Blade Spinners for Trout Fishing – Why not make your own?

Top, Jensen Insect 9g made in Denmark and Mepps Aglia-3,made in France. Blade Spinners.
Top, Jensen Insect 9g made in Denmark and Mepps Aglia-3, made in France.

Blade Spinners for Trout Fishing – Why not make your own? A look at these old and still popular lures

By Stephen Clark

Blade spinners, also called shafted spinners, is a great tool for searching water. They are my first choice in low water conditions. Regardless of what it represents to the fish, the lure screams out “hit me” to every fish with an attitude. This alone makes it attractive to a large number of fishermen. Blade spinners produce “flash”, noise and vibration that often send trout on the hunt to investigate the cause of the disturbance. One of the biggest advantages of this lure type is that the blade spins rapidly around the shaft even at very low speeds which keeps it in the strike zone for longer.

As an inveterate lure chucker, I am no exception and have always fiddled with the lures to maximise their performance – single hooks – purple colouration for the dusk/dawn situations, “Black Furying” every blade – but nothing overcame their infuriating habit of inexplicably “dropping” fish. Especially the small fish, the ones that would make a bad day a hell of a lot better, if you banked them. It was this habit that set me to thinking about why this was so and I started radically altering the lure I loved to use, but which bitter experience was relegated to the substitute’s bench.

Mepps Aglia no.2 - Made in France. Blade Spinners.
The Mepps Aglia no. 2. Made in France.

The use of single hooks on blade spinners, always better than trebles, reduces this problem. However, it does not remove the fact that the weight of the lure is up beside the fish’s head and this gives the fish every opportunity to use the weight to shake the hook free. The answer of course is to remove the weight in precisely the same way a properly rigged Tasmanian Devil does. Slide the lure away, after the hookup, along the line!

This rainbow trout was caught on a orange-bodied blade spinner.
This rainbow trout was caught on an orange-bodied blade spinner.

I could not believe blade spinners had been manufactured endlessly without someone else seriously questioning their design, so initially, I searched for a manufactured solution and thence a supplier. Even after a patent search, some two years later, I could not believe there was no lure on the market doing the job I wanted; even now I expect someone will notify me of the commercial existence of my solution.

The problem, if I was not able to buy the solution, was where to start. My first stumbling effort was to cut down a ball needle pump. I attached the blade via a twisted piece of stainless wire scavenged from the gut of a Tassie Devil, threaded the whole onto my line and went fishing expecting instant success. Before I lost that lure, due to over-vigorous experimentation, I was sure it had a signature in the water like an air raid siren – it never caught a fish, nor did it, to the best of my knowledge, pull a follow.

Mepps Black Fury blade spinner.
Mepps Black Fury blade spinner. This is one of the most popular blade spinners that has brought about the demise of many trout. It is ideal for prospecting low clear water and can also be used for slow trolling or harling.

I was shattered! A firm believer in good lures tickling the lateral line, I believed the tube sang like a horror story underwater. This was probably very much the truth as it was simply too heavy, too awful, too monstrous. No self-respecting trout was going to commit suicide on such a dreadful piece of hardware. Holding on to this thought I began again on slimmer and slimmer versions. Early efforts at making my own blade spinners were invariably too heavy and offended my ultra-light principles and desires.

I caught this rainbow while spin fishing with a Mepps Black Fury from my drifting Stabi-Craft on Canterbury's Lake Lyndon.
I caught this rainbow while spin fishing with a Mepps Black Fury from my drifting Stabi-Craft on Canterbury’s Lake Lyndon.

Eventually, I sourced the fine brass tube I needed for the central shaft. The rest was two years of experimentation, frustration, dreams and bad lures. I cannibalised every shafted spinner type I possessed and a few others, for components (my apologies here to my children) for when the commercial possibilities of this dawned on me, I realised I would need to test my concept against established benchmarks. What follows is an outline of my best efforts which I commend to you all, to build, experiment with, and ultimately fish.

Making Your Own Blade Spinners – The Tube

Go as fine as you can. I use a 1.5mm brass tube which can be sourced from good model shops. The tube retains the body, blade carriage (clevis) and beads, by being gently splayed at both ends. Use a nail file with a smoother all-around point. Hold the tube in a small vice over as much of its length as possible to avoid bending the tube. The vice jaws will imprint in the brass and these need to be emery papered off to stop the blade carriage (clevis) clagging on the tube. This serves a double purpose in that it thins the tube and further frees the carriage.

Do not try to splay the tube too much; it does not need it and will only split. Through all my experiments I required no sophisticated tools. Low tech is best! Use hand tools and an active mind. Power tools, beyond an electric drill, are unnecessary.

Blade Spinner Bodies

If you cannibalise existing lures you will find you need a bigger blade than came with the original lure. The tube’s weight has to be allowed for and its increased drag in the water. A lighter body is therefore required to bring up total weight. For example, I use a No. 2 Veltic body with a No. 3 blade. Experiment though. I made a bladed spinner fitted with a 3gm Jensen blade and three standard red beads. It wasn’t much to look at but the fish loved it.

Beads

These are an absolute necessity as they act as washers and as an attractor. Those lures I intend to use predominantly at night I have fitted with a luminous bead. It also makes them easier to find in the box. Experiment to find the right combination of beads.

Blades and Carriages for Blade Spinners

It is most important to get this part of the lure correct. I cut the carriage from fine brass sheet (good model shops have huge ranges) after I have drilled the 2 holes, which will eventually slide onto the tube. The holes need to be about 1cm apart and drilled out to an exact fit on the tube. Remember it needs to be tight as you will later sand out machining marks and further free the blade. Good stout scissors can be used for this job.

The carriage needs to narrow between the holes to stop the blade “boxing” or “jamming” in flight. When this happens on the water a quick wrist snap on retrieve usually frees the blade. Drill out the hole in the blade to fit the wider ends of this type of carriage. Finally, bend the carriage into a U shape, feed on the blade and slide the whole onto the tube.

The body of this Blue Fox Vibrax is flat or knife-shaped. Features a holographic painted blade, dressed VMC hook and life-like eyes.
The body of this Blue Fox Vibrax is flat or knife-shaped. Features a holographic painted blade, dressed VMC hook and life-like eyes.

The most important factor in making these lures is the length of the tube in front of the blade when assembled. As I have indicated earlier, I fish ultra-light and all my lures are 4gm or lighter in weight. At these weights, 11-13mm of the tube is needed in front of the blade. I have no experience of heavier lures – you will have to experiment. If the tube is too long the lure blows out – too short and the lure wobbles.

I personally like to take the lures to the point of wobble – they screw through the water and I believe this improves signature and is more attractive to predators. I always thread on a bead between lure body and split ring – or hook. This prevents line chafing. I use these lures in the salt also, as they are fancied by the kahawai I like to chase and a whole host of lesser lights.

Banded wrasse finds those modelled on Rooster Tails (sans the tail) irresistible. Before you denigrate the humble banded wrasse I suggest you try pulling a three-pounder off the barely covered rocks at Kaikoura using your trout stick. Be warned, if you do not get your hands high and the head of the fish up, do not expect the lure back. Three-pound trout do not pull anything like these guys, in my experience.

You may be asking yourself by now, why bother to go to all this effort. The results have to speak for themselves. In the last two seasons, I have dropped only 17 per cent of the fish I have hooked, compared to the nearly 40 per cent averaged out over all the seasons before (where I have kept a record). For me, this has been the telling factor. Bad days have been made good through banking fish I would normally have lost.

The Colonel no.3 made in Germany.
Colonel no.3 was made in Germany. Note the brass beads have plenty of room to move along the stainless steel wire. The U shaped part that holds the blade is known as a clevis. When the brass beads all slide down to the hook almost half of the stainless steel wire is exposed.

You may also be wondering why I am laying this all bare, rather than running off to a manufacturer and trying for a profit. Well . . . I have! They are not interested! They tell me the cost of dies and the volumes they can move in this country do not make this a profitable exercise. I could sell the idea to an overseas-based manufacturer but the costs (and time) involved in protecting the idea are astronomical. Patent attorneys, the only profit makers in this exercise, also inform me that certain international manufacturers are “unlikely to recognise” patent protection anyway. It is a case of “go ahead sue me if you can afford it”.

Another telling factor against the lure is that fishermen are inherently lazy and the manufacturers’ experience is that fiddly lures do not sell. If you do not think this is true – check out the number of fishermen still using the wire in the Tassie Devil, even though they know it reduces the lure’s performance. Why do you think manufacturers persist in selling the lure with a wire – and trebles!

If you do not fall in this camp, I hope you find what I have outlined as exciting as I do. Make a few – you never know, we could create a market. I hope so! Tight lines!

As an aside, for the more adventurous a search of the internet will show that you can purchase all the parts to make your own Colorado-style blade spinners from places like the US mail-order company Cabelas.com. You can get all the parts to make your own very cheaply, or at least much less expensive than shop-bought ready-to-fish blade spinners.