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Heavy Metal: Blade Baits and Spoons for Fall Largemouths

When sudden cold snaps knock out the bass bite, these baits revive it.

Heavy Metal: Blade Baits and Spoons for Fall Largemouths

Their profiles and ability to fish almost any depth—with either a vertical or horizontal presentation—make spoons and blades tough baits to beat during cold fronts. (Photo courtesy of SteelShad)

With a few exceptions, the same lures that catch bass at other times of the year will produce in chilly autumn weather, too. However, metal lures can be particularly effective in the fall when sudden drops in temperature leave baitfish stunned and more susceptible to foraging bass. When bass are stoking up on baitfish, try blade baits like the Silver Buddy and spoons like the Hopkins Shorty. Anything that looks like a baitfish is fair game, especially if it appears to be distressed by a sudden cold front. Here are some important factors to consider when dropping metal to ravenous bass.

Jigging Spoons

Once cold weather has set in and baitfish become more susceptible to temperature swings, slow-motion strategies are called for. A vertical presentation is standard with spoons that mainly work in an up-and-down fashion. Slab spoons that weigh about 3/4 ounce are the average, but heavier spoons are more practical in deep water.

SPOON FEED ‘EM
bass fishing illustration
Like their blade-bait cousins, spoons are perfectly suited for cold-front fishing. Their oblong shape and associated flash allow them to perfectly mimic many common baitfish species. A spoon’s unique flutter presents bass with what they believe is a wounded or stunned baitfish. Working a spoon vertically affords you the ability to fish structure in a concentrated fashion. Once candidate fish-holding structure is located, position the boat over the target. Allow your spoon to fall on a semi-slack line. Pull the spoon upward with the rod tip and allow it to then free-fall back down. Often, it takes more than one “lift” to coax lethargic bass. (Illustration by Peter Sucheski)
Blade Baits

Made of flattened metal with multiple rigging holes that change the lure’s action depending on which one you tie your line to, blade baits such as the Heddon Sonar or SteelShad can either be fished vertically or retrieved horizontally like a lipless crankbait.

Typically, they have a tight, pronounced vibration when ripped upward. They are most effective when jigged in deep water along ledges or rock bluffs, when retrieved in a yo-yo fashion through suspended bass or when retrieved along flooded points and similar structure. If bass are aggressive, snapping or ripping the lure upward and then letting it flicker back slowly can draw jarring strikes.

Flutter Spoons

Quarter- or 1/2-ounce spoons such as the Johnson Sprite or Nichols Lures Lake Fork in white, silver or shad variations usually are fished horizontally when a steady, wobbling retrieve produces best. One tried-and-true winter retrieve is to turn the reel handle quickly four or five times, then stop and let the spoon settle back for a few seconds, then repeat.

Often, the sudden movement triggers strikes. Sometimes bass want a lure that’s moving vertically in slow motion. For example: If you’re fishing in water that’s 40 feet deep and your electronics show bass or structure at that depth, cast or drop the spoon that distance and let it wobble down to the fish on a controlled fall. Most strikes will come on the initial fall so pay attention. Use your rod tip to make the bait flutter and draw strikes.

Gear Up

A 7-foot, medium- or heavy-action baitcasting rod is popular for fishing metal baits. The ideal action depends on how deep the water is and how much force is needed to set the hook. For casting blade baits and spoons, a medium-heavy spinning outfit will do.

Water depth is a key determining factor in the best line to use. Braided line in 12- to 20-pound test doesn’t stretch and is the top choice when working baits and setting the hook in deep water (15 feet and deeper). Many anglers combine braid with a fluorocarbon leader, as the latter also has limited stretch. For other applications, a fluorocarbon or monofilament main line in 14- to 20-pound test is a good choice. Finish with a dependable swivel connector to guard against line twist.

BUMP A BLADE
illustration ion fishing technique
Blade baits are one of the most productive cold-weather bass baits. Their unique, streamlined profile and keel weighting allows them to be cast extra-long distances. Additionally, their compact, shad-like shape mimics one of a bass’ favorite forage species. When the bite turns tough and fish are difficult to locate, drop your bait down and troll slowly through water that has been productive previously. “Yo-yo” the bait by raising and lowering the rod tip. This presentation attracts fish at almost any depth in the water column. Allowing the bait to bump the bottom occasionally will add to its attraction. Most strikes come as the bait is falling. (Illustration by Peter Sucheski)
Where to Fish Metal

Metal baits are particularly effective when shad and herring move inshore and start to bunch up along the edges of flooded creeks, feeder rivers or in deep standing timber. As the water cools into the 40s and 50s, fish will be driven deeper.

Prime targets include flooded timber, transition structure, deep points wrapped in riprap, under or in front of floating docks, around bridge pilings and along rock bluffs, ledges and brush piles.

When baitfish are moving up creeks or during drawdowns, they use docks as waypoints. There’s no one retrieve that works best. If fishing a lure horizontally, cast it out, let it sink to the bottom and then use a repetitive pump-and-fall retrieve. If fishing a jigging spoon or blade bait vertically under the boat, snap the lure up a few feet, then let it settle back down.

On the Fall

It’s often difficult to detect a strike when a spoon or blade bait is falling. If there’s slack in the line, the only indication of a strike might be when the spoon or blade bait stops falling or your line “ticks.” Typically, bass are triggered by a falling lure. Being a line watcher helps detect strikes that might otherwise go unnoticed. As far as bait colors go, you can’t go wrong with any shad pattern.

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