What is Spybaiting
Spybaiting derives its name from the subtle, sneaky action of the lure that tries to swim by big bass unnoticed. The technique originated in Japan somewhere around 2006 - 2008 when anglers began experimenting with lures that had less action in order to coax finicky bass into biting. While jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and chatterbaits have their time and place, there were often instances when the lures would garner a number of followers but the fish wouldn't commit. The ultra-clear water gave the bass a visual advantage that more or less negated all of the things that made the lure great. Even swimbaits, natural as can be, began to become to commonplace in these ultra-pressured waters of Japan.
A few anglers started to experiment with a lure that had virtually no action. They would chop off bills of crankbaits, slim out tails of swimbaits and change their retrieve with jerkbaits, but they never quite found the right combination of attraction and profile. They needed something subtle, but also with drawing power. Something that created some water disturbance but didn't overwhelm fish who were accustomed to more obvious presentations. While it is still unclear who the first anglers were, slowly word got out that bass fishermen were buying small propellers and adding them to their bill-less jerkbaits to create flash and vibration. The propellers served to flash light and also, when tuned correctly, started creating small vibrations and faint noises as it was retrieved - the lures left a small water swirling trail in their path that served as breadcrumbs for bass seeking to investigate.
Spy Bait Lures
Duo Realis was the first company to the market with their Spinbait 80 designed by renowned lure designer Masahiro Adachi. He saw this design as a great challenge as he fully understood the concept of what was trying to be accomplished, however, he knew it would be a long road to balance the correct action and appearance with the expectations of anglers who may pass it over when visually assessing the lure's worth. The Spinbait 80 was constructed with a very small, highly detailed profile that resembled shad in every way. Small spinner blades were added to the nose and tail to create the super subtle pulsating action - this was a great challenge as the blades needed to spin at slow speeds, they needed to flash and they needed to create sound - however, conversely, they needed to remain small enough to not affect the action, not overwhelm with flash and certainly not disturb with great sound. While the technique and lure caught on fairly well in Japan, it was a rather tough decision on whether or not the US market would appreciate the lure's lack of action. (It's worth noting, Jackall Lures actually had a very similar idea some years ago with their I Shad, however it was more or less an utter failure despite some anglers reporting great success and one FLW Tour Pro who still turns to it in finesse situations to this day.)
While the lures look like they are topwater prop baits with a similar action to a Devil's Horse, they are actually a subsurface bait intended to be retrieved on a horizontal plane. Among the most important aspects of the Spy Baits is the fall once it hits the water. A good spybait will sink with a side to side shimmy remaining upright the entire time. This replicates the appearance of dying or wounded shad and often piques the interest of bass that eventually strike once it begins to move.
How to Fish Spy Bait
First and foremost, the most important thing to start with is light tackle. An ultra-light spinning rod up to a 2 power at most if you really plan to fish this lure effectively. From there it's time to have a heart attack - the technique is best fished with 4lb fluorocarbon. Yes, the stuff you hear western anglers say they use, but you aren't familiar with - that stuff! A good 4lb fluorocarbon such as the Seaguar Tatsu will go a long way in improving your spybaiting. The key to the light line is that it allows the blades to naturally propel the bait once it gets going and it helps keep it from rising up to the surface. Furthermore, as a finesse technique in ultra-clear water the lighter line will be more suitable for the conditions.
The use of the lure itself is pretty straight forward, in fact, the biggest challenge you are bound to face is wanting to do more to it. DON'T. Cast it out, by the way, the spy baits cast a mile, and let it fall to the depth you believe fish are feeding or suspending at. Once it reaches your desired depth you want to point your rod tip at the lure and reel extremely slowly, all the while picturing how the bait is traveling through the water. The best advice on how slow to reel it is imagine you are simply reeling in the slack. It will take a bit of practice and whole lot of patience, but a few catches will signal a correct presentation.
It is worth noting that the spy baits perform much better in clear water as the technique is designed to appeal to bass's vision and lateral line movement detection - but it doesn't overwhelm. Another consideration, make sure you have your drag set fairly loose as the lures usually have tiny treble hooks and you're usually really light line. Just let the fish inhale it and fight it with the same patience used to fish the bait.