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Worth Repeating the key to consistently catch bass


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  • Super User

The mouse for me is shad, shad is the dominate bait/forage in 90% of all Texas lakes.     There's so much you can say about shad and seasonal habits, gizzard or threadfin.

Gizzard shad often out grow bass that feed upon them.     Stripers were stocked in Texas lakes to control them since they grow 16-18 inches.   Appearance is silver to white with very distinct forked tails.    Threadfins tails have a yellowish tint of color to them, thus the reason we dip our baits with a little chartreuse dye of some type.   A threadfins jaw extends past the snout where a gizzard shad is more blunt nose.    Both have the dot on the shoulder behind the gill.

Threadfin shad live primarily on microscopic plant and animal life, phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are why they are often found around rock riprap, bridge and dock pilings, and areas with gentle current where algae grows or is washed into the system. They are more surface-oriented than gizzard shad, and frequently move in huge schools just under the surface, sometimes migrating for miles each day.

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 brush piles 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.

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 depth finder 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.



Shad do migrate to the shallows about the same time as a bass, but will spawn every 30-45 days throughout the summer.    If water warms up in the back of a creek before the main lake temps start to rise, shad will find the warmest water column on the lake.

The one of the most common baits used to mimic shad is the fluke or similar type bait.    Mature thread fin are on average 3-5 inches.    

The first shad to die will be the late spawn, the youngest in the school "if" the water gets down to that 45 degree mark.

Shad school up in tight bunches when predator's are near.     A quality graph will show you tight balls of shad with fish near by that feeding.

Sometimes the best fishing you can do is just using your graph, no rods.   The more you graph things you know, the more you learn to decipher.

Such as:    take your boat to the launch ramp, what does cement ramps look like on your graph.     Look at the thickness of the bottom line on the graph, is it real thin or wide,   what do rock dams look like on the graph.    What does Hydrilla or other vegetation look like on your screen?

When you parallel a bridge in passing, how long does it take the bridge piling to show up on screen as you pass them, and what do they look like extending up on screen?  Trees, brush?

Learn what the graph is showing you by going to areas you know what's down there.    What does muddy bottoms graph like.    Learning these simple things can make you an excellent tracker by using the graph to take guess work out of potentially good areas.

Vertical presentations can be utilized all year.    

The biggest advice on tracking shad at this time of the year.

What areas have been good in the morning and evening in the shallows?    There's something that draws the bass into the shallows, where it's a brim spawn, shad, or crawl dad hatch, or something.       Wind is one of my biggest keys in the summer.    

 Steady southern winds stacks the planktons up on wind blown points and humps and other areas of similar.  

This is key because it's what shad eat to survive.     We chase bass, bass chase shad; shad chase plankton, fairly simple food chain.   Planktons are controlled by wind currents.    Steady winds stack their food source up, and where there's bait, bass aren't far.



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excellent post Catt. ;)

here are some more tips

dying shad, the main winter diet.

Sometimes the water gets too clear and the shad suspend around 20' or so and the fish just won't come up on your bait unless you get it down beyond its normal running depth.

When the fish are suspended over brush piles or are in relatively shallow water I like to weight the bait so that it slowly rises. This allows you to get the bait right over the cover or right on the bank and fish it as slow as possible and still keep it from getting hung up in the tree or settling in the rocks.

Many times it will hit the tree or a rock and float itself out of trouble preventing me from having to go over and retrieve it and screwing up the whole deal. Most times this is when you'll get bit, as it floats out of the tree. Granted you must fish the bait a little faster than you may like when it slowly rises as opposed to if it were suspended, but it pays off big if the are over cover. If they're shallow, they're usually active enough that it won't matter that you're fishing it a little faster. Again, the faster it rises, the faster you must fish it to keep it down so experiment with the weight until you find the right rate of rise.

Now to the tricky part. How do you find these winter fish when the water is so cold and the fish are so lethargic?

Well, if you don't have years of experience at fishing to fall back on the easiest way to find them is to forget about those hard to catch, lethargic fish and concentrate on the more active fish.

The easiest way to do that is to find the schools of dying shad. Not just any shad, dying shad. When the lake gets really cold the shad die off by the thousands and these are the ones the big fish are looking for. They have to exert little effort to eat these shad and when you find one you usually find a bunch. All they have to do is suspend near the school and wait for dinner to flutter by.

Sometimes you can see the shad floating but most of the time you'll just see them flutter near the surface then head back down in the water.

They are all over the banks of the Mississippi River and other bodies of water in Missouri all winter long and they feed on these same shad until they head back north in the spring. They are almost fool proof. When you see one perched and then swoop down for a shad, you've most likely found bass. They make their living finding these large schools of dying shad and so do those big bass.

Gulls can help you find dying shad as well but you must observe the posture they're in order for them to be a really big help. They fly around, looking for shad, many times out in the middle of the lake whereas the Eagle hunts much closer to the shoreline he is perched on and the fish here are much easier to catch. However if you see gulls diving near the shore and coming up with shad this can be a very good spot. If you find these dying shad in the backs of small coves that's where you'll find the catchable bass.

Head out in the morning knowing that you're fishing for 5 or 6 bites and that these bites will be good enough that if you execute you'll have a very good chance of winning. After a few years of finding these fish you'll have the knowledge of the types of areas to find these schools of shad and then the birds will be a bonus. Don't get caught up in all the things you're likely to read about where to catch winter bass either. You don't have to fish main lake points and you don't have to fish deep and the wind does not push schools of shad.

Think about it, if the wind actually pushed shad every shad in the lake would be stranded on one side of the lake, flopping around on shore, after a few hours of high wind. The wind blows the surface of the lake only. What it does do is blows plankton and shad eat plankton. The wind will blow the dead shad but the bass do not eat these floaters. The depth of these actively feeding bass will be determined by water clarity. If you can no longer see the bottom your in enough water to catch bass, even if this is as little as 4' or 5'.

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  • 4 years later...
  • 2 weeks later...

got a few questions


if there is no current and wind out of the north what zone would plankton mostly like the stack up in?

if current was flowing south and the wind was out of the west where would you look?

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  • Super User


I don't have much experience with threadfins. I know that the two can compete for food/space. In general, threadfins are more surface and current oriented, and cannot tolerate as cool temperatures as gizzards, but both are susceptible to temperature shock and resulting die-offs. Although threadfin will glean algae from subsrate they are more obligate open water filter feeders, straining phytoplankton and selecting zooplankton.

Gizzards do much that same however they are more apt to glean from substrate and can be bottom oriented at times to glean detritus. Large ones esp are known to hug silty bottoms consuming detritus (dead organic material), probably obtaining sustenance from the bacteria that consumes the detritus. Gizzards have a longer gut which infers a different feeding strategy, probably what allows them to gain sustenance from detritus.

How deep? Neither fish are cold tolerant and so are epilimnetic -live above the thermocline. A good question might be whether either shad show daily rhythms of depth change associated with zooplankton migrations. Many zooplankton migrate toward the surface at night and then drop deeper during the day and it's been found to be a direct response to predation by fish.

Brian Waldman would be a good guy to ask, since he follows just about everything pertaining to warmwater fisheries. His waters contain mostly, if not all, gizzards I think. I seem to remember he and I had a conversation about bottom feeding gizzards. He's at: bigindianabass@ccrtc.com

Paul Roberts

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  • Super User

Great post. There is so much to know and learn when fishing.

Food for thought; For shore bass fisherman its hard to know the bottom structure in the smaller places with no topo maps to go from. In the winter when the ice is on my two body builder sons would poke holes in the ice for me to ice fish and drop a weighted line so i could learn where the flats and drop off's are. Soon after hummingbird came out with the castable pod sensor with the portable fish finder so i could learn how the new places are structured. Once i know how the bottom is structured and were the place is fed from(incomming stream) I can basically get an idea where the fish are. To me they seem to stay away from the current but close enough to feed if something comes near them. Its very close to stream bass fishing were they hide behind rocks and pockets out of the running pressure from the water.

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Those dying shad are a prime target for bass. Sometimes I go out and find themoclines (fall and early summer) where the water temp changes drastically. Bass, and stripers especially if they are around, will gang up and chase the shad into the thermocline. When the shad hit it, it stuns them or makes them a little goofy. Easy pickings.

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  • 4 months later...
  • Super User

The idea that bass FOLLOW shad has been debated. Some have it that when we see bass erupting on traveling schools of shad a 1/4mile apart, these are different bass groups, rather than the same one following. I don't know where the truth lies here, but have heard this question come up in the past.

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