A Guide To Spin Control

An experienced fly fisherman provides helpful hints for successful spin fishing. Among his recommendations are the following: a 5 1/2 foot graphite spinning rod, all-purpose in-line spinners, and crappie-style jigs. An illustration of how to spot cast and drift is provided.

A first-rate spin fisherman working a piece of water is a sight to behold. Well-versed in basic and advanced stream craft (knowing how to read and approach the water), he or she uses specialty casts when needed; has pinpoint accuracy (is able to drop a small lure into tiny pockets, near or far); understands trout behavior, and augments this knowledge through observation; knows which lures to use in which situations; uses tackle that’s sporting and appropriate to the conditions; and catches, handles, and releases trout with care and efficiency.

Equipment Choices

My first choice for fishing in streams and natural lakes would be a 51/2-foot graphite spinning rod–ultralight, with a fast action; firm rather than willowy, not stiff, but bending mostly in the upper third when loaded. I would match this with a long-cast-style reel capable of holding spools of 2-, 4- and 6-pound-test line. For a second outfit, I’d want a “light”-rated spinning rod, six feet long, same action as the graphite rod, matched to a light freshwater reel and using 4-, 6- and 8-pound-test spools. I could fish brooks, small-to-midsize streams, shallow lakes and moderate rivers with the first rod, whereas I’d use the larger rod for deep lakes, large rivers or any situations where I’d need to cast large or weighted 1/4- to 1/2-ounce lures. Most fishermen I meet use tackle that’s too stout for the conditions, and thereby mute casting efficiency and the pleasure of hooking and playing fish.


When putting together a lure selection, I start with all-purpose in-line spinners in an array of colors and styles–Panther Martin, Mepps, Blue Fox Vibrax, Rooster Tail, Luhr-Jensen Tiger Tail, to name a few–in Sizes 00 to 3/0. The smaller the water and trout, the smaller the spinner. Just as important as the length of the spinner or the size of the blade is what might be called “necessary weight”–the weight needed to get the lure to the desired depth. Not all 1/0 spinners are equal, in other words. If I need to get down in a current or to reach deep still water fish, I favor small spinners with thick lead bodies that plummet quickly. Conversely, I choose light-bodied spinners for situations where a big splashdown might spook nearby trout.


The same logic applies to spoons, which can be thumbnail small or two to three inches long. (Kamloops, Blue Fox Pixies, Woblures, Tor-P-Do’s, Acme Thunderbolts and Dardevles are some favorites.) I like spoons for trout when I need to get deep fast, or when I want a lure that has automatic action meaning it can attract fish when tumbling along in a fast current, or when fluttered and retrieved slowly in deep, still water.

With metal lures, choose high-gloss finishes such as silver or polished gold when fishing in dull light or dark-colored water; and brass or black-chrome in clear water or on bright days, when flashy finishes can spook fish. As for specific body colors, blade shapes, and tail adornments, these can be determined only by location, season and, to some extent, daily experimentation. (Carry a variety of weights, colors, and styles to facilitate the process.)


I Always include crappie-style jigs and spinner-jigs to round out my tackle kit. Trout rarely see these lures, which in 1/16- to 1/4-ounce sizes can catch fish when spoons and in-line spinners are ignored. Jigs and spinner-jigs cast well, sink quickly, are snag-resistant, and can be drifted, bounced, or retrieved over otherwise hard-to-fish rocky bottoms and deep runs, and in both profound and shallow lakes.

Black and brown marabou jigs with dark heads can represent stonefly and mayfly nymphs, leeches or small baitfish. I’m unsure if jigs with soft plastic tails represent any natural food, but I do know that trout love them. I wouldn’t be without a selection of orange heads with white tails; red with white; orange with black; black with white; all white; and all black. But this is just a starting point. Experiment not only with color combos but different styles and shapes of tails (Twister tails, forked grubs and so on) and dressings (marabou, marabou with Mylar, and Flashabou) to find the hottest combination for a given day.

Cases and Strategies

Good spin fishermen approach the water carefully, keeping a low profile and studying the area to be fished with an eye to visible trout and possible lies, as well as a strategy of cast sequences. The idea is to work the adjacent water first, moving gradually outward. This often means starting right at your feet, with the bank water. The quieter the water (i.e., the less current and surface disturbance), the more cautious should be your approach.



To my tastes, spot-casting is the most skillful and pleasurable way to stalk stream or shallow, still water trout. Here one moves carefully up- or downstream, reading the water for current cushions such as undercut banks, shore cover, midstream boulders, partially submerged tree trunks, weirs and gravel bars; seams, where currents of differing speed meet and create a slick or foaming on the surface; and pools large and small. Once these targets are located, the angler plans a route or sequence of positions that makes it possible to cover each lie without alarming the trout.

Accuracy is vital to spot-casting. In some cases, as with bank and pocket water, it’s necessary to drop the lure precisely atop the lie, which may be no larger than a dinner plate. To do this, the cast must be not only accurate but soft; the lure should not splash down slowly. While an underhand or pendulum cast works best, you can soften a cast by feathering outgoing line through the half-closed palm of your free hand, then clamping down on the line and giving a sharp tug just as the lure descends on the target. The tug negates much of the forward momentum, stalling the lure, so it plops gently into the water.

On mid-sized to large rivers and streams, spot-casting will cover only part of the water. The rest, and some of the best trout-holding sections–deeper riffles and runs–must be worked with controlled drifts.


Select a lure that will drift near the bottom, or use a lighter one with a weight attached. Trout in these heavier flows usually lie close to the streambed, where friction creates a slower, more comfortable current. Compact, reliable body spinners, and spoons should be favored over elongated, lighter ones; or try bouncing a marabou or soft-plastic jig along the bottom.

Make most cases across- and slightly upstream, above the suspected fish zone. As the lure sinks in the current, real to control slack and forms a tight-line connection that lets you feel the lure working, bumping bottom, and ticking off rocks–evidence that you’re reaching the fish zone. The retrieve at this point can be minimal, just enough to keep the line tight on a free drift. Or you can speed it up to guide the lure past a visible fish, or into a particular zone. A general rule: The faster the current, the slower the retrieve; the slower the current, the faster the retrieve.

Trout love to strike a lure as it swings around in the current at the end of the drift, a fact smart anglers use to their advantage by timing the turn-around so that the lure swings right by the fish’s nose, or into the prime lie water. This old trick is wonderfully useful and could hook you up with the most cautious–and largest–trout in a stream.

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