From ice-out until the water temperatures reach 60 degrees, slivers of weighted metal known as blade baits reign supreme in Midwestern waters for walleyes, sauger and saugeyes. The flashy, compact baits are as adaptable as they are effective, according to Jim Corey, who travels the region in search of the best walleye action.
Check your Technique
The baits work best when vertically jigged in cooler depths of 12 feet and deeper. “When a colorful Cicada or Vib ‘E’ [BRACKET “see sidebar”] is wiggled within sight of a post-spawn walleye, he’s going to eat it,” says Corey.
Corey tends to work his blades a little more slowly during the post-spawn period than he does earlier in the season. After the annual spawning ritual, the fish are “hungry but plumb exhausted” from the effort and tend to prefer baits that present easier targets.
When fish are holding tight to structure, cast to the shallows from a boat positioned just off the deeper edges to locate active fish. A hopping retrieve from the shallow flats to the depths beneath your boat imparts a leaping motion to the lure, which should come into contact with the bottom between each short jump. After each hop, allow the lure to flutter back to the bottom on a controlled slack line. Once the blade bait is worked back to below the boat, employ a vertical jigging action, allowing the lure to pound the bottom, sending up clouds of silt or ticking off gravel to attract fish in the area. Once you determine the depth at which the active fish are holding, focus on the most productive blade presentation, be it vertical-jigging or casting.
Choosing your Tackle
When fishing blade baits one eighth to three eighths of an ounce in shallower inland waters, Corey prefers a six-foot, medium-action spinning rod. On Lake Erie and other deeper, open waters with blades that may weigh one half to three quarters of an ounce, Corey switches to a medium/heavy-action bait-casting outfit. On each reel, he spools Berkley Fireline, which he prefers for its casting capabilities and sensitivity-10-pound-test on the spinning reel and 14-pound-test on the bait-caster. Using a double uni-knot, he attaches a leader of fluorocarbon and uses a round-nosed snap to attach the lure. The leader tests 10 pounds with the spinning rig and 15 pounds with the bait-caster and measures 18 to 20 feet in length.