Fall in Love with Shad Fishing

By Lee Hover

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I expect most of you are familiar with the shad type of lure, the rubbery fish looking thing with one or sometimes numerous hooks sticking out of it depending on what size of lure it is. They come in various sizes, shapes, colours and textures that can catch anything from a small Coalfish to a monster Halibut. The one thing they all have in common is the paddle tail that makes it work in the water when retrieving.

They are either self weighted or you can attach a leadhead to to lure. These leadheads come in a variety of weights to cover the use of whatever size of shad you wish to fish with. You can buy the leadhead moulds from that well known auction site along with the hooks that are inserted into the mould. the leadheads are threaded onto the lure in the same way you would hook a lugworm but with the hook coming out the back of the shad.Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 19.37.51
I’ve grown to love this type of fishing since being introduced to it by Phill Dale of Skarnsundet fame. I remember one very cold and unproductive day on one of Phill’s hotspots, we’d had an uneventful day with only small codling to show for our efforts when Phill turned up with some spinning rods, reels and an assortment of shads. He hastily set up a couple of rods and told us “this is the time now boys, let me show you how it’s done”. He flicked the shad out about 70yds and waited for the weighted lure to hit the bottom. We watched like a class of school children as he bounced the lure along the bottom in the ever slackening tide. Fish on! After a short battle a cod of about 7lb was landed at our feet. With much enthusiasm we took the rods and cast out, taking it in turns to move along the waterline as the tide took our shads round to the left, not before long I had a hook up resulting in a plump 5lb fish, my mate (another Phill) then had one slightly bigger, this went on for about 8 minutes then I hooked into something considerably bigger, after what seemed like an eternity the fish was at the waters edge, Phill expertly gilled it and it was mine, a snadge under 17lb, my biggest cod so far by half a pound, to say I was pleased was an understatement and that day started my affair with the “shad”.

I returned to England and set about getting my own spinning set up.
A heavy duty spinning rod capable of casting up to 100g was what I was after and settled on a Daiwa amorphous whisker spinning rod rated to 80g and plumped for a Okuma Salina 4000 spinning reel (not having the funds for the shimano stella and such like). The rod was rated for salmon fishing so knew it would be up to the task. Later I bought a Shakespeare ugly stick travel spinning rod rated at 100g and a 5000 size reel. There’s no need to break the bank for this gear but if you want to go mad you can spend an awful lot of money on a set up, my set ups were about £250 for each which I know is quite expensive but worth every penny when you do get a proper fish on. Not sure if I’d ever buy the really expensive gear when what I have does the job.

Braid is a must along with a short rubbing leader of around 2 metres. I use Powerpro braid and fluorocarbon for the leader, 30lb breaking strains for both as I find this lands pretty much anything I hook and the rubbing leader takes away some anxieties over sharp rocks nicking the braid. You will always lose fish due to anglerphobic rocks but It does help plus the fluorocarbon is apparently invisible to fish (happy days).

I’ve caught fish on pretty much every type of shad there is but I’ve found the bigger the paddle on the tail reaps better results for cod, the herring shads like the picture above work really well. Pollack and Coalies like the sidewinders and also Redgills. Sometimes colour makes a difference too, if your having no joy with one colour try another, it’s all trial and error with shadding.

Technique varies as well, I normally start by casting out and letting the lure touch bottom then bounce the lure back in towards me, varying the amount I wind in between it touching bottom again, normally between three and five turns on the reel. Other times I’ll let it touch bottom then slowly just wind in, when using this technique you can often feel fish plucking at the lure, when this happens I give a quick wind as that often invokes a proper take as it mimics the shad being frightened and trying to get away. Also vary casting distance and fish as much water in front of you as you can. We’ve found that most of the action happens around slack water either on high or low water, this could possibly be that the lure looks more lifelike if it’s not battling against current but I’m sure people have caught when the tide is racing through too, just my take on things. Fish often take the shad on the drop, your thinking to yourself has it hit bottom and I haven’t felt it? it’s when you take up the slack when you realise something is on the end! Both my biggest cod have been caught on the drop, although when trying to fish mid water I’ve never had any luck!

We’ve had all kinds of fish on the shad including Cod, Pollack, Coalfish, Lumb and Halibut. I think if there was a really decent Plaice in front of you you could probably get one if you had the right lure on, say a redgill or such like but that would involve a different set up. We’ve been experimenting with a beach type set up where we use an up and over rig behind a plain lead, works well for cod on a beach rod and would put money on a nice Plaice on a scaled down version with a spinning rod twitching the lure back.

Give it a go, pretty sure you’ll love it, just like me!