to make your own Colorado-style blade spinners from places like the American mail-order company Cabelas.com. You can get all the parts to make your own very cheaply, or at least much cheaper than store-bought ready-to-fish blade spinners.

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