Three 'Bladed' Tips for the Brine
In the last edition of the Saltier Side I addressed topwater walkers as a top crossover lure that can easily transfer from the bass tackle box to the inshore arsenal with great success.
Staying with that same crossover theme for inshore fishing, let’s take a closer look at a few bladed baits, which are similar to topwaters in terms of crossover efficiency for salt.
Bladed baits feature some kind of metal blade, including weedless spoons (all metal), spinnerbaits (spinning metal blade) and chatterbaits (vibrating metal). All of these are deadly inshore lures because they are so efficient in terms of covering water quickly.
For starters, bladed baits cast far, no matter what kind of equipment you’re using. All three can be used with either spinning or casting equipment. Any 7-foot, medium-power rod with 12- to 17-pound-test line can be used.
Secondly, they are simply “cast and reel” lures. Unlike topwaters or jerkbaits, which require the angler to “work” the lure, bladed baits can easily be reeled straight back to the boat.
Finally, these three baits are somewhat universal in terms of where they can be used: over eelgrass or turtle grass flats; up next to marsh grass; around oyster bars; even across bare sand.
With all that being said, there is one huge caveat to bladed baits: water clarity. Bladed baits do tend to work better in off-colored, tannic, or fertile green watercolor found in river delta systems.
If your inshore water is gin clear all the time, bladed baits may be out for you, with the exception of the spoon.
But if you are headed anywhere that has a little bit of “murk” in the water, especially large estuaries that receive a lot of freshwater flow, you are in business with blades.
Of the three types of blade baits mentioned, let’s start with weedless spoons because they are an absolute “gold standard” in inshore fishing. The “gold standard” pun is certainly intended as a gold Johnson’s Silver Minnow has probably caught more redfish from saltwater lure enthusiasts than any other bladed bait.
There is something about the lazy, flashy wobble of a weedless spoon dawdling through eelgrass or tumbling over an oyster bar that just trips a redfish’s trigger. Its compact size and weedlessness still make it a one-of-a-kind for slithering through thick grass or over craggy oysters.
Though the Johnson Silver Minnow is a timeless standby in many tackleboxes, especially in Florida, other spoons designed for inshore fishing include the Aqua Dream Spoon, the H&H “Secret Spoon” and Bagley’s weedless spoon.
For weedless spoons I favor two sizes: 1/2-ounce is the standard for most conditions but I also carry several 1/4-ounce spoons that are almost like “finesse” spoons for clear, calm conditions when size and flash needs to be toned down.
In order to get the proper action out of a spoon, the correct reel retrieve is almost a kind of a slow roll to make the spoon wobble back and forth. If the spoon is reeled too fast, it will spin and twist your line up into a wicked mess. A spoon doesn’t look like much coming through the water but don’t worry, for some reason, it looks like something good to inshore fish, especially redfish.
Next up are spinnerbaits: if you have any old 1/4- to 3/8-ounce spinnerbaits with single #3 or #4 Colorado or Indiana blades (preferably gold), these are the keepers for your salt box. If the skirt has rotted off, no worries, you won’t need it; skirts are hardly ever used on bladed baits in the brine.
If you want to purchase spinnerbaits custom-made for saltwater, look for Strike King’s Redfish Magic, Hildebrandt’s Drum Roller or Bass Assassin’s Redfish Daddy. As you can see from the names of these baits, they are designed primarily for redfish, featuring a big single thumper blade on a short-wire frame for a compact target with some kind of plastic swimmer body included. This type of saltwater fishing is as close to bass fishing as it gets. “Bulging” the big thumper blade around marshy estuaries with stained water is a killer redfish tactic. Tip: hold on tight to your rod!
Over the last few years the Z-Man Chatterbait has migrated to saltwater applications with substantial success as well. Anglers have discovered the unique vibrating action that worked so well on freshwater bass is pretty effective on a lot of inshore species, too. Z-Man actually makes a Chatterbait geared specifically for saltwater, but I usually just poach Chatterbait “Elite” models from my bass box to use in saltwater. Instead of lazily wobbling, or spinning, Chatterbaits vibrate viciously due to the metal blade, which almost acts like a bill on crankbait. As a result, some anglers refer to Chatterbaits as “cranking jigs” or “vibe jigs.”
Again, if you are relegated to crystal clear water, you will probably want to stick mostly to the spoon because it has less vibration and more flash. And be sure to tie in about 3 to 4 feet of 12- to 15-pound fluorocarbon leader if you’re using braid as your main line. When using the spinnerbait or Chatterbait in off-colored water, I’ll tie straight to braid (14- to 20-pound test) since the watercolor and lure vibration tends to masks the line.
As mentioned, all three of these are cast and reel lures, requiring little action on the angler’s part. But it doesn’t hurt to throw an occasional quick pause in your retrieve to make the lure hesitate, stutter or stumble – it’s a good way to get train-wrecked by a redfish.
No matter which bladed baits you choose to take to saltwater, do yourself a favor and pair it with some kind of scented Gulp product. Putting a Gulp shrimp on a Chatterbait, a Mantis shrimp on a spinnerbait or even just a thumbnail-size slice of some kind of Gulp on a spoon will work wonders for increasing the number of bites on bladed baits.