How Do You Catch Bass in the Shad Spawn?


If you’ve ever fished the shad spawn, you know what an amazing experience it can be.  If you haven’t, I highly encourage you to get in on the action.  Find the shad, catch the bass.  Seems easy, right?  Not so fast.  Through experience and a ton of research, I’ve uncovered some specific tips and techniques to take full advantage of this special time of year.

To catch bass in the shad spawn, locate shad when they are active early in the morning on hard edges like seawalls, grass lines, and riprap.  Work shad imitating lures like topwaters, flukes, spinnerbaits and swim jigs quickly across the water surface to elicit a reaction strike from waiting bass.

Follow along below to put yourself in the best position to make the most of the shad spawn to increase your chances of success.

When Do Shad Spawn?

The shad spawn occurs during a narrow window of time when certain conditions are present.  

The onset of the shad spawn is typically directly related to the weather because of its effect on water temperature.  Shad will generally begin their spawning activities when water temps begin to hit the high sixties through the high seventies.  

Different parts of the country see shad spawning activity begin a different times of the year — all relative to the changes in water temperature in that region.  The farther south you go, the earlier the shad spawn begins. Go north and it starts later because the water warms up later in the season.

Although there is no hard and fast rule, shad usually begin to spawn after the bass spawn is over.  There are times, however, when they can be at or near the same time.

Where Do Shad Spawn? 7 Spots to Find Shad Spawning

Shad have a fairly predictable pattern of movement when it comes to locations for their spawn.   They look for anything that provides a hard edge that they can use for their spawning activities.  The following are common spots to find shad spawn activity:

  1. Main lake grass points
  1. Floating docks
  1. Bridges and the lines of riprap on the sides of the bridges.
  1. Weedlines that form a visible edge.  The outside edge of grasslands should always be checked for shad activity.
  1. Seawalls
  1. Cover near the mouths of creek arms.
  1. Any hard edges near the bank. Shad love to tuck in close to the bank.

What Time of Day is Best to Fish the Shad Spawn?

Peak shad spawning activity occurs during brief periods of the day.  To take full advantage of the shad spawn for bass fishing, you’ll need to get up early to be on the water at first light.  

Low light means high activity for shad and bass.  After the sun reaches full light, shad activity typically comes to an end. It is the brief period between first light and full light that provides the best chances for fishing success.  At best, you’ll typically have 2 to 3 hours of good shad spawn fishing after first light. 

Note that early morning shad spawning activity could be extended if you’re fishing under overcast skies which means less light and more time to fish the shad spawn.

How Do You Know the Shad Are Spawning?

To effectively fish the shad spawn, it’s helpful to pay attention for nature’s tells that you’ve timed things correctly and have also found the right spot.

First, look for obvious signs of shad activity like bait flickering or even jumping out of the water (usually in an attempt to escape bass in pursuit).

Second, use nature as your guide by looking for other predators who are also after a shad meal.    Pay close attention for any birds either diving on bait or sitting in areas of the lake (identified above) where shad may be spawning.  Bird wildlife can give away great clues that you should be looking for to identify shad spawning areas.

There are a few ways to tell where it’s happening. For one, the blue herons will be perched along those areas gobbling up the massive schools of bait. Gulls and egrets will take advantage of them, too.

11 of the Best Lures for Catching Bass During the Shad Spawn

You’re out of bed early, on the water and you’ve found a great shad spawning area.  Before talking about specific lure choices, note that one of the best color choices for the shad spawn is white.  Now, it’s time to tie on one of the 11 best lures for catching bass during the shad spawn.

1. Spinnerbait

Spinnerbaits are probably one of the most common and popular lure choices for the shad spawn and for good reason.  

Spinnerbaits are outfitted with blades that mimic flickering shad.  Additionally, as a moving bait, they can be fished quickly to cover water thoroughly.  

Finally, they are a good fit for open water or can also be in sparse grass settings since they are relatively weedless.

2. Topwater Popper

Poppers are extremely effective during this special period, especially in more open water settings.  Work them quicker than normal to mimic fleeing baitfish.

3. Swim jig 

Swim jigs are built to move through grass without too much risk of getting stuck.  A white swim jig with a white trailer is a great setup for catching bass during the spawn.  

I’ve used this exact setup to catch bass during the shad spawn in Lake Okeechobee.  The shad were set up on the outside edges of grass line and the bass were eatin’!   

Swim jigs are generally a better fit in grass when the wind is calm.  I opt for a spinnerbait or chatterbait in more windy conditions.  

4. Vibrating Jig

Bass love to jump on a chatterbait during the spawn especially in darker or muddy water or in high wind conditions.  

5. Walking bait

A walking bait can be a great bait to cover water and grab attention.  The erratic movement of the lure resembles a shad that is on its last legs making it across the water.  Bass will seize any opportunity for an easy meal.

6. Frog

When the shad spawn is pushed way back in thick vegetation, a white frog can be a great weedless tactic to get to the bass waiting nearby.  I like to work the frog super fast in these situations because that’s what imitates shad movement best.

7. Fluke

White flukes in open or semi-open water are one of my go-to baits for the shad spawn.  I fish them unweighted and crank them on top of the water with erratic rod tip movements once again looking for ways to mimic the movement of shad.

8. Buzzbait

For a louder, more aggressive play, try a buzzbait.  Buzzbait fishing is not only very effective (especially in settings with less dense vegetation), but the blowups on this bait are second to none.

9. Alabama Rig

A discussion about fishing the shad spawn for bass would be incomplete without mention of the A-rig. If conditions are right and it’s legal in your state (or tournament) the Alabama rig should be always be tied on and ready to go.

It’s built specifically designed to look like a group of baitfish. Fish this bait during the shad spawn and you won’t be disappointed.

10. Swimbait

You’ll see a noticeable and fairly specific time when the shad activity stops.  Immediately after that, tie on a smaller, white, or shad-colored swimbait and work the area thoroughly  After all, the shad know their time is done, but bass may not yet.  Sometimes, you can sneak in another bite or two in a 10 or 15-minute window after the shad activity comes to an end.  

 11. Squarebills

Squarebill crankbaits are great for fishing in shallow water during the shad spawn for bass.  They’re made to deflect off of cover so fish them around hard cover like riprap, docks, sea walls, or stumps to generate bites.  

The Bass Line. Final Word

The shad spawn is a very dynamic situation offering bass anglers a chance to catch big numbers of fish.  Bassmaster Elite pro Terry Scroggins says it best, 

“When you do find spawning shad, the bass are going to be grouped up in schools, … it’s really easy to take advantage of that situation.” source

Be ready for the next shad spawn and you’ll be on to one heck of a bass fishing experience!

Jason Bradstreet

I’m Jason Bradstreet. I grew up fishing tournaments with my Dad who was a well-known Central Florida Bass Guide and tournament angler. I have been bass fishing for all of my life am passing the love on to my family. Now, I serve as a bass fishing coach and captain to my kids who fish tournaments in the Bass Nation circuit. Our family loves to fish. We research, practice together, and enjoy both recreational and tournament bass fishing as a family. We are excited to share what we’ve learned on this site!

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