By Mark Fong
Over the years, the Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm has developed a reputation for being an outstanding bait for catching smallmouth bass. While the Shad Shape Worm is an extremely effective offering for both largemouths and spotted bass, it is a must-have weapon in the arsenal of serious brown bass hunters. FLW Touring Pro and Yamamoto National Team Member, Jay Yelas agrees. “The Shad Shape Worm is my favorite for smallmouths and it’s a go-to drop shot bait for me.”
Drop Shotting the Shad Shape Worm
“You've got to have clear water for the best drop shot fishing,” explains Yelas. “Typically, fall is a dry time of year. The rivers are not flooded, and the lakes haven’t seen much rain so there is no run off. Some of the bait moves up into the shallows but on the main lake section of big lakes and rivers those fish will stay out on that main body of water throughout the fall. You've got deep bait fish and clear water and those fish just live out there in the deep water chasing schools of bait fish around.”
The 2002 Bassmaster Classic Champion chooses spinning tackle for his drop shot duties. He relies on a Kistler 6'6” KLX Series medium action spinning rod paired with a Lew's Team Pro Speed spinning reel. Yelas spools up with 20lb Lews APT braid for his mainline tied to a 6' to 8' length of 8lb Lews APT fluorocarbon with a double uni knot. If the water is extremely clear he will downsize his leader to 6lb test.
On the business end of his line, Yelas ties on a size #1 ZoneLOC drop shot hook leaving an 8” to 10” dropper to which he attaches a round tungsten clip on a drop shot sinker. Yelas favors tungsten as it allows him to have a better feel of the bottom and will adjust his sinker weight for the conditions at hand. A ¼-oz sinker is a good starting point but when fishing in heavy wind or current he will upsize to a ½-oz or heavier.
“Probably more than half the bites you get are right after the sinker hits the bottom and the worm slowly settles down,” explains Yelas. “If there is an aggressive fish down there that's wanting to bite, he's gonna grab it right away. But the drop shot is also a bait that the fish will eat when they don't want to feed. You can keep it down there in their face. Just shake it and leave it down there. A lethargic fish will come over and eventually check it out, especially smallmouth. They're just so inquisitive. You just have to try different things and let the fish tell you what they want.”
When it comes to color selection, Yelas likes to keep it simple. “I like #297 (green pumpkin). It just catches them all over,” says Yelas. “On northern lakes I have had good luck with black with blue (#021). It imitates a leech really well.”
Locating Fall Smallmouths
When searching for autumn smallies, Yelas offers a few key suggestions that can help make your task easier and more productive. “In the fall, your electronics are a really effective tool to find the fish. You're looking for bait fish and you're looking for bass, too. You can see the fish most of the time; a lot of the fishing is just vertical. You'll graph over these places and see them. Put the trolling motor in and as you go along casting, keep an eye on your depth finder and you'll see a lot of the fish you'll catch right under the boat.”
On rivers like the Columbia in Oregon and Washington, the smallies are out on the main river. The fish like current but they also like eddies near the current. Obstructions such as rocky points or man-made jetties that create back eddies are prime locations. Locating river fishing locations can be very visual. A lot of times you can see where the fish are going to be located by simply cruising along with your boat on plane.
In places like the Great Lakes or Lake Champlain, offshore shoals and ledges are magnets for fall brown bass. While there are plenty of visible targets to fish such as points or rocky shorelines, much of the best smallmouth locations are hidden offshore. Yelas relies on his mapping chip to locate rocky reefs and long ridges. Rocky veins that have scattered short grass mixed in are key locations that the smallmouth will cycle through during the day.
“I've seen it on places like the Great Lakes where the fish will suspend,” says Yelas. “The smallies will be in 20 foot over a 40-foot bottom. You can take the Shad Shape Worm and drop it in your transducer cone, watching it go straight down to the depth the fish are at and just hold it there. I've caught a ton of fish doing that. It works all over the place on different bodies of water.”
If you have never fished the Shad Shape Worm for smallies, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
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