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GOOD VIBRATIONS - SALTWATER

Owen McPaul

Sharp, vigorous vibrations of a fleeing or injured baitfish, frantically pulsating and flashing its flanks, trying to make its profile appear larger as it attempts to avoid being devoured by a hungry, feeding predator. Hopping and diving in all attempts to avoid the inevitable. This is probably my best explanation of what I see in the action of a correctly working blade lure. There's probably no other hard bodied, bait imitation lure on the market that gives out as much water displacement for its size, while at the same time creating plenty of flash and vibration. Blades really give a feeding fish every chance of noticing its action and give this predator something to focus and hone in on. It's these characteristics of the blade that I believe can trigger a non-feeding fish into making an inquiry.

The fact that blades can be fished in a wide variety of locations, from freshwater shallow streams, beaches and rock walls to the deep blue, all the while covering all depths of a water column, probably make the blade lure one of the best bang for buck lures out there. Its limitations are endless and with a little imagination and the patience to learn through trial and error, the rewards can be more than spectacular! However, to be perfectly honest I don't think there is a right or wrong way to swim a blade and if you can feel the action through your rod, it's working. Like anything in fishing, we all find our preferred tricks and retrieves that have the best results and we tend to continue using them.

I live on the mid north coast of NSW and spend the majority of my time in the estuarine systems of the surrounding areas, mainly fishing for the Australian wild river bass and your typical bread and butter species like bream and flathead. Whenever the tide and moon are right or a good flush of fresh hits the river I also jump at the chance of targeting the ghost of the river systems, the illusive jewfish, aka mulloway. With so many great locations at my fingertips, I'm pretty blessed with being able to swim blades in a variety of different scenarios, not to mention some of the unique places I have found myself up and down the coast and even interstate when taking time to travel and test my luck on those fish that we all like to try and knock off the bucket list.

I don't think there's many trips where I find myself without a couple of rods with blades rigged up at the ready and they are always my go to lure when testing a deep bank for the first time. I have also always looked at blades as being the perfect lure to use when the water is moving too fast to keep a plastic or other imitation in the zone, as well as when I'm trying to cover as much ground as possible in a small amount of time between tide changes. I find that when the water is moving at its minimum, fish tend to go deeper as the water clears. Here they feel safe and tend to keep down and tight to structure until a faster flow of water comes and they again feel more secure to come back out and move around to feed freely. During this period I generally go to blades to try trigger a reaction bite.

In this piece I hope to explain a few of my favorite retrieves when using the TT Lures Switchblade and Ghostblade, along with the structure I favour targeting. When it comes to fishing blades I have one rule and although it is not desirable - 'don't be scared about losing the odd one, if you're not snagging up occasionally or collecting the odd bit of weed, you're probably not in the right place to begin with'. I find that if I do end up attached to the bottom, maneuvering the boat in front of the lure and in the opposite direct line of where I fouled up the blade will usually get it back out and if it doesn't with a few firm strikes on the butt of the rod the blade will de-snag nine times out of ten.

Targeting Deep Water

When targeting deeper water in the estuary I'm generally trying to work a couple of main areas; secondary drop offs out past the weed line or deep solid structure, like rock bars and reef. Usually in this scenario I'm targeting bream and jewfish. I find the best trick for targeting deeper structure is to put in big long casts and try to land a fair way past the intended target area. That way I can cover the area leading into the desired structure, before getting to the area where I'm hoping a fish will be sitting. I generally use the one retrieve as it has always been effective and the key is really to slow everything down. I try to do two small, sharp hops and the tip of my rod probably does not move any more than 10cm, then I let the blade rest for a few moments, maybe 3 to 5 seconds on the bottom, before repeating.

It is pretty amazing the amount of time the blade is actually taken off the bottom when motionless. It is also common that the second you go to lift your rod tip again, after the pause, you feel a solid clunk from a fish. I think they must follow it down and just eye it off, waiting for it to move again so they can have a go at it. Targeting deep water definitely comes with added bonuses because, while the intention is targeting one particular species, you often get a good mixed bag. It's often been fishing deeper structure that I have landed some unexpected fish of a lifetime.

Targeting the Shallows

When it comes to targeting the shallows, whether it be a sand flat, weed beds or shallow reef and rock bars, there's a stack of retrieves that can be used. My favourites are the simplest, including a fast burn where the lure is all but out of the water, creating a large amount of displacement on the surface of the water. I mainly try this retrieve in times of lower light or overcast conditions and like anything surface related, we are trying to resemble a fleeing baitfish or prawn.

Another retrieve I like to use is the slow roll. This retrieve stirs up the sand on the bottom as the lure is slowly retrieved back to your feet. The slow roll is also effective when used with the blade just bumping through the top of the weed. You can also mix up the slow retrieve, with a few lifts, twitches or pauses and when targeting these areas I'm always chasing bream, flathead and whiting, but other species are a welcome by-catch as they go hand in hand with bream in these areas. Don't be surprised if you occasionally have a solid luderick strip line away after belting your blade as it lunges out of the weed or shallow reef. I have managed a stack of them and although a supposed vegetarian, luderick love blades and are always a stack of fun on the finesse gear.

Targeting Around Oyster Leases

Targeting fish around oyster leases on blades is a tonne of fun. Nothing beats a locked up drag, stretched arms and white knuckle action, as you do everything in your capabilities to avoid letting a fish get you back into the super-sharp structure. These fish love claiming your lure to wear as a trophy piece, while you're back to retying leaders and checking knots, hoping you can prevent the same happening on your next hook up.

When targeting fish around the leases, the first thing I look for is the flow of the water around them. I like to try and use the current to my advantage, to try and hold the blade over as close to the leases as possible. Secondly I look for is the shaded side of the leases and the third key component, the deeper holes along oyster leases.

With all of this in mind, you definitely have a better chance of making contact with a fish. In most cases this will be a bream but occasionally you get the odd surprise, such as a soapy jewfish or large flathead that is using the structure and shade to its own advantage, as it's a great place for baitfish to try and hide.

When chucking blades around the racks I try to get my cast to land within centimetres of the lease and slow wind it up alongside them, maneuvering my rod if I have to in an attempt to keep my lure as close as I can throughout the entire retrieve. I wind at a pace that allows the blade to sit almost directly halfway between the surface of the water and the bottom.

The other retrieve, that I have also found effective, is best presented with a lighter TT Ghostblade and I target the pylons used to keep the oyster leases up. I am trying to target the fish holding close to these pylons and tight to the bottom, so I try to cast just past the pylons, while attempting to keep the lure as tight as I can to the structure and do tight little continual hops past the pylons. You don't need to use a heap of rod action, just sharp little continual lifts of the rod tip as you slowly retrieve your line, keeping tension on the blade at all times.

Targeting Structure

I think structure, like lay down timber, tree roots and mangrove lined banks in the estuary systems is by far one of the most common areas that most anglers like to target. These are great places for fish to hide, ready to ambush and a great place for them to feel secure in the shade during times of high light. It is also a favourite hiding location for bait. I have personally had a lot of luck on blades in these areas and lay down timber has always been a favorite for me. This is where I cut my teeth when first learning the art of lure fishing and you know you're always in the right area when timber is around. Targeting timber can often be pretty visual, depending on water clarity and seeing a fish chase down your lure is a hoot in itself!

When targeting lay down timber with blades I try not to get too excited because as tempting as it is to rip a cast straight in, I like to first take a good look at the tree before making the cast. I try to inspect the snag and identify the safest paths out to minimize the chance of fouling up on twigs and branches. I also try to identify as many casting paths as possible so that I can work the tree pretty thoroughly.

My first couple of casts are pretty much testing the water and I like to cast as hard and tight to the structure as possible and at the same time as close to the bank as possible. The second the blade lands I'm straight into a medium paced retrieve, with the odd rip of the rod tip to make the  lure  look a little more frantic. Once I've cast once or twice at the same spot and feel a little more confident, I then target the same spot with a deeper approach. Cast to the same location as the previous couple of casts and let the blade fall to the bottom. I then like to do tiny fast lifts of the rod, two to three hops at a time, before letting the lure re-settle on the bottom. Then simply repeat this back to the boat. It's a pretty straight forward approach, but one I have found to be very productive.

Like most things lure fishing related, there's always room for improvement and I'm still learning new things every day. I think it's a huge part of my love for fishing. So if you have any handy tricks when using these lures I would love to hear from you and if you see me out on the water come and say g'day. Thanks for taking the time to read this article, I hope there is a couple of things that might help you out next time you're on the water with a TT blade attached. Unil next time, tight lines.

Owen McPaul

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017