One of the perks to being a pro angler is getting the chance to speak at sport show seminars all over the country and meeting a lot of people involved in this industry. One such occurrence happened many years ago while I was speaking in Indianapolis at a trade show. Prior to one of my tank seminars I was browsing around the show and noticed a small booth with just one product for sale. Little did I know this one lure would change the way I fished this particular genre of lures.
For years I had fished and developed patterns and techniques for fishing blade baits with quite a bit of success. Commonly falling into the category of blade baits, the Silver Buddy and Heddon Sonar are perhaps the best known and something that I kept secret for a number of years. Blade baits are the type of baits that can be extremely effective in a variety of conditions all throughout the year and also ones that not enough anglers take advantage of. But they do have their limitations as it is a hard bait to fish in water less than ten feet. I think the blade baits that have a shorter body style are much better suited for deep water applications given the fact that your often utilizing weights of ½ to 3/4oz to accomplish this task. These larger weight sizes allow for the short body to have some vibration, a key ingredient in generating strikes with this lure category. When you get into shallow water however a lighter weight is key to controlling the fall rate but it’s hard to duplicate this action in the smaller size blade baits. Now back to my story from Indianapolis. The bait that I discovered that day falls into the blade bait category but is quite a bit different than the traditional style and is called a Steel Shad. This bait is more elongated, slightly curved and is also a lot lighter – 3/8oz is the only size it comes in. The combination of these traits makes it a bait that can accommodate additional fishing methods over its counterparts. Additionally, the Steel Shad’s body style allows for maximum vibration both in shallow and deep water.
The one thing that became evident as I started fishing this bait once I got back home is its ability to generate strikes in shallow water of less than 10 feet and many times 5 feet or less because it has a tremendous amount of vibration with minimal effort. One of the most important aspects of fishing one of these baits is control so the complete system of rod, reel, line and retrieve is a must when fishing shallow or deep. After trying many different combinations years ago when learning this technique in deep water, I came up with the right outfit and utilize the same for the shallow water applications as well. I select a 6 ½ medium action rod and 6.2:1 gear ratio baitcast reel spooled with 14 pound test fluorocarbon line. By using a shorter 6 ½ foot rod, you are moving the bait less through the water column and allowing it to stay in the bass’ strike zone longer, a key element of the technique. What I am trying to accomplish in the retrieve is a series of short rod pumps once the bait is on the bottom letting the bait fall in between pumps. Be aware that you only want to move your rod tip a couple inches with a snapping motion to pop the bait off the bottom. This in contrast to a more exaggerated motion lets you have control of the bait as it falls which is when all of the bites occur. The fluorocarbon line comes in handy because it stretches less than monofilament and is more sensitive and abrasion resistant. Also because of its lower stretch the bait will react quick and absorb less of the lines stretch both on the snap and hook set and because it is more sensitive you can feel exactly how the bait is vibrating. Although most of the bites are quite violent sometimes when the bass are eating it very well, your line will just go slack and by utilizing fluorocarbon you can feel the subtle changes more easily.
As far as areas where I will look for some shallow water blade baiting, flats and secondary points are some of the most productive areas. I especially look for subtle drops in water depth and transition areas where the major cheek channel comes in contact with a flat creating an area where the bass can move up or down with weather and other changes. Usually I start by fan casting on the areas where a depth change occurs, pulling the bait off the edge of the flat where it may drop into 8-10 feet of water and specifically concentrate on this isolated strike zone. One thing to pay close attention to is approximate location where you get bites as many times an entire school of bass is present; making that same cast again can yield bass after bass. My second series of fan casts are directed at the flat itself and many times I am searching for isolated structures on the flat that will hold bass. The reason I want to start out on the depth change rather than the flat is the fact that if bass are positioned on both areas I do not want to pull the bass off the flat disturbing the ones that are on the drop. It is also very important especially when fishing a blade bait to show the bass different angles generating more bites and this is most important when they are on the subtle drops. After catching a few I may change angles and fish shallow to deep or deep to shallow and even parallel. Many times this will reignite the school of bass into biting again.
So if you’re looking for an additional technique to gain the upper hand over your fishing buddies and shows the bass something that they do not see often or at all, try some shallow water blade baiting. One you master the subtleties of this technique you just may load the boat.
Mike DelVisco is sponsored by Texas Roadhouse, Phoenix boats, Mercury, Thorntons, Rapala, Sufix, VMC, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, Browning Eyewear, Motorguide, Gemini and Lowrance.