Anticipation grows as you near the timbered bank, and with a gentle flick of the wrist the shiny metal blade is on its way. The lure lands only centimetres inches from the entangled tree roots, cutting its way quickly as it slices towards the bottom.
There’s no time to waste and, virtually the second it hits the water, you begin the retrieve.
Deep in the timber, a bass catches a glimpse of the flashing metal lure and scoops it up. Above the waterline, the light braid jerks tight and you frantically paddle the canoe backwards to drag the bass from cover.
A few hectic moments pass and on the surface lies a glistening bronze bass, a true Aussie survivor worthy of great respect. And few seconds later it’s back in the tannin-stained river where it belongs.
There’s an old saying that nothing is new in fishing, just variations of old themes. While it’s a pretty broad statement, it does ring true with many facets of angling.
Often the new lure or technique has been around for many years, with today’s versions slightly modified, tweaked or jazzed up to capture the new breed of anglers.
In many cases, often the biggest improvement is purely the delivery systems; with ultra-light, punchy spin sticks sporting impossibly thin braided lines.
The other big improvement is the open, experimental mind of today’s anglers, where no lure or technique is too weird or strange to flick into the water.
One of the most exciting lures today is the highly effective and versatile blade.
These flat-sided, bibless lures are proving very effective on a wide range of species, with bream and bass real standouts.
The first commercially available blade was the Sonar, produced by lure manufacturing giants Heddon.
Hitting the shelves way back in 1958, this unique and extremely versatile lure soon become very popular for largemouth and smallmouth bass, allowing anglers to fish vertically as well as work structure with a standard cast and retrieve.
And, just like many of today’s blades, the Sonar’s action is a tight shimmy, transmitting plenty of fish-attracting vibration. The Sonar is still produced today, proving very popular thanks to the recent boom in bladed lures.
While not looking that far removed from the original 50-year-old Heddon Sonar, many of today’s blade lures sport much nicer finishes and quality, chemically-sharpened hooks.
Some manufactures are now producing polycarbonate models, which are not only extremely strong but offer translucent colour schemes.
While the Americans may have created this style of lure, switched-on Aussie lure manufactures like TT Lures, Eddie Studman of Koolabung Lures and Paul Kneller of Big River Lures, are leading the way. Koolabung and Big River offer terrific polycarbonate models that are not only bulletproof and swim great, but look terrific with great natural colour schemes and some striking clear models.
If cosmetics have anything to do with it, the clear models with coloured overtones creating translucent ribbing are sure to be winners.
Blade-style lures are open to a range of retrieve techniques but you have to be a little careful where you choose to throw them.
In our coastal bass waters you often have a good mix of country to fish, with vertical weed beds, shallow rocky pools and runs and deep timber to explore.
The simple fact is that fast sinking lures with plenty of hook points have to be used with discretion. Weed beds can be frustrating and submerged timber very expensive.
Rocky pools and runs are far more forgiving.
It is possibly to fish all these locations effectively; you just need to fish with a degree of caution – especially around the timber. You quite often can free a blade fouled on rocks by moving the boat back past the lure but once one or more of those sharp trebles sink into timber, it gets far tougher.
There are quite a few different retrieve techniques you can use to tempt river and creek bass, although which one to use will largely depend on the country being fished.
A slow, steady wind, with a few small hops thrown in, will suit the shallow rocky runs and pools and will allow the lure to skim comfortably over submerged weed. With such a retrieve the lure will always be swimming, vibrating lazily and bursting to life with each sudden lift of the rod tip.
In deeper, rocky pools, a long cast allowed to hit bottom, followed by a stabbing retrieve where line is only gained as the rod is lifted, should have the lure vibrating aggressively off the bottom before wafting back into the rock holes and cracks.
As you can imagine, hugging the bottom like this is only a safe option in timber-free pools.
Around vertical and submerged timber you’ll have to play around with a mix of retrieve techniques, with an emphasis on lure preservation. Fishing light lures fairly quickly and high in the water collum will help keep the tackle box well-stocked but in many deeper snags you may not raise the fish.
I still lean on the cautious side when fishing timber, and will often vertically jig rather than cast. On a short line sitting silently in a canoe above the bass, jigging can be very exciting and effective.
Lure losses are more likely from being bricked by a hooked fish rather than fouling the hooks, which, depending on your outlook, is a much better way to lose a lure.
To fish bass water effectively, you really have to fish cautiously and experiment a little with different weights of lures.
The lightest blade I’ve used is a micro model weighting in at 1/16oz. While this fingernail-sized blade was quite forgiving around the nasties, it was simply too light to cast effectively and much of the time it seemed to go unnoticed.
The standard bream-sized blade (say 25mm and1/8oz) is a much better starting point, with a relatively slow sink rate and enough weight to cast comfortably on quality spin gear with light braid.
In deeper, rockier bass country you can up-size to 1/4oz jigs and probe the depths quickly and efficiently.
Having a good selection of colours and sizes of lures from 1/8oz to 1/4oz is all you’ll really need fishing our coastal bass streams.
There’s no doubt about it, bladed lures are very effective weapons on river bass, having the versatility of a soft plastic yet a much more aggressive, in-your-face action simular to a spinnerbait’s.
The keys are to fish them carefully in bad country and thoroughly in open, snag-free zones.
Vibrating lures have a great ability to draw fish from considerable distance, and many of today’s top-shelf bladed lures are doing so with terrific regularity.
Although many blades are equipped with treble hooks and split rings, there are others which feature other hook patterns.
To lower susceptibility to snagging, try the Gamakatsu Single Lure Hook, available in sizes 6, 4, 2 and 1. These hooks have the eye rotated 90° so once they’re mounted on the split ring they sit nicely and if you rig them right, they’ll swim with the hook points upwards.
Many of the Japanese blades, as well as the time-honoured US Cordell Gay Blade, feature no split rings, with open double and/or treble hooks that simply slide into the mounting hole like a hairpin.
Japanese tackle manufacturer Vanfook has a range of open treble and double hooks that make ideal replacements when your blade hooks give out. Standard issue on Lucky Craft, Jazz and Evergreen blades, the silver finish Open Treble comes in sizes 8 to 1 and retail around $11, while the black Open Double comes in sizes 10 up to 1 in packs of seven or eight. They are distributed by EJ Todd & Son.