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Tropical Vibrations: Blading


Blades, or vibration lures, are good for more than bream and flatties in southern estuaries. As CY & KERRIN TAYLOR explain, the new breed of blades, especially those in the larger sizes, are more than useful when chasing a variety of hard-pulling tropical species.

VIBRATION baits, aka blades, have become a popular lure choice for anglers targeting Australia’s diverse fish species. In more tropical waters, these lures have established a reputation for attracting big fish. The recent popularity of blades, many of which emanate from the Japanese market, has inspired local lure manufacturers to create their own models, giving birth to a range of exciting new types and sizes.

Good vibrations
The vibration inherent to quality blades is what attracts fish to these lures. The in-built “vibe” sends all sorts of crazy signals to predatory fish. Vibration plays a large role in predators finding prey. When small fish and crustaceans rummage about underwater, their tail and body movements create tiny pulses. These pulses travel through the water much like sound does on land are are picked up by a predator’s lateral line, a sensory organ which runs down both sides of the fish, from the gill covers to the base of the tail. Research on the lateral line has shown that it’s highly sensitive, with the ability to detect minute water movements and vibrations. Depending on the species, a fish’s lateral line can sense the tiny tail beats of a mullet or the delicate flick of a prawn’s tail. A stronger thumping tail beat will travel further through the water and be more noticeable than a subtle one. The lateral line is a very important sensor as it allows fish to find prey in the murkiest of waters and at night when visibility is decreased. Blades, with their wild vibrations, send strong pulsations to predatory fish. The pounding beats of a blade underwater can be detected from quite long distances. And if you think about it, this is the first step in catching any fish – for the fish to initially recognise there is something there. And these lures do that really well.

XOS Blading
Blading is becoming recognised as a dynamite technique for targeting tropical gamefish. Blades are perfectly suited to the harsh environment of the bluewater. They’re as strong as a sword, meaning large and toothy predators can’t cut or damage them like they can with a soft plastic or natural bait. But, of course, if you happen to get snagged or your leader is bitten off, it’s goodbye.

When you’re chasing species like giant trevally, queenfish, tuna and mackerel in the tropics, vibration baits can be a top choice. However, you’ll need to upsize your blades. Small blades built for the estuaries just aren’t big enough to attract anything decent in the bluewater. Generally, the largest pelagics will only hunt big baits. So don’t be afraid to use really big blades. The 1.5oz TT Switchblade HD and Spanyid 110g Blade are superb lures for bluewater speedsters.

As with all types of fishing, the key to success is finding where the fish are. These lures can’t magically catch fish wherever you decide to cast them. They still need to be presented to the fish in order to get strikes. When targeting tropical pelagics, key things to look for are large concentrations of baitfish and current flow that is obstructed by structure and adjacent deep water. If you have an electric motor such as a Minn Kota you can slowly make your way along an edge, covering ground by casting to new areas. If you’re fishing deep structure that isn’t visible it’s a good idea to anchor over the spot to maintain the correct position.

When tying on a blade for the bluewater, make sure your terminals are strong. The hooks and split rings on some brands of blades may be too light for the size of fish you’re targeting. If you think there’s a chance of hooking up to a mackerel in your spot it pays to use a short length of wire on the end of your leader. We’ve been snipped off a few times by large mackerel when targeting other pelagics. All you feel is a light tug on the rod and then your line goes slack. This usually means a mackerel has hit the lure with speed, shut its jaws and your leader has been pinched by its razor-sharp teeth. A good idea is to use about 15cm of clear coated tie-able wire joined to the leader. It has to be short enough so you can still cast without the chunky knot catching in your tip guide.

Another fishing style where blades shine is on reef species. Emperor, sweetlip and, in particular, coral trout are prime targets for a blade. These lures seem to be great for attracting coral trout, and big ones too.

We were recently fishing around the Whitsunday islands. The water was crystal clear on the day and visibility was about six metres. We were fishing a patch of rocks that were in 4m of water, casting into the shallows and hopping lures back out. All of a sudden we spotted some large garfish skipping about on the surface in panic. A boil the size of a wheelbarrow indicated the presence of a predatory fish. Then two dark shapes materialised in the clear water. We couldn’t tell what they were – we thought they may be GT, but they looked longer in shape and darker in colour. We quickly fired a long cast out with a TT Switchblade HD. The water was still swirling as the lure was pulsed through the zone. Almost straight away it was walloped and the braided line came up tight. The fish charged left and right through the coral and rocks and then headed into deep water. After a brief battle with a very tight drag, the fish was just under the boat. We then saw that it was a large coral trout – an exciting catch from the shallow clear water.
Why Fish Strike Blades
We think there are two different reasons why a fish will hit a blade. The first is the basic hunger strike. A fish is hungry and needs to eat. It’s waiting in a spot that food moves by or is roaming around to find food. It senses and hones in on the vibration, spots the lure, thinks “this looks and sounds like food”, opens its mouth and  it’s “fish on”. The other reason why an individual fish will strike a blade, we believe, is not out of hunger but aggression or curiosity. It’s as if to say, “what are you?” or “get out of here, this is my zone”. Maybe it’s the strong pulse that interests or annoys the fish and makes it strike. The tail pulses of a real baitfish are nothing compared to the loud vibration of a blade. Fish don’t have hands so if they are curious about something they may take a swipe at it to feel what it is. A fish doesn’t have to be hungry to strike your lure.

Blades are generally considered to be medium to deep water fishing lures. Because of their thin design, they tend to have a pretty quick descent when in the water. There’s nothing much to slow them down apart from the side-to-side flutter that some particular models have. The large versions built for the bluewater sink even faster. This is a good thing as fast pelagics love nothing more than to chase a baitfish racing away at speed. Something moving fast through the water usually indicates that it’s vulnerable and trying to get to safety. This triggers the opportunistic traits of many pelagics.

Estuary Vibes
You can take blades, albeit smaller sized models, into the tropical estuaries and rivers and have a ball. You could catch flathead, bream, grunter, fingermark, golden trevally and a host of other species. It can be a really enjoyable way of fishing – hopping the little blade off a steep rubble drop-off and dropping it down into the depths. Then, the light braided line flicks sharply. You quickly set the hook, coming up tight as you feel the head shakes of a solid dusky flathead, mangrove jack or little trevally. Some of the tropical estuaries in Australia are ideal for this style of fishing. There are two types of estuary fishing that we like to do – the “fun” style and the “food” style. The fun style means using light lines, smaller lures and generally targeting smaller fish. You’ll often catch a lot more fish on light lines and small lures. However, many will be under legal size. It doesn’t matter, though, as you can have a fun session catching a range of different species. Sometimes you can even catch 20 to 30 fish in an hour if the fishing is firing. We recommend using a light spin outfit with 6lb braid, 8lb leader and the smallest of blades. You can fish right up in the shallows which means you get to see a lot of the action too. The 1/8 oz TT Switchblade and 1/12 oz Ghostblade are perfect for this approach.

The “food” style means using larger lures, targeting larger fish to possibly keep for food. You often won’t get as many bites as with the fun style but the fish you do catch will often be larger. We target deeper areas such as drop-offs, steep rocky banks and usually fish nearer the bottom where bigger fish generally hang. For this style of fishing, we use a spin outfit with 20lb braid, at least 20lb leader and a small to medium sized blade. The 1/2 oz Switchblade or the 8g Stiffy Devilfish Vibe are great choices. Large estuary fish seem to prefer the comfort of deeper water, especially during the day when the water is bright. Blades, with their swift rate of descent, will get down into the deepest of spots. When fish seek the shade and security of deep water during the day, it’s generally considered to be a less active fish feeding time. Getting a lure with strong vibration down deep in their face is a way of triggering bites. And that’s what these lures do, they tend to “trigger” or stimulate deep inactive fish into approaching and striking the blade.

Unfortunately, in our experience, there doesn’t seem to be a blade on the market that works well on big saltwater barra as yet. In saying big, we mean at least 90cm in length. The large model blades that are the right size for barra tend to sink too fast. These are mainly built with pelagics and reef species in mind. A very slow sinking blade that is at least 120mm long could be dynamite on big barramundi and other large estuary targets.

How to Fish Blades
There are numerous ways of retrieving blades to get strikes. The simplest technique would have to be the two-hop pause retrieve. This seems to work on a wide range of species from bream to coral trout. You basically “hop” the rod two times, let it sink for a short period and repeat. The length of time you pause the retrieve depends on the depth. If you’re casting up against a shallow rocky edge, for example, you can work it fast to keep it off the bottom, then extend the length of pauses as you get into deeper water. A lot of the top tournament anglers in Australia use this two-hop pause retrieve as their main style. If you’re targeting fast pelagic fish, you can use a high-speed straight wind to get strikes. Let the blade sink deep and then “burn” back up. You can do this vertically, straight under your boat, or by casting out. These lures can also clean up with vertical jigging techniques. Keep a blade close to the bottom and hop it over deep fish holding structures such as wrecks, reefs or shoals.

Into the Depths
Next time you’re fishing in the tropics, send a blade down into the depths and see what you find. For more info on blades, take a look at our video at For all the latest blades, make sure you check out the blade buyer’s guide published over the next few pages.

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