This time of year in any lake containing shad, you've got to be ready for a shad spawn pattern to develop in early morning low-light conditions. Usually a pattern that targets post-spawn bass, it can be a feast or famine frenzy to start out a tournament day. Below are some of my favorite tactics to catch these fish.
Of course, the first step in fishing the shad spawn is finding the shad spawn. Getting to the lake early before sun-up is a must. Put your boat in the water and cruise around (safely) so that you can monitor surface activity in likely areas. It can happen anywhere, but usually there will be some sort of cover, wether it be lily pads, chunk rock, or wood. You will typically see shad writhing like mad all along the shoreline and cover as they try to spawn. All of that activity makes them a pretty easy target for a hungry bass, which in turn makes that bass an easier than normal target for you, the fisherman.
I tend to keep several rods rigged up and ready to go when I have located a shad spawn. Sometimes the fish seem to prefer one bait or another, and that bait can change by the minute in this fast-action pattern. Those rods usually have some combination of the following:
1) A Nichols Lures Metal Flake Pulsator, usually in 3/8oz double willow combination. Any white color will do, but my favorites are a #47 Blue Shad, a #53 Clent's Shad Spawn, and a #64 White and Chartreuse Nik/Gld.
2) A Nichols Lures Saber Swim Jig, again in 3/8oz, and again in any white color way. My favorite is JT's Chartreuse Shad.
3) Squarebill Crankbait, in your favorite brand and shad pattern. Great for fish around rock or wood. I like to change the trebles out to either Mustad Short Shank EWGs or Gamakatsu Triple Grips, usually in a #2.
4) Topwater Popper, any brand and any shad pattern will do.
5) Soft Plastic Toad, in white. I rig these with an Owner twist lock hook. When shad are spawning in pads or other dense vegetation, it can be killer!
6) A small Keitech or similar swimsuit, rigged on a Nichols Lures Toothpick Touthead jighead.
If you are around spawning shad and you aren't getting bit, keep mixing things up until you find the magic for that particular minute! It can be very frustrating at times, but hopefully these tips will help you cash in!
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