Cliff Gardiner & John Keller

Bass tournament pro Alton Jones won the 2008 Bassmaster Classic with jigs, but the Texas angler is equally skilled at using spinnerbaits. At this time of year, he carries more spinnerbaits than jigs in his tackle box because they may be the most versatile bass lures of spring and early summer. Here are three tactics and modifications that the champ relies on to get the most out of a spinnerbait.

Vary the Retrieve
Never cast and retrieve a spinnerbait without changing your retrieve speed once or twice. The easiest way to do this is to raise the rod tip slightly as you’re reeling–to make the lure climb–then lower the rod and stop reeling, which lets the spinnerbait fall slightly. “This changes the lure’s vibration because the blades spin differently,” Jones says. “Strikes come as the blades make that change, most often just as the lure starts falling. Even a rise and fall over a few inches can make a difference.”

Change Blades
The three basic blade types are willowleaf (top), Indiana (middle), and Colorado (bottom). In general, the slim profile of the willowleaf is designed to perform best at high speeds, where it can deliver a lot of flash. The rounder Colorado spins slowly and doesn’t put out as much flash. The blade in the middle–the Indiana–is a compromise that works best when retrieved at moderate speeds. If bass are hitting but consistently missing the lures, change blade color (say, from silver to gold) before changing type. To provide a completely different look, remove the spinnerbait skirt and replace it with a soft-plastic worm, a grub, or even a tube lure. Retrieve the lure just as you would one with a regular skirt.

Rip for Big Bass
Let the spinnerbait fall to the bottom in slightly deeper water and rip it up with a few fast cranks. Then stop reeling and let it fall back to the bottom. Repeat this for the entire retrieve. “Ripping a spinnerbait often brings reflex strikes from heavier fish that might have been watching the lure on the bottom,” Jones says. “Use a 1⁄2- to 3⁄4-ounce spinnerbait with large willowleaf blades to create lots of flash.”