Spybaiting is a Japanese-born technique that allows an angler to target suspended bass holding in a specific level of the water column. It’s not completely clear where the name came from, but it’s generally believed that the technique was developed to hook wary bass in ultra-clear water, with the lure operating as a “spy” in hostile territory.
Spybaits are small, slow-sinking hard baits with double props. What sets these lures apart from jerkbaits is that they don’t need to be worked aggressively in order to reach depth, and once they’re in the zone, a slow retrieve gets the props spinning, producing vibration without wild movement that may scare spooky bass.
Pro angler Kevin Hawk, a San Diego native and a finesse fishing ace, says spybaiting is most effective when there is at least 6 feet of visibility, though 10 is even better. The technique can come into play at any time of year, but Hawk uses it most often during the postspawn and when fish school up in fall. He favors the Duo Realis Spinbait 80.
“After I identify the holding depth of the suspended fish, I make a long cast past the school,” Hawk says. “The Spinbait will sink about 8 inches per second on 6-pound fluorocarbon, so I’ll count the bait down to the approximate depth and then begin reeling slowly.”
Hawk tells those new to spybaiting to reel through the bite, maintaining the same slow, steady retrieve if you get bumped but don’t connect. Most of the bites feel like a light tick, or the rod simply loads up.
The light fluorocarbon is the key to success, Hawk says. You might think light, thin-diameter braid would work well and get the baits down faster, but Hawk gets fewer bites on braid, partially because clear-water bass can see it as the lure moves through the school.
Hawk likes a long rod with a thin tip for spybaiting, as it allows him to feel subtle ticks from a distance and will be soft enough to stop tiny spybait trebles from pulling out during a fight. A reel with a high line capacity is also a must, considering the technique requires long casts.
Essential Lure: 3⁄8-ounce Duo Realis Spinbait 80
Spybaits give off lots of vibration with just a light twitch, unlike jerkbaits, which require a more aggressive retrieve to work.