by M. L. Anderson
The D-Shad is different from most of the fluke-style baits you may be used to using, because it’s heavier than most. This means that fished weightless, it will begin to sink, and because of the weight of the tail, it sort of quivers on its way down and looks pretty darn irresistible. Because this lure imitates baitfish, you can fish it virtually anywhere in the water column, which makes it one of the most versatile baits out there, especially for summer bass fishing.
D-SHAD ON TOP
We hooked up with Trapp Technology pro Kevin Finley and learned how he fishes these shad baits at Lake Pleasant in the summer. In the early morning, the bass (and stripers) at Pleasant will come out of 25 feet of water to grab a shad fished on the surface. “They all commit to this bait,” Kevin says. “Some other baits, if they get a good look at it they go away, but they eat these.” In early summer, points are especially good, and as the summer progresses, moving toward the main lake is where you need to be.
Kevin uses a medium-fast spinning rod and 8- to 10-pound-test braid with an 8-foot long fluorocarbon leader. He joins the two lines with an Alberto knot. The clearer the water, the longer the leader needs to be. You can cast the lure forever with this rig. Most people fish it pretty slowly, with a pull and flutter move, but Kevin twitches the bait pretty quickly, keeping it darting from side to side near the surface. In his words, he “jerks the living daylight out of it.” And it works. This bite will go on pretty much all day long. Just keep moving and keep twitching. You can even do this at night – just use a dark D-Shad so it shows against the moonlight as bass look up. If you’re having trouble with the bait rolling, try a weighted hook, and make sure you’re rigging the bait completely straight. Watch Ron Colby’s video on rigging the D-Shad for tips.
D-SHAD THROUGH THE GRASS
Summer is weed and grass time, and we all know that bass love to hang around in the shady grass and weeds. To fish that stuff without getting constantly hung up is the key to catching those fish. The shape of the D-Shad helps it move through that vegetation. To make it even more streamlined, we like to use a really small bullet sinker and peg it in front of a Texas-rigged D-Shad. The sinker should be just enough to put a point on the bait so it slips between the weeds. If you don’t want to add extra weight, try a Water Gremlin Bull Shot weight. The size 0 weighs almost nothing and you can pinch it on the line just ahead of the eye, protecting the eye and parting the grass in front of the hook. You can swim it smoothly or use a stop-and-go, letting it sink a bit in between. In grass you can use braided line, and tie it to the hook with a snell knot so the knot doesn’t catch the grass. Also, look for a good hook like Gamakatsu, with the eye all the way closed – grass can also catch on those tiny openings in the eye.
You can also fish this right along the edges of the weeds, especially looking for darker (deeper) water. This is how we catch the big bass at Havasu along the miles of tules. The day isn’t long enough to fish them all, but if you concentrate on the darker areas of deeper water, you can raise your cast to catch ratio considerably. You may be tempted to use a bigger sinker so you can fish it faster, but most of the time, a lighter weight will get bit more often.
D-SHAD ON THE RIPRAP
Riprap isn’t just for craws. A lot of smaller fish use rock spaces to hide in, and bass know that riprap banks are a good place for a quick meal. A great way to fish a D-Shad on riprap is to use a mushroom head jig and rig it with an open hook. This makes the shad jump from rock to rock head first, with that tail wiggling seductively. I learned this trick from a guy named Danny Marzano about a hundred years ago – and he used it on any rocky bank, not just riprap.
Use a good spinning rod – about a medium action. You don’t want it too stiff or you’ll jerk the bait away from the fish. Mono is just fine, or you can use fluorocarbon – about 8-pound-test. Most of the time you don’t have to worry about the fish getting into trees or anything, so light line is fine. The banks with riprap and rock are usually fairly steep – like 45 degrees, so you can stay pretty close. Keep the boat in about 30 feet of water, and cast right to the edge of the water. Let the line go slack, signaling that the lure has hit bottom, then take up the slack. Now move the lure a bit with the rod – just enough to make it jump out a bit and fall a little deeper. Again, wait for the line to go slack, then repeat. If, when you go to move the lure, it feels heavy – set the hook! Sometimes they’ll grab it as it falls and just keep going, so keep an eye on your line all the time. The open hook is pretty easy to set. This is such an easy way to catch fish that it’s the perfect way to teach your grandkids. Just don’t move the boat too much until you’re ready to re-cast.
D-SHAD IN THE TREES
A Texas-rigged D-Shad with a bullet sinker is a great flippin’ bait – the slim profile slips between branches, and there are no appendages to get stuck on twigs. You can pitch or flip it right into the very heart of a tree and it will shimmy down and look like easy prey for any big bass chillin’ in the shadows. If you can get away with it, don’t peg the sinker. I was lucky enough to get tips on flipping from pro Dean Rojas one summer. Dean says to go right to the heart of the cover first thing – but first, think about how you’re going to get a bass out of there. If you think it’s too thick to pull a bass out of, try a little more toward the edges. Use the fastest reel you can find, because once the bass grabs that D-Shad, he’s going to head right back into that tree. You need to be able to get control immediately.
One of the reasons that you can catch bigger fish flipping is that the bass in really heavy cover just don’t see as many baits. Bank beaters pass them by. You won’t get as many bites, but the ones you do get are likely to be worth the wait, so make sure your equipment is in tip top shape, check your line relentlessly, re-tie often, and keep your hooks sharp as a needle.
When you’re flipping, keep your rod close to your body. If you get bit with your arm way out, you’re done for. Keep the flip all one smooth move so if you get bit as soon as it hits the water, you’re in position to set the hook immediately. To keep a manageable amount of line out, hold the rod with it pointing straight up in the air in your left hand. With your right hand, grab the line right in front of the reel and pull it out to the side until your arm is straight. If the lure is hanging right next to the reel at this point, you’ve got just the right amount of line out.
Dean says to get good at flipping you can practice at home. Just walk around the yard and practice flipping and pitching to small targets. Use the garden and practice getting it under the overhanging bushes. Put cups out and practice putting the lure right in the cup. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
D-SHAD ON THE BOTTOM
J-Rig, Jika Rig – whatever you want to call it, it’s all the rage. What it boils down to is a long weight hanging down by the eye of the hook. It can be attached to the hook eye itself, and usually is when you buy them already set up. You can make your own on the fly pretty easily, or rig a bunch up at home. Nitro Pro Gary Senft simply slides a cylindrical drop shot weight onto the line before tying on an EWG worm hook. I’ve also seen guys use split rings to attach the weights to the hook eye. Gary’s method lets the bait move away from the weight, and also gives the fish less leverage to throw the hook. Not that it’s a heavy weight – Senft usually uses a 3/16-ounce drop shot weight. Since the eyes of those weights are usually pointed so they pinch the line, he uses a knife to round them out – just insert the point into the eye and give it a bit of a twist.
Senft likes to fish these on points, often 20 to 30 feet deep. He watches for fish on the graph so he knows when he’s likely to get bit. He’ll run from point to point, because once he knows how deep the fish are holding, it’s easy to find that depth on each point, fish it, then move on. He simply drops the rig down to the bottom, then drags it slowly around, letting the weight stay on the bottom while the lure’s tail points up. When he starts seeing fish on the graph, he’ll slow down, give it a little shake, then stop. Then he pulls it a bit and shakes it again.
When you first get to the lake in the summer, head for a nice long point and circle around until you start seeing the fish. Once you’ve got the depth, you’ll find them there on every good point. The J-rig is a great way to target those deeper fish, and you can get a D-Shad to mimic the bait fish on your lake, or try something completely different.
If you’ve got a bag of D-Shad baits, you can use them to fish anyplace on the lake. Keep several rods on deck, each with a D-Shad rigged for different types of cover or structure. You’ll find that it’s one of the most versatile and effective baits in your arsenal.