Sonar lures, also called blade lures, are one of the best baits available for catching bass in late winter and early spring. That may seem puzzling when you first look at them.

It would be hard to conjure up a more simple and plain-looking lure. Stamped into a tear-drop shape out of a single piece of metal, these baits closely resemble shad and minnows. One of their strong advantages for fishing in early spring is that they drop quickly to the deep levels where many gamefish hang out at this time, especially largemouth bass. Don’t think of these as strictly bigmouth lures, however. They will also catch smallmouths, spotted bass, stripers walleyes, hybrids, crappie, white bass, pickerel, pike, trout, and yellow perch.

Sonar lures will cast long distances because of their weight and slim design. This, combined with their fast sink rate, lets you cover lots of water quickly. Every well-stocked tackle box should have at least a few of these artificials in a variety of sizes and colors. The Cotton Cordell Gay Blade was one of the earliest versions of blade lures, but now many companies offer them. Check out Basspro.com for a wide selection or visit local outlets for fishing and hunting supplies.

Many color patterns are available, but the most productive are silver, gold, nickel, chartreuse, green, and purple. As for size, use ¼-ounce models for small bass, trout, and panfish. For all-around use and most largemouth fishing, ½ or 5/8-ounce versions are best. For pike, stripers, jumbo-sized bass, or when fishing heavy currents in rivers, go with ¾-ounce models.

At first look, sonar baits look like a scrap stamped out of sheet metal, but there’s more to these deep-water 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 on the lure, but actually protrude in some models. A few blades feature curves in the body or a washboard-shaped tail that adds vibration when the lure is lifted.

Tactics

Cast & retrieve. This time-proven tactic is 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 technique also scores well on fish breaking into baitfish 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 a 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 occurs, 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 and then repeat. Fish may strike at any time, but often nab the lure when it is sinking.

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.

Raise 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. That could be your only indication of a strike. Fish often bite softly this time of year.

Tackle

Use braided line for vertical jigging, braided or monofilament for the other tactics in 10-30 pound test. Baitcast outfits are best, combined with a 6-7-½ foot medium or medium-heavy action rod. Spinning tackle will work, however, if that’s your preference.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident