The use of live shad is a very effective technique which can out-produce artificial lures, and can appeal to a variety of game and non-game species. This past week alone my clients boated 253 fish over the course of five separate trips using live shad, including hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, white crappie, white bass, blue catfish, and yellow catfish.
On Central Texas waters, the live bait of choice is the threadfin shad or gizzard shad. Properly equipped anglers can capture their own shad and expect fishing success using these baits.
Here are a few pointers to help you take advantage of the live shad bite.
Use a quality castnet
A castnet is a circular net which is tossed with both arms, much like a large Frisbee. By design, the net closes and envelopes baitfish as the fisherman pulls the net back to himself.
My top tips for rookie castnetters are:
- Use a mesh size of no more than one-quarter inch so your bait slides out of the net without being entangled in it.
- Go online or buy an instructional DVD showing you how to throw the net properly and practice before you go.
- Use as large a net as you can handle (Texas law limits net size to a 7-foot radius).
- Buy as heavy a net as your budget allows — heavier nets sink more quickly and trap more bait. My personal castnet choice is the Fitec Super Spreader SS-1000 with a 7-foot radius, a quarter-inch mesh — and weighs 7 pounds.
Keep bait lively
A stressed shad will often be ignored. Robust, fresh baits put out more flash and vibration and catch more fish. To keep your bait lively, at a bare minimum, you must provide aeration.
This time of year, when water and air temperatures are more moderate, shad will survive in an uncrowded, aerated livewell for a few hours. As water and ambient temperatures rise, survival time decreases without taking additional measures.
If you are really going to do it right, you’ll eventually want to add a live bait tank to your boat. Bait tanks do several things well: They insulate to maintain a steady temperature, they aerate to keep oxygen levels high, they circulate the water to keep ammonia buildup to a minimum, and they filter scales and feces out of the water.
I use a Grayline 35-gallon tank.
Use small, lightwire hooks
Shad are fragile. They must be handled quickly and minimally and placed in the water immediately after they are hooked. Using lightwire circle hooks provides the best hookup percentage, and allows for clean, injury-free release of the fish caught.
I prefer to hook shad through the nostrils. The thin wire of a light hook keeps trauma to a minimum and does not weigh the bait down so it can swim freely for great lengths of time.
I use the Tournament Mutu Light Circle hook by Owner, in size 1.
Live shad get quality results
Not only do live shad catch a lot of fish, they also attract quality fish. On April 11, Linda and Richard Perkins, of Little River, boated a 13.12-inch crappie on their 63-fish trip.
Navy veteran Ray Johnson and his fishing buddy, retired Lampasas ISD principal George Morley, boated a 10.50-pound yellow catfish on their 70-fish trip on April 12.
Mike Shouse, of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Craig Pettigrew, of ReserveFishing.com, boated a 4.25-pound largemouth on their 45-fish outing Wednesday. On Thursday, James and Hugh Moore and Luke and Nathaniel Neiser boated a nice 5.25-pound hybrid striped bass on their 35-fish outing.