by Capt Jake Davis
Threadfin shad can be found in most lakes across the Southeast and are the staple diet of all bass. This high protein food source makes them the perfect forage for hungry bass. The shad spawn can mean the best bass fishing of the spring if you hit the right spots at the right times. Shad spawn when the water temperatures hit the upper sixties to low seventies and during the full moon. In TN, GA and AL this usually means the full moon in April and May.
Shad will find varieties of habitat to spawn depending upon the type of lake. These areas may consist of shoreline grass or lily pads, rip rap, wood cover and even boat docks typically in shallow water with deeper water close by. Watch for dark clouds of shad travelling the grass lines or rippling of the water right where the water meets the edge of the hard surfaces such as wood or rocky banks.
One of the best ways to catch bass during the shad spawn is using a 3/8 to 3/4 ounce spinnerbait with silver willow leaf #4 or #5 blades with a white skirt to imitate the shad. Another great lure is a topwater bait like Assassinator buzzbait with a head/hook that set below the water due to its 45 degree bend, Rapala X-Rap Popper and walking baits such as Sammys. A buzzbait worked slowly will often excite the bass in shallow cover, while if you are fishing close to deep water, try a hard bait such as the Rapala X-Rap Popper. This will draw them from greater depths simply because you can work them slower. I tend to use a topwater lure just prior to the crack of dawn and again as the spinnerbait bite slows after sun up.
Get your boat in close to the bank and parallel the bank. Try to position your boat behind the shad and keep your movement to a minimum, so not to spook them. See which way they are moving and cast with or across the flow of traffic. Cast your spinnerbait right on the rocks or against the sea wall in areas void of grass and when fishing around grass, allow the spinnerbait to tick the grass. When fishing grass ledges, as your lure clears the grass, drop the rod tip and stop your retrieve for a few seconds, than pop the tip once or twice.
Many times bass will relate to the edge of the grass waiting for unsuspecting prey. If you suspect this, use a stick bait similar to a wacky rigged Yamamoto Senko to produce great results. You can’t cast too shallow! Start your retrieve as soon as your bait hits the water and be ready to set the hook immediately. Bass will often hit as soon as the bait hits the water when using either a topwater lure or spinnerbait.
My preferred equipment setup when using a spinnerbait or popper is a 6’9” to 7’0” medium-heavy Duckett Micro PRO, LEW’s 6.4:1 reel spooled with 15-17 pound test Vicious Ultimate Co-Poly line. With this setup, your rod has just the right tip action to properly work the lure and still enough backbone to keep the beast hooked up. With buzzbaits, I’ll arm my clients with a 7’0” heavy Duckett White Ice, LEW’s 6.4:1 or 7:1 reel spooled with 50 pound test Vicious braid, because we are normally throwing it in or around heavy cover and you’re going to need the extra power to drag them out!
Capt Jake Davis is a full time, year round professional guide on Lake Guntersville and Tim’s Ford, Mid South Bass Guide, www.midsouthbassguide.com or cell (615) 613-2382.