Columbia River Walleye Tips / Blade Bait Year-Round
Blade Baiting Techniques for Year-round walleye fishing
Blade baiting has become an essential component to success that catches walleye year-round. The Pacific Northwest has gained a lot of notoriety for producing trophy sized walleye. Anglers are coming from all over to pursue what could be the next world record. If you haven’t tried throwing blade baits on our Columbia River walleye, here’s what you’ve been missing.
Reactionary Blade Baits
Blade baits are vicious walleye attractants. They cast like bullets and sink like bricks. Most anglers are intimidated by hang-ups and the fact that walleye are light biting critters. Fact is, walleye literally knock themselves out hitting these vibrating metal jigging spoons. The attraction to the blade is in the vibration. Jig it, rip it, retrieve it, twitch it, walleye just can’t resist. Best thing about a blade bait, they fish all year-round. Come along and find out our guides choices to our favorite blade bait techniques.
River Fishing Blade Baits
Most of our rivers in the Northwest have dams. Walleye concentrate heavily behind wing dams or in reservoirs feeding on bait near the thermocline. Blades are super successful on rivers or current-oriented water. Our guides like to fish along current breaks and edges where the bait fish hang. Pocket water is also ideal for ambushing fish. Blade baits look just like a wounded baitfish and are polarizing to a feeding walleye. There are many anglers that don’t have the confidence to fish them or lose patience quickly. Follow along and we’ll guide you to some successful blade baiting tips that are sure to catch more fish
The Evolution of the Blade Bait
The original blade bait was introduced in 1957 by Heddon. Most lures were made of wood or plastic, but the 1st of its kind sank to the bottom. Many anglers become frustrated by the snags and gave up. Anglers that stuck with the lure found out that a slow retrieve or jig near the bottom, produced bites. Generations later, more blade baits entered the scene and all tournament anglers fish them. Some of our favorites are Northland Fish-Fry Minnow, Silver Streak, Norisada Custom Blade Bait, Heddon Sonar Flash, Steelshad Original, Captain Jay’s and there are plenty more.
Why fish Blade Baits
The vertical profile of a blade bait mimics a minnow or small bait fish. They are ultra-realsitic and have live-forage finishes. They all have certain features in common and vibrate like no other. We’ve been fishing blade baits for over two decades and know if there are fish around, they’re going to take. Fish only need to see it for a split-second before the decide to devour it. There’s been numerous FLW walleye tournaments won and many place finishers that credit blade baits. We cover a lot of water in a short period of time, whether we mark fish or not. Like I said, if there’s fish in the area, it’s going to happen! Pull them out and give them a try.
Easy Blade Bait Techniques
Blade Baits will often out-fish live bait. They get to the bottom quickly with in zone presentation. The simplest way we fish them is let it drop, jig it vertically with a snapping upward motion and let it fall again. I like a three second pause and then repeat the process. Key is to feel a vibrating pulse as you lift your rod and control the fall on the drop. The vibration is what attracts the walleye and mimics wounded bait. Most of your strikes will come as the lure falls and the strike is rather aggressive. In stained water, keep your strokes on the shorter side and if it’s clear, lengthen your lift and drop. We’ve caught plenty of walleye in the middle teens and lots of eater size fish as well. We love to get walleye riled up!
Picking Blade Bait Colors
Blade baits come in a variety of colors and shapes. Picking out a color is a lot of trial and error. Tip is to match the preferred forage species that reside in your waters. River conditions change throughout the season, and so should your lure color choice. Dirty water plays a role in some of those choices. In dark stained water, go with more gold or chartreuse finishes. In clear water, silver and more natural colors are the way to go. There are so many new photo-finish patterns that really look lifelike. Walleye are really attracted to these natural looking baits. Some of my favorite Columbia river colors are chartreuse, fire-tiger, silver & black, purple chartreuse. There are prism tape applications that also add another dimension to your blade bait.
Current speed and depths will factor into your lure size choice. Use the lightest blade bait you can get away with. A ¼ ounce might be a good choice for reservoirs with shallow water and heavier 1 oz. size for deep water applications. Current speed and depth play a big role. For the purpose of the Columbia, we mainly use ¾ oz. and 1 oz. blades. Some anglers tip their blade with a crawler, but we choose to fish it more natural. Presentation can be important and making sure the lure isn’t impaired is vital.
Our fishing guides recommend using 20-pound braided line for the most sensitive feel. You can literally feel the vibration of the lure and detect any subtle strikes. We add a 6 ft. 15 lb. fluorocarbon leader that we join to the braid. The mono leader will tie directly to the split ring on the blade. To join the mono and braided line, tie a double clinch knot. Our rods are 6’10 Edge Fast action, medium light spinning rods. We combo these with the Diawa Ballistic 2500 spinning reel. We have plenty of sensitivity and backbone for our bigger fish. We’ve handled plenty of middle teen fish and our biggest to date, 18.5 pounds.
Walleye’s on Humps
You’ll sometimes find walleyes on humps, bars and off the tips of points in summer. In shallow, clear water, try not to park right over a school of walleyes. In dark water or water over 10 feet deep, your boat should not spook them. When in doubt, stay off to the side of the fish and pitch and retrieve a blade, rather than jigging it directly beneath the boat.
Blades are a great choice for suspended walleyes. Walleye will often school under bait fish that in most instances, will be adjacent to humps or structure. In these cases, walleyes are typically super aggressive and do most of their ambushing near these humps. You’ll find at time that walleye might be on the lethargic side when under bait fish but give them time, they’ll choose when to eat. In most all cases, walleye are predators and getting your blade down rapidly will create a reactionary strike. Our blade bait technique here is to hover over schooling fish with short twitches.
Anchor Fishing Blades
One of our favorite blade bait techniques for fishing rivers is the anchored position. You can let your blade bait work downstream as you jig it, then retrieve it back upstream. Find pockets of softer water in front of obstructions or current seams and cast your bait. Walleye hold near mouths of tributaries of the main river or adjacent to underwater river-beds. Make sure you work these areas thoroughly, jigging vertically and also using slow retrieve. Casting allows you to cover prime spots, working the entire area. If there’s a lot of debris on the river bottom, you’re your bait moving a little faster and use short twitching actions or a steady retrieve. There are times that a rip and pause approach creates reactionary strikes, cover all your basis.
Lakes and Reservoirs
Blades are good for lakes and reservoirs, especially in summer months. Look for walleye around structure and drop offs and in shallows. One of our favorite blade bait techniques is to pitch blades and use a rip and pause approach like you would with a crankbait. When you pause, the blade drops in the walleye strike zone. Walleye typically hit hard when the blade gets shoved in their face.
Late Summer walleye fishing means moving to deeper water. The water warms so keep your time between sweeps between 2 and 4 seconds. You’ll want to vary your jigging speed and pay attention to what the fish want. Use your electronics to locate fish and bump your blade along the bottom. Don’t be afraid to fish shallow water near drop offs for ambushing fish. When fishing shallow water, lighten your blade and pay attention to your retrieve. If the water is on the colder side, slow down and keep your blade in the strike zone longer. Rule of thumb, deep water fish more vertical, shallow water stay away and use more retrieve.
One of the deadliest times for blade baits is in late summer to early fall. Water temperatures being to drop, and fish tend to hold tight the bottom. Find some bottom that has transition between hard and soft structure that hold baitfish. If you mark fish in these spots, bounce your blade on the bottom, especially in sandy areas. Stirring some sand up resembles bait that is injured.
Our inexperienced anglers will reluctantly give blades a fair chance. Most clients haven’t seen blades work and for the most part, they fish them tentatively. Want another blade bait tip or technique, stay aggressive and have conviction with the bait. It helps if you’ve caught fish in the past and know what to expect from those experiences. Blades work all year long, warm to cold, and even on ice.
Blade Bait Techniques and Tips
- Use Crawler Harness to locate walleye before blade baiting
- Cold water, keep lift short and pause longer
- Warm water, use longer more aggressive strokes
- Use fast action rods for less flop
- Shallow water – use faster retrieve
- Deeper water – stay more vertical
- Stay aggressive for maximizing vibration
Blade baits really do work year-round. Our blade bait techniques are sure to help put more walleye in your net. We’ve taken 15 lb. walleye with blades on the Columbia and plenty of 10 pounders in the Lake Erie fishery. When using blade baits, you are looking for a reactionary bite. Walleye are predators and blade baits stay in the strike zone longer. Our fishing below the McNary Dam is pristine blade bait water. Walleye have everything they need in this section. Channels, Drop-offs, Humps, Flats and tributaries all make perfect opportunities for blade bait anglers. If you haven’t tried blades, you’re missing the boat.