April 26, 2022
"Nothing is new under the sun" is an appropriate saying when it comes to bass-fishing lures. Most of the lures we have today are minor variations on models that have been around for decades.
However, occasionally a lure is released that is truly unique. Nearly two decades ago, one such lure was the bladed jig, and it has dominated shallow-water bass fishing ever since.
The bladed jig is simply a casting jig with a coffin-shaped blade attached to the eye of the jig that imparts a hard side-to-side kicking motion. Essentially, the blade gives the typically subtle jig the action of a crankbait. When matched with a plastic trailer, the result is a perfect imitation of a fleeing baitfish across the shallows.
Anglers of any skill level can immediately catch fish on a bladed jig, as it requires little more than reeling in the bait with a medium retrieve. However, there are a couple of tweaks to the retrieve and the tackle setup that will put even more bass in the boat.
As mentioned, a medium retrieve is usually adequate for catching bass on any given day. In clearer water, say 2 to 3 feet of visibility or greater, a slightly faster retrieve speed will give the bass less time to see the bait before having to commit to eating the lure. It’s also important to experiment with retrieve speeds, even surging the rod tip on occasion to amplify that erratic action that can trigger reluctant bass. Pausing the lure for a second or two on occasion will often get a following bass to commit to the lure.
Many assume that since they’re fishing a "jig," a stiff rod is required to adequately set the hook on the strike. In fact, the lure is more like a crankbait, and a rod with a softer tip increases landing percentages.
Many anglers have moved to composite rods with a blend of graphite and fiberglass for fishing the bladed jig. These rods benefit from a slower response time and help the angler avoid pulling the lure away from the bass.
For the reel, go with a 6:1 or 7:1 gear ratio, which easily allows that medium retrieve. Faster gear ratios tend to overwork the lure by fishing it too fast.
For line, I prefer fluorocarbon over braid, as I like the invisibility and slight amount of stretch that fluoro offers. I opt for 15- to 17-pound-test line, which allows plenty of strength to pull a good fish away from nearby cover.
A 3/8-ounce bladed jig is usually sufficient for fishing out to three-foot depths, while the half-ounce version is a good option for fishing slightly deeper.
Color selection for the bladed jig is a simple matter for me. Some variation of a white skirt is always a good choice, while green pumpkin is a great choice in clear-water situations. Black/blue combos, as well as red or orange skirts are great choices when the water has some stain.
Many options exist for matching a plastic trailer to the back of the bladed jig. The straight-tailed swim bait-style trailers are extremely popular and respond well to the action imparted by the kicking motion of the blade. Twin-tailed craws and paddle-tail designs are equally successful on the back of a bladed jig, and the choice of which style to choose really boils down to individual preference, as most of the action on the lure is imparted by the vibration of the jig.
If there’s one situation where the bladed jig has a limitation, it’s around wood cover. Most of the bladed jig designs have an open hook without a weedguard, so they tend to hang-up easily around any type of wood. A spinnerbait or swim jig provides better weedless alternatives when facing a jungle of tangles on woody shallow flats.
Nearly two decades since its introduction, the bladed jig still represents one of the best shallow-water lure choices in an angler’s arsenal. A quick check of any results from national tournament trails will confirm the bladed jig as a major player in any event where the bass are shallow. Stock up on an assortment of colors and put them into play on your next outing.