Chatterbaits, Rolling Runners, Pure Poisons or whatever you call them — they need to be in your tackle bag! Bladed jig experts Randy Howell and Mark Menendez weigh in on why these unique baits still deserve a spot in you starting lineup.
It's a jig! It's a crankbait! It's a dessert topping!
Bladed jigs have been around for nearly five years and were rightfully welcomed with much fanfare. They were arguably the most innovative lures in a long time when they were introduced, and they borrowed some of the best qualities of several well established lures. They have the profile of a jig when skirted, the flash of a spinnerbait with more vibration thanks to a blade, and can be worked in a variety of ways from jigging to cranking. The fusion of these qualities resulted in a very versatile lure that easily won over fishermen of every level.
A Howell-ing success
Elite Series pro Randy Howell has been a fan since bladed jigs first appeared.
"They were all over the place for a while because they brought a new element to the scene, then the hype kind of died down, but that doesn't mean people don't use them anymore," he says. "They've become a staple now, usually in people's 'emergency' or 'I need a keeper now' box."
Howell has made a place for TTI Blakemore's Rolling Runner bladed jig in his rotation of baits, and used it extensively during the 2008 Elite Series season, which was his best to date. He cites the Rolling Runner's "horsey head" design in combination with a small willow blade as the Runner's strong points.
"Overall, it's a smaller bait than most bladed jigs, and its differences are what make it so versatile. The horsey head allows you to cast it a mile and track true during fast retrieves, the willow blade gives it a ton of flash, and the blade gives it that vibration a wounded baitfish emits."
All along the water column
Because of the versatile nature of the Rolling Runner, Howell will use it under a variety of conditions, but mentions two where bladed jigs are a must: in open water on schooling fish and on suspended fish. He prefers water that is in the 70 to 90 degree range, but admits that bladed jigs will work almost anywhere, anytime when the fishing is tough.
"When you put a Fluke trailer on that horsey head, it looks just like a shad when the willow blade gets going. You can pull it through schooled up fish chasing bait and get bites when nothing else will. The horsey head will keel the bait so it doesn't roll like other baits will.
"When they're suspended, find them on your sonar, let it fall to the bottom underneath the fish, then rip it up 4 or 5 feet. The strike will come on the fall. This is a very good summer pattern."
Howell will work the Rolling Runner along ledges, points, humps and other underwater structure in the same way he does for suspended fish. He will also work it along edges of vegetation and alongside stumps, laydowns and other obvious cover using a fast, steady retrieve to entice a reaction strike.
No antidote needed
Menendez prefers Strike King's Pure Poison for the reaction strikes it produces, which are second to none.
"They're great when the fish won't address a spinnerbait, and you need something with more flash and vibration. It's not a hunger bite, but a mad bite," he says. "They're so radically different than anything else that they always get attention."
Menendez fishes an all-white Pure Poison around isolated cover like stumps, laydowns, docks, and grass edges in the post spawn, when the fish may not be actively feeding much. He tosses it past the target and steadily retrieves the bait close to the cover.
Howell uses Rolling Runners in either 3/8 or 1/4 ounce, depending on current strength and the depth he is targeting. He will trail the Runner with one of two baits: a 4-inch Yamamoto single tail grub in pearl white (when he is fishing for suspended fish and needs a slower fall rate) or a Zoom Super Fluke or Super Fluke Jr. when targeting schooling fish. He also says that a trailer hook is not needed on a Rolling Runner because it has a smaller profile and a red long shank Daiichi Bleeding Bait hook.
The Alabama pro uses a 7-foot Quantum PT Tour Edition medium-action rod with 8-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon on a Quantum PTi Tour Edition spinning reel when fishing deep, and a 7-foot Quantum Randy Howell Signature Series PT medium-light action rod with a 6.2:1 Quantum 1160 PT baitcaster spooled with 10- or 12-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon for his shallow work. He says that the fast tip and soft action keep the angler from over pressuring the fish and give the fish more time to eat the hook in case of a premature hook set.
Menendez carries a box of Pure Poisons in 3/16 to 1/2 ounce to cover any situation he may encounter. He says the skirt design of the Pure Poison negates the need for a trailer, but he recommends a trailer hook for the all-too-common short strike. His casting outfit is similar to Howell's — a 7-foot medium action All Star rod with a Pflueger Trion casting reel spooled with Berkley Big Game 14- to 20-pound-test monofilament. He prefers monofilament because of the stretch and buoyancy it offers.
Randy Howell and Mark Menendez have enjoyed success with bladed jigs in nearly every condition tournament anglers can expect to see, proving their effectiveness at the highest level of fishing. If you're desperate for a fish, rather than tying on a jig, spinnerbait and crankbait at the same time, try a bladed jig instead.