Fishing for Bass During the Shad Spawn

Use Spinnerbaits, Buzzbaits, and Poppers for Shallow Fish

Photo © Ken Schultz

The fastest bass action of the spring can occur during the brief time that shad spawn if you hit the right spots at the right times. Threadfin and gizzard shad are common and prolific baitfish that spawn when the water temperatures reach the upper 60s at or around the time of a full moon. Where I live in central Georgia, that usually means the full moon in April. Shad spawn right at daybreak, so when the sun gets on the water, shad spawning activity is usually over for the day.

Where Shad Spawn

Shad spawn in very shallow water on hard surfaces. They especially like rocks, wood, and metal surfaces, but will spawn on clay and aquatic plants, too, with the best spots being near deep water. Bridge riprap and pilings, seawalls, and bulkheads on points and even grassy points are good places to find them spawning.

Watch for shad rippling the water right where the water meets the edge of the hard surface. You'll usually see shad jumping completely out of the water onto the bank when they spawn. Schools run down the bank, and the females lay eggs that stick to the rocks and other hard surfaces. Males are running with them and releasing sperm to fertilize the eggs.

How to Fish the Shad Spawn

A spinnerbait is the best lure for catching bass during the shad spawn. Lures with two silver willowleaf  blades and a white skirt imitate the shad very well. Use a light one, in ¼- or ⅜-ounce sizes, since you'll be fishing very shallow. A trailer hook may help catch short strikers.

Position your boat close and parallel to the bank. Try to get behind the shad to avoid spooking them. See which way they're moving and get in close. Cast your spinnerbait right on the rocks or against the breakwall. Bass will be amazingly shallow and looking for shad almost out of the water. You can't cast too shallow.

Start retrieving as soon as the lure hits the water and be ready to set the hook immediately. Bass often hit as soon as the spinnerbait hits the water.

Topwater lures like buzzbaits and poppers work well, too, especially if a spinnerbait isn't producing. A buzzbait will often excite bass even more, and a popper can be worked very slowly over shallow cover.

After the Activity Stops

You'll often see swirls in the water made by bass as they eat shad, so cast to them. When the surface activity stops, fishing can get very tough. Try to slow-roll your spinnerbait on the rocks, working from very shallow out to about 6 feet deep. If you see shad following your bait you know they are still in the area and bass should be nearby.

When you find spawning shad on a lake you can be in for some fast bass action.

This article was edited and revised by our Freshwater Fishing expert, Ken Schultz.