Tarnished Brass


After switching to chucking hardware over feathers, I pretty quickly got into making my own spinners. At $4 a pop in a sporting goods store, taking a little time to make your own only takes a couple minutes per lure, and costs half as much. My go-to spinner is a #4 with a 1/4 oz torpedo body. There are a ton of different colors in the store, but I’ve mostly stuck to copper, brass, silver and black, with a splash of colored tape thrown into the mix. The possibilities are endless in choosing colors, but something tells me that the simpler the better, and having a black-bodied, brass-bladed spinner versus a black-bodied, brass-bladed spinner with a red sticker on it probably isn’t going to make a huge difference.

One difference however, is brightness and shine. In the Jed Davis book, he recommends bright colors for bright days, and dark colors for dark days as a shiny fish will reflect more on a bright day, and be more of a shadow on a dark day. However, sometimes you need a little bit of shine, but not too much. This is where tarnished brass comes in.

There are a lot of ways to tarnish brass, including cooking the brass on the BBQ or in the oven, coating the components in brass black, burying them in coffee grounds, using a sharpie, and my personal favorite: peeing in a can and leaving the bodies and blades to soak for a few days.

My preferred method has been to soak the bodies and blades in white vinegar instead. This produces an even, deeper color that still has a bit of shine, and you don’t have to deal with pee. Another super quick way to tarnish brass is to just heat the components over a blowtorch for a few seconds. If you really want to double your results, you can dip the components in vinegar and then heat them over a torch. For a greenish color, mix a tablespoon of salt into the vinegar first.

Below are a few different examples of techniques to tarnish brass.

tarnished blades

Vinegar soak, Dipped in vinegar and heated, vinegar and salt and heated, just heated

I’ve had great success with tarnished brass the last couple times out. For a finishing touch, I added a reflective green sticker to the back of the blade. Both of these steelhead were pulled out of sunny water on the same spinner.

As the weather warms up for the summer, start thinking about tarnishing some brass to bring in the steel!


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