During the shad spawn, millions of shad will move into the shallows, drawing game fish up shallow as well. Although fish are very active and feeding both day and night, your lure has to compete with all the easy meals swimming about. Here are some of the top offerings you should use during this event:
#1. Live Bait – although there is a rush of fish to the shallows during this time, the problem is the shear availability of shad for gamefish. Most fish caught during this time look like footballs, and regurgitate numerous half-digested shad when caught. It is good that fish are up shallow and actively feeding, but it is bad that your lure has to compete with the millions of shad dancing around the gamefish.
Your best bet overall is to net some bait (which is easy, because, well, they’re everywhere) and downline some bait to them. Position the boat
anywhere from 30feet to the shore off long main lake points and humps. The presence of chunk-rock is highly beneficial.
#2. Soft Plastic Shad Imitations – Let’s say you’re a tournament guy or gal, and live bait isn’t an option. Your next best bet is to match-the-hatch. Bottom-dwelling jigs and dropshot will get a few, but your odds will be better if you create an offering that looks like what the fish want at that time: shad!
If you’re a fish at this time, you literally have millions of these things swimming well within striking range in the shallows, where they can be pinned down for an easy meal. Most fish are fat, not really hungry, but still taking advantage while the “get-n’s good”.
There are two theories to lure selection at this time:
A. Make an offering that looks like a dying shad, which is an easier meal than running down a lively one. This approach can be tricky, as your counting on a hungry fish in a swarm of very well-fed fish. A good lure choice is a weightless or weighted fluke or similar soft-plastic. Fishing this approach is slow and methodical, and best served for concentrated areas where you know fish are stacked up very thick.
B. Make an offering that looks like a fish out of place. Shad will stick together, and when you have one rogue shad out by himself (i.e., your lure) he is likely to get bullied by the gamefish. Fishing this way is faster and covers more water. You’re making long casts and exposing your offering to as many fish as possible. Bites will often be not out of hunger, but out of bullying an “out of place” shad. You’ll get bumped a lot, with few hookups, because they don’t intend to eat it, they just want to bully it---sometimes you’ll get the hook in. Good lures for this approach are weighted flukes and swimbaits. Make long casts, let the lure sink to the bottom, and retrieve the lure just above the bottom, occasionally bumping bottom to maintain contact.
#3. Crank Baits – Once the sun gets up and shad pull out of the shallows, continue with 2B above, but also try a large deep-diving crank bait. Cast it out, crank it until you bump bottom, then crank-pause-crank-pause until you get bit. Fish will usually hit VERY hard with this type of retrieve.