My alarm clock blares a piercing staccato at 4:53 a.m. My face contracts with a frown as I clumsily swat at the snooze button. By the time my feet hit the cold floor, my grimace has subsided. I grin, knowing that it’s Saturday and I’m about to provide a wake up call to reservoir smallmouth and walleye with blade baits.
Fall and Winter Fishing with Blade Baits
At the launch, I lob a rock through the inch-thick ice that prevents me from getting my boat into the water. After that I’m in the kayak quickly, paddling toward the first example of vertical rock structure. My bathymetric map shows a creek channel slamming into a steep shoreline, protected from the cold northwest wind.
My kayak zigzags back and forth over the precipitous drop from 12 feet to 26 to 43, and back again. The depth finder rapidly jumps between the three distinct hard surfaces. I pitch four marker buoys overboard, showing me the top edge of the creek channel’s rim.
Sleepy Fish Look for the Snooze Button
The smallmouth, walleye, white perch and crappie suspended below remain in a winter slumber. A 3/4-ounce blade bait plummets once I free spool. Bam! The braided line stops abruptly. The heavy lure has reached one of the many closely stacked rocky contours.
I lift the blade bait no more than four inches and drop. Lift, drop, lift, drop, lift, drop. With each iteration I feel the crisp thud of lead, metal plate and treble hooks clanging loudly. I think back to the alarm clock’s irritating sound, maintaining that cadence as I jig.
Then, the thud fails to come. Something has slapped at the snooze button! I lift again, but this time four feet instead of four inches. The weight of a big walleye throbs heavily. The fight lasts a long time, as this angry fish struggles to stay in bed, 40 feet below my boat.
Bang the Gong with Blade Baits
The vertical jigging blade bait tactic does not discriminate. Multi-species days are common with this bang-rock-until-they-lose-their-cool presentation. Smallmouth prefer depths in the 15- to 30-foot range. Crappie gravitate toward bridge pilings. White perch can suspend anywhere, but the schools are quite visible on any depth finder. Find some vertical rock structure, drop down a blade bait and wake ‘em up!
Multi-species days are common in fall and winter when you fish with blade baits. | Feature photo: Courtesy of Jeff Little