Spawn sensation — How to catch bass during the shad spawn

Cranking bridge riprap early in the morning can be a highly productive shad spawn pattern.

The bass spawn is pretty much done for the year, but the shad spawn can kick off some crazy fishing. Here’s how to capitalize for hefty sacks of bass.

It might sound rude, intrusive, bad form, but in lakes, ponds and rivers throughout the state it’s apparently just fine to interrupt the intimate moments of others.

No need to alert the authorities — we’re talking about the reproductive soirées of the threadfin shad.

When those baitfish gather around docks and other shoreline cover to spawn, opportunistic bass close in to take full advantage of the feast.

And bass fishermen who exercise a measured approach can keep the rods bent for quite a while.

That’s because lots and lots and lots of little silver shards doing the hippidy dippidy present a massive buffet for opportunistic bass.

“When you do find spawning shad, the bass are going to be grouped up in schools,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins. “It’s really easy to take advantage of that situation.”

Reproduction tends to monopolize one’s attention: Stop to check your six and you might lose your dance partner at this baitfish fais-dodo.

All this being said, the shad spawn literally lays out one of the most-convenient feeding opportunities a bass will ever see.

Shad typically do their thing around hard edges — something to which their eggs can adhere. Common targets for anglers seeking this bass bite include docks, bridge abutments, riprap and firm vegetation.

“Grass is really key along points,” Bassmaster Elite Series pro and Toledo Bend guide Dennis Tietje said. “Grass that touches the surface is really key. If I can find pencil grass that allows the fish to roam within, then that’s even better.”

Scroggins said he fares best when targeting main-lake areas in the fronts of creeks.

“The bass are wanting to move out (of the spawning pockets),” Scroggins said. “They’re postspawn and they’re wanting to feed back up, and the shad spawn is a prime opportunity for them to get fed back up.”

This is primarily an early morning deal, however.

Scroggins frames the usual shad spawn window as the first three hours after sunrise. Once the sun gains enough altitude to illuminate the water, the shad know their vulnerability skyrockets, and they scatter into deeper, darker areas.

“The shad spawn always happens first thing in the morning in low-light conditions,” Scroggins said. “This makes the bass start feeding because the food train is coming through early in the morning.

“Any time you’re dealing with low light, it’s easier to catch fish because it’s easier to fool them with whatever bait you want to use. So it’s a prime opportunity to catch a lot of numbers and also catch big fish.”

Scroggins finds the shad spawns occurring shortly after the bass complete their bedding season. Bream beds, which also follow the bass spawn, are a good sign that the mornings might hold shad-spawning activity.

Another good indication — the blade test.

“One way to tell if the shad are spawning is to throw a spinnerbait,” he said. “You’ll actually see the shad follow your spinnerbait back to the boat, and you’ll feel them nipping the blades on your spinnerbait.

“You see that and you know you’re in the right area.”

Scroggins particularly likes a spinnerbait because it’s a bait he can fish fast and cover a lot of water to find active fish. It also has a big profile with lots of flash that’ll help him attract bass in those low-light conditions.

Willow-leaf blades are what you want here, and a combination of silver and gold is a good fit with a white, white/chartreuse or shad-pattern skirt.

In any case, don’t forget the trailer hook: The bass will be swimming and snapping, so make sure you capitalize on every strike.

You’ll get similar fish-finding duty out of a vibrating swim jig. Pair this with a swimming trailer for lots of vibration and you’ll attract plenty of attention.

Topwaters also fit into this game, and reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Casey Ashley likes an Xcalibur Zell Pop in shad colors — but he makes a couple of important modifications.

First, a split ring affords optimal mobility. Also, he’ll replace the standard No. 6 trebles with No. 4 hooks to make the bait sit lower and more level in the water.

The result is better chugging action.

“I always add a red hook in the front,” Ashley said. “That just gives the fish an aiming point — a little something different.”

Other productive shad-spawn baits include weightless flukes, buzzbaits, jerkbaits, and square-bills and shallow-diving crankbaits that do a good job of attracting attention by ticking the tops of grass lines and bumping any hard structure.

Last but not least, one of the most effective shad-spawn lure is one that simply imitates a cluster of shad. Yep, the old egg beater, the five-splasher — the much maligned yet undeniably effective Alabama rig.

Toledo Bend guide Darold Gleason suggests running an A-rig across the tops of submerged grass — but only with sufficient clearance. You’ll want a good 3 feet of water over the salad or you’ll hang every cast.

About David A. Brown 142 Articles
A full-time freelance writer specializing in sport fishing, David A. Brown splits his time between journalism and marketing communications.

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