Few things feel more exhilarating after a long winter than detecting the first solid thump of a biting walleye as it succumbs to your presentation. For many anglers that experience occurs during the annual walleye run in early spring on a Badger-state river such as the Wisconsin, Wolf or Fox. As anglers probe the many holes and bends, current breaks and neck-downs, vertical jigging is as fine an option as any. With pre-spawn fish in an oft neutral or negative mood, the ability to maintain depth and lure control is imperative for eliciting and subsequently detecting strikes from less than aggressive fish.

For countless marble-eye fanatics in pursuit of early season walleyes the time-honored lead-head jig, whether tipped with plastic or live bait, is the preferred weapon of choice. While jigs do catch more than their fair share of walleyes in the spring when fished vertically, there is another lethal option that far too many anglers overlook – bladebaits.

Bladebaits are thin metal-bodied lures who excel in producing maximum vibration whether casting or jigging. Of the variety of bladebaits available on the market today, there are two that I keep at least a Plano box or two at all times in the boat during the spring walleye run (and beyond). The first is the Reef Runner Cicada, a lure featuring a bug-like appearance and concave blade which has a terrific darting flutter on the fall. My other top choice is the Echotail from Vibrations Tackle which features a body shape somewhat similar to the Cicada, but sports a live-action rubber tail and multiple holes for line attachment; the assortment of connecting points means the Echotail cast be effectively jigged, cast or even trolled.

When rigging for blade bait walleye fishing, consider a mid-sized Abu Garcia spinning reel spooled with Sufix 832 braid; not only is the braid hyper-sensitive and abrasion resistant, but it’s almost zero stretch quality allows for exceptional hook setting ability on even the largest and toughest of walleyes. A 6’8” St. Croix Legend Tournament or Eyecon “Snap Jig” spinning rod is the perfect match for fishing bladebaits, especially in the heavier current flows of spring.

Working bladebaits is a relatively simple affair - a sharp lift or rip upwards causes the bait to wriggle relentlessly as it produces a distinct fish-calling vibration. At the peak of the lift stop the rod and give the bladebait just enough slack to allow the lure to fall and flutter helplessly downward. It is imperative to watch the line as the bait plummets towards the bottom, and to set the hook if the line jumps, remains slack or does anything out of the ordinary; after all, hook-sets are free!

Spring walleye fishing is all about being prepared and that includes having adequate release tools, such as a quality net on board and ready at all times. We are fortunate to live in a state which produces ample opportunities at world class walleye trophies in excess of 10 pounds, fish worthy of being handled appropriately and released to live another day. Without a doubt my most important release tool is my Frabill Conservation Series Net. Featuring a 100% knotless mesh and flat linear bottom to reduce fish rolling, the Conservation Series helps ensure that I am able to release fish in the best condition possible.

Looking for an exciting and effective method to produce walleyes, perhaps even your largest yet this spring? Give the shimmy and shake of bladebaits a chance, just keep the net handy! I’ll see you on the water…

Tight lines,