Underspins by Ben Team
I was probably about 19 years old the first time I used an underspin.
It was early December, and I was working a dock with access to water about 15-feet-deep. I had been casting and retrieving spoons, in-line spinners and jerk baits all morning, but hadn’t had a lick of success.
I had most of my tackle with me, but my brother wasn’t planning on fishing that day, so he was borrowing dad’s gear. Dad’s tackle box was like a time capsule from 1975, and it contained a variety of strange lures.
Frustrated by my lack of success, I began scrounging through dad’s box. I saw weird floating frogs, plastic worms with propellers and this weird little spinner-bait-looking-thingy. It had a little fork-tailed grub threaded on the hook and a small, spinning blade on a bent arm. It looked kind of interesting, so I tied it on and chucked it out into the deep water.
Two or three casts later, I felt a mushy thump. Not wanting to yank the lure from a bass’ mouth, I just kept reeling in, but slowed down a little. A moment later, I watched my light-spinning rod bend toward the water – fish on!
Now, that particular fish wasn’t a monster, and I only caught one other one the entire day, but from that day forward, I always kept the underspin in the back of my mind.
Especially while working chilly winter water.
What Is an Underspin?
Underspins look like down-sized spinnerbaits. Formerly called ‘beetle-spins’ and used to target smaller fish, underspins have subsequently grown up and are now available in bass-appropriate sizes.
They usually feature a small, willow-leaf blade, a lead or tungsten jig head and a bare hook. You must thread a soft plastic bait on the hook, but your options are essentially limitless. Minnow-mimics are undoubtedly the most popular choice, but you can use grubs, worms or even creature baits on the back if you prefer.
Underspin Gear and Rigging
You can use either spinning or baitcasting gear when using an underspin. I prefer using baitcasting gear whenever possible, so unless I want to use an underspin that weighs less than one-quarter ounce, that’s what I’d use. However, there is no reason you can’t use spinning gear if that’s your preference, particularly if you are using ones on the smaller side of the spectrum.
Rigging up an underspin is simple, just tie it right to your main line, or use a leader if you prefer. Use an improved clinch or Palomar knot, and avoid using a clip, which may alter the action of the lure.
Presenting and Fishing an Underspin
Underspins are most commonly used to target suspended bass. Accordingly, most anglers simply cast their underspin out over deep water and bring it back with a straight retrieve. Some allow the lure to sink all the way to the bottom before starting the retrieve, while others begin retrieving shortly after the lure hits the water.
If the bass are feeding aggressively and the water is especially clear, you can use a pretty fast retrieve. In such cases, the underspin functions as a search bait – an effective one too! But if the bass aren’t feeding actively, or the water is a bit stained, you’ll need to slow down your retrieve to generate strikes.
If you have trouble keeping the lure at the proper depth while using a slow retrieve, consider using a bulkier trailer or increasing the size of the blade, which will provide greater buoyancy or lift, respectively.
But a straight retrieve isn’t the only way you can fish an underspin. Many anglers have success vertically jigging an underspin, the way you may fish a jigging spoon. You can also bump the lure along the bottom, by using a steady, but slow retrieve, and pumping the tip of your rod while doing so.
There’s a Time and Place for Underspins
Underspins are typically a cold-water bait, and they are most effective in clear water. Throw them whenever you would normally use a hard jerk bait, jigging spoon or suspending crankbait.
This is not to suggest that underspins can’t catch fish during the warmer months, because I’ve certainly caught a few doing so; but it is not a high-percentage bait for anything other than cool, clear water. If you are hell-bent on using them in the spring, summer or fall, try to buzz them over the tops off weeds or skip them up under docks.
One of the primary reasons underspins aren’t great for summer and fall bass fishing is their tendency to become snagged in heavy cover. While some underspins feature a weed guard, most have only a single, exposed hook that is likely to snag any tree branch or laydown it contacts. Therefore, most anglers try to limit their use to winter, when bass tend to suspend in the middle of the water column, from 10 to 20 feet deep.
Have you ever used an underspin to catch lunkers? Let us know what techniques or tips you can share in the comments below.