The first time Kevin VanDam saw Strike King's King Shad, he rolled his eyes. "It looked goofy — until I put it in the water," says VanDam. "That's when I realized it was different from a lot of other hard-bodied swimbaits."Unlike traditional swimbaits, the King Shad tracks true and doesn't roll when cranked at fast speeds, notes the Michigan pro. The new 4-inch jointed plug has lifelike characteristics and a small lip on the nose to help it dive."I can burn it or fish it with a stop-and-go retrieve like a jerkbait and it still keeps its balance," VanDam explains. "When I saw that, I knew it was going to fit my style of fishing."
The King Shad became an integral part of VanDam's arsenal on the Elite Series this year. It produced most of his bass at Lake Amistad, where he finished fifth, and some of his bigger fish at the California Delta (sixth place) and Clear Lake )19th)."It was so hot this spring that other pros were begging me for one," he notes.
The two-time Classic champ expects the King Shad to be just as effective this fall when big bass are sharing shallow water areas with baitfish, such as in the back of creeks, on main lake points, around docks and on bluff banks.
What excites me is it's a crankbait and swimbait in one lure and I can throw it in open water situations where I normally would throw a spinnerbait," he explains. "And while it has a larger profile, it's the size (of shad) that bass eat every day."Because of how the No. 2 treble hooks dangle from the belly, the lure tends to catch in grass or brush, so it can't be fished in heavy cover "Like a spinnerbait, it's at its best when the wind is blowing, but it's better on sunny days than a spinnerbait because the shape, profile and colors make it appear natural to the fish," adds VanDam.
Here is how he likes to fish it:
Stop-and-go:In cold, clear water, VanDam will wind the King Shad with a steady retrieve and hold his rod tip high so that the bait wakes just beneath the surface. He will periodically stop it to allow the bait to float upward.
"That's the traditional way to fish a swimbait, and it really works if the fish are sluggish," he says. "It will be deadly during this fall, when the baitfish are dying because the water has cooled down. The thing to remember is that it's never too cold to fish it. You just have to slow it down."
Burn and pause: In warm water or when he wants to get the bait deeper, he adds weight, which also helps the King Shad suspend when paused."When I stop the weighted bait, it hangs right in the face of a fish and sort of wobbles side-to-side," he describes. "They can't stand that."VanDam recommends anglers work the bait fast in warm, clear water but slow it down a little if the water is stained.
Burn and jerk: When fishing this unique presentation for smallmouth in northern Michigan last fall, VanDam sacked one of the largest limits he's ever caught."I cranked the lure fast on a 7:1-geared Quantum reel and twitched the rod while reeling," he describes. "That imparts an erratic action and triggers those reactionary strikes."VanDam says the King Shad isn't magic, but it's a lure that will take bigger fish when you're around them.The average size of fish I catch is about twice that of those I catch with traditional lures," he adds.
TIME TO WEIGHT
When fishing ultraclear water, Kevin VanDam wants the King Shad running near the surface because "the fish can see it and will come from a long distance."He changes the factory split rings to a smaller size, which reduces weight, and fishes it on 25-pound monofilament to help keep it up near the surface.To make it run deeper, he stays with factory split rings, uses 14-pound fluorocarbon and adds about 1/8 ounce of Tungsten putty "Sticky Weight" to the belly.