I’d bet dollars-to-doughnuts that four out of five bass anglers have at least one blade bait tucked away in a tackle box somewhere. Furthermore, I’d bet $100 to a dozen doughnuts that three out of those four fishermen haven’t cast the lure anytime during the past 12 months — and that’s a shame.

While blade baits Heddon’s Sonar and others don’t rightly warrant “forgotten lure” status, I do think many anglers give up on them too quickly, usually opting for a lure that’s a bit easier to fish. The heavy-headed metal lure, with its distinctive dorsal fin, requires an angler to exert a measure of control during the retrieve. But because the bait is so effective, especially on bass in cold water, mastering it is definitely worth the effort.

A blade bait is designed to shimmy and shudder as it falls through the water column, duping predators into believing it’s really a dying baitfish. If the line is too slack, however, the hooks can easily become fouled, and that’s what frustrates most anglers.

The trick is to let the lure sink at its own rate, but at the same time maintain a semi-tight line. Whether you hop it down a steep shoreline slope, or yo-yo it vertically over a ledge, brush pile or stump field, follow the lure’s descent with the rodtip and keep the line tight enough so you can just feel it vibrate—without hampering its rate of fall. It takes practice, for sure, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. You can’t forget how it’s done.

Using a stiff line can help keep the lure from fouling as it sinks. Or, try tying a 12-to-18 inch fluorocarbon leader between the lure and mainline. Likewise, you can slow or speed the blade bait’s rate of fall by using a line of larger or smaller diameter, respectively.

Strikes usually come as the blade bait is falling, so even if you’re swimming or slow rolling the lure, pause the retrieve from time to time. And though there will be times when it seems like a bass is trying to remove the rod grip from your grasp, most bites will register as a subtle tick; or, you might simply feel the lure stop vibrating. Bottom line: watch the line and stay focused.

If you haven’t fished a blade bait yet, give one a try this winter; and if you’ve got one or two hidden in your tackle box, dust them off and tie them on.