Blade baits perfect for snagging walleye, saugers
Area rivers are ready for winter with water temperatures now in the low 30s. All that’s needed now is a three-day run during which air temperatures don’t climb above freezing to put a solid hardwater coat on sheltered sloughs and backwaters in places like the ditches off the Yahara near Stoughton.
We always seem to get the first taste of winter around Thanksgiving. Snowy, blowy days when whistling wings are part of nature’s symphony. Mallards will come and go, leaving just black and white ducks like goldeneyes and buffleheads to cruise an ever-narrowing Rock River channel.
Walleyes and saugers have eased into deep-water wintering holes on main river channels, ready for seasonal change.
The aggressive bite when a great big minnow on a substantial hair jig is the weapon of choice has come to an end.
Finesse is the key to success now, either with light jigs and rigs or provoking strikes with blade baits. The Echotail is my blade of choice, with unlimited plastic tail options and five different places to attach a snap.
The snap is a small but critical component in a successful blade-baiting presentation. Tying directly to the lure will slice through even the toughest line at the moment of truth.
We’re talking snaps here, not snap swivels. I’m forever amazed at the number of quality tackle shops that don’t offer snaps in several sizes and styles.
A snap swivel is a good tool for trolling. The swivel part of this hardware minimizes line twist. The snap part is where you attach the lure. A snap swivel is too much junk for casting crankbaits—or for blade baiting.
No-stretch “superline” such as Berkley FireLine or Shimano Power Pro is another critical blade baiting component. A blade bait is supposed to vibrate. Weeds or fouled hooks can keep this from happening. Superlines do a superior job of telegraphing lure behavior.
I like using a baitcast reel in a blade-baiting presentation. Some anglers prefer spinning gear. A baitcast reel generally has more power to move big fish quickly.
The final component is a sensitive graphite rod with a fast tip and substantial butt. The St. Croix Eyecon series is Wisconsin-grown, sensitive and affordable.
Bladebaits come in a rainbow of colors. With an Echotail, plastic selection is virtually unlimited. I’m a big fan of natural colors—white and, in substantially stained waters, orange.
The final—and most important—component for catching fish on blade baits is faith. Some stiff-necked folks are convinced there is simply no way a chunk of metal can be more appealing than a fat and helpless minnow.
This is a logical conclusion if the fish are hungry, but in 35-degree water a minnow sandwich isn’t real high on a walleye’s priority list. But drop that vibrating, pulsating creation of steel and plastic in front of a walleye’s nose and the sandwich concept is ratcheted up another notch in the food chain.
For the next few days, blaze orange will be the chosen outerwear color for a very high percentage of folks in the Wisconsin outdoors. If you fill that buck tag early, walleye fishing with the knowledge that winter is on the way can be a truly sweet experience.
Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.