Fish the shad spawn

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

It’s time to think about the shad spawn. It usually happens right after the smallies move off the beds. That’s about right now. The water’s pushing the 70-degree mark, and there’ll be a full moon today. (In some parts of the country I might be jumping the gun a little. You know your local water. Adjust your schedule to match whatever the fish are doing where you live.)

What happens is that the shad move into shallow water during the night and lay their eggs on rocks, wood, grass and just about anything else that isn’t moving too much in the water. This will go on for at least a month.

The eggs are fairly easy to find. They’re small and are held together by a heavy slime. Basically, it looks like a disgusting mess. I know that doesn’t sound like a very good description but when you see their eggs you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s as obvious as can be.

While this is going on, you have the big, postspawn female smallmouth coming off the beds looking for something to eat. The shad are right there for the taking. There are plenty of them, and they’re shallow which means they can be easily caught by big predators.

In most lakes and rivers the smallies follow the shad in after dark and feed on them until the sun comes up. On cloudy days, they’ll stay around a lot longer. The middle of the day is almost always dead because the shad move back into deeper water.

So, the first thing about fishing the smallmouth in the postspawn is to find the shad. We’ve already talked about how to do that. The next thing is to go early and make sure you’re fishing well before daylight. That’ll put you on the best bite.

The last thing is to leave most of your lures at home. All you really need is a big spinnerbait. I like something in white or natural shad and with a silver Colorado and willowleaf blade combination. Fish it at a medium speed. You want to stay below the surface but not too far.  Fishing below 4 or 5 feet is usually a waste of time.

These are aggressive fish. Catching them is about being in the right place at the right time. Don’t worry about every detail with your tackle or your presentation. Just get out there and start throwing that spinnerbait. You’ll catch them.  

When I say all of this I know that some guys are going to say that they like to look for migration routes from the spawning areas to the deep water where the smallies will spend the summer. They’ll tell you to fish the obvious stopping places along that route immediately after the spawn.

That’s not all wrong. You can catch a few that way, especially if you know your lake and take your time. But it isn’t all right, either. It’s better to fish the shad spawn for the next 4-6 weeks. You’ll catch more fish and they’ll be bigger, too.

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