By Keith Sutton

Blade baits are renegade lures. Crappie anglers brought up on a strict diet of jigs and minnows consider them outcasts. Blade baits are proven crappie-catchers, however, and have unique characteristics that make them applicable to certain situations.

The Heddon Sonar was the first mass-marketed blade bait, circa 1959, followed a few years later by Cotton Cordell’s Gay Blade. Both lures are constructed with a stamped metal blade shaped somewhat like a baitfish. This is sandwiched between pieces of lead that form the “head,” with line-tie holes on the blade’s top edge and holes for two treble hooks on the bottom.

In late winter and early spring, when water is cold and crappie are deep, blade baits can be hot. Snapped upward, they swim through the water and create a pulsating vibration that mimics an injured or escaping baitfish. This attracts crappie and allows the fish to home in on the lure, especially when water is murky.

You can vertically jig a blade bait to create a subtle swimming and fluttering motion, effective at attracting skittish, light-biting crappie, or retrieve it with occasional rips and runs to produce a dynamic, erratic action that might interest a slab in need of a wake-up call.

Blade baits also are effective when targeting transition crappie on drop-offs and humps. When fishing drop-offs, keep your boat directly over the drop and cast to the top of the breakline, hopping the lure back to the boat. When fishing humps, position the boat off the hump and cast to the rise, working the bait on top first, then down the sides into deep water.

Most blade bait strikes occur on the fall. Watch your line closely and keep it tight during the retrieve.

The Heddon Sonar and Heddon Rattling Sonar Flash feature three line-tie holes, each positioned for a different fishing technique. Tie your line to the front hole for casting and fishing shallower water. Tie to the middle hole for vertical jigging. The third hole is for trolling or casting to deeper water.

The Cordell Gay Blade has two line-tie holes. Use the front hole for a lure that works best with a cast-and-retrieve presentation or the rear hole when you want to work the blade bait vertically like a jigging spoon. The quick-change snap allows fast change-ups for different fishing situations, creating an extremely versatile enticement that can be hopped along the bottom, yo-yoed in deep water or burned just beneath the surface.

Be sure you never tie your line directly to a blade bait. One good smack from a crappie and the thin metal body will shear monofilament like thread. Use the included round-bend snap to make the connection instead so you can quickly adjust the lure’s action without re-tying.

If you want added noise for even more crappie attraction, try Heddon’s Rattling Sonar Flash. Its rattles add another strike trigger to an already versatile fishing lure, making it particularly useful in the discolored or muddy water where big slabs often lurk.

When it comes to selecting crappie baits, many anglers are like the folks in those old Tareyton cigarette commercials: They’d rather fight than switch. It must be jigs or minnows or nothing.

If you enjoy a change of pace now and then, however, remember: jigs and minnows aren’t the only good crappie-catchers. When you fish them properly, blade baits are every bit as effective as the old reliables.