Beginner’s Guide To Blade Bait Fishing
UPDATED 03 NOVEMBER 2023
by Robert Ceran
Blade baits have been around for ages, and look deceptively simple. Because of this, many beginners mistakenly assume they are not as effective as more modern lure types.
However, few people know that blade baits are one of the most effective bass lures in fall and winter, and consistently account for many bass over the 15 pound mark caught at this time of the year.
So if you want to have a highly effective bass lure in your arsenal that works when other lures stop working, then having a blade bait or two in your tackle box is a must.
In this article we’ll cover the basics of blade bait fishing, and will cover the most common questions beginners have about blade baits, and how to fish them successfully.
What are blade baits?
A blade bait is a flat oval piece of metal with a slightly thicker head plus a lead weight welded to the bottom. Blade baits are attached to a fishing line via a snap inserted into a hole in the center of their back, and they usually come with two treble hooks.
Blade baits wiggle or vibrate rapidly when they are pulled through the water, and most blade baits have 3 holes arranged in a row on their back, which allows you to choose which hole you want to use for attaching your snap.
Depending on which hole you choose to attach the snap, the resulting vibrating action of the blade bait is slightly different.
Using the front hole results in a very tight vibrating action, while using the rear hole results in a relatively wide vibrating action. Most anglers choose the center hole, which works well for many different fishing applications.
Blade baits vs lipless crankbaits
The main difference between blade baits and lipless crankbaits is that blade baits are made of metal, while lipless crankbaits are made of hard plastic.
In addition to this, most lipless cranks come with a rattle (created by beads inside their hollow plastic body), while blade baits are made of solid metal, and hence don’t have a rattle.
So, in many ways a blade bait is a silent version of a lipless crankbait that is better for fishing in deeper water, since it sinks faster and reaches the bottom more quickly.
Do blade baits work?
Yes, blade baits work extremely well for catching bass in fall and winter, and early spring, and also work well for walleye and lake trout fishing.
The nice thing about blade baits is that they can be fished in many different ways, from burning them straight through the water, to pulling them slowly up and down with a yo-yoing technique, to fishing them just like a traditional jig, with a quick jigging action.
What are blade baits good for?
Blade baits are good for bass fishing during fall and winter, but also catch bass very effectively during prespawn. Since they are made of metal, blade baits are ideal for deep water fishing, which makes them a top choice for bass fishing during the colder months of the year.
The swimming action of a blade bait closely resembles that of a dying baitfish, especially if you lift them up and then lower them down again.
Their behavior in the water makes blade baits great for bass fishing during the winter months, since it’s quite common for shad to die off when the water gets cold, and a blade bait fished up and down in the water looks a lot like a dying shad.
In addition to throwing blade baits, you can also fish them vertically. This means you can target fish in deep water after locating them with your sonar, and simply drop the blade bait down to them.
Are blade baits good for bass?
Yes, blade baits are very good for bass in fall, winter and early spring, when bass hold in deeper water. By throwing a blade bait you can readily target these deep water fish with a lure that sinks to the bottom quickly.
Another advantage of blade baits is that they are more subtle than lipless crankbaits, which makes them a great choice when bass experience a lot of fishing pressure, and most other anglers are throwing lipless cranks.
So if you notice that the bass bite is slowing down on lipless crankbaits, that’s a great time to switch over to using blade baits instead.
Are blade baits good for walleye?
Yes, blade baits are great for walleye since you can fish them just like a walleye jig, by thumping the bottom with the blade bait, and then snapping it up and down with short, quick pops. Also, blade baits usually come in a 1/4 oz or 1/2 oz size, which makes them the perfect size for targeting walleyes.
Blade baits work best for catching walleye when fished vertically from a boat (or through the ice). Ideally, you’ll want to locate walleye on your fish finder before you drop a blade bait down to them.
Do blade baits work on trout?
Yes, blade baits are great for lake trout fishing, since they sink fast in the water column (being made of metal), which is ideal for targeting lake trout in deep water.
Again, the best way to do this is with vertical fishing from a boat (or through the ice) and with the help of a fish finder to locate deep water lake trout.
Can you use blade baits for ice fishing?
Yes, blade baits are great lures for ice fishing because they work so well when fished vertically. In fact, a blade bait can be fished just like an ice jig, with short upwards pops of your rod tip followed by letting it sink down to the bottom again.
Many Lake Erie ice anglers swear by the 1/2 oz Cicada Reef Runner blade bait for targeting hard water walleye, while the 1/4 oz version of the same blade bait works well for yellow perch.
Also, since blade baits are made of metal, they create a big thump when they hit the bottom, which is ideal for attracting the curiosity of nearby walleye, perch, or northern pike that are then likely to come closer to investigate the source of the commotion.
What is the best blade bait?
For me, the best blade bait overall is the Damiki Vault, which is perfectly balanced and swims with a tight vibrating action in the water. It comes in a range of colors optimized for bass fishing, including silver, gold, and crawfish.
When the water cools down gradually at the end of fall, it can be a good idea to switch to a different version of the Damiki Vault that comes with a small tail spinner, since that slows down its swimming action in the water, which is ideal for slow rolling winter bass.
How do you fish with blade baits?
There are three main techniques for fishing blade baits:
- Quickly pull them straight through the water (burning)
- Slowly lift them up and down during retrieval (yo-yoing)
- Fish them up and down quickly with short jerks (jigging)
During early fall, when bass and baitfish are still active in shallow water, the most effective method to fish blade baits is by burning them over the top of grass beds, interspersed with short pauses and then popping them through the grass.
When bass retreat into deeper water, however, the best way to catch them with blade baits is with the yo-yoing technique, where you slowly lift your rod from a horizontal position all the way up, and then reel in the slack line while you lower the rod.
That way the blade bait swims up with a vibrating action, followed by sinking down to the bottom, which closely resembles a dying baitfish, and works extremely well for triggering bites from bass, even if they’re not feeding actively.
Finally, the third technique for fishing with blade baits is to fish them almost exactly like a jig, by jerking them up with a short quick pop of your rod tip, followed by letting them sink down to the bottom again.
The last method works best for walleye, and is most effective when done with vertical fishing.
Can you troll blade baits?
Yes, you can troll blade baits for walleye with planer boards, just like you would troll for walleye with crankbaits.
It’s often best to use the hole in the back of the blade bait furthest from the front end to attach a blade bait for trolling, since that produces the strongest vibration when it’s pulled through the water behind a boat.
And since trolling doesn’t impart as much action to a blade bait as fishing it actively would, it makes sense to maximize the intrinsic action of the blade bait in order to trigger bites.