Jump to content

Know thy shad- Part II

Matt Fly

Recommended Posts

  • Super User

Track Those Shad

There are, however, ways to actually follow schools of migrating shad and catch bass steadily until the baitfish finally disperse; or to predict where and when these migrating schools will show up and be there waiting for them. As long ago as 1970, no less a fishing authority than Bill Dance experienced just such a migration pattern on Sam Rayburn. Dance followed the school for several hours each day for 10 consecutive days; and guides on Toledo Bend as well as Greers Ferry and Table Rock Lakes in Arkansas and Missouri have experienced the same thing as they tracked the shad in their daily migrations.

It is now well-established that massive concentrations of threadfin shad seek shoreline cover each night. This cover can take the form of grass and moss beds, logjams, or even standing timber and brushpiles if that's all that's available. This cover provides them with some semblance of protection from predators like largemouth bass.

Early in the morning, generally shortly after dawn, the threadfin leave this shallow water cover for deeper haunts where they may disperse slightly for the balance of the midday period and early afternoon hours. The threadfin then re-group and return to the shallow water cover late in the afternoon, frequently by reversing the same exit route they used that morning.

Why is bass fishing good in shallow water early and late each day? The answer is because the shad have already moved in for the night, or have not left for the day. Why does the morning action frequently end just after the sun peeks over the trees? Because the shad have left and the bass are following, but not necessarily feeding on them.

Dance Keeps Track

Consider Dance's experience on Rayburn: "In September, 1970, I was competing in the Texas National B.A.S.S. tournament on Sam Rayburn," recalls Dance, "practicing in a small creek that contained open water near its mouth and heavy standing timber in the back. About 7 a.m. I heard a lot of feeding activity in the timber, and when I eased my boat into position, I was able to catch several bass before they disappeared.

"As I was sitting there, the feeding started again about a hundred yards away. The school of bass was heading out of the creek toward the main lake, and before they went back down, I caught three or four more."

"That morning I followed those bass for an hour and a half as they traveled from the creek all the way out into the main lake and into the timber of the Black Forest where they finally disappeared. I followed those bass every morning like that for 10 straight days. The shad were migrating from the Black Forest to that creek at night, then moving to the main lake again early each morning, and the bass were following them."

Professional fishing guides who have been able to follow shad migrations like Dance describes, believe bass are more likely to attack the baitfish when the shad school becomes more compressed, packed tightly together. Or, when the school is forced closer to the surface, such as when the shad move over an obstacle like a hump, roadbed, or submerged fenceline. That way, escape options are more limited for the shad and the bass certainly do not have to chase them as far.

Ambush Techniques

Even more exciting, perhaps, is the knowledge or fact that if these "ambush points" can be identified, there's a good chance bass will attack them there again that evening when the threadfin migrate back through on their way back to the shallows.

What do you look for in a shad migration route? It's difficult to pinpoint anything precisely because much depends on the characteristics of the lake. Perhaps the best thing to do is immediately check any areas where you see and experience surface activity between bass and shad with a depthfinder to determine what's on the bottom. The shad may be following a ditch, small creek channel, or some other specific terrain feature you may then be able to backtrack to their nightly hideout.

When do shad migrations take place? Again, the answer depends on the lake as well as on their temperature driven spawning cycle. Threadfin shad spawn in shallow water coves from late April into July, depending on the surface water temperature. The optimum spawning water temperature is 68 degrees.

Threadfin shad grow rapidly - life expectancy is two to three years - and the migrations from shallow cover to open water tend to occur from late spring throughout the summer and well into autumn. Again, much depends on the lake; the amount and location of phytoplankton and zooplankton, and water temperature. Threadfin shad cannot tolerate cold temperatures and actually begin dying (winter kill) when the water reaches approximately 45 degrees.

Find the Current

Threadfin shad have another habit that may help observant fishermen catch bass. They appear to be attracted to slight current during times of high water. A recent national B.A.S.S. tournament was won on Table Rock Lake in Arkansas by an angler (a guide on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas) who found huge schools of shad in the back of a small cove fed by two little creeks.

The angler had never fished Table Rock prior to the tournament but saw water and shad conditions similar to those he frequently fished on Ouachita. That small cove produced five limits of bass in two days and at least one more limit (the winner's) the final day. This on a lake in which more than 90 contestants blanked the first day!

Obviously, there is much more to be learned scientifically about threadfin shad and their direct relationship to bass. And just as obviously, every bass fisherman owes it to himself to increase his own knowledge of this tiny fish. The popular adage, "Find the bait and you'll find the bass," is certainly true in the case of the threadfin shad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...
  • 4 months later...

Great article! As someone who fishes water full of threadfin, its absolute torture to watch the shallows explode with activity and not be able to catch the bass chasing these shad. Learning that they dont grow larger than 2 or 3 inches helped a ton. I downsized my spinnerbait to 3/16 and caught 4 this morning. Any ideas on how to emulate the threadfin? As active as the bass seem to be, I feel like I should be catching them left and right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Super User

When in Rome, do as the Roman's, or like KVD, use that spinner bait to emulate shad.

One thing Kevin Van Dam does is find a food source, he loves his spinner baits and pencil thin jerks.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Im impressed!!! A real student of the shad. I try to learn as much as I can through observation of these little critters and I find the more I learn, the less I know. I have found this about the difference between threadfin and gizzard shad. Gizzards are much more fragile than threadfins. Also threadfins seem to have an affinity for "cleaner" areas of a lake than do gizzards. Additionally, bass seem to prefer threadfins, or the type of water threadfins inhabit as opposed to gizzards. There is a point on Texoma that the threadfins run across every morning that there is a south wind on their migration route, and with out fail, right behind the striper action, comes the BIG BIG bass action. It does though seem hard sometimes to replicate the movement by these little critters well enough to get the bite.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Unfortunately, your content contains terms that we do not allow. Please edit your content to remove the highlighted words below.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • fishing forum

    fishing reel

    Outboard Engine

    fishing tackle


    fishing reels



    bass fish

    fish for bass

  • Create New...