This the season...for blade baits.
I recall such a trip last December on northwestern Pennsylvania's Allegheny River. The river was low, clear and cold — 35 degrees-cold. Dave Lehman and I were fishing a slow current slot next to a boulder-rich section of shoreline. When the water's up, the fish move into the protection of the rocks to escape the current. But when it is low, like it was that day, they tend to hold in the 15-18 foot depths.
I knew the fish were there. I had been working this spot for the past couple of weeks, but in the ultra-cold water they ignored our tube baits, hair jigs and grubs. A switch was made to blades. During the next half hour we boated a dozen and a half smallmouth bass in the two- to three-pound range, along with a couple walleyes, in an area not much longer than my boat.
Why did the blades work when these same fish ignored other typically productive offerings? I have to believe it was the in-their-face nature of the blade that invoked a reaction bite, rather than a "feeding bite" indicative of a hit on a jig.
While blades can be fished horizontally, they excel when fished in a yo-yo manner vertically, just off of the bottom. It's an especially productive method when you know you are fish, but can't get them to bite, something common in exceptionally cold water.
As fruitful as blade bait fishing can be, it also has some frustrations, the most common being the bait's tendency to foul on itself. The pumping action the angler employs sometimes results in the tail hook wrapping around the line, or the two hooks becoming intermeshed. Here are a couple things you can do to minimize fouling.
- Tie in a piece of 20-pound test fluorocarbon fishing line as a leader. Use about a foot of line, with a barrel swivel (to connect to the main line) and the snap to attach to the bait. The stiff fluorocarbon isn't as likely to come in contact with the hooks.
- Lower the bait on a semi-tight line, rather than allowing it to free-fall downfward. Too much freedom on the drop often results in a fouled lure.
- Replace the factory fishing hooks with the next size smaller. This keeps the hooks from making contact with each other. Blade bait hooks are often trebles with an open leg (one tine not soldered), which are easy to replace. The open leg permits the hook to be snapped on and off the lure. If the lure comes with split rings, lose the split rings and replace with open-leg trebles to minimize movement.
- Lastly, keep bottom contact to a minimum. While it's a good thing to occasionally let the bait touch bottom, to confirm that's it's "in the zone," doing so also provides the slack needed for the bait to foul.