What do spinnerbaits catch? Everything you might pull from a lake

Maybe no bait is quite as universally known as the spinnerbait. It’s quite simply named, all of its action comes from blades that “spin” and create a shine and shimmer that fish love.

But if you’re new to fishing and are wondering, what exactly does a spinnerbait catch anyways? Then this article is for you.

Simply put, spinnerbaits catch a variety of fish but are most commonly used for species of bass. This includes largemouth, smallmouth, white, and hybrid bass – but most commonly largemouth. However, a spinnerbait is very versatile/ and can catch anything from crappie, catfish, striper, walleye, pike and much more. 

In this article, we will discuss every fish a spinnerbait can catch and why it works so well for every type of fish.

What a spinnerbait looks like to a fish

A spinnerbait works so well because it mimics almost every type of bait fish. Bait fish is a term that fisherman use to group any type of small fish available in a lake that larger fish feed on.

In a small pond, a bait fish is a perch or bluegill. In larger bodies of water, a baitfish can be a shad or blueback herring. Simply put, a bait fish is the lowest (fish) member of the food chain in a fishery. They are the most plentiful fish that the larger predatory fish feed on.

A spinnerbait is great because it can replicate all of these fish. A spinnerbait’s action is created simply by their metallic blades spinning in the water. This shine or shimmer created  is meant to match the swimming or turning of a smaller fish during bright conditions. A bass will mistake the shine or shimmer of a blade spinning as a small fish turning directions in the water. That’s all a spinnerbait is trying to mimic.

Because of this, it means that any fish that is willing to eat a smaller fish will bite a spinnerbait. This is in most cases a bass (largemouth especially) but can be a variety of other fish as well.

Black Bass and Spinnerbaits

The most common type of fish you are going to catch with a spinnerbait is a black bass. This is actually broken down into two species – the smallmouth and largemouth bass.

laregmouth bass what do spinnerbaits catch

While there are some minor variances between the two – both smallmouth and largemouth bass feed similarly. Which means the same baits will work for the two species.

A spinnerbait resembles bait fish which is the main forage source for black bass alongside crayfish. Largemouth more than smallmouth though are associated with feeding on baitfish because, as the name suggests, they  have large mouths which are more effective for getting the agile baitfish into their mouths.

Still, you can catch either species using a spinnerbait and it’s what they are most commonly used for as bait. But largemouth in particular are the most common target for spinnerbait fisherman.

A third species of black bass, the spotted bass, is also a target of spinnerbait fisherman. But be assured, of all types of fish you are likely to catch using a spinnerbait – some variety of black bass is at the top of the list.

Pike or Chain Pickerel on Spinnerbaits

If you are in the northern part of the United States, you may also catch a pike (or chain pickerel) when you’re using a spinnerbait.

As mentioned previously, a spinnerbait is meant to mention any type of baitfish available in the body of water you’re fishing. So any predatory fish that feeds on smaller fish is likely to bite a spinnerbait.

A pike fits into  his category well. They are usually on the larger end of fish available in a body of water and have the teeth to prove it. These teeth are meant to take chunks out of shad, perch, bluegill, or any other smaller fish swimming in their waters.

A spinnerbait is a great way to catch these pike because they mimic the fish they most commonly feed on. Plus, because they are made of metal, they are not likely to break in their teeth when they bite onto it. 

So spinnerbaits are a great option when pike fishing as they don’t break in their teeth and naturally mimic one of their main food sources in any fishery.

Walleye and spinnerbaits

A similar species to the pike is the walleye. In fact, many people mistake a walleye to be a pike as they are often called yellow pike due to their similar appearance.

And it makes sense, like most pike walleye feed mostly on smaller baitfish. Plus, like the pike, walleye have teeth meant for chomping on smaller fish.

walleye what do spinnerbaits catch

So naturally, a spinnerbait is a great option for catching walleye. It naturally mimics one of their favorite food sources and because of the metal arms it is not likely to break under the pressure of their teeth biting into it.

Unlike other fish though, walleye are keen on brightly colored lures like chartreuse or bright greens. So while you can certainly catch a walleye on a straight white spinnerbait, I would suggest using a chartreuse or fire tiger colored spinnerbait if you are looking for walleye. But even black bass or pike will bite on this color occasionally. 

Crappie and spinnerbaits

You can also catch some crappie with a spinnerbait as well. 

This is because much like black bass, crappie feed heavily on smaller bait fish. However, they are usually a good bit smaller than bass. This means that crappie most commonly feed on the smallest possible fish in the lake. Like minnows or freshly hatched fish.

A spinnerbait is not necessarily meant to mimic the smallest fish in the lake, but a crappie that is hungry for a meal can often mistake it as so. Especially if they are a large fish that thinks they’re ready for a big meal.

crappie spinnerbaits catch what fish

So if you’re using a small spinnerbait, you can catch a few crappie here and there that are willing to go after a large meal. The smaller the spinnerbait you use, the more likely you are going to be to catch a crappie or any other panfish species.

But anglers don’t use spinnerbaits in most cases to try and catch large amounts of crappie. Instead, they are likely to fish in-line spinners or smaller underspins which more closely mimic the extremely small baitfish that crappie most commonly feed on.

Other species you can catch with spinnerbaits

The main species spinnerbaits are designed to catch are above, but there are a few other species you can catch with them as well.

One of these is the snakehead, a new introduction into the many eastern waters. Originally from Asia, snakehead are similar to the pike in that they are predatory species that have teeth and feed on smaller baitfish.

So spinnerbaits are a great lure as they mimic the food source they are accustomed to eating and won’t break under their teeth. 

But snakehead are not supposed to be in American waters, so spinnerbaits aren’t specifically designed to catch them. Should you catch a snakehead with a spinnerbait, please dispose of it however you can and report it to your state fishing agency.

Many people report that snakeheads are quite tasty as well – so always feel free to eat it if just disposing of it in the trash can hurts your sensibilities. But they are an invasive species and cannot be put back into American waters.

Catfish generally feed on dead or dying fish along with other things on the bottom of the water, but every now and then you will get the catfish that thinks a spinnerbait is a tasty meal. If you fish closely to the bottom of the water especially you may entice the right catfish into giving a bite. My personal best catfish was caught fishing a spinnerbait, so it is possible if unlikely.

Perch, bluegill, and any large panfish are another possibility though they would have to be extremely large to think they can bite a smaller fish. So if you want to target these species I would recommend instead you fish a beetle spin or inline spinner which are more aligned with their size and more likely to get bites from these smaller species.

A final species that isn’t common in most freshwater fisheries but can be caught with spinnerbaits is the muskie. Much like walleye, focusing on spinnerbaits with bright colors is a great way to target these fish.


A spinnerbait has a history of being a fish catching machine. While it’s meant to catch black bass in most circumstances it can actually catch a variety of different predatory fish species. That is because it is actually very simple in its action and what it’s imitating – a small bait fish. So it naturally catches any type of fish in your body of water that will feed on small fish. Which may include pike, walleye, crappie, snakehead, catfish, or even the big bluegill looking for a hefty meal. 

If you have one bait to catch anything that may bite, a spinnerbait might just be the bait to choose. So if you’re fishing a new lake and just want to catch something larger that feeds on smaller fish, a spinnerbait is probably your best bet! Comment below with the weirdest species you’ve ever caught on a spinnerbait.

And read this article if you’re interested in spinnerbaits and want to learn more about which one you should buy!

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