Techniques – Blades for walleye & bass

Techniques – Blades for walleye & bass

Sep 30, 2014

Blade baits are multi-species fish catchers!

By Mike Pehanich

The small bursts of autumn color along the Sturgeon Bay shoreline were the signs everyone on the Door Peninsula sought.

For the local tourist trade, they signaled the launch of the year’s busiest season.

For me, they signaled that it was time to pull out the blade baits!

Blade baits can be almost magically productive on the thick-bodied, often black-backed smallmouth of Green Bay and other Great Lakes waters. These brutes put tackle to the test. They can show off their muscle and athleticism on these wide crystalline waters, which grant the angler the freedom to enjoy the fight.

Walleye love blades as much as bass do, and they may even respond to them well in a wider range of water temperatures

But smallmouth aren’t the only fish of the Great Lakes lured to a flashing blade. Blades are equally effective on largemouth bass, North to South, and have been known to mesmerize musky and northern pike as well

What most interested me last week, however, was how much pro walleye anglers invest in their blade bait arsenals! These guys who make a living taking these golden critters from big cold waters made it clear that blades are bread-and-butter baits!

‘Tis the season

For most bass fishermen (self included!), blade baits are cold weather tools. When water temperatures dip below 55 degrees –preferably, below 52 – blade bait season has arrived

The walleye brigade, on the other hand, has taken a four-season approach to blades, especially in recent seasons!

The increasing popularity of power jigging with paddletail swimbaits and Fluke-type plastics and prominence of lead-bodied jigging baits like the Northland Puppet Minnow and Jiggin’ Rapala – baits once regarded as ice-fishing only tools – has sparked a resurgence of interest in blade baits for Marble Eyes. That all of those baits have proven effective in warm water as well as cold has only expanded their popularity!

Despite an extended run of summerlike weather, I needed little encouragement to wield my blades in 59-degree water during my photo shoot out of Sturgeon Bay last week. After some walleye success trolling Berkley Flicker Minnows out of a roomy Ranger 620, we paused to strain a large hump in the middle of Green Bay. Conditions invited bottom jigging, my hosts said. I clipped an Ecogear VX blade to my line and was rewarded on the second cast with a fat walleye!

Compact blades

Blade baits range from the category pioneer, the Heddon Sonar, and bare bones staple, the Silver Buddy, to “Cadillac” models of recent vintage like the Nories Jaka Blade and Sebile Vibrato. All catch fish. But experience has proven that, on any given day, one style, size or color can “outshine” – or, more accurately, “outflash” — the others.

Half-ounce models are the general norm on big water, but they are by no means the only options. Magnum blades in the ¾-ounce range often produce magnum smallmouth. But slightly smaller baits like the 45 mm and 55mm Ecogear VX blades can be just as effective. And what I particularly enjoy about this compact blade is that it works wonderfully with the spinning rod I always have at the ready for fishing tube jigs on the big waters — a 7’ 4” medium power Fenwick, and Pflueger reel spooled with 8-pound fluorocarbon.

These days I typically carry three rods for blade fishing. Although the rotation usually changes during the course of the day, it typically begins with the aforementioned spinning rod and Ecogear VX; a medium power, fast tip rod with a Nories Jaka Blade; and a medium heavy rod armed with a mid-sized Sebile Vibrato, ¾-ounce Silver Buddy or oversized Vibrato.

Color choice is simple, too. Make it a mix of “flash” and “match the hatch.” Silver (chrome) and gold blades are “musts” on the Great Lakes and most other big deep waters of North America where flashy baitfish such as alewives, smelt, emerald shiners and golden shiners reside. Alternate those with finished blades bearing some resemblance to prominent forage such as perch, sunfish, or gobies.

You might throw in a brighter color mix such as a fire tiger or chartreuse with pink for dark water or a simple change of pace presentation.


Warm water walleye seem to respond to the aggressive ripping action that most anglers bring instinctively to this bait. But, even with water temperature at 59 degrees last week, I found the retrieve taught by my blade bait mentors Scott Dobson and Joe Balog to be best. Cast far, let the bait sink, and bring it back in short pulls that draw about four to six detectible “shudder” vibrations from the blade.

“Less is best,” Dobson warns. And when water temperatures fall into the low 50s and upper 40s, the comparative effectiveness of this worm-like approach over tall rippin’ will be decisive.

If you can’t shake the tall rippin’ retrieve habit, you might want to lean on the Nories Jaka Blade as your main blade. With its willow spin blade and wider fluttering fall, it seems to let aggressive swashbucklers get away with more energetic retrieves even when the more subtle presentation I just described is hauling in the fish.

The Nories Jaka Blade features flash and flutter on the fall.

The Jaka Blade may also have wider reach than other blades with that belly spinner flash. Nories answered the cry of Great Lakes bass fishermen this past season with the introduction of blades in simple silver (chrome) and gold.

Although I didn’t have my Jaka Blades with me on my latest walleye foray, I won’t be without them on the next summer walleye hunt. My guess is that its fluttering fall and flash will be tough for those golden beauties to resist.

Long casts that cover a lot of water are musts on most bladin’ days. But be ready to vertical jig, too. This approach can be very effective when fish – walleye or smallmouth – are schooled up over baitfish or easily defined structure.

After all, what can be more effective than dropping a deadly blade in front of a predator’s face!

If you haven’t embraced this category of deadly but largely misunderstood baits yet, do so this fall. They may make this season a turning point in your angling career!


Note: The Ecogear VX blade bait is distributed by Japan Import Tackle, phone 630-299-6508; email .  Supply available at Lee’s Global Tackle ( 


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