Slow, methodical lifts and drops can lull you, nearly to the point of hypnosis, especially on blustery days when head-to-toe layers have an insulating effect on body and mind. No worries, though. If you’re working a Heddon Sonar or Cotton Cordell Gay Blade in the right places this time of year, chance are good the fish won’t let you doze off completely.

Blade baits, as these heavy metal baitfish imitators are most commonly dubbed, are ideally suited for cold-water fishing. Heavily weighted for their size, they quickly get to the bottom, which is where many gamefish spend the most time during the winter. Tight wiggles suggest the slight movements of winter-slowed baitfish while emitted vibration draws fish near to investigate. A small, flashy profile suggest a shad or other baitfish that offers an easy meal.

A Sonar and Gay Blade differ in the fact that that Sonar is more elongated and has three line tie positions instead of two, and it flutters a bit more on the fall. It also comes in “Flash” colors and a rattling version that has a sound chamber. The Gay Blade’s more compact body makes it an excellent match for a young-of-the-year shad from any angle. Of course, these mostly similar lures also have a slightly different wiggles, and sometimes you just have to let the fish dictate their preference.

Both a Sonar and Gay Blade can be fished many ways. You can cast either a mile and burn it back with the rod kept high for schooling fish, vertical jig it on the bottom like a spoon, or do just about anything in between. For most winter fishing, though, the primary approach is to cast to steep rocky banks or the tops of structures like points and humps, let the lure sink to the bottom and work it down a slope with gentle lifts and drops.

The classic presentation is similar to working a Texas-rigged worm slowly down a slope, with the rod doing all the pulling and lure finding bottom between every lift. Experiment some with the length and sharpness of lifts, but err on the side of slow and gentle, lifting the lure just enough to make it jiggle. Also experiment with line tightness on the drop. Sometimes fish favor an uninhibited flutter. Other times a pendulum swing will trigger more strikes.

Either way, most hits will occur when the lure is dropping, so pay close attention. Some will be jarring, and if the line is tight the fish will hook themselves. Others will be soft, so it’s important to watch for the line jumping unusually or the bait seeming to stop falling too quickly. If anything seems at all unusual, set the hook.

Multiple line-tie positions for both of these baits affect the way they run with the line at different angles. With the Sonar, the back hole makes it hang evenly and is ideal for vertical jigging, while the front hole is best for straight swimming presentations. Use the middle hole for working the lure down a slope. With the Gay Blade, the front hole will serve you best for this type of presentation.

One of the best things about these lures during winter is that you’re apt to catch virtually anything. When baitfish congregate in deep holes this time of year, many kinds of fish gather, both to enjoy the feast and for the same thermal refuge the baitfish seek. Depending on where you live and the specific spots you fish, black bass (including largemouths, smallmouths and spots), crappie, walleyes, saugers, white bass, stripers and trout are just some of the species you might catch.