top of page
  • Writer's pictureSteven Paul

If You Only Had One Bait in the Box

If You Only Had One Bait in the Box

As an experienced Melton Hill Muskie guide, fishing writer, and frequenter of tackle isles, I get asked a great many questions by fellow anglers looking to perfect or ad new tactics to their fishing arsenal. The most posed query though is one I’ve never taken the time to seriously answer: “If you were marooned with only one lure of your choosing, what would it be”. The second and perhaps more important part of this question is why would I choose it. After mulling over the strengths and weaknesses of the various styles of lures available, the answer slowly began to emerge, and was honestly far less interesting than the reasoning behind the choice.

Due to its versatility and ability to trigger strikes at all depths, in all conditions, and with a wide range of species, a classic “safety pin” style spinner bait would be my choice…but I would take a Joe Bucher Slop Master hands down when targeting musky on Melton Hill and other Tennessee Musky waters.

As most anglers may not utilize spinner baits to their full potential, I think I need to shed some light on my reasoning and argue my case for some over-looked attributes. Spinners are a serious option for not only shallow but deep water. The mouth of George Creek, adjacent to the Top Side Rd boat ramp, serves as a great example where this vertical jigging is productive. This creek mouth with its steep breaking walls is a magnet for deeper but structure-tight bass that are out of reach to some anglers. To target fish near deep breaks with a spinner, begin by making a long cast to the shoreline. Once the lure has settled, start your retrieve with an upward rip of the rod tip, followed by quickly lowering it and allowing the slack line to gather. With each upward rip of the rod, your spinner bait will aggressively head towards the surface, but then enticingly fall vertically with the blade slowing its fall. I will usually only reel in the line after two or more repetitions, allowing the lure to trace the shoreline’s descending contours. Allowing slack line to gather with each fall, not only makes the lure's descent more erratic, but also triggers strikes by delaying the forward motion. This method is great for targeting suspended bass and other predatory fish over open water; and it can be a great tactic in and around bait schools.

Another excelling point for spinners like the Joe Bucher Slop Master is the ability to use them as a pseudo top water presentation. When fishing thick weed beds or even over open water, you can burn spinner bait barely under the surface. The surface tension causes a bulging water bubble that tracks the bait to its destination. This tactic is an excellent option for transitional times when fish are looking for speedy retrieves but won’t commit to hitting other top water lures. To get strike worthy results, it’s important to start each retrieve with a high rod tip, reeling quickly enough to create a lift in the blade. I find this easier to accomplish with willow leaf blades as they turn at a faster rate than Colorado or Indiana style blades. Bulging spinners is very productive for lunkers in our area during summer peak and fall transitional periods.

Though some anglers focus on crank baits in and around rocks, boulders, and manmade structures, spinner baits can offer a fresh and appealing option. “Bump ‘n’ scrape” is a tactic I use frequently with spinners in this type of structure. When trolling for small mouths, walleyes, or muskie, I utilize the snag free nature of spinner baits to bump, slam, and drag over and through hard cover. The key to this tactic is forcing your spinner bait to repeatedly make prolonged contact with cover and structure. With each bump, bang, and scrape, the sound from the spinner bait making contact will get the attention of surrounding predatory fish. These impacts make the spinner’s blades kick erratically from side to side and flutter in an unpredictable action. This can many times force a strike. Whether casting or trolling, this tactic is best used laterally along shorelines and is great for stubborn, post-frontal fish.

Regardless of their bland appeal, spinner baits can truly become the Swiss army knife of your tackle box, but it is up to the angler to unlock their full potential. No angler is generally limited to a single lure, but applying this hypothetical scenario will sometimes help you find new ways to develop the untapped potential of each tool in your box.

Melton Hill musky seem to love hot colors combined with black in the early spring and fall periods.

Steven Paul

Musky Guide/Master Angler

Contact him at

Melton Hill Musky Fishing Tips, Fishing Report.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page