Fishing with a whirling, seductively flashing spinner can be a deadly way of catching predatory fish—but the variety of spinners on the market is overwhelming.

A spinner can be defined as an artificial lure that comprises a blade or body which rotates quickly about a straight line axis consisting often of a wire bar. Spoons, in contrast, have a wobbly retrieve and do not usually spin. Plugs are artificial fish-like objects, made of various materials, which wobble on retrieve. These distinctions are not clear-cut, and it is possible to buy, or make, spinners that are headed by a sizeable body and are therefore halfway between spinners and plugs (such as the famous Voblex), and spinners with so much hair or feather that they approach flies in construction, but with the added flash of a small rotating blade. There is great scope for inventiveness among anglers and many new combinations are possible, if not many new basic designs. There are five basic kinds of spinner—artifical minnows, wagtails, mackerel spinners, fly spoons, and barspoons. It is unfortunate that the last two incorporate the word ‘spoon’ in their names, for they are in fact spinners with a straight axis around which the blade spins.

Artificial minnows

Of all the kinds of spinners, artificial minnows most closely represent fish, both still and on the move. The body, made of either wood, plastic or metal, is round in cross section, minnow-like in profile, and has a hole along its length through which a metal bar or wire trace passes. At the tail is a treble hook and at the head a swivel which can be attached to the reel line or, if fishing for pike, to a wire trace link swivel. Generally, the swivel at the head has a smaller overall diameter than the hole through the middle of the lure so that on the take the fish tends to blow the lure up the line, giving itself nothing to lever against as it tries to throw the hook. This is an excellent feature of the design which is occasionally incorporated in such other lures as plugs.

The head of the minnow has a pair of vanes which cause it to rotate. Some makes have adjustable vanes so that the spin can be reversed, and line twist reduced.

A variation on the minnow theme is the quill minnow, a superb lure for fishing for trout in hill streams. The whole body of the quill minnow rotates, often including the bar wire through its middle, so that the swivel has to work well to avoid line twist, and an anti-kink vane is usually necessary. These lures normally have up to three sets of treble hooks and since many hill trout take the spinner crossways, this is an advantage despite the tendency of the lure to become hooked up in rocks or weeds and other snags.

Wagtail movement

Wagtails look more lifelike when moving than when still. They usually have a head complete with eyes, spinning vanes, a swivel and tubelike body hidden inside two long rubber flaps which are pointed at the tail end, close to the treble hook. The name comes from these loose, flapping strips of rubber. All this detail disappears, however, when the whole body rotates quickly and, other than in body softness, the wagtail probably differs little from the various minnows. Wagtails can be made to quite large sizes and with a slow spin. This can occasionally be an advantage over commercial minnows. Like minnows, wagtails are mostly used when fishing for salmon, sea trout and trout, but can be very effective for pike.

Mackerel spinners

Mackerel spinners are superb lures for any predatory fish. They do not work well if more than 2Vam long, but most commercial ones are 2in or less. They have a tube around the axial wire, and this tube is brazed to a triangular-shaped plate that has the spinning vanes at the rear, near the treble hook. Mackerel spinners can be retrieved in very shallow water and with extreme slowness at any depth. For catching large numbers of perch and pike they are perhaps the best lures ever designed, and should be fished on lines of 6-8lb b.s. To obtain the best casting results from their aerodynamic shape. Mackerel spinners have advantages over other spinners, as they are very cheap and nearly indestructible but they are not easy to make unless you dispense with the tube and make do with a couple of bent eyes at the front and at the back of the blade.

Fly spoons

Fly spoons, as their name implies, have traditionally been used for game fish, but are very effective for chub and perch on small streams. They are small, twinkling lures, most of which spin rather than wobble, and are essentially spinners for short casts on light tackle of 2-6lb b.s. Monofilament lines. They can even be fished on fly tackle with fly lines. This is probably how they originated but today it is unusual to see them fished in this way. Many fly spoons are constructed with a spinner blade attached at only one end to a split ring connecting two swivels. A treble hook is attached to the other end of one swivel and the reel line to the opposite end of the other swivel.


Barspoons are in fact more correctly classified as spinners since they have a straight axis of wire around which the blade, attached at one end, rotates with a strong vibration. Weight is added to the bar, just behind the spinning blade, and this weight can be made to look like a body and can be painted different colours. Bar spoons are among the most versatile of lures and all except the very heavy ones are retrievable even when you are fishing in very shallow-water conditions.

Heavy barspoons, however, can be cast a long way, and many can be fished very deep and slow. Making your own is easy provided you attach the blade to the bar with a separate link, rather than passing the bar through a hole in the blade. Among the most popular commercially made barspoons are Ondex, Veltic and Mepps.

A change in the blade shape has given rise to some classic lures: the Vibro has the end away from the bar pointed quite sharply, and the result is a spinner which vibrates very strongly. The kidney spoon has a kidney-shaped blade which gives a pulsating spinning action.

Perhaps in a category of its own is the Colorado which has a spoon-shaped blade attached at both ends. It spins about a bar axis by means of spinning vanes at the head end. It is one of the oldest lures available, and in its smaller sizes can be extremely effective for perch.

Do-it-yourself enthusiasts can have a field day with spinners. Spinner blades are lighter than most spoon blades and they can be easily cut with tin snips. Even plastic blades can be used successfully. All you need are lengths of wire, round-headed long-nosed pliers to bend the wire into terminal loops, and the ability to cut various weights of metal sheet into blades that can be beaten to the required curve.

Anti-kink vanes

There is one more thing the spinning angler needs—anti-kink vanes to prevent line twist. Half moon leads which can be clamped to the reel line or trace are amongst the best. They range in size from minute to very large and for really heavy spinning they can always be used in multiples. Many more anti-kink devices are available, and it is wise to try them all, but make sure they are firmly fixed to the line or trace, otherwise you may well find that they are totally ineffective.