Vib-E bite is in full swing in the Valley

Scores in major sports are pretty much the same, game in and game out. Basketballs that fall through hoops, footballs that are carried across goal lines and runners who touch home plates all count in the respective games’ tallies.

In fishing, however, the sensation of scoring can vary widely. We feel the gentle tap of a nibbling perch, see the splash of a bass slurping a topwater and witness the bobber plop of a hungry crappie.

That’s one reason I appreciate fishing. The scores all are different and they’re all awesome. But I like excitement, so I tingle about one of the most spectacular scores – the moment a fish wallops a heavy-metal jigging bait.

For those who share a similar enthusiasm, local Ranger and Mercury pro Sammy Cappelli has good news. He reports the Vib-E bite is in full swing throughout the Mahoning Valley this weekend, and walleye anglers are connecting with big fish.

Heavy-metal time among walleye anglers is Metallica dueling Black Sabbath. It’s Ozzie Osbourne thrashing it out with James Hetfield. Nobody loses. The crash is incredible.

One moment the angler feels the buzz of a well-tuned blade bait’s vibrations up the line through the rod and direct to the grip. The next moment, a semi on Interstate 80 has the lure’s treble hooks in its bumper.

That’s the hit a big walleye deploys on a Vib-E or Sonar or Silver Buddy dancing in its face. It’s like no other hit in freshwater fishing.

Bass anglers know the jarring strike of a lunker streaking into a speeding spinnerbait. Muskie anglers revel at the vigor of a 45-incher attacking a swimbait. Lake Erie anglers amp up every time chrome-sided steelhead trout smash their spoons and spinners.

But a 6-pound walleye chomping into a blade bait jigged vertically on a short line is an other-worldly experience.

Cappelli confirmed this week that Berlin, Milton, Mosquito and Pymatuning all are cranking up with the fall Vib-E blade bait bite.

A heavy-metal blade bait consists of a fish-shaped piece of thin-gauge steel. The body is placed in a mold where lead is poured to form a “belly.” Treble hooks are affixed at the belly and tail. The line is attached by a snap to a hole drilled in the “back” of the body.

Anglers can fish blade baits three ways: vertical jigging, cast and retrieved in a lift-drop fashion, and retrieved in a steady straight-line pull that keeps the lure in the fish zone.

Because of their heavy weight-to-size ratio, the metal baits sink quickly to the strike zones and stay there while anglers impart erratic actions that trigger kill reactions.

My first experience with blade baits was 35 years ago while ice fishing at Mosquito Creek Reservoir. There’s nothing like the slam of a walleye bite on a Sonar lure to take the chill out of a blustery day on the frozen lake.

Later, I experienced outstanding Lake Erie smallmouth fishing on Silver Buddy baits on windy days. Anyone who has hooked a 4-pound smallmouth while jigging a vibrating bait will tell you it’s like snagging a submarine.

Today, the walleye corps will be out in force, working the main lake areas at Berlin, the sand bars at Mosquito and Pymatuning, and the big flats at Milton.

Cappelli said lots of fish topping 20 inches are being caught. He’s taken numerous fish in the 26-inch class and has heard of several 27- and 28-inchers.

“It’s only going to get better in the next few weeks,” he said.

Like classic heavy metal, fishing like that never gets old.

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