6 Hot Spinners For Northeast Springtime Trout

From old standbys to newer designs, here are six tried-and-tested spinners that'll catch trout for you right now and throughout the fishing season. (March 2007)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Over 40 years ago, when I was just cutting my angling teeth on nearby trout streams, one thing became clear one bright morning on one of my favorite streams. It was April and the water was still high, clear and cold, but slowly warming. I'd been dead-drifting a part of a night crawler and picking up an occasional rainbow and a hatchery brook trout or two. However, I could see other trout and for whatever reason, they were not attacking my bait as aggressively as normal.

MEPPS AGLIA

I switched to a maggot for bait, but the results were the same. Ditto for salmon eggs, a little action, but nothing to get too excited about. Finally, I decided to try a small 1/8-ounce Mepps Aglia spinner. I pitched the little spinner up into a churning plume of white water and started a slow retrieve that barely kept the lure just off the bottom. The Mepps hadn't gone 2 feet when a savage strike almost jerked the little ultralight rod from my hands.

After landing the lively 13-inch rainbow, I thought, Well, let's see whether that was a fluke hit or not. Two casts later, a dandy 11-inch native brook trout smashed the spinner. The rest of that morning that little Mepps lure had given me what, up until that time in my young angling career, one of those days that is indelibly etched in my memory.

This has largely been the case with hundreds of thousands of anglers around the world. Spinners should be an integral part of any serious trout fisherman's arsenal. They come in a vast array of sizes, color combinations and blade types. They are easy to use, relatively cheap and catch incredible numbers of fish. Spinners are to fishing what frying pans are to cooking: pretty much indispensable!

Without a doubt, probably one of the finest spinners ever created is the venerable Mepps. Created by French engineer Andre Muelnart in 1938, the little lure enjoyed minor success in Europe, but what catapulted it to worldwide fame was a somewhat unusual turn of events. Todd Sheldon, who owned a successful tackle shop in Antigo, Wisconsin, had been having a tough day on the Wolf River in the spring of 1951, not too far from his shop.

After plying the Wolf River's pools and runs for an hour or so with little to show for it, Sheldon finally decided to try a little lure friend Frank Velek, a World War II GI veteran who returned from Europe two years earlier, had given to him. A couple of hours and four trout later, Todd Sheldon was so convinced of the little lure's trout appeal that he became an agent for Mepps spinners. Sheldon, after seeing the initial response that these lures generated in the Midwest, sold his store in 1956 and formed Sheldon's Inc. to focus his attention on the import lure trade with the primary focus being on the full line of Mepps spinners.

The Mepps Aglia is the original French spinner. It is an in-line lure that makes use of a heavy-duty stainless steel shaft to which a concave oval blade is attached, along with a spinner body and a treble hook. The blade can be polished brass, copper or painted. Some models of the lure can also be adorned with plastic or solid brass beads. However, the pièce de résistance on the Mepps Aglia is a tuft of squirrel tail that adorns these lures and acts as a skirt above the treble hooks.

Sheldon started dressing Mepps spinners with tufts of squirrel tail and buck tail after a happenstance occurrence on one of his favorite rivers. After having had a decent day of trout fishing, Sheldon was headed back to his vehicle when he ran into a teenager who'd also had a banner day. After inquiring what the lad had caught his trout on, most of which were larger than Sheldon's, the teenager displayed a Mepps spinner. However, unlike Sheldon's spinner, the boy's lure had a tuft of squirrel tail tied in just above the hooks.

This started Sheldon on a major experimentation spree where he tried fox, coyote, badger, skunk, bobcat, bear and even Angus cow hair on the lures. After several seasons of testing, he had conclusively determined that squirrel tail and buck tail provided the best action on their lures.

Over the years, my favorites in the Mepps series included the Black Fury and the Comet, in addition to the Aglia. This is one lure that no spin-fisherman should ever leave the house without!

WORDEN'S ORIGINAL ROOSTER TAIL

Another lure that has more than stood the test of time is the Rooster Tail spinner. Manufactured by the Yakima Bait Company out of Granger, Washington, Worden's Rooster Tails come in 10 different sizes and three styles of lures. Rooster Tails also come in over 50 color possibilities. They came out with a red hook version the past couple of years. This is also a lure originally developed with trout, walleyes and steelhead in mind, but it will also catch other freshwater species.

After taking over his father's lure company in the 1950s, Howard Worden helped create and develop a number of popular lures. The Rooster Tail, however, is by far the most famous of this company's offerings.

PANTHER MARTIN

One lure that has produced more often for me than not is the Panther Martin. Given that there have been more than 60 million of them produced and sold since its inception by a Polish angler in the late 1940s, it appears there are quite a few other fishermen who also hold this tremendous little lure in high regard.

Harrison-Hoge Industries bought the rights to the Panther Martin from Rockland Tackle in 1961. At that time, the Panther Martin was being manufactured in Italy. The first year Cecil Hoge Sr. imported and peddled the Panther Martin lure, it didn't exactly sell out as planned. At that time, the company was operating out of a small warehouse in Harrison, New Jersey. Cecil Hoge Jr., who now runs the company, explained in a recent conversation that their lures are now being made in China and sales continue to be brisk.

In addition to their traditional sonic spinner, their fly spinner is another successful variation of the original lure, which has a tuft of colorful buck tail acting as a skirt over the treble hook. The two most popular color combinations are the black with the yellow spotted body and gold blade.

BLUE FOX SUPER VIBRAX

A lure that has been rapidly gaining in popularity over the past 10 or so years is the Blue Fox Super Vibrax. This spinner has a two-part body that emits very low-frequency sound vibrations, which draws the interest of most game fish species. The Blue Fox Super Vibrax comes in four different lure types: plated, wild-eye, painted and fox tail. It is available in seven different weights. This

spinner is produced by the venerable Finnish lure, filet knife and hook manufacturer Rapala/VMC. It should be noted that Lauri Rapala's lures hold more world records than any other lure ever manufactured.

TWO OTHER HONORABLE MENTIONS

Two other spinners that bear mention in the top five are Mack's Lures Kokanee Killer, which comes in either a treble-hook or single-hook design. The lure's body is made up of red beads and it is a proven trout/salmon catcher. The second is Luhr-Jensen's Shyster. The Shyster is another in-line spinner that's been a steady trout producer for years, and like the other "super stars" mentioned above, comes in a variety of color and weight combinations.

In-line spinners have a lot going for them. They are versatile, durable and come in a wide variety of body shapes, sizes, weights and colors. Spinners catch numerous species of fish, including trout. Spinners are easy to fish and are productive in just about any type of water, from the tiniest of mountain brook trout streams on up to the largest rivers and lakes. When put into the hands of someone proficient with an ultralight spinning rod, the end result is a bent rod and hard-fighting trout attached to the terminal end!

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