Try cranks that run a little deeper than the floor depth you are fishing and try to bump and drag them when you can...Slow dragged plastics and C-rigs/split shot rigs/mojo rigs will do it for me...Tubes and lizards are probably my favorite plastic for deep water...
Suspended fish, try varieties of cranks, blade baits and bigger SBs...
I rediscovered the blade bait this year...I used to use them when I was a kid, but had not tried them in years.
I was on Swinging Bridge this year, I had a few fish in the live-well, but the fishing was spotty.
I pulled into a cove, there was a long sandy point that ended up in 20+ feet of water. I tied on a Cicaida and tossed it across the point....I had 6 fish on my first 7 casts...the problem I had was landing them. 4 of the 6 fish tossed the lure before I could get them to the boat. I also learned after breaking off at least 3 fish that day that Fireline tied directly to the blade baits doesn't work, you have to add an O-ring or clip of some kind...the thin metal cuts right through the fireline on the hook-set.
I am convinced though...blade baits can be very effective, and I will have a lot more of them in my tackle box this year.
The hooks were OK, I always give the hooks the "nail test".... the problem with the blade bait, like a lipless crankbait, the weight of the lure opens the hole the hook has made when the fish shakes it's head. The 2 fish that I landed had the hooks embedded in the lip rather than around them where the membrane can rip.
No doubt leverage is to blame with these baits. Curious, were you fishing them deeper than 20ft. What type of line. Would you consider using a line with less strech....I guess Fireline is pretty much a low stretch line though.
I wish that we had winter-suspending fish in the large, natural lakes here in WNY, but we really don't. Our Smallies tend to hug the bottom, where dragging tube jigs produces them even with water temperatures down in to the 30s.
But, for you reservoir fellas, suspending bass are a textbook thing in cold water. Have you considered trying the "Float-n-Fly?"
Check out this Outdoor Life article on it, and you will get the basics. It's deadly on suspended, coldwater Smallmouth.
I try to improve my odds of keeping a blade bait fish on by fishing them on a 7'M rod with 15-17# test P-Line (low stretch like Craig mentioned), I remove the factory hooks and replace them with Mustad Ultra-Point Triple Grips while adding a split ring to the front hook and last but not least I replace the snap on the eye with a splitring (I have more faith in the ring). If the structure I am fishing is too darn snaggy, as a last resort, I will trim off the leading hook point on the front treble. I think that the Triple Grips help "lock in the hook" in a circle hook fashion in the event that the hook hole does get enlarged. All you can really do is try to maintain constant pressure in the fish.
I have some friends who SWEAR by blade baits for early season smallie action on Winny in NH and Cobbossee in Maine. I have enjoyed quite a bit of success myself with these often under-utilized baits.
Too stiff a rod, and drag not coordinated with the line type and rod's action. When the fish pulls one or more things may happen: the line stretches, the rod bends, the drag slips or you are wearing a hole. 3 of those things are ok-one is not.
Thanks, I did a search, and will do some reading later.
I don't blame your friends one bit. There is no question the blade bait will ellicit strikes on days when other baits just won't work.
I had been using the blade baits on 6'6" M/L Graphite spinning outfit, Stradic reel with 10lb Fireline...the rod is pretty flexible, the line has no stretch. That day I had lost a couple of fish on the rocks in deep water, so I was fishing with a tight drag in an effort to turn the fish quickly.
Fishing with a deepwater master like Pat X makes you a better angler, thats for sure...
I learned how to drop shot this year and was rewarded by a couple of 4 lb smallies in Mahopac from 25 ft.
My partner and I caught a 18 lb bag of smallies practicing for a club tournament at the Thousand Islands last summer. The fish were hanging in the 30-35-ft range and the dropshot ( 4 inch Zoom finesse worm) accounted for most of the fish....
I cant wait to use this technique for staging fish this year....
You know what, Jack? That's an excellent question. Ive never lost a fish on the drop shot and those 3-4 lb smallies tested my rig good. Im still wating for a 5lber to reaaaaaly test it...LOL
I normally dont use the drag on my reels, but using light line ( 6-8 lb) and fighting a smallie , I realized that I had to. I also use rods that are forgiving and gives the fish some play when they start to fight.
The hooks Ive been using are by Gamakatsu and their split/dropshot hook, I think # 1 size.
All of my fish were hooked on the roofs of their mouths, textbook in my opinion. Setting the hook is crucial too. It took me some time to get used to the bite ( just weight) and telling myself over and over again to reel set, not cross their eyes. Basically a lifting motion and continous reeling, making sure the rod tip is bent always.
I agree with Joe that you need to utilize your drag effectively using this light-line technique. I was losing quite a few fish for a while using #4 GYCB splitshot hooks, but did better with a #1 Owner Mosquito hook. I also use a 6'6" Lamiglass Competitor series rod due to the fact that even though it has a medium strength backbone, it has a softer almost moderate action with a geat parabolic bend. This will really help to keep from tearing out the smaller hooks usually associated with this technique. The pressure hookset can be difficult to get used to too, especially for power fisherman like Joe!!
One problem that I never did resolve was LINE TWIST like crazy. I tried a small swivel up a ways and that helped a little bit. I read somewhere that if you can force yourself to slow down a bit during the reelback, the bait will not spin and twist it up as bad. I have not had a chance to test this theory out yet, but it kinda makes sense 'cause those reapers do spin like mad when reeled back up.
Cityboy, sorry I didn't respond more promptly. I have two ideas for you that I use on a consistent basis in what I consider deeper water. These methods are excellent up to 20 ft for me. The first is the Drop Shot. No doubt everyone already knows about it. The next method is a modified Splitshot rig. Now, the split shot rig is a finesse tactic but if you use you head, you can literally seine the water and really cover an area throughtlu with the presentation, perhaps more efficiently than many other methods. I will follow this up with a long winded post describing what I mean in the near future. So stay tuned. This is something I normally don't talk about let alone describe, just give me a little while to dig it up. You might be amazed at the volume of stuff I wrote.