May 24, 2021
Nature runs on self-sustaining cycles, one of which is the shad spawn. At first blush, the logic may seem glaringly obvious—proliferation of this popular baitfish species; but there’s more to it.
Fact is, the shad spawn typically occurs right after the bass spawn. That means this bustling buffet of baitfish presents a convenient forage for recuperating bass looking to regain their full figure.
The sight is unmistakable—thousands of silver shards swirling and flipping at the surface. It’s tough to predict exactly when and where a shad spawn will occur, but once you locate the action, it’s usually consistent for a few days.
Just don’t miss the boat on this deal; shad spawns start in the overnight-predawn hours, so those morning flurries that often kick start your days are actually the tail end of a previous soiree. That’s why an early arrival or takeoff order matters so greatly to tournament types eager to get on their shad-spawn spots asap.
A lot of this shad spawn stuff comes down to observation and adjustment, but a handful of Dos and Don’ts will help dial in your game.
Find the Honeymoon Suite: Spawning shad typically congregate around some type of solid structure, so docks, seawalls, marina piers and bluff walls can host the party. Grass is another common shad-spawn habitat, but this can limit your presentations. If the shad are flipping amid the grass, you’ll need a weedless bait, while the perimeter zone is usually amenable to open hook baits.
Lacking prominent structure or vegetation, shad will often spawn on clay points. We saw this during the recent Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Fort, as Brandon Card and others leveraged heavy morning feeds over points where the dark bottom held heat and offered shad cozy overnight digs.
Look For Nature’s Cues: Running into every pocket on the lake and snooping around every piece of cover is time-consuming, so pay attention to the signs. Egrets and herons standing on the shoreline, perched atop docks or tiptoeing across emergent grass usually indicates a bunch of shad.
Sea gulls and terns flying low and circling an area also points to baitfish below. And, of course, spotting the white-water fury of schooling bass and aggressive blow ups indicates highly likely locations worth some added attention.
Match the Hatch:It doesn’t matter how much you paid for that flipping jig or deep-diving crankbait; this is nearly a 100-percent topside party, so fish high in the water column with moving baits that mimic the shad profile, or create the illusion of spawning flurries.
Productive options include spinnerbaits, bladed jigs, swim jigs, frogs, wakebaits, squarebills and small swimbaits. For the latter, a light ballhead jig or a weighted wide gap hook does the trick.
Whatever your preference, be sure to vary your presentations, as the bass get wise to the same look after too many casts. Also, mixing up your depths from the surface to a foot or two below ensures you’re influencing the aggressive ones and those that are less inclined to feed up.
,b>Be Single-Minded: Threadfin shad get most of the press, but when jumbo gizzard shad garter for reproductive activity, you can expect some of serious string-stretchers. It’s hard to confuse an 8- to 10-inch gizzard for the smaller—usually 3- to 4-inch—threadfins, so once you’ve identified the supersized meals, the only adjustment is bait size.
Louisiana pro Quentin Cappo took third place in a recent Elite Series bout by focusing on areas where big bass were targeting big gizzards. Appropriately, he went bold with his bait choices and threw a hefty Strike King Sexy Dog topwater and a Strike King 4.0 squarebill. Those big forms resembled the whopper baitfish those giant Florida-strain largemouths were chasing; and while Cappo’s bites were few and far between, when his rod bowed up, it was usually a good one.
Don’t Overlook the Offshore Bite: While shoreline structure/cover attracts most of the fishing attention during shad spawns, there’s often a sneaky little deal deserving attention offshore. Find a hump or ridge with a grass top and you’ll often find a group of relatively unmolested fish that are more receptive than the ones on heavily pressured shorelines.
Here again, birds and surface feeding will tip you off. Same baits work offshore, but you might score big by running something a little deeper for a hesitant big fish lazing below the fracas.
Assume an Early Conclusion: Notwithstanding the earlier mention on morning conclusions, spawning shad are not clock watchers—they just don’t care for bright sunlight. Increasing heat plus the vulnerability of visibility is what typically ends the fun. However, overcast mornings may extend the shad spawn bite another hour or more.