Spin Doctor

Eddie Halbrook uses a throwback lure to put plenty of Caney bass in the boat this time of year.

Figuring he had it tied on to fool anybody who happened to be sneaking around in his camouflaged Triton aluminum boat, I half expected Eddie Halbrook to clip off the blue/white tail-spinner that was tied to the line on the rod that he handed to me.

I never saw him reach for his clippers, though. I reached for mine as soon as I had secured the rod, but before I could snip off the offending decoy lure, Halbrook caught wind of what I was doing.

“Don’t cut that thing off,” he huffed. “I’ve caught some big old bass on that thing the past few weeks. I was going to be nice and let you fish it, but now I’m taking it back.”

Nothing could have made me happier, and I grabbed one of Halbrook’s rods that was already rigged with a deep-diving crankbait. I figured I would at least catch some fish while he impersonated a vertically jigging ice fisherman without the ice.

Within the hour, I began to rummage around in the compartments of Halbrook’s boat looking for another tail spinner. I couldn’t tell if he really didn’t have any more or if he was pulling my leg, so I kept looking.

I eventually found a very rusty copy of the same tail-spinner he had been using to put it on me. Like so many before it, this particular lure had been stored at the bottom of a cup holder rather than having been returned to its proper place. At first glance, it didn’t even look like the spinner would spin. I began to wonder if it was the one that he learned how to use at Caney Lake so many years ago.

“Caney is my home lake,” Halbrook said. “And this lake has some really deep holes in it from where they dug dirt to build the spillway. There are also some other old bar pits that were flooded when the water backed up. I wanted to catch these bass all year long, but I noticed they would move to this deep water during the winter. If I was going to stay on the bite, I was going to have to figure out how to fish deep water.”

Through much trial and error, Halbrook has now mastered the art of using these fish-shaped chunks of lead to pull up cold-water bass from as deep as 60 feet. Last winter, he landed a lunker that weighed 8.99 pounds, and he tells of a friend who landed one over 12 pounds on a tail spinner.

Catching bass like these on tail spinners is all about timing, persistence and patience. If you fish the deep water before the fish get there, you won’t catch them. If you give up on the tail spinners too soon, you won’t catch them. And, if you get bored raising and lowering the same lure in the same spot over and over again, you won’t catch them.

“What happens during the fall is the threadfin shad start moving to the more comfortable deep water down by the spillway,” Halbrook said. “When the shad start moving, bass will pull out off the creeks and the upper part of the lake, and move down there with them. Some off them will move down the actual Caney Creek channel, but many of them will move wherever the shad are moving.”

Halbrook explained that he has frequently found shad and bass moving toward the spillway along the leeward sides of the lake. If the wind has been blowing from the south a few days, they’ll move along the south bank. If it’s been from the north, they’ll move on the north bank.

“This movement takes place in stages,” Halbrook said. “It’ll all start some time in October, and by the beginning of November, they’ll be about halfway down to the dam in about 25 to 35 feet of water — however deep the creek is. When the water drops from 65 down to 60, that’s when these bass will go ahead and commit to the deepest holes at the dam. The colder it gets during November, the better you can catch them on tail spinners.”

Halbrook locates bass in this deep water by turning off the fish identification of his depth finder and turning the sensitivity all the way up to somewhere around 95 to 97. While this might be too high for some units, Halbrook says this setting on his unit allows him to see the shad and the fish arches that represent the bass without showing too much interference.

While the bass may show up as a half arch or a full arch, Halbrook doesn’t pay as much attention to them as he does the giant balls of shad that show up on his screen.

“You can tell the baitfish because they’ll show up as a big, black cloud shape on your fish finder,” he said. “Sometimes you can see the arches around and under them, but don’t worry if you don’t. When you find the shad like this, you can bet the bass aren’t very far away.”

Once he locates the balls of shad, Halbrook pitches out his tail spinner and lets it fall all the way to the bottom. After it lands, all he does is lift and lower, lift and lower. This vertical-jigging action is more productive than a cast and retrieve method because of all the heavy timber that is still at the bottom of Caney Lake.

Productive retrieves vary from pumping it 5 or 6 feet off the bottom to just a few inches. Halbrook has determined that the windier the day, the higher lift he has to make. During really calm days, he frequently does very well by just barely lifting it a few inches off the bottom.

“Whichever way you do it, it’s extremely important to follow your lure back down to the bottom with your rod tip,” he said. “If you let it tumble back down on a slack line it’s going to get tangled, and you won’t feel the bites. Bass eat these lures on the fall, and you’ve got to maintain constant contact to feel it. Just lower your rod tip at the same rate that the lure is falling. I’ve found that braided line or the fluorocarbon stuff is perfect for this kind of fishing because of the low stretch.”

Halbrook typically employs the Redneck Tail Kicker because of how the line is threaded through this particular lure then tied directly to a treble hook rather than tied directly to the lead lure.

“I like this one for two reasons,” said Halbrook. “When you get hung, you can let a little slack in your line and pop it, and it acts just like a lure retriever. And the lead will slide up and out of the way when fighting a bass. This makes it a lot harder for a fish to throw the lure.”

We didn’t land any 12- or even 8-pound bass on this particular trip, but we landed enough quality bass for Halbrook to prove to me that there is more to these simple-looking lures than meets the eye.

I was sorry that I almost cut off the first one Halbrook gave me, but I’m really glad I found that rusty one. I can only imagine how well a brand-new one would have worked.

About Chris Ginn 778 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at chrisginn.com.

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