Shad Lures: All You Need to Know to Become an Expert

There are several species of shad but threadfin and gizzard shad are the most dominant and a significant food source for sport fish in many lakes and rivers in the U.S.  Because of this and the difficulty to keep alive and use as bait, there are many types of shad lures.

Shad fishing lures are silver, gray, or bluish and usually resemble by including a black dot behind the eye in the design colors, which is present on both shad species.  To actually distinguish between the species, the lower jaw extends beyond the upper jaw of the threadfin and rarely exceeds 6 inches. Gizzard shad frequently reach over 12 inches and thus can outgrow being a good forage size for many sport fish.

This pattern of a shad fishing lure can be found on swimbaits, crankbaits, topwater, soft plastics, spinnerbaits, and spoons.  Large schools of shad are always moving not only to different areas of the lake but also to different depths.  By having a wide range of shad bait in the tacklebox, anglers have a variety of presentations ready for the following hungry sportfish such as largemouth bass and striped bass at any depth and location.

A good way to learn how to fish shad lures, is to observe a surface feeding frenzy. Birds may be one of the first indicators of where to point your boat.  Shad that twitch nervously and break off from the main school may not last long. Pay attention to the size of the shad because the feeding fish may only be focused on a certain length of prey. Select a similarly sized shad lure, cast near the activity, try to make it look anxious, and hold on! And don’t forget, it is also quite common to use shad lures as alligator gar bait. 

With the cooler temperatures of fall, shad tend to move up feeder creeks and bass are starting to bulk up for winter. As long as your fishing license is up to date, this can be a great time to catch a whopper and shad fishing lures are a terrific place to start.


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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to www.takemefishing.org since 2011.