Going Old School- Blade Baits & Good Vibrations
You don’t have to go to ICAST to know that there is a never ending parade of new products portending to catch fish. I like to remember the old adage, “Only 20% of the lures sold catch fish, the rest just catch fishermen”. So with all the new bling claiming to catch more fish, better fish, bigger fish what happens to the “old reliables” that have caught fish for years? Do they just stop catching fish? Do they become antiques for display in glass top coffee tables and shadow box frames? I believe that while some of the new tackle is truly an advancement, much of the older lures in your tackle box still have a lot of fish catching life left in them.
Take the venerable blade bait for instance. Knowledgeable anglers have been using blades to catch smallmouth bass for years with great success while many of the younger guys have let them slip under their radar of what works and what doesn’t. The fact is, whenever there are finned bait “pods” balling in the middle and lower levels of the water column, fishermen would be wise to have a blade bait or two at the read
The Beach Boys probably did not have bass fishing in mind when they recorded “Good Vibrations”, taking 17 recording sessions and over 90 hours to finally capture Brian Wilson’s vision for the song. But when it was released, fans and music critics alike thought the song had a special rhythm, a certain vibe, that attracted people to listen. Likewise, it is the vibrations created by the retrieve of the blade bait that attracts bass- vibrations akin to those created by the frenzied movements of pods of shad, emerald shiners or alewives.
It was the early 80’s and Cordell and Heddon had started marketing blade type baits but one of the first to bring notice to the blade was Kentucky legend Billy Westmoreland. Billy had been given a handful of homemade baits by Paul “Buddy” Banks Jr., a tinkerer who had brought them to a seminar being given by Westmoreland. Billy took one look at the baits and noted that they should catch fish but needed to be either bigger or smaller to work properly. Banks worked on this, testing new baits with
Billy until the Silver Buddy was born. Westmoreland noted that the wider wobble gave the Silver Buddy a vibrating “sound and flash” that made it superior in fish catching to the Sonar and the unfortunately named Gay Blade. Westmoreland showed that you could fish a 1/2-3/4 oz. blade when bass were suspended as deep as 30 feet in cold water. He fished the rock ledges of deep clear water reservoirs like Dale Hollow. My iBass360 colleague Ray Concepcion fishes the more recent blade derivative, the Damiki Vault, on similar deep ledge structure on the NY Reservoir system with good success.
Success with the blade is not limited to smallmouth. It is also effective on largemouth and spots as the blade bait is an effective lure whenever bass are feeding on shad or other bait fish in deep water. For the same reasons, the blade has proven to be an effective walleye bait.
There are a few different techniques that can be used to fish a blade. Typically, raising the rod to make the blade lift off the bottom will cause the blade to vibrate and flash and fall back to the bottom resembling a dying bait fish. Repeat this along a rocky bottom or down a ledge until you feel the line move or get heavy and set the hook. Another variant of this is to cast the bait and, if you are not bit on the fall, jig the blade a few times off the bottom as you retrieve slowly. Work the blade bait at the deep drop offs from points and the deeper pockets formed in the creek arms of your favorite lake or reservoir. The weight of the blade will allow it to be cast easily even in the wind so cast it out and let it fall all the way to the bottom. I lift it up 3 or 4 feet, using the rod tip as my guide, and let it fall back to the bottom again. You need to feel the vibration. If you don’t it is likely that weeds have fouled your lure. As with a lot of other bass baits, your strikes are going to come on the fall, so you need to keep a semi-tight line otherwise you are likely to miss the slight tug or moment of resistance that indicates a strike. Vary your retrieve until you have tune into what the fish want. Sometimes they want a slow, short hop, and sometimes quick rips and a pause that bring the bait up 5 or 6 feet up off the bottom can be just the ticket.
There are a number of blades on the market today, some even new. The Silver Buddy is still in tackle shops today along with the Vib Switch Blade, the Reef Runner Cicada, Heddon’s Sonar, the Blitz Blade, Worden’s Showdown, theBinsky Blade, Damiki Vault, TT Lure’s GhostBlade, the Vib”E”, Cotton Cordell’s Gay Blade and others. Almost all feature multiple (2-4) tie on points. I tend to select a point in the middle and vary only if I am not having success. These baits generally come with a small snap which is desireable for not only the action and vibration of the lure but also to minimize line abrasion. So if you are heading out for some late fall or early winter bass fishing- or even when spring comes and the water is still cold- dig that Good Vibration and tie on a blade bait. You’ll be glad you did. Live the Passion!