Making Your Own Fishing Spinners





 Theory of Spinners ;  Fishing spinners have for eons been used to attract and catch fish.  They are designed to attract fish by reflecting light imitating food and give of a vibration that fish can hear also imitating food.  Basically they consist of a cupped spoon shaped blade that revolves around some sort of a shaft, that has a hook attached behind it.  The principle here is to attract a catchable fish, as in the underwater fish world, larger fish eat smaller fish.  So shiny revolving blades do two things, they flash as they rotate, which also makes underwater noise, both of which can be an attractant by simulating smaller "bait fish".   When a lure (a spinner in this case) is drug near a larger fish, the fish may attach it, thinking it is something to eat.   Or at times they may attach the lure out of a aggravation, or a territorial mode.  Therefore spinners can be made using blades of different colors and/or sizes.    No matter the size or color of the blade, the one constant color that the fish see will be any beads that may be attached to the shaft.


Then there are some fish that only eat plankton or small bugs which may not be attracted to flashy lures.  Some may even be scared off by a lot of large spinner attraction because they associate that with a predator.


One thing to remember is that they all rotate AND unless you have some means to stop any possible line rotation because of this, you will get a twisted mainline.  To counteract this twist, at leas one good swivel should be used.  I like to use a ball bearing swivel and small snap on the terminal end of my mainline if casting.  If trolling, then attach a rudder/keel to the front of the spinner/gang troll.  On many of the gang trolls a rudder is usually incorporated in the system from the factory.


 Spinner Styles and Sizes ;  There are many different styles and sizes, depending on the intended usages, here we will not cover them all.   This meaning specie or size of the intended quarry.  Normally a 10" trout will not be looking to eat another 1/2 it's size.  Blades are made of metal, usually steel or brass sizes and painted and/or highly polished, or nickel, copper or even gold plated.   You will also see blades listed as "Hammered", this will be listed like HB or HN, relating to hammered brass or hammered nickel.  What that is essentially is the outer part of the blade has a lot of  rounded indents, (like someone took a small hammer and pounded on the blade) which reflect the light indifferently that if the blade was smooth and plain.   Some blades are called 50-50 brass/nickel, where the blade is made of brass and nickel plated on one side running lengthwise.


Blade styles are -- Colorado Blades, Indiana Blades, French Blades, Willow Leaf Blades, In-Line Blades and a few other special hybrids.  Some will be regional, typically something that has been used there forever and old habits are hard to break especially if they still catch fish. 


Shapes differ in how easy/speed and the angle that they rotate from the shaft, with the rounder Colorado style making a broader circle being the easiest, rotating closer to the shaft, which can be fished slower and or deeper.   As the blades become more elongated and or shallower cupped body, they need more speed as they rotate closer to the shaft, this either in the retrieve OR in faster water.  These are also excellent for use in colored water, as they make more "noise" and can be fished slower allowing the fish longer times to be able to SEE the lure.


Next the Indiana style is a bit more elongated more similar to a table spoon.  French blades are another deviation, where the blade is similar to the Indiana, but has a deeper cup AND also has a narrow flat ring around the outer surface.  


Willow Leaf blades are a long slender double ended boat type design and need a lot of speed to make them rotate, which rotates farther away from the shaft.


Speed has some control on this rotation, but the reason each blade rotates at a different shaft angle is not from the outer domed part of the blade, but from the inner cupped part that pushes outward by back-draft of the rotating blade.  This inner blade shape also directs vibration NOISE outward, and/or rearward, depending on the blade's shape.  A Willow Leaf radiates more noise in a narrower cone angle and is better used for trolling lures as an attractor for lures pulled behind the blades, where a Colorado blade has a wider cone angle and better used as a casting spinner blade that needs to have the noise radiated farther to the sides.


Spinner blade "Noise" cone angle
The above illustration used with permission of Russ Mohney 2009, from his original book
 The Complete Book of Lurecraft


The blades may range from small, usually 00 or 0 into #1 and up to a #7 or #8 usually being the largest.  The 00 will usually be smaller than a little finger nail up to #8 which is about the size of a golf ball, if the Colorado style.


For a illustrated link created by Mepps on how different style blades function, CLICK HERE.


Many times when casting spinners, the fisher may need to jerk or do a couple of fast reel cranks to get the blade started rotating, this more-so on the medium or longer skinny blades that require a fast retrieve.



Colorado Blades Indiana Blades




French Blade Willow Leaf Blades



 Attaching the Blades ;  These blades need to be attached to a metal shaft of some kind that they rotate around.  The shafts also will need an eye on each end to attach the mainline/leader on the front AND on the rear to attach the hook to, if is the lure itself, or a short leader to if being used as a trolling attractor.


These shafts can vary in diameter, depending on the size of the blade or intended quarry.  Diameters are usually .025" for the smaller sizes up to .035" for the larger salmon/muskie lures.  Usually these shafts will be a fairly stiff solid wire if being used for a lure itself.   What I use is stainless steel .030" wire feed welding wire, which is bought in bulk spools.  When forming the eye, it is best to make the wrapped cut off end 90 degrees to the eye, so that you can cut it off closer to the shaft than having to fight the eye. 


If being used for a attractor or gang troll, then twisted, flexible wire is usually preferred.  Here, I have been known to use sections of old downrigger wire.


The single blade lures will need an eye in each end, which can be done on a hand operated lure making machine, or if you get better at it, then simply a special needle nose pliers that has been altered to one or both jaws being ground down to a round taper. If you want to make a double blade spinner, then you will need a leader sleeve crimped onto the shaft to locate the rear blade, or from Michaels Craft stores.  Michaels also sells pre eyed shafts of different lengths if you only need a few.  These have an eye in one lend and are available in different lengths up to 6".   The crimping tool below is simply a automotive repairman's wire sleeve crimper.  If your crimper does not have a wire cutter built in, then you will also need a good pair of side cutters pliers. 



Lure making tools


For the gang trolls, the twisted flexible wire works best, (as said above, I have used old downrigger wire) and here the eyes and blade stops are made using leader crimp sleeves, being crimped making a loop, using a special crimping plier.


 Indiana, French and Willow Leaf Spinners ;  These blades will usually be attached to a solid metal wire as mentioned above.   If you intend to make single blade spinners, then no crimping sleeve will be needed as the clevis will be resting on a plastic bead just in front of the rear shaft eye.  


If your intent is to add more blades, then the crimping sleeve will need to be used for the ones other than the rear one as shown in the RH photo below.  In the LH and center photos, no crimp sleeve was needed as the weighted body made of brass or plastic beads were added which provided a spacer.  In the center photo below, the top spinner uses two Gamakatsu Big River Bend open eye hooks and positioned back to back.  To thread the hoochie over them, one was rotated so it lays along side the other and the hoochie nose was cut off just enough to allow it to be threaded over both hooks, then the one was re-rotated to the back-to-back position.  here the orange body was simply a bass fishermans bullet-nose weight, in from 1/4 to 3/8 oz. to add weight to get it to run deeper, or in faster water


One thing to understand is that the clevis (either metal or plastic) needs a bearing to rub against instead of just dragging on the twisted wire loop around the shank when forming the eye.  This clevis is simply a U shaped part with holes on each end, which the blade is inserted onto before the clevis is threaded onto the shaft.  This clevis (with the blade attached) is what rotates on the metal shaft.


Cost here depends on the size of the blade and what weight is used if any, which could be from $.65 to $1.00, not counting the hooks if attached.


The photos below depict a couple of bought spinners on the left, (the top being a Luhr Jenson "Metric").  Center are my Alaskan Coho spinners, and on the right are a couple, the top one I made using French blades, with the bottom a Hildebrandt double Willow Leaf.


You will notice that any spinner I make DOES NOT have a swivel on the front shaft eye IF the spinner is used for casting.  The reason is that when you cast, that swivel being where it is, contributes to everything behind the swivel, upon it stopping/landing on the water, has a good chance to try to pass the swivel, tangling it.  For trolling, that is a totally different matter and needed there.



Indiana on top with a French below Weighted  single blade French spinners for Coho Double blade spinners


 For the double blade spinners in the RH photo above is where the crimping sleeve was needed for at least the front blade.  The French blade spinner in that same photo used numerous plastic beads on the rear to provide that stop surface.

Below in the chart, it lists different sizes of sleeves and the inside diameter.   You need the size to match your wire size.  However, if you are using downrigger wire which is about .035" diameter for say gang trolls where you need to make a loop and crimp BOTH the body wire and end, you will need to double the size like to a #3.5 or #4 to accommodate both wires.



Leader crimp / sleeves
# I. D. Wire # Mono #  
 1  .033"      
 2  .041"   12-30  
 3  .065" 15-45 25-50  
3.5 .071" 60 50-60  
4 .080" 60-80 60-80  
5 .096" 120 80-130  
6 .131" 210 150-220  


 Colorado Spinners ;  These blades when made into spinners, have for years used  two barrel swivels connected by a split ring that the blade is threaded into the split ring. as seen below.  Another split ring is usually attached to the rear of the rear swivel so that a hook can be attached there or a leader attached.  It also acts as an identifier as to which way the spinner needs to be placed on the line, as they do not rotate backwards very good.   You may see them on metal shafts also, depending on the intended purpose.


These are the simplest to make, as no tools are required.  Cost to make one of these is a size #4 is about $.75.


In the photo below, you can see the comparison to a dime, with the smallest blade a #00, the other a #1 and the large one a #6.  These small spinners work great for late summer low and clear water, where they do not spook the fish.



Colorado spinners,  with a dime for size reference


Gang Trolls ;  These trolls are just a series of blades connected on a shaft and usually connected to a rudder or keel on the front.  The one shown below is a somewhat copy of and old obsolete Pop Geer "Little Troll, 17",  that I have used for over 60 years.  The first of these were made on a jointed (eyed) metal shaft connected together, using a metal rudder and more elongated blades.  This is a copy of the later ones that I still have one of, using a flexible wire, but mine use French blades and a homemade 2 1/4" rudder made from the remnants of a broken Fish Flash.  The wire is made from old downrigger wire, 5mm beads, medium Quick Change clevis, #7 barrel swivels were used and small Duo Lock snaps.   The blades shown in the photo below are French, are sizes #2, 3, 4 and #7 being the largest.


This unit was made for a total cost of just over $3.00.  Not cheap, but probably less than 1/3 of current retail price.  However, since you can not buy single parts, you need to buy in packages of from 5 to 25, therefore, if you only need one or two units, you are better off buying off the shelf (if you can get what you want/need).


Some of these trolls can be long, rightfully being nick-named Yard & Halfs.   They are productive, but do have a considerable amount of drag on your rod.


In the photo below, the rudder has a bottom center hole with a Duo-Lock snap, so that if more weight is needed, a cannon ball sinker can be attached. 


We used to cast these from shore with good luck, and also trolled them.  Behind them, we traded off when the bite slowed, from worms about 12" back, or 14"-16" back a F2 to F4 Flatfish or a small Triple Teaser spoon.  The Flatfish would usually be a yellow/red dots, or green frog color.  As a side note, ---- I still  have an old well worn wooden F2 yellow Flatfish.


Here is a handmade small gang troll using French Blades



 There are numerous places that sell lure parts, even a few local stores, but they usually do not carry as much as the online sellers do.  It seems that there are more personal tackle makers for Bass and Walleye than trout or salmon, but many parts fit any lure designed for fish.  One place that has a good supply is


Again, do not get the idea that you will be saving money, as say you want 3 different sizes of spinner blades and possibly 3 different finishes, at an average of $5 a bag of 25, which would allow you to make 150 singles or less if doubles.  How many do you really want to just get a couple different versions?   That adds up in a hurry.  Then since you are putting it on your credit card, why not add just a few more small items.  It is VERY EASY to accumulate over $400 in lure making supplies, so unless you have a specific need where you can recoup some of the expenses, is it worth it ????


For me, I started out slow, by picking up some stuff from a garage sale.   Then when I had the chance to go to Alaska for self guided, walk-in, coastal rivers Coho trip, I ramped up building those spinners specifically needed at a substantial savings as I was told to take possibly 50 along because of losses due to debris in these waters.  Now, I make obsolete trout tackle and try to reproduce what I see on the internet for Kokanee.


Colors ;  Most of the time, you will see the lure maker trying to imitate a baitfish, or at least the lure give off a flashing color, supposedly to attract the fish to the lure.  However, sometimes too much flash may spook your intended target.  Then think about it, fish do not see well at anything below them, so they will normally be looking up.  If your lure is bright and shiny, so is there anything in the water above them in contrast to what is above the surface, sunshine or clouds.   Many fishermen are not aware that a black or dark colored lure may be better in conditions like this as it is silhouetted against the sky when looking upward.


With that said, there are two other colors that have for years been an old standby, BLUE and GREEN.  These two colors fit both spectrums, as somewhat matching baitfish AND at the same time giving that silhouette appearance to the fish.


Then the flipside, where especially for Coho salmon, where as they get closer to spawning in bays and rivers, that you want a bright color, (orange for one) but in this instance they seem to be striking that lure in a aggressive/defense mode.





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Originated 10-07-2008, Last updated 03-02-2018
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