Chasing bass on blades in deep water would have to be my favourite technique for targeting these iconic fish. At times you can find a school and they will be switched on, hard and fast, attacking your lure cast after cast. These sessions are champagne fishing and can only be described as electric.
These strange flat metal lures, resembling the profile of a baitfish, are a highly effective way of targeting Australian bass. The flash and vibration produced by the lure are very attractive to feeding fish and very irritating to territorial fish, prompting aggressive reaction strikes.
Although reasonably new to the Australian fishing scene, the blade style lures originated way back in 1958 when lure giant Heddon produced the Sonar’] lure. Since then, not a lot has changed in the design of blade lures, testament to the original designers. These lures have more than stood the test of time and through all the fads and changes in fishing technology have remained highly versatile and highly effective fish catchers.
Like any technique, locating the fish is the first and most important piece of the puzzle. When preparing for trips I like to study GoFree Insight Genesis maps to gain an insight into the terrain and likely fish holding positions I will encounter. These maps provide great detail due to the collaborative efforts of anglers all over Australia (and the world). Important features to look for when targeting bass in deep water are structural changes such as humps or depressions in the middle of flat areas or drop offs or points sitting in the deeper water. These are all areas where bass are likely to school up.
Use your sounder! It’s probably my most important fishing tool. If, for some reason, I didn’t have my sounder I probably wouldn’t go fishing. On my kayak I have fitted a Lowrance HDS7 Gen 3 and attribute most of my fishing success to this piece of technology. Once I am on the water, I head for the areas I have studied on the maps and hopefully my sounder lights up with fish. Then it is time to start working the blades.
Once I have located a school of bass I like to start by casting the blades and using a variety of retrieves. I also like to change colours and sizes as the fish react differently on any day due to factors such as water clarity, temperature, and barometric pressure. As a general rule I like to use dark colours in dirty water and brighter, more natural colours in clearer water. Keep in mind this is just a guide and bass are fickle creatures that can throw any theory out the door and eat something you would never expect on some days. A common theory with blades is that they should be hopped. This is an effective technique, but is definitely not the only technique you should employ. Slow rolling, burn and roll, and high lifting the blade are all techniques that I use until I find the right one to trigger the fish.
The technique I start off with will depend on where the fish are holding in the water column. If the fish are sitting tight to the bottom, I’ll generally start with short sharp lifts and wait for the lure to hit the bottom and then repeat. This is probably the easiest technique for beginners to use and is my most commonly used retrieve method.
If the fish are marking a bit higher in the water column, then I’ll start with more of a high lift retrieve. This is where I will lift the rod tip as far above my head as I can and let the lure drop back to the bottom.
This gets the lure higher up the water column and into the fish’s face, increasing the likelihood of a strike.
If the fish are suspended in mid-water then I like to use a countdown to the desired depth and then slow roll the blade through the school. Drop the blade beside your yak and count how long it takes to reach the bottom. Then simply apply the same ratio of depth to time to calculate how long it will take your lure to reach the depth at which the fish are schooled. After casting out and letting your lure sink for the calculated time, flip your bail arm and commence a slow roll retrieve. Every now and then, pause the lure to let it settle back down to the desired depth. Often the lure will be hit on the drop.
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Another facet of blading I like to trial is with the weight of the lure. Blades come in a range of sizes from the ultra light 1/16oz right through to the 1 and 2oz models used for offshore work. For bass fishing, I keep a range of blades from 1/4oz to 5/8oz. This range covers me for all shallow to deep water scenarios. In the deeper water, it is necessary to get to the bottom fast and a heavier lure also means it is easier to keep it in the strike zone longer.
Once you have worked out a pattern the bass are reacting to, then the fun really starts. Once you have unlocked the puzzle, I generally find the same technique will work repeatedly on the same school, often resulting in absolutely amazing sessions with fish after fish coming to your yak. These are the kind of sessions that stick in your mind for a long time and keep you coming back for more.