Blades are either hammered (stamped or dimpled) or smooth. “As a rule, smooth blades are the best choice for deep-water applications because they have less resistance,” Bolton says. “Less resistance makes it easier to fish the bait deeper and keep it there.”
Bolton likes hammered blades for shallow applications, particularly when the water is dirty or stained. The hammered texture produces extra flash, and the added resistance makes it easier to fish the bait shallow at slower speeds.
Willow leaf: The willow-leaf blade doesn’t produce as much vibration as other blade styles, but produces a tremendous amount of flash and comes through brush and aquatic vegetation with ease. Bolton says willow-leaf blades are well-suited for a number of different situations in shallow water or deep. He likes them mostly in clear or slightly stained water that is relatively warm – 55 degrees and up. The willow leaf is his bread-and-butter blade when fishing deep ledges or grass beyond 10 feet deep.
Colorado: The round Colorado blade produces a significant amount of vibration or “thump,” which allows an angler to retrieve the bait at a relatively slow pace and keep it in the strike zone. The extra vibration can be a big plus when dingy water hampers a bass’ ability to see, but Bolton also likes it in cold water. The Colorado is the traditional choice for nightfishing and is Bolton’s choice for slowrolling mid-range depths around riprap, rock points or bluffs.
Indiana: The teardrop-shaped Indiana doesn’t displace quite as much vibration as the Colorado and produces a little less flash than a willow leaf. This is Bolton’s favorite blade for stained and off-color shallow water. “It gives you the best of both worlds, plus you can fish it a little deeper, say 10 feet, at faster speeds with a larger head size if you need to,” he says.
While there are bass spinnerbaits available with as many as four blades, single and double models are the most popular. Bolton throws a lot of tandem setups and says that altering blade style and size is a good way to custom-tailor a bait to the conditions.
“The thing you always need to remember with any blade combination is that the bigger the blade you put in front, closest to the head, the more vibration you will take away from the blade on the swivel,” he says. “However, what you give up in vibration you will gain in flash and lift.”
For example, Bolton says he can essentially throw a bulky 1-ounce spinnerbait where he’d normally use a 1/2-ouncer by placing a big No. 7 Colorado blade on the swivel and a No. 4 or No. 5 Colorado in front.
“You’ll give up some vibration doing that, but you’ll gain a tremendous amount of flash and lift that will enable you to fish it effectively in shallow water that’s off-color or cold while producing a really big target at the same time.” Just the opposite can be accomplished by going with a small-blade combination. “If I’m fishing in clear water and I want to fish a spinnerbait faster and deeper, I may downsize my blades to something like a No. 2 willow in front of a No. 4 1/2 willow,” he adds. “That will take away some of the lift and allow me to fish the bait faster.”
Nickel and copper blades rule, but Bolton says colored blades have a place. Chartreuse is popular on northern smallmouth fisheries, while red can be effective in extremely dirty water.
“Another situation where I’ve had good success with colored blades is on cloudy, rainy days when fishing around grass,” Bolton says. “White willow-leaf blades can be a killer in that situation, especially during the fall.”