Walleye anglers have access to a plethora of artificial baits that look, swim, and even smell similar to live baitfish. With so many options, it’s hard to fathom that pro walleye anglers would consider using spoons or blades — chucks of metal designed to look like something, yet don’t resemble much of anything to the human eye. But the shine, flutter, vibration, and fall of spoons or blades looks like a wounded baitfish to river walleyes. And until that fact changes, anglers who’ve been overlooking and underutilizing spoons and bladebaits need to rethink their reasoning.
Several different designs of spoons and blades exist. Jigging spoons that are narrow, thick, and heavy, like a Luhr Jensen Crippled Herring or a Hopkins Smoothie, provide flash and flutter on the drop and are designed to be vertically jigged in deep water. Wide, bent, or curved spoons, like the Acme Little Cleo or Luhr Jensen Krocodile, that sink slower, wobble dramatically, and swing wide to the side as they descend, are more suitable for casting. Bladebaits like a Heddon Sonar or Reef Runner Cicada are weighted to sink and feature a blade that creates a tremendous vibration and action on the upstroke. Spoons, like Northland’s Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, Lindy-Little Joe’s Rattl’r, or bladebaits like Heddon’s Rattling Sonar, have enclosed rattles that further enhance their attracting power.
Spoons and blades work anytime fish are holding on the edge of deep structure, like points on sand flats, or suspended off the edge of structure or somewhere in the water column. Fish staging along river ledges are prime candidates for these metal baits too. In waters where silver-sided baitfish like ciscoes, shad, smelt, and alewives are present, walleyes often suspend near large schools of baitfish and can be caught on spoons and blades. They also can be worked above submerged wood or weededges to call walleyes out of snag-infested cover.
Bladebaits — When walleyes are lethargic and have a general negative attitude, anglers tend to slow their presentation in an attempt to finesse them into biting. Finesse tactics call for slowly working baits in front of walleyes, teasing them into biting. Finesse tactics work for triggering fussy walleyes, but so do aggressive tactics. And the main advantage with blades is that they can be worked faster and cover more water to contact active fish, and they may even trigger negative walleyes to strike.
Bladebaits attack two senses, the lateral line (vibration), which helps fish locate food, and sight, seeing a silvery object falling like an injured baitfish. The interesting thing about bladebaits is that a variety of fish strike them. And the one thing all fish have in common is a lateral line.
Working blades isn’t difficult. Drop the blade to the bottom, then engage the reel, taking up slack until the line is tight and the bait is just off bottom. Beginning with your rod tip pointed down at an angle (about 8 o’clock) toward the water, lift your forearm slightly while modestly snapping your wrist upward to about 11 o’clock — an aggressive lift of perhaps 8 to 14 inches. Overworking bladebaits is common. A big 3- to 4- foot sweep is just too much, and the fish loses track of the bait. The key is creating just enough vibration on the upstroke, then lowering the bait back down, giving you precision control and giving walleyes a chance to track the bait. Inexperienced blade-baiters should start in shallower water where they can watch the bait work to get the correct action and jigging motion.
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