Gerald Almy: Blade lures for fishing trips
Mention “blades” and many fishermen probably think you’re talking about fillet knives. To a small group of anglers, though, “blades” describes one of the hottest lures available for catching a wide spectrum of gamefish. Best of all, they’re especially potent right now, from fall through spring. October through March is prime time for blades throughout Virginia.
It would be hard to find a more plain-looking lure. Formed into a tear-drop shape out of a single piece of metal, they closely resemble shad and quickly drop to the deep levels where many gamefish hang out during fall and winter. They’re deadly on largemouths, but also score on smallmouths, spotted bass, stripers walleyes, hybrids, white bass, crappie, pickerel, pike, trout, and yellow perch.
Blade lures cast like a bullet, allowing you to cover lots of water quickly. They also drop fast to those productive 15-50 foot depths where winter gamefish often reside. Every tackle box should have at least a few blade lures in a variety of sizes and colors. The Cotton Cordell Gay Blade was one of the earliest versions of blade lures. Now many companies offer them, including Bass Pro Shops, which sells the XPS Lazer.
A myriad of colors are offered, but the most productive are silver, gold, nickel, chartreuse, green, blue and purple. For panfish, small bass or trout, ¼-ounce is a good size. For all-around use and most bass fishing, ½ or 5/8-ounce versions are best. For pike, stripers, jumbo bass or when fishing heavy currents in rivers, go with ¾-ounce models.
While they might look like a scrap stamped out of sheet metal, there’s more to blade lures than first meets the eye. While mostly flat, they also have a bulbous lower front that provides weight and balances the lure. Eyes are often painted in but actually protrude in some models and a few feature curves in the body or a washboard-shaped tail that adds vibration when the lure is lifted.
Cast and retrieve: this is the simplest and one of the deadliest methods for presenting these lures. Cast to cover such as rocks, bridge pilings, points, riprap, docks and flooded timber and allow the lure to sink close to the bottom on slack line. Then reel back steadily.
This tactic also scores well on fish breaking into bait on the surface. Cast into the melee of feeding gamefish and frantically jumping shad and reel smoothly. If strikes don’t come, pause occasionally and let the lure flutter down like a wounded minnow.
Fishing the drop: a variation of this presentation involves casting out to structure and allowing the lure to drop on a tight line. It will swing down in an arch and often elicits slashing strikes from waiting gamefish. If no hit comes, reel in and recast to a different spot.
Pump and reel: this is a good tactic for goading fish to strike when they’re sluggish and want more action. Cast out, let the lure sink to the bottom or just above it, then work the lure with a lift-and-drop retrieve. Raise the blade 12-24 inches, and then let it sink back. Reel in a few feet, repeat. Strikes could come anytime, but often occur when the lure is sinking. Be ready.
Vertical jigging: this is sometimes the deadliest tactic of all for blade lures. It’s especially productive when you locate bait and gamefish on your sonar over a specific piece of structure at depths of 20-50 feet. Drop the blade lure down until you reach the fish’s level on the depth finder, or all the way to the bottom and then reel up a foot or two.
Lift the rod 12-30 inches. Then lower it just fast enough that the lure falls freely but excessive slack doesn’t form. Watch for a twitch in the line as it descends. Set up fast and hard.
Use braided line for vertical jigging, braided or mono for the other tactics in 10-30 pound test with a 6-7-½ foot medium or medium-heavy rod.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.