Compared to the lures and bait that preceded it, which were made from plastic, wood, and other materials, blade baits were much handier at attracting fish and signaling to anglers when a fish is biting. There was a lull in the popularity of blade baits but they’re well on their way to making a comeback with anglers everywhere bass are popular. Blade baits are really effective attracting bass who eat smaller bait fish like shad, which the shiny metal of blade baits is designed to mimic. They also work really great in deep water and have a high success rate in cold water, which makes them ideal for use while fishing for bass in the wintertime.
The marked differences between blade baits and other types of baits like jigs, live bait or stick bait are an oft-debated topic amongst anglers. Some haven’t quite figured out all the techniques for using blade baits or aren’t familiar enough with them to put them to good use. Other anglers who have managed to get the hang of blade baits swear by them and use them for catching bass in the wintertime and as an addition to their tackle boxes all year round. Some anglers switch to blade baits during the long afternoon hours when bass might be getting weary or tired in locations where there are lots of fishermen out on the water.
The basic idea behind a blade bait is that it sinks immediately when it hits the surface of the water. Jiggling the line causes the blade bait to hop just like the baitfish that bass love to eat, while the lead or aluminum catches glints of light and shoots them around the water just like the gills of a small fish would. It can be difficult to learn exactly what the bass want on a given day, but with enough trips to a local fishing spot and enough cast outs, an angler can usually read the bass pretty well. Electronics are a great thing to have for this purpose, especially in winter when pockets of warmer water from a warm spell or recent precipitation attract the baitfish to inlets and pockets of a lake where they may not normally be.
There are some specific applications for blade baits that will greatly increase the chances of a bite on your line. For instance, some anglers have found that the weight of blade bait makes them ideal for finesse angling or cast outs underneath docks and other hard to reach places. Read on to get the gist of blade baits and how to use them to catch bass in the winter.
Bass Fishing in the Wintertime
In winter when the waters become much colder, the food supply for bass is greatly reduced. Their metabolism slows and the general need for food slows down. While during the pre-spawn and post-spawn periods male bass will fall for lures that threaten their nests or scare their young and female bass will chase anything slow-moving, both tend to be much more reserved in the winter. For this reason, many anglers stow their fishing gear for the cold months. However, there really is no need to miss out on great bass fishing if you have the patience to learn about the changing behavior of bass and how to catch them in the winter.
The shad and other baitfish species that survive when water temperatures fall below 45 degrees in the winter are usually the largest ones who can last through the cold. For this reason, bait and lures should mimic large, slow-moving baitfish. Blade baits can be used for this purpose as long as they are paired with a strong line to protect them from snagging in vegetation and the angler has the right hand to move them along in the water slowly. Pay attention to the temperature of the water when you first cast out so you know how slowly you should be moving your lure.
Blade Baits: 101
There is a misconception that blade baits are only useful in winter bass fishing, but in fact they can be used all year round in many applications. There are some heavier blade baits that are more successful in the winter, for example, a ¾ ounce as opposed to a ½ ounce. All the shad and the bass that feed on them will both move to lower depths when the water gets cold. A heavier blade bait can sink to those lower depths fast and sink lower more reliably.
Another thing about blade baits that makes them so successful is that they are sensitive on the line. A very slight pull on the line will cause them to vibrate and start swinging on the momentum, which will cause bass to strike quickly. In the winter, a slow and steady swing makes the blade bait look like an injured shad or other food species and can draw out a lethargic bass if it passes near enough to it.
Using Blade Baits at Low Depths
Remember that cold-blooded trout become slow in the winter and sink lower in the water. Bass will also group together on the edges of creeks and in smaller inlets on lakes. We’ll discuss how you can get your blade bait down to those lower depths in the next section, and it may as well be said that blade baits are much more useful at lower depths, especially in winter. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be used to catch bass that are closer to the surface.
To fish with blade baits at lower depths of under 20 feet, cast out far away from the boat or bank and then reel the bait up until you can feel it vibrate. Then, you’ll want to slowly drag it through the water at the shallow depth. Make sure you bring it all the way back to the boat because bass are likely to hit the bait right underneath the boat. The bait shouldn’t be bobbing straight up and down on its way back to you, but rather maintain a steady and slow course with a very small touch of pendulum movement that mimics a small shad. A ¼-ounce blade bait should be ideal for this purpose.
Using a Blade Bait at Lower Depths
In order to go after bass in the wintertime, you’ll want to let the blade bait sink all the way to the bottom or very close to the bottom of the lake. Make sure you get some heavy-duty 10-pound line to make sure you can free the blade bait from any vegetation it might snag onto. What you want to do is cast it out and let it sink. A heavy metal blade bait is perfect for this method because it sinks quickly and will definitely go all the way to the bottom.
Once it is on the bottom, somewhere between 30 and 45 feet, give it some jumps with the rod to keep them bobbing all the way back to the boat, just as you would do in shallower water. Bass on the bottom of the lake in the winter are only going to go for the food that they think will take the absolute minimum of energy to consume in their lazy winter state, so make sure to keep the blade bait moving really slow. The shiny metal will really surprise bass in the wintertime. Their food is scarce after the water is cold enough for most shad to die out. Make sure you pick a bigger blade bait for wintertime to mimic the shad that are most likely to still be around. Keep the line tight when you bring the blade bait back to the boat, and again make sure to bring it all the way back to the boat.
What Color Blade Bait Should I Use?
Essentially there are two types of water you’re likely to be fishing for bass in. There are brackish or otherwise opaque, greenish sources like lakes and the majority of rivers, and there are clear water sources like springs and cleaner or more rural water sources. Whichever kind you happen to be angling in, the idea is to match the blade bait with the surrounding color. It should blend into better fool the trout into biting. For browner or less see-through water sources, take a darker color like blue or black. For the more transparent sources, take an earth color like green. That’s the best way to mimic the baitfish that bass will go for in the wintertime.
Working a Lure through a Baitfish School
A standard-weight tale spinner, which is the name of a type of blade bait that has a free-moving second piece attached to mimic the flitty tail of baitfish, is great for dropping in with a whole school of baitfish that are likely to be struck by a hungry bass. The best way to do this is to cast out so the blade bait hits the school and then let it fall through the shad. Then lift the tale spinner back up to the shad. This will give it the impression of being a shad that was injured by a bass striking the school. Unlike some of the other cast out methods, this time you want to keep your fishing pole at the 12 or 1 position and make sure the blade bait is moving up and down as it comes back toward the boat.
You should be able to feel the tail spinner turn as it goes through the school, and you’ll also be able to feel it moving through the school of baitfish. Keep a tight line on it to make sure you can feel the blade and whether it’s moving. Once it stops moving, that means it’s likely falling and the odds of a bass striking it are very high at that stage in a cast out.
Casting Out with Blade Baits in Winter
Remember that bass are much slower and lethargic in winter. They aren’t going to chase bait for a long distance, so the best way to snag a bass in the wintertime is to cast out as far as you possibly can and then let the blade bait sink to a good, low depth and then take it back in all the way to the boat as slowly as you can stand to do it. Fish a blade bait exactly as you would with a worm. Keep the pole from 3 to noon and move it slowly and steadily. You don’t need to set the hook in a bass either, just start reeling in once you have a bite on the blade bait. Don’t be surprised to find grass or other lake-bottom weeds in the mouths of the bass you catch, because they’ll probably attack the bait super low to the bottom of the lake.
Popular Brands of Blade Baits
Blade baits come in many shapes and sizes. Since the 1980s, some manufacturers have designed their blade baits to mimic the colors and patterns of baitfish. There are many types of blade baits, but a few of them stand out as the industry leader:
- Silver Buddy Blade Bait: This model was introduced in 1983 and has been the indisputable leader among blade baits ever since. Anglers love it because the hooks don’t grab the line as much as will happen with other model. The vibration and action this blade bait offers make it a viable option for many other types of fish besides bass.
- Heddon Sonar Blade Bait: For a variety in colors as well as solid construction, this blade bait is one of the best. It offers a lot of different actions with three different line holes. The front hole is for shallower depths, the middle for jigging, and the rear hole is for deep depths where you want to move slowly.
- Damiki Vault: This is a small and lightweight blade bait that is great for targeting bass in cold winter water. It has designs that mimic baitfish really well and usually earns a lot of catches for anglers who know how to use it properly. There are also three different line holes for different actions and a variety of colors and designs.
- Johnson ThinFisher: The ThinFisher has a great amount of vibration that will help anglers just starting to try and learn how to use blade bait for bass fishing in winter. Like the other models, it has three line holes for action and comes in a variety of colors and designs.
While panned by some anglers who haven’t quite gotten the hang of using them, blade baits are a great option for hooking bass in the winter and all year round. They sink quickly to the bottom of lakes, even to low depths, which is exactly what anglers will need to target the lethargic bass in the cold months when they tend to stay nearly still for incredibly long periods at a time. There are many ways to use blade baits successfully. They can be dragged across the surface, through schools of baitfish, or trawled along the bottom of a lake to target bass and their main food sources.
It isn’t too hard to get the hang of using blade baits and once you get the hang of them you can use them to search your local lake or fishing spot for schools of bass that camp together in the cold water and catch a dozen bass in a short fishing trip. If you’ve been looking for bait for the winter months, blade baits are it. They are uniquely adept for bass fishing in the winter.
The metal of blade baits, their sensitivity, and the vibration they give off make them ideal for anglers and great tricks for bass who easily mistake the blade bait for the bait fish they feed on. Keep track of the weather and make sure you dress appropriately for the cold. Bring electronics along so you can track fish and find places where they might be hiding at deeper levels during the winter. You may also choose to get some blade baits to mix in the tackle box with other forms of bait like the lipless crankbait. Many anglers do so in order to have the right bait with them no matter what situation might arise.
Bonus tip: Check out this tutorial for more tips on how to use blade baits!