Spinner Baits – Grinding and Rock Rolling – by Dick Pearson

Ah, the good old Spinnerbait, one of the most fish catchingest baits ever designed. The ultimate “crescent wrench”. A tool that works fast, slow, shallow, deep, and in almost any kind of structure you can encounter. Here I’ll talk about fishing weeds and rocks with a spinnerbait. Being the versatile tool it is, a spinnerbait can fish these two types of structure in different ways, but here I want to be more specific. I want to talk about Grinding through weeds and Rock Rolling – actually contacting the rocks with your spinnerbait.


What is it and how do you do it? Well here’s what I said in my book Muskies On The Shield:

Grinding consists of bringing a spinnerbait in deep and right through the weeds rather than over the top of them. Fire a short cast, and allow the spinnerbait to flutter down into the weeds. Aim your reel (not your rod tip, but the reel itself) at the lure, and reel at a moderate, steady pace, plowing through the weeds with the bait as you go. Most of the time, spinnerbaits will slither and slide thropugh the weeds without hanging up, but if you do get stopped, pause your retrieve, shake your rod tip, and twitch gently until the bait frees itself, then continue on the retrieve. If the bait won’t shake free, pull it loose by pulling your rod straight back towards your body as you reel until it rips free. Avoid snapping your rod tip to free the bait, as that will usually knock the bait over sideways, further fouling it. The idea isn’t to rip throught the weeds or fish over them, but rather to getthe bait right down into the weeds and bump through the stalks. Grind and slither the bait throught the weeds as much as possible. Constant contact with weedgrowth can be a tremendous trigger for less than aggressive fish.


Rock Rolling is simply using the same mindset as Grinding but contacting rocks instead of weeds with a spinnerbait. Contact with the structure is again a triggering factor and usually the more contact the better.

Here you obviously can’t go through the structure, so the technique is different. You want to contact it, not hang up in it. This generally means maintaining a high rod tip, or at least utilizing the rod tip to enable a bang, lift, bang, lift approach. Like Grinding, it is a learned technique via practice.

This is a tactic I use more on trout water and around current, but under many of the conditions I’ll be discussing below. I’ll often employ both Grinding and Rock Rolling on the same waters to get something going. Often Rock Rolling involves deeper water, so a heavier spinnerbait may be called for.


Well, that last phrase from my book quote above kind of says it all. I use these techniques when dealing with “less than aggressive fish”. Here’s a checklist of many of those conditions:

1. In the spring when fish appear to be sluggish – particularly in early mornings. (Grinding in new or emerging weeds works well, but bait contact with rocks, ie Rock Rolling, doesn’t work real well for me at this time)

2. When I’m dealing with cold fronts. Nothing t hat I’ve found beats these tactics under this condition.

3. When dealing with pressured fish.

4. When conditions seem OK and the fish are “going” but I’m not seeing any nice ones.

5. When I return to a big follower and she doesn’t show up.

6. When absolutely nothing seems to be working – often because of a combination of factors listed above. Please remember, I believe ther are always some neutral or negative fish buried in the weeds or hanging near deeper rocks (reefs, points, whatever….Hey, they have to be somewhere!). I’m not aware of techniques that give you better odds of triggering these fish than Grinding and Rock Rolling. Give them a try.

Have A Great Season!


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