Must-Have Bass Baits: A Guide to Selecting and Fishing Bladed Baits for Spring Bass Fishing
Bladed baits are a classic springtime bass tactic. But what type of blades should we throw? And when? This guide breaks it down for novices and avid anglers alike.
Springtime bass fishing can be some of the best action of the year. Pre-spawn fish are on the move, and often shallow where they chase baitfish and pick off emerging crawfish. They are also more aggressive. Depending on where you are in the country, early and late spring water temps can range from the low 40’s to the mid 60’s.
When & where to fish bladed baits in spring
When fish are shallow, especially after the water warms into the mid 50’s, bladed baits really become an effective search tool. Here are some of the best choices for middle to late spring bass fishing. Good locations are windblown points and flats 3ft to 8ft deep, especially on northern shorelines where the sunlight is at maximum. Take care to select flats and points that lead directly to the deepest water in the area. These become “fish highways” where bass travel from the sanctuary of deep water to access feeding areas along points and flats. Try to locate patches of green emerging weeds, which harbor baitfish, or sand and rock that warms with the sun’s rays and hold crawfish emerging from winter’s slumber.
How to select a bladed bait
Bladed baits are “search baits.” They allow the angler to cover as much water as possible to locate active fish. There are many different styles of baits that incorporate blades. In-line spinners certainly work, though I prefer them as the water warms. Safety-pin style baits such as spinnerbaits feature one or more blades on a bent wire extending from a leaded hook, usually with a rubber-legged skirt. Bladed jigs are heavy, blade-shaped jigs that vibrate as they are pulled through the water. Lastly, buzz baits have a revolving prop-shaped blade that creates lift and gurgles and sputters along the surface.
Each style has a particular use for a particular application. Generally, I use bladed baits as a “powerfishing” tactic. That is, a moving bait, worked relatively quickly, used to cover as much water as possible, as opposed to more static, slower methods such as jigs or drop shot.
Spinnerbaits are excellent search-type baits. Depending on the blade configuration, they can be worked anywhere in the water column, are generally snagless, and can be retrieved at varying speeds. Spinnerbaits range from single-bladed models, to multi-bladed models. Each has its uses and applications.
Typically, a single-bladed model will have a larger Colorado-shaped blade. This blade is rounder and creates maximum lift and thump. A single blade also “helicopters” or falls in a spiraling motion, with the blade working as it falls. This is a deadly technique when the bait comes in contact with an object such as wood, or a dock piling. A large single blade is also excellent at night or in low-light conditions as it creates a heavy rhythmic pulse that fish can find easily.
Dual-bladed spinnerbaits are often used in conjunction with willow-type blades. These are thinner, pointed-shaped blades that create less lift and are less resistant in the water. This allows the bait to be retrieved quickly, and a fast-moving presentation is often what is needed to search for active fish or to fire up bass roaming a windswept flat. Sometimes, a combination of a smaller Colorado blade paired with a larger willow blade is used. This creates some lift, and still allows a medium-fast retrieve.
Natural metallic or painted blades?
Anglers are often confused as to whether a painted blade or a flashy metal finish blade is best, and if so, what color? For the natural blades, I prefer gold, copper, or black nickel on darker days, and chrome on bright days. The same goes for painted blades, where I tend to use brighter colors on bright days. Good painted blade colors are all white to imitate shad, though be warned, pike are particularly fond of all-white spinnerbaits. All red can be effective in the spring as a crawfish imitator. Chartreuse and blaze orange also have their places in dingy water, though you may be surprised how aggressively smallmouth bass go for an obnoxiously bright spinnerbait in ultra-clear water.
Bladed jigs are a relatively new bait style, introduced in 2006 with the advent of the Chatterbait. Since then, bladed jigs have become a staple of bass anglers nationwide, especially in spring. Why? Because they work, and because they have a knack for finding big bass.
I tend to use bladed jigs as the water warms into the mid to high 50’s. These work very well around emerging grass clumps, and a quick snap of the rod tip to free the bait as it runs into aquatic vegetation often draws aggressive strikes. Another spring tactic is to let the bladed jig sink to the bottom, then bumble it along the bottom in short hops and rips, simulating a fleeing crawfish. Like spinnerbaits, bladed jigs are relatively snag-proof, so don’t be afraid to work these along docks, brush, and especially vegetation.
Buzz baits are usually thought of as a warm-water application but can have their place in spring. Like spinnerbaits, buzz baits are often built on a safety pin design. When bass are shallow in spring, especially around flooded brush, a sputtering buzz bait can draw explosive strikes. Buzz baits are also big-fish baits and often attract the largest and most aggressive fish in a school. If you notice bass plowing baitfish along the shore, on flats, or even in open water, don’t be afraid to throw a buzz bait.
Buzz baits often create angler frustration because of the low hooking percentage. Fish often blow up on these baits and fail to get the hooks, or simply miss. Like frog fishing, timing the hookset is important. My go-to rule is to use my ear, not my eye. That is, rather than striking on the sight of a blow up, which often leads to too quick of a reaction, I wait until I hear the explosion, then simply keep reeling until I feel the bass turn or feel the weight of the fish. Then I give a hard hookset. By reeling in the slack and waiting until you feel the fish, you should securely hook a much higher percentage of fish.
Unlike other types we have covered, which use attached blades, a blade bait is primarily a blade. Blade baits usually feature a thin blade-shaped body with a heavy lead bottom and a pair of treble hooks. These baits look and act like lipless crankbaits and put off very significant flash and vibration. Blade baits can be deadly in spring, especially in deeper water along bluff faces, rock piles, and in open water.
Heavy for their size, work blade baits by casting to structure and letting the bait fall on a tight line. Pay attention, as the subtle shimmy and vibration of the falling bait often elicit strikes before the bait touches the bottom. Once bottom contact is established, hop the bait along, with occasional hard rips upward. Don’t be afraid to bang this little bait off rocks and work erratically.
A little-known application for blade baits is over shallow flats. I like to let the bait settle, then with a subtle wrist action, initiate an easy lift/fall cadence over emerging grass and vegetation. Be forewarned, blade baits attract nearly all species, so don’t be surprised to catch anything from walleye to carp to muskies on them.
Trailer selection for spinnerbaits, buzz baits, and bladed jigs often confuses anglers. Should you use a craw or creature bait, or perhaps a paddle tail swimbait? How about a curly tail grub, or straight tail fluke style trailer? The answer is yes to all of them, but they all have their places.
If you are imitating crawfish with a bladed jig, then by all means use something such as a Berkley Rage Craw or Pit Boss. If you are imitating baitfish, use a paddle tail (upside down to work properly in the blade wash), a grub, or a fluke. For spinnerbaits, a more linear trailer helps keep the bait tracking true, so select a paddle tail, grub, or fluke. Buzz baits are designed to work the surface, so choose a trailer that provides lift, such as a broad flapping craw or creature, or a toad style, with creates commotion in its own right.
What gear to use?
I prefer a longer baitcasting rod for moving baits. I use rods at least 7ft and usually 7ft 4in+, which allows for longer casts, better bait control, stronger hooksets, and better leverage fighting fish. Traditionally, a rod with medium power and medium to medium-fast action is the go-to. The slower, parabolic action keeps fish pinned and absorbs the shock of the battle. Lately though, I have stepped up to medium-heavy power and medium-fast action rods, as I like the extra power to drive a big single hook home and to wrestle big bass out of heavy cover.
For blade bits, I stay with a medium power, medium-fast action rod on the lighter side for these more delicately presented baits. I will often drop to a spinning setup for lighter baits. Reels should be quality and medium geared for all except blade baits, where a higher geared reel picks up slack line faster. I prefer ratios around 6.6:1 for these baits. Line is usually a quality braid in #40+ such as Sunline FX, often with a short fluorocarbon leader in #12-#17. I will often use straight fluorocarbon or copolymer line such as Sunline Sniper FC or P-Line in #14-#20 in clear water, or water that has rocks and other hazards.
As the water warms across the country, consider adding these tried and true baits and techniques to your springtime arsenal to increase your big bass catches. Especially on days when the wind blows, grab your blades and get to slinging!
If you have any questions on finding the right gear for your next adventure, please don't hesitate to reach out to me or one of my fellow Fishing experts here on Curated for free advice and recommendations.