Selecting a blade used to be easy. There were only a few basic designs – Colorado, Indiana, willowleaf, and French- and each design was only available in a couple of different size and color combinations. Not anymore! The recent increase in wire bait retail sales has sent manufacturers back to the drawing boards to invent better designs, newer colors, bigger sizes and stronger vibrations (a.k.a. “throb”). Now there are hundreds of different shapes and millions of different size and color combinations. These new additions to the blade pool make it much more difficult to select the most appropriate blade for a particular type wire bait. Fortunately, there are still some basic properties that all blades share that make this task a little easier to tackle.
A blade’s shape strongly influences how quickly it rotates, how much vibration it can produce, how fast it moves in the water, and how deep the attached lure can dive during a retrieve. As a general rule, wider blades will rotate slower, vibrate more, retrieve slower, and ride shallower than narrow blades. This is because the wider blade has more surface area and thus meets greater water resistance than the skinny blades. The following chart shows the relationship between shape, depth, vibration and speed:
A blade’s size will alter the effects produced by the blade’s shape. Longer blades will have more surface area and will rotate slower, vibrate more, run slightly shallower, and retrieve slower than smaller blades. However, keep in mind that the additional length means that more torque will be produced. This is because the length of the blade is a force multiplier, meaning that every additional millimeter in length will increase the amount of force that is applied to the main shaft of the wire bait. If the blade is too long, the force applied by the blade will be too strong for the rest of the lure to handle and the whole wire bait will become off-balance. Off-balanced (a.k.a. “won’t spin!”) blades do not catch fish! So be sure that the length of your blade will not negatively affect the movement of the overall lure. As a general rule, your blade should never be longer than the distance from the lure’s eye to its hook (you can go a little longer with very light blades).
Blade Weight & Thickness
A blade’s weight and thickness will also alter the effects produced by the blade’s shape and size. Heavier, thicker blades will produce better vibrations, but they can also make the lure “blade heavy” causing it to run off-balance. As a general rule, your blade should never make up more than 1/3 of your lure’s total weight.
The material a blade is made out of can have a significant effect on its weight, and thus can affect the lure’s vibrations. Lighter blades tend be less expensive than heavier blades because they are cheaper to manufacture. These types of blades tend to be more prone to corrosion, dents, and deformity. Here is a general weight ordering for common blade materials from lightest to heaviest: aluminum, tin, steel, brass, copper, nickel, silver, gold. Keep in mind that many blades are actually a combination of these metals and may not have the expected weights. Plastic blades are considerably lighter and do not produce the same strong vibrations that the metal blades are known for.
A blade’s texture influences its water resistance, light reflection abilities, and bait associations. Hammered blades tend to generate slightly more throb and reflect light similar to fish scales. Fluted, rippled or ribbed blades also generate more throb and produce a slightly different type of vibration. Smooth blades have the most concentrated light reflections and are considered to produce the most consistent fish-catching vibrations. In terms of price, the more texture a blade has, the more expensive it will be to purchase.
Blade color is generally a matter of personal preference, and most anglers prefer blades that are highly reflective (nickel in clear water, gold or copper in darker waters). Since most wire baits are not fished below 15 feet, light filtration in the water should not be an overriding issue. Note: Smooth metal blades should be roughened with steel wool or a fine mental file prior to painting
Balancing Blade Traits
Trait balancing is one of the most overlooked aspects to blade selection. In a nutshell, trait balancing is the ability to add or subtract bait properties to make the lure resemble and behave like a single type of living thing. For instance, hammered blades mimic the reflective properties of small bait fish, but Colorado blades produce the huge vibrations of larger fish. So a large hammered Colorado blade may send mixed signals and the bass will think “Is this food or an enemy”? To prevent this, consider all of the traits of your blade and make sure that none of them conflict with your lure’s intended purpose.