Sonar, Shock And Awe

By Ted Peck - December 1, 2010
Those of us who have been around awhile remember where they were when JFK was assassinated. I heard the news over a loudspeaker in sixth grade music class. This tragedy changed the lives of all Americans.

School was dismissed and I arrived home to find Dad hooking up his old green flatbottom boat to the back of our '63 Chevy BelAir. He was headed to The River in pursuit of walleyes and growled an invitation to join him if my butt was on the Chevy's bench seat in 10 minutes.

We hadn't been fishing the tailwaters of the Mississippi River dam at Bellevue for more than 20 minutes before it was clear inadequate outerwear would be an issue. Odds for actually catching fish appeared pretty long as well.

A steel baitcast rod, Pflueger Supreme reel spooled with black Dacron line and a half ounce chunk of metal called a Heddon Sonar couldn't possibly hold a candle to a cane pole with a gob of worms when it came to putting fish in the boat.

Enthusiasm picked up when Dad called for the net a second time using the same kind of rig. He caught all the fish that day. But learning how to work this blade bait became a priority. Forty-seven years later blading is my favorite way to whack November 'eyes, with new technology making this old bait a truly deadly weapon.

That old black Dacron line was actually ahead of its time, with much less stretch than a brand new concept called monofilament. The folks at Berkley came out with incredibly strong, small diameter FireLine in 1996, essentially Dacron on steroids. Low visibility FireLine Crystal came on the market ten years later, providing the perfect conduit to transmit the Sonar's intense vibration to an angler's hand.

Sensitive graphite rods came on the market back in the early 1980's, with Berkley's legendary Lightning Rod all the rage back in 1984. Serious anglers had Eagle Claw gold or Fenwick Lunkerstik rods for bass, and Lightning Rods for wily walleyes.

We also tried-and rejected-other innovations like boron rods and the Color-C-Lector.

Graphite rod technology has seen quantum improvements over the past 25 years, with commensurate increase in rod prices. Several GLoomis GLX rods are in my rod box at about $300 a copy.

My biggest fear is that when I die my wife will sell these rods for what I told her I paid for them.

Meanwhile, Berkley has struck again introducing a new variation of the Lightning Rod dubbed the "Shock". It is specifically designed to fish the no-stretch superlines. They couldn't have picked a better name. When coupled with FireLine and that circa 1958 Heddon Sonar the sensation is like sticking a fork in a wall outlet.

There is no doubt when a walleye decides to slide in and stop the music. When it comes to blading the new Lightning Rod Shock performs as well as rods costing four or five times as much.

Time and place are two keys to success when it comes to blade baiting for walleyes. From now until rivers freeze is the time. For some reason blading isn't as effective as vertical jigging with a hair jig in the spring.

The right place is winter haunts, essentially anywhere you find water over 10 feet deep where slack water meets some degree of current.

Fishing the blade is a little tougher concept to get your head around. Essentially you work this lure by touching bottom then giving the rod tip a quick rip to move the blade 12-18 inches.

About 90 percent of strikes come when the blade is fluttering back down. Herein lays the toughest part of the technique to master. The lure needs to free fall with just a little slack line-sort of a banana shaped bend in the line rather than perfectly vertical. When the blade stops vibrating for any reason, set the hook.

There are several spots on Rock River where blading will outfish all other walleye presentations between now and arrival of serious winter. The most productive is the deep hole directly below the Beloit dam.

A chartreuse or shad pattern blade is deadly in deep holes on both the east and west sides of the river below the Indianford dam. Another spot worth probing is the half-mile long run of 10-foot-deep water downstream from the Jefferson dam.

Many anglers prefer the Zip lure over the Heddon Sonar in a blade bait presentation. Both baits will catch fish. But you don't want to bet against a lure that's been around since 1958 in the hands of somebody who is just a little older.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.