If you’re looking for a versatile fishing lure, one of the best artificials you can turn to is a soft-plastic shad lure rigged on a jig head. You could probably catch just about any fish that swims with this simple, inexpensive lure.
A Lure with Broad-based Effectiveness
This set-up will land crappies, pike, bluegills, muskies, pickerel, walleyes, smallmouths, largemouths, trout, catfish, steelhead, salmon, white perch, yellow perch, white bass, and catfish on them. They’ve also fooled a wide variety of saltwater gamefish.
|Swim Shads are one of the most versatile soft plastic fishing lures available.|
Why fish like them: These lures look like a real shad and the realism doesn't stop there. The attraction also applies to their action when moving through the water. The quivering, undulating tails give them an alluring motion and send out vibrations that add an auditory appeal to lure a fish to strike. Plus, they also work year-round, in both cold weather conditions and on brutally hot summer days. No wonder soft plastic shad lures are one of the most effective baits you can use.
They come in a variety of sizes from one-inch for panfish up to eight inches for muskies and make a great addition to any tackle box. You might not tie one on as your first choice when you hit the water, but when your favorites fail to produce, they’re great “day savers” to turn to.
Where to find them: Many lure and tackle companies make soft plastic shad lures that can be rigged on a single hook leadhead jig. You can find some really nice ones at Bass Pro like the Bass Pro Shops Sassy Sally, or the popular Bass Pro Shops Boss Shad, not to mention the top rated Bass Pro Shops Pro Baby Shad, and Squirmin’ Shad. Try to stock a variety of these and switch from one to the other depending on fishing conditions and the species being sought.
Other popular soft plastic shad lure brands are: Offshore Angler, Bass Assassin, Berkley, STORM, Strike King and more all found at Bass Pro Shops.
Fishermen love the Bass Pro Shops Pro Baby Shad, here's what they say:
- "The Tournament Series 2" Baby Shad in Grasshopper Glow is my goto secret weapon! While everyone else is switchin colors I'm slayin slabs!"
- "The colors are good they have good action when Slow trolled for crapies .I like them!"
- "Give them a shot and you won't be disappointed."
A Few Fishing Methods for Both Shallow & Deep Water Fish
Fishing Tactics for Shallow Fish
Several approaches work well when your quarry is feeding in shallow water. One is to simply cast and retrieve just like you would fish a crankbait at a slow to moderate speed. Target cover such as docks, weed bed edges, points, log jams, rocks, bridge pilings, and the edge of flats or bars.
A second method that works on actively feeding fish in thin water is to rig a shad body on a large single hook so it’s weedless and fish it like a soft-plastic jerkbait. Cast out and then twitch and pump the lure back erratically just below the surface. Strikes can be violent with this approach, which works especially well on bass, pickerel, and pike—either near cover or where you see fish swirling after bait in open water.
Tactics for Deep Water Fish
If fish are in moderate or deep water, go with a slightly heavier jig head. This will vary with the depth of the water and the fish you’re going after. Because of their realistic shape and quivering tails, many strikes come on the drop with these lures.
Cast to likely cover or a dropoff and watch the line as the lure falls freely for any sideways twitch as the bait falls. Set the hook fast if you see or feel a strike.
If no take comes on the lure’s descent, several different retrieve options can work in medium to deep water. One time-tested method is to simply reel slowly. First try this near the bottom. If no strikes come, start reeling before the lure hits the bottom at slightly higher level to attract suspended fish.
Shad appear to glide effortlessly through the water, so a smooth, steadily-retrieved lure mimics this best. If this approach doesn’t pay off, however, try pausing part way back to let the lure drop down suddenly.
If you still aren’t connecting, a final tactic that pays off is a lift-and-drop presentation. Raise the rod tip a foot or two. Then drop it back down as you reel in slack. Most strikes will come as the lure falls and you start to reel. Set the hook hard!
Shad Lure Sizes, Weights, and Colors
Top colors for shad lures include white, pearl, clear with glitter, bluegill, chartreuse, fire tiger, pumpkinseed, Tennessee shad, smoke and motor oil.
For crappies and bluegills use a 1-inch lure. For trout, go with 1-3 inch offerings. Walleyes and pickerel are best tempted with 2-3 inch shad lures.
For smallmouths, anywhere from 2-4 inches is a good range. Use the smaller sizes for river fish, the bigger ones in lakes or when large baitfish are present. I use 2-5 inch versions for largemouths, 3-6 inchers for pike, and 6-8 inch offerings for muskies.
Weights of the jig head can range from 1/32 ounce for panfish up to several ounces for making long casts to tailwater stripers and probing deep wrecks in heavy tidal currents for saltwater gamefish.