Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Blade baits for late-season largemouths

Blade baits are often fished on the bottom, or worked up from the bottom and back down again. Sometimes the author will cast them as well. (Photo by Vic Attardo)

By Vic Attardo 

Contributing Writer


This is one blade you don’t want sharp. In fact it’s a good idea to remove some of the sharpness from it, by way of taking off a hook or two before using it.


Blade baits, modified or not, are an excellent lure for the cold-water season. When largemouth bass have completely left the shallows, the triangular metal baits with considerable weight for their size will get the job done.


If you’re unfamiliar with blade baits, they’re just a hunk of metal in the shape of a ‘50s era taillight wing. 


In the last three or four years more blade baits have come out with extreme variations on the theme but they are still roughly triangular in shape.


Out of the package, most blade baits have two sets of trebles, and its those I modify by removing one set complete and then snipping the third tine on the other treble.


But first we need to explain how blades are used before the need for that modification makes any sense.


Blade baits are meant as bottom baits but also can be worked for fish swimming several feet above the bottom. Basically blade baits are dropped to the lake floor, or just above it, then yo-yo-ed or, in a way, jigged up several feet then allowed to slow or free-drop to the bottom again, then repeated.


You can cast a blade bait out some yards – don’t make long casts – then work the lure back to the boat with a series of bottom-up moves. Or you can drop the baits nearly vertically to the bottom and then yo-yo in place.


The variation to those themes that I’ve worked out on New York places from Oneida to Chautauqua is to drop the bait to the bottom, the very bottom, and let it sit there five to 10 seconds. After that I pop the lure up by lifting the rod tip from its position nearly touching the water to 10 or 11’o’clock. With subsequent descents – that’s if a bass hasn’t hit – mix and match between letting the bait rest on the bottom or beginning the yo-yo before touch down. 


If you have a live-vu type sonar, you’ll be able to see if a bass has come to inspect your prone bait. It’s a real hoot when this happens.


They didn’t have such advanced sonar equipment when I started using this bottom-holding technique so I learned the good way – by accident. 


I had dropped the blade to the bottom, somehow got distracted, and when I picked up the rod and lifted, a bass was on. The largemouth had gotten the blade from the bottom and I bet it had vacuumed the lure in just like it would a crayfish. 


Thinking I might have a trick here, I did it again, and again it worked. With the mood the bass were in that day, it worked throughout that outing, and on many subsequent outings. 


Just because the water is chilled, usually under 55 degrees, doesn’t mean just one technique is all you need. Depending on the mood, as well as the structure and depth, you may want to cast to achieve a somewhat horizontal presentation, or a straight drop with a vertical presentation. 


I like to try casting and the horizontal presentation when working an extensive flat of fairly uniform depth. These are not shallow flats of under 6 or 7 feet as its a very rare crystalline day for largemouths to be in that cover at this time of year. They are flats of 12 feet or more with broken weeds, perhaps broken rock or scattered lumber.


Over these covers I’ll cast out a maximum of about 30 feet and work the blade bait with a constant, but slow, lift and settle back-retrieve. The technique is accomplished more in the way you use the rod than the reel. 


Use the rod to perform the lift and settle back-retrieve by slowly dropping of the rod tip, keeping slack out of the line. A slightly free drop is what want to attain. Use the reel only to gather up the line as you bring the bait back to the boat. It’s a practiced technique but not difficult.


Employ the straight-down vertical retrieve in places where you could think a boat hanging over a bass’s head is not a major concern. I like to have at least 12 feet of water between me and the bass, more is better. 


If you have a deep place where you can get a slight bit of drift from a breeze, you might have a winner. I remember fishing Oneida for a week, and on three non-consecutive days, a gentle wind blew me northwest along one shore. The easy wind, more or less, caused the boat to crawl over a channel, or at least a deeper trench surrounded by shallower water. The bass were in the trench. 


Steered by three mph puffs, I was going right along the best underwater structure and dropping the bait along the trench wall. I used two tactics, a combination of letting the blade sit on the bottom before a lift and not letting the bait hit bottom at all before a smooth lift. 


The modification of blade baits, removing the front treble and snipping a tine from the rear hook is done so that the treble hooks do not entangle. Sometimes they unfortunately lock up in just the normal tact of a yo-yo retrieve but they problem is magnified when letting the bait touch bottom. There they tangle a lot.


Double trebles aren’t necessary on these baits. They catch bass fine with the hook reduction. By all means blade baits are really sharp during the chilly water season.

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