Free Shipping: Orders Over $35

Shad Time

See surface dimples, scattered splashes or water that appears dark in areas from hordes of baitfish swimming just beneath the surface? You could be close to tapping into excellent autumn fishing action.

Late in the summer, shad congregate in massive schools, and as summer begins giving way to autumn, those schools begin moving predictably into tributary arms of reservoirs and eventually onto shallow flats well up creek and river arms.

Not surprisingly, where thousands of shad gather, feeding bass are typically nearby. Although some fish will continue to relate to crawfish, bluegills or other forage and can be caught various ways, there is no more dependable way to find and catch bass this time of year than to locate shad schools and use lures that “match the hatch.”

Because the shad play such an important part during fall, it is prudent to spend time searching out the biggest baitfish concentrations before making a cast. A reservoir’s largest creek arms typically attract the biggest schools, which show up first near creek mouths and work their way back as the season progresses. Sometimes you need electronics to find the bait. Often, you will spot little rings on top when the shad roll or will see the shad themselves if they are high in the water column and the water is reasonably clear. Other times, bass pushing shad on the surface will give away the bait and the bass.

The bass won’t always be right with the shad or swimming beneath them (although sometimes they will), but if enough shad are in an area, you can trust bass are nearby. You just have to figure out whether they are setting up on points, channel edges or other open-lake features or hiding in brush, among stumps, in weeds, under docks or near other cover.

Of course, it never hurts to start among the shad, especially if there are channel edges or other structural features beneath the schools. A walking topwater lure like a Zara Spook offers an excellent bet for covering water and calling up bass. Other good options include a YUM Pulse swimbait on a jighead and a blade bait, such as a Heddon Sonar Flash or Cotton Cordell Gay Blade, which can be worked effectively anywhere in the water column.

As you search an area, try a range of depths, speeds and presentation types with various styles of lures. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, topwaters and soft plastics all have a place in fall fishing. Just remember that the fish are relating to shad, and choose your colors and lure profiles accordingly. Also, if you can get a decent look at the shad, try to match their size. When baitfish are extra abundant, bass can get very dialed in on forage size and will reject anything that is substantially larger or smaller.

One of the best things about targeting shad-oriented bass during autumn is that patterns are often repeatable. Within an area, if you find fish over a couple of points or humps in 10 feet, chances are good that most structure in that depth and in the vicinity of the shad will hold fish. Stretching things farther, once you have worked those points, you probably can run from creek to creek, find shad about the same distance up each creek and find bass on similar structures.