By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
It’s a given that once largemouth are done with the spawn, threadfin shad begin the same ritual.
For Gerald Spohrer, who will compete on the MLF Bass Pro Tour in 2019, the best strategy to capitalize on this is to be on the water at first light. Doing so allows one to key in on the narrow feeding window that often extends into the first couple hours of daylight.
Spohrer has learned where to look and knows what to throw to be able to have success during the shad spawn, which usually hits full stride when the water reaches the 65- to 70-degree range with the activity tapering off once 75 degrees becomes the norm.
“If you launch the boat when the sun is already up you are going to miss this deal,” Spohrer said. “The key part in practice is finding out what the shad are spawning on in that lake and getting up early enough to find enough places and capitalize on the situation.”
In instances where the shad will spawn all over the lake, it’s important to identify areas where the bass are feeding on them. He’ll start the day off with a topwater bait trying to cover water and trick a bass or two into biting.
Where to Look
It’s important to recognize the type of structure that threadfin will spawn around relative to the lake that you are fishing.
Growing up in southern Louisiana, where he fished Lake Verret on a frequent basis, Spohrer learned that shad would spawn on Cyprus trees. When fishing on lakes like Guntersville, Chickamauga or Pickwick, floating docks are always the deal. On lakes with a predominance of vegetation, threadfin will spawn on grass lines, hyacinth mats or lily pads. At Toledo Bend, finding hard clay points with hay grass or seawalls can be the ticket to success.
During the 2018 Lake Travis Bassmaster Elite Series near Austin, Texas, Spohrer realized that shad were spawning in all of the marinas. Knowing he had a small window of opportunity, he’d pull up on each key area, fire off three casts, and head off to the next spot. Picking apart an area was not an option unless he was picking off big fish on every cast.
He’ll typically burn his lure tight to cover, like a floating dock, as high in the water column as possible.
“At Lake Travis, those shad might be spawning in 100 feet of water, but I’d throw a spinnerbait in the depth of the water column that the shad were at,” he said.
Especially challenging was that the water was extremely clear and the bass were well-educated and skittish. The key for Spohrer’s 6th-place finish was being able to catch a kicker fish each day. Without it, he would have been in the middle of the pack like everyone else scrambling to make a check.
The problem when fishing a tournament during the shad spawn is that it can stall out at any time. As water temps increased 3- to 4-degrees from practice through the tournament, that’s exactly what happened.
“Guys would run to a marina and the shad spawn would be over by the time we got there,” he said. “You would hit one marine and it was on then pull up on another a mile away and it was over.”
Spohrer said that the shad spawn was prolonged in those marinas under sunlight opposed to those that fizzled out under cloudy skies.
During practice at Travis, Spohrer used a topwater bait and a jerkbait to draw bass out from under the docks before marking each with a waypoint in his electronics.
He’d rotate between a white spinnerbait, bladed jig, swim jig, topwater bait, and a jerkbait. All of these lures were conducive to covering water quickly for aggressive feeding bass while employing a run-and-gun approach.
He also found that bass grouped up by size. If he pulled up on a point and he was only catching 2-pounders, he knew he had to keep looking if he hoped to find better quality fish. Finding the areas holding better quality bass was key because Spohrer found those fish to be incredibly consistent and would show up on that spot each morning.
Once the shad would spawn on the dock and the ritual ended, they would move 50 to 100 yards away from it and swim in schools. That would transpire until 9 a.m., after which the shad would relate to the shade of the docks.
Eventually, the bass got tired of chasing the shad and would rest by suspending beneath docks in 100 feet of water.
“You could see so good in the water that the bass would hang out in wolf packs,” he said. “You’d make a cast and see several 6-pounders following it.”
Spohrer realized those bass were territorial and would not abandon the area.
“You had to put your bait in there at a precise time to get bit,” he said.
At noon each day, the bigger fish slowly became active, but were lure specific.
“They would only bite a jerkbait when the sun was in a certain position that it shaded a part of the dock,” he said. “If the sun was directly overhead and there was no shady side, and the bass were directly below the dock, they wouldn’t bite a jerkbait. The wind had to blow on it just right to get a bite.”
Spohrer constantly had to pay attention to the sun, wind, and time of the day. Unconventional wisdom told him that the best way to trick one of those larger bass to bite was by fishing a 2.5-oz.6th Sense Mag Flutter Spoon HD 170.
“I would go to those places that had those big fish and I knew between 12 and 3 was my best chance to get those fish to bite,” he said.