By Danno Wise
It was an outstanding October day. Fellow guide Capt. Steve Ellis and I decided to head out on the shallow flats of South Texas’ Lower Laguna Madre for a little ‘fun fishing.’ Our intent was to wade for redfish. However, as the boat drifted onto the designated flat, we spotted a huge school of ‘finning’ mullet. Steve decided we should pole a little closer to the raft of baitfish before hopping overboard.
As we got within casting distance of the mullet, it was apparent they weren’t alone. Large boils and occasional surface eruption indicated big redfish were taking advantage of the slowly advancing platoon of mullet. However, after repeated casts returned empty, it seemed as if Ellis and I were going to be unable to capitalize on this nearby feeding activity.
We threw plastics. We threw spoons. We threw topwaters. Each offering gleaned the same result – it was completely ignored by the redfish which were feeding gaily on mullet scant yards off our bow.
“Wait a minute JR, I think I know the problem,” I offered between casts. “Stop casting and listen for a minute.”
Against the backdrop of the near-still October afternoon, the noise created by the finning mullet seemed deafening.
“You think we’re being seen but not heard,” queried Ellis.
Rather than reply verbally, I tossed a Silver Shore Minnow pattern Heddon Torpedo to the edge of the pod of baitfish. A few hard twitches of the rod tip caused the Torpedo to jerk forward, spraying water before being inhaled by a healthy 26-inch redfish. It was a classic example of choosing the proper tool for the job. In this instance, it was a matter of selecting a lure that could make enough noise to be noticed among the commotion-causing mullet. It was the perfect situation for a ‘bay blender.’
ANATOMY OF A BAY BLENDER
Most baits referred to as blenders are floating plugs with one or more propellers attached. But, this isn’t always the case. Some metal baits, such as spinnerbaits and weedless spoons are also fitted with props to ‘cause a stir’ as they move through the water. So, a better definition of a bay blender would probably be any bait that can be brought across the surface, churning water as it goes.
However, although they all do essentially the same thing – create commotion on the water’s surface with rotating propellers – not all bay blenders are equal in size or ‘stir.’ The number and size of propellers varies from bait to bait. Thus, the amount of commotion caused varies as well. This is an important consideration when choosing a bay blender, as not every situation calls for a pureeing of the water – at times a gentle stir is all that’s necessary.
EXAMPLES OF BAY BLENDERS
Ironically, although there are plenty of baits that fit the bay blender description, not many of these baits were designed for use in the bay at all. The vast majority of prop-fitted lures on the market today were designed with bass fishing and freshwater lakes in mind. However, virtually all of them can be easily converted for duty in the brine.
‘Buzzbait’ – Buzzbaits are simply spinnerbaits with one or more propellers instead of the traditional Colorado and/or willow leaf blades. Upon hitting the water, these lures sink, but soon ‘crawl’ to the surface once a steady retrieve is begun. Over the years, buzzbait designs have become quite elaborate, with twin props, multiple inline props, beater blades and other ‘features’ being added. However, for salt water use, the original style buzzbait – single, two blade prop – is still the most effective. Virtually all buzzbaits come fitted with a silicone skirt. They are certainly effective with the skirt, but at times it pays to replace the skirt with a small soft-plastic, such as a DOA CAL Series paddletail grub.
As the name implies, buzzbaits are quite loud and should be used when fish aren’t likely to be spooked by constant commotion. They are also a good choice for covering vast amounts of water when fish are aggressive.
Heddon Torpedo – One of the original prop-fitted plugs, the Heddon Torpedo has long been a favorite among bass fishermen. However, it is equally effective in salt water.
Torpedoes are fitted with a single propeller in front of the rear hook. This single, small propeller makes them among the quieter bay blenders, making them an ideal choice when you just need to make enough noise to get noticed.
In addition to being offered in a wide of colors, Torpedoes also come in 4 sizes, which helps anglers further refine how disruptive they want their retrieve to be.
Smithwick Devil’s Horse – Crafted from wood – which helps it land softly and float nice and high – the Smithwick Devil’s Horse is an elongated, double prop plug that’s fairly versatile. It can be retrieved slowly, barely disturbing the water’s surface or it can be brought back to the boat in a rougher manner, thoroughly churning the water in its path.
Because it floats so high in the water, the blades on a Devil’s Horse begin to spin the moment a retrieve is initiated. This makes it an ideal candidate for working ‘tight spots’ where it is necessary to be able to get the props churning with a minimal amount of horizontal movement.
MirroLure 5M – Like the Devil’s Horse, the MirroLure 5M is a dual prop bait. Unlike the Devil’s Horse, the 5M was designed specifically for salt water use. The counter-rotating props of the 5M cause quite a commotion, making it best suited for low light or rough water duty. However, the familiar shape and color of the MirroLure family can add a bit of confidence to salt water pluggers trying a bay blender for the first time.
Artificial frogs – Of course, frogs are not naturally found in saltwater bays. However, the soft-plastic frog imitations favored by bass fishermen for working around hydrilla beds are also excellent choices when prospecting for redfish over vast grass flats. When rigged weedless, anglers can cast and retrieve these baits without fear of fouling, even if the floating grass on the bay surface is thick. Although in the saltwater environment predator fish most likely mistake this lure for a struggling baitfish, frog imitations are highly effective in salt as well as fresh water.
SITUATIONS THAT CALL FOR BAY BLENDERS
Bay blenders can be used in a variety of situations. And, they are perhaps the most ‘user-friendly’ topwater baits around, making them an ideal selection for those new to surface lures. Here are a few specific instances that bay blenders are ideally suited for:
Cold & calm – When the water temperature is cool enough to cause shallow water fish to be sluggish – and the surface is too calm for an exceptionally noisy retrieve – anglers can often reap rewards by slowly crawling a bay blender across the surface. If a slow, steady retrieve doesn’t produce a strike, try giving the reel a few cranks, then pausing before continuing with the retrieve. By using the reel and not the rod, anglers can achieve a stop-and-go retrieve without causing too much commotion.
Windy & rough – When the wind kicks up and gets the bay surface roiled, anglers must make even more noise than the water itself if they hope to get the attention of any nearby fish. This is an ideal time for a double-prop bay blender ripped aggressively across the surface. Jerk the rod tip to cause a sudden, violent charge by the bait. In this instance, it is almost impossible to cause to much noise, but be sure to pause the lure long enough to allow fish to find it.
Dirty or dark – When the water’s dirty or the sky is dark, noise is imperative to attracting fish. If the surface is relatively calm, the steady churning of a buzzbait will likely get plenty of attention. If the water’s a bit more turbid, a hard-bodied prop bait ripped across the water is a better bet.
Amid active schools – As was the case in the scenario I described above, at times schools of baitfish can make so much noise as to render silent lures ineffective. Therefore, it is necessary to make more noise than the school in order to get fish to notice your lure. However, it is important not to overdo it. In this instance, you want to make just enough noise to be heard above the din of the nearby baitfish. Too much noise will likely alert feeding predator fish that something is amiss. So, to be on the safe side, begin with a conservative retrieve and make subsequent retrieves marginally more aggressive a strike is drawn.
Although bay blenders aren’t suited for every situation, they are exciting and productive lures to fish under the right conditions. If you feel your heart can handle some incredibly explosive topwater strikes, toss a few bay blenders in your box. You never know when you may have to stir things up.
Contact Capt. Danno WIse at any of the following:
Instagram: @dannowise @lonestarsalt