Fishing with Bull Shad Swimbaits
When Mike Bucca got into swimbait fishing he saw plenty of trout imitating baits but a serious lack of quality Gizzard/Threadfin Shad style baits. What did he do? He designed and handmade his own! It was then that the “Trout of the South”, better known as the Bull Shad, was born. The Bull Shad, whose name comes from the nickname of large gizzard shad (Bull Nose Shad), became notorious for catching bass; and BIG ones. Now, many years after the original first generation of Bull Shads, there are many different options and some anglers may not know where to start. Here we are going to dive into some Bull Shad options, tips, and recommended tackle to hopefully answer any questions and help you choose the right Bull Shad for you!
BULL SHAD OPTIONS
Sizes: 5”, 6”, 7”, 8”, 9”, 11”
Most people are going to start off with the 5” or 6” size because they are intimidated by the larger sizes. Once they build some confidence, they will step up to the 7” or 8”. Generally, you should base your selection off the size of the baitfish in your local body of water. The 5” and 6” are going to catch you more fish but the 7” and larger are for really targeting that trophy size fish.
First time buyer recommendation: 6”
Colors: Gizzard, Threadfin, Golden Shiner, Dirty Bone
Match the hatch. Choose the color for the type of baitfish in your local body of water. If you are unsure or are looking for a good all-around option, then Dirty Bone/Bone is a terrific choice. The paint jobs are one of the best parts of the Bull Shad swimbait. Mike Bucca didn’t want factory, replicated paint jobs. He wanted these to look like real life bait fish, which meant imperfections such as scales missing and a beat-up look; not picture-perfect paint jobs. These color options are available for the 5” and 6” options. Once you hit 7” or larger then Gizzard is the only color option.
First time buyer recommendation: Match the hatch or Dirty Bone
Sink Rate: Floater, Slow, Fast, Extra Fast
What depth are you trying to target? This should be your first question when selecting the sink rate. If you are fishing deep water with fish holding close to the bottom, then you probably want a faster sink rate so your Bull Shad gets down into the strike zone quicker. Overall, we like the slow sink the most. This gives you some versatility so you can vary what depth you want to fish. You can keep it along the top or let it sink and fish deeper. Sink rates also vary on size. The 5” has floating, slow, and fast options. 6” has all options including extra fast. 7” and larger are all only available in slow sink.
First time buyer recommendation: Slow Sink
Sure, almost any reel can cast any bait. However, you need a reel that has the strength and components to handle the stress and work load from throwing large baits and can continually do it throughout thousands of casts. Then, when you hook that monster, it needs to have enough power to reel the fish in. So, a reel with larger gears, improved drag systems, and larger spool sizes is a good place to start and typically anglers look to either round or low-profile style reels. It’s really a preference of how you like the feel of each reel in your hand, but generally the low-profile reels are lighter in weight. When you are using an overall heavier setup, saving some weight in the reel is a big help to reduce fatigue so you can make cast after cast on a long day of fishing. We like using the low-profile casting reel from 13 Fishing; the Concept A3. As far as gear ratio goes, we like something between 5.2:1 up to 7.2:1. Usually, you want to retrieve a swim bait in the slower to medium speed, so something in this range will work great. If you tend to work baits faster, staying on the lower end near 5.2:1 will help force you to slow down. If you have the discipline to fish slow, you can use a higher speed reel so you can work the bait at whatever retrieve speed you’d like.
First time buyer recommendation: 13 Fishing Concept A3 Casting Reel 6.3:1
Taper, action, line weight, rod length, handle length, lure weight, etc. There are so many factors but we like to keep it simple. We look for a rod with Fast action/taper and we match the lure weight to the lure we’re throwing. Here are the average weights for each size of Bull Shad:
We like 13 Fishing’s Muse Black swimbait rods for 2-4-ounce lures. It’s a little heavy for the 5” size but works great with the 6”, 7”, and 8”.
First time buyer recommendation: 13 Fishing Muse Black Swimbait Rod – 7’9”, Fast Action, 2-4 Lure (oz.) rating
Another thing we like to keep simple is the line. We like to use all monofilament line and generally 15 to 20 lb. breaking strength for the 5” and 6” size baits. We like to be a little heavier on the line so we have some extra peace of mind on our lure investment. The stretch in the monofilament helps to prevent pulling the treble hooks from the fish's mouth and won’t break as easy as a braid to fluorocarbon combo if your reel birds nest mid cast. Once you get up to using the 7” or larger, you should consider stepping up the size line to help handle the extra weight of the lure.
First time buyer recommendation: Your favorite monofilament 15 to 20 lb.
Here are some tips from our team to help get you started:
Where do you throw it?
“I will throw it anywhere I would throw a spinnerbait or crankbait. The dirtier the water the closer to the target structure I want to be with the bait. Both smallmouth and largemouth will eat them. I love fishing them in rivers for smallmouth where baitfish is the main forage no matter if it's shad, shiners, or minnows. I target deep cuts and rock and will slow roll it over my intended target and then as I reach open water I will make a few fast cranks to make it appear as a fleeing fish. This is when I get bit 90 percent of the time. In lakes I will target grass lines, laydowns, and secondary points largemouth. When targeting them I seem to get bit more on a slow steady retrieve.” - Nathan Rees
What’s your setup?
“The rod I use is an extra heavy, mod fast rod, and is 7'10". I prefer a faster reel in at least a 7:1 ratio and I use 17lb mono.” - Jeffrey Rabbitt
Working the bait.
" Being in knee-deep water, the only way to fish this 6” Bull Shad was to wake it. I mean who really wants to snag and possibly lose one? With the first few casts being short ones, I figured out the speed I needed to reel to keep the bait from busting the surface. And then I started bombing this bait as far as I could. The fourth 19” fish would come after I watched him follow it for about 15 feet. In a panic I just killed the bait, and he just demolished this bait as it turned its side on him, revealing the bait's profile." - Russell Johnson (describing one of his tournament winning fish)
What happens if you get snagged?
“You made the investment into a quality swimbait so you should also invest into a quality lure retriever, just in case. If that doesn’t work, make sure to have some goggles and go swimming.” - Seth Willoughby
One thing to keep in mind is there are no set rules when it comes to tackle requirements. Ultimately, you should experiment and find what works best for you. We listed what we like to use to help give some people a starting point. Check out our Youtube video for more tips and to see this lure in action and catching some monster fish:
- Seth Willoughby
St. Clair Tournament Tip with Matt “Bass” Ball
I just returned from a wonderful weekend spent exploring the waters of Lake St. Clair in Michigan. I traveled there to fish in the KBF trail event held there with my Dad as well as my good friend and FishingOnline teammate Russell Johnson. Spending time with friends and family has been the most rewarding part of my tournament career but one thing that has recently came to mind has been how much I have learned as an angler through fishing around the country in different bodies of water. This trip was no different and I would like to share one of the things that I learned that has made me a better angler and hopefully will help you as well.
To set up this tip I will give you some background as to the type of water and conditions that we faced on Lake St. Clair. We arrived at the same time that a strong cold front was making its way across the area. The weather had been abnormally warm for this type of year and the temperatures had dropped with heavy winds. These conditions made fishing the open water very difficult so we, along with the other competitors, had been limited to looking for safe places to fish that protected us from the heavy wind and waves. We were lucky enough, despite these conditions, to locate some of the Smallmouth bass that this lake is known for. I learned a lot on this trip and ultimately it landed me a top 10 finish. What was the key to getting the bites and finishing strong? Weight! These fish were staging up in anywhere between 20 to 28 ft. of water off steep ledges. On the top of the ledges were underwater grass beds which dropped sharply to the 20 ft. range. On our fishfinders were the telltale arcs of the bass we were looking for. The problem was not so much the depth of the fish but the fact that the wind was blowing us one way while the strong current was pulling our bait the other, making fishing out of our Jackson Kayaks quite a challenge. The answer to our dilemma was using enough weight to have control of our bait as well as contact with the bottom. We were using 412 Bait Co. tubes with ⅜ oz. jig heads and drop shots with ½ oz. lindy sinkers. We spent the night before the tournament searching for anything we could find that would give us the weight we needed to get down and feel the bottom. Without bottom contact the bite was nonexistent. Most of my fish came off the dropshot. I feel the ability to get down to the bottom and stay there, with the heavier weight while still being able to present my finesse technique effectively, was the key to landing fish.
So, if you are like me and have struggled with confidence dropshot fishing, try increasing your weight until you have a good contact with the bottom. You will have a much better feel and be able to keep your bait where it is needed. This may be the change you need to start having success!
- FishOn ProStaff
Anchor Wizard Spotlight by Matt Ball
Driving home from this past weekend’s KBF New River two day tournament I had a few hours to reflect on my 5th place finish and think about what I did right and what I could have done a little better to improve my finish. I will leave the things that I could have done better for another time but want to share one of those things that I felt had a big role in my strong finish against some of the best anglers in the country when it comes to Smallmouth Bass fishing.
The one thing this weekend that I feel had a big impact on my ability to catch fish was an awesome product called the Anchor Wizard. Now I have had this item on my kayak for 2 years and always used it without much thought to the advantage it plays in boat position. This became very clear to me on day one of the tournament when I got my anchor snagged and had to cut it loose. I went no more than one hour without an anchor and knew real quick that without it my chances were slim.
How can this make such a difference you ask? Well, during pre fishing, myself and my good buddy Coy Lehman, a Wilderness Systems Pro Staffer, had figured out that the good fish were holding just above and below the faster moving water. The only way to effectively fish these spots was to deploy a front anchor which placed the front of the boat upstream allowing you to bring your bait with the current to the bass waiting to ambush its prey. Without the anchor the amount of casts you could get in these areas was very few. Now I know most people will say not to use an anchor in the current and yes it is a tricky and sometimes dangerous tactic and some common sense needs to come into play here. However, in the right conditions, holding just above the riffle in the push water or just below the rough water is key to finding Smallmouth and a lot of times the big ones.
The benefit of the Anchor Wizard off the bow of your boat is it allows your boat to handle the current moving past your boat and gives you a better presentation. It is also much safer than dropping an anchor from the stern in the current. The thing to remember is to keep a knife handy to cut the rope if things get sketchy. Also I don't recommend using a grapnel type anchor for this method. I prefer a 5 to 8 lb dumbbell or kettle bell which is much less likely to get stuck. After snagging and having to cut my anchor loose this past weekend I was forced to use a large river rock tied off to hold me in position and it worked quite well. The convenience of the ability to crank up the line with one hand, free my anchor, and then move position made finding the sweet spots much easier and led to more fish in the boat.
With all the accessories available today to improve your time on the water The Anchor Wizard ranks right near the top. Check out the Anchor Wizard along with tons of other great must have products at Fishing Online.
- FishOn ProStaff
Bonafide Kayaks - A First Look - Best New Fishing Kayak
Bonafide Kayaks are the most anticipated fishing kayak to ever hit the market. These new kayaks will provide you with ultimate fishability. The anticipated ship date for the SS-127 is December 2017 and will cost $1,599. The SS-107 model will be available in 2018 and will cost $1,299.
These kayaks are built from the ground up and manufactured in the USA. Everything from the hull, seat, padding, accessories, even down to the screws that come standard on this kayak are all 100% made in the USA! These kayaks will come in 4 different colors; Hondo Orange, True Grit Sand, Cool Hand Blue, and Top Gun Grey. Let's start by looking at the overall design of the kayak. It has a hybrid catamaran hull design which gives it superior stability, making standing a breeze. The names of the kayaks explain themselves. The SS in the name stands for "Sit/Stand", and the numbers describe the length of the boat. Therefore, the SS-127 is going to be 12 feet 7 inches long, and the SS-107 is going to be 10 feet 7 inches long. Every piece was taken into deep consideration during development. The handles have rubber on the belly of them, giving comfort and grip when lifting. The back handle has the same rubber but also can tuck back under the kayak and out of the way. The front hatch features "Doubleheader" hinges so it can be opened from the front or the back. This allows you to easily store your paddle and fishing rods inside the kayak. The seat, besides being one of the most comfortable kayak chairs I have ever sat in, is designed to easily transition from high to ultra-high and has a "junk drawer" that slides out from underneath it for tackle management. The drawer can slide in and out because it is on a Geartrac system. Bonafide kayaks come to us from the same creator of YakAttack, Luther Cifers, so it is no surprise that the best of the best of YakAttack is included on these boats. Geartracs allow the under-the-seat-drawer to slide out smoothly and quietly. Geartracs are also featured on the foot pedals, which allows for a foot controlled rudder system. The back tank well is designed to fit the YakAttack Blackpak both longways and sideways so you can choose which way to strap it down with the provided bungees. The bungees even come with special quickclips that are designed to mount right on to the Blackpak. Paddle and rod management on the Bonafide's is done by using a strap that doubles as a paddle keeper and rod organizing station to lay your fishing rods on. The grooves in the front hatch allow your paddle and rods to lay naturally along the front of the boat and back to your chair.
Besides the difference in length, what are some of the notable differences between the SS-127 and the SS-107? First off, the SS-127 will come with 4 more Geartracs (2 in the front and 2 in the back). The front hatch will be shorter on the smaller kayak; therefore, the opening is smaller in size. Lastly, the back of the 127 is Power Pole ready while the 107 is not.
Here is side by side comparison of the specs of these 2 awesome kayaks:
These boats boast a ton of features that will make your day out on the water that much more fun and efficient. Here are some more of the highlighted features:
Hybrid cat hull design
Sliding under-the-seat junk drawer
Multiple rod and paddle management points
HiRise seating with ultra-high bass boat like position
PerchPads for additional standing position on top of the gunwhales
Doubleheader hinges integrated with Bow Hatch and DryPod
Bow Hatch with rod management channels
Boss Strap rod management system
Fat Grip bow handle w/ comfort insert
Fat Grip retractable stern handle w/ comfort insert
Low Profile deck fittings
SeatRack positioning system
Omni Hook stern tankwell tie-down system
- John Harley
Kayak Fishing West Virginia
Kayak fishing is the fastest growing sport in the world and West Virginia is one of the leaders in promoting this great sport. West Virginia offers abundant angling opportunities for the kayak fishermen, but none greater then the famous New River. The New River is known across the nation for its turbulent whitewater, beautiful landscapes, and most importantly the fantastic fishing.
Most people flock to the New River in search of the hard fighting smallmouth bass. People want a chance to see their acrobatic, aerial displays and a chance to feel their hard fighting head shakes. Although most people hire a rafting guide to help them navigate the sometimes treacherous rapids, kayaks have somewhat changed that for some. Kayak manufacturing companies like Jackson Kayak have catered to the needs of kayak fisherman, creating kayaks specifically for running rivers like the New. These kayaks are built to handle any obstacle the river may throw at an angler. Stable, nimble, and easy to maneuver down the winding waterway.
I am lucky enough to know all about the New River. I grew up in Hinton, WV located directly on the river, below the Bluestone Dam. I started fishing the New as a youngster and have honed my skills as an angler and now as a paddler. I started fishing from a Jackson Kayak Coosa about 3 years ago and couldn't image going back to wading the banks. Kayaking has given me the chance to access areas of the river that aren't accessible to others. It has made me a better angler, because of the adjustments that must be made while in a kayak. You are limited to the amount of gear that you can bring on a trip. This makes you be more diligent with the way you fish and it makes you slow down. It means you are more likely to make those extra casts to that certain spot or stay in that area just a little bit longer, dissecting each specific hole.
Kayak fishing the New River is both rewarding and exhilarating. The New River offers so much to the kayak angler at all levels of expertise. Beginner paddlers may stay on a more relaxed section of the river in the many long deep pools. Expert paddlers can test their skills against class II and III rapids. Many smallmouth fishermen, like myself know that below those rapids can be the best place to find the big bronze fish. Kayaking can really put you in those certain areas while still providing all day comfort.
I recently took a trip to Sandstone Falls below my hometown and was handsomely rewarded with an amazing experience. My kayak had the ability to paddle upstream against strong current in order to access an area that would be difficult for even a jet boat. Not many people have stood in front of the large falls, so close that the mist created from the crashing falls would cool your face from the blazing sun. That experience is one I will never forget and something many should see up close. We in the kayak fishing community love and appreciate the outdoors just as much as the fishing. It’s about hearing sometimes nothing, it’s about watching the fog roll across the water at first light, it’s about the calmness that seems to take over your soul when you're out on the river.
Kayak fishing is a great way to connect with the West Virginia wilderness. I frequently see river otters, minks, osprey, and my favorite the American Bald Eagle. You can take time to enjoy the outdoors without the sound of a boat engine roaring in the background. The New River has many sections where a kayaker can get completely away from civilization. Sections like Meadow Creek to Glade Creek or Shanklins Ferry to Mouth of Indian Creek. Remote areas that offer fantastic fishing and can be done by the moderately experienced paddler.
Someone that would consider a trip to the New River would need to bring along a few things. Safety is the most important thing while kayaking. I recommend everyone wear a coast guard approved Personal Floatation Device. I personally own the NRS Chinook, but there are many companies who manufacture PFD’s for the kayak angler. Also carry an emergency first aid kit, an extra set of clothes in a dry bag, and last but not least, bring plenty of water for hydrating yourself throughout the day.
In order to do battle with big smallmouth, I suggest spinning tackle for precision casting. A 7 foot spinning rod with medium power and moderate action will handle the majority of what you will use on any given day. Pair that up with 8 or 10 pound fluorocarbon line. This setup is perfect for throwing some of my favorite baits like tube jigs, small crank baits, and minnow imitating lures. Seasonal patterns usually dictate the colors and style of baits that I carry. My general rule of thumb is crawfish patterns in the spring and shad patterns in the fall. Spring means crawfish colored crank baits with green pumpkin and orange variations. Tube jigs with the weighted jig head in red, green, brown, and black. Fall means minnow style hard jerk baits in shad colors. Soft flukes in white and silver. Spinnerbaits can also be very productive. Top water lures like the buzz bait or popper are a fun and exciting way to catch smallmouth in the summer months.
I spend the majority of my time below the Bluestone Dam in Hinton. My favorite sections are from the Dam down to the takeout near Berry’s Campground and Brooks falls to Sandstone falls. These sections boast amazing fishing, but also require some technical paddling. Less experienced paddlers might consider the area below the dam before trying the more difficult whitewater around Brooks Falls. Regardless the New River offers something for everyone. Do some research, plan a trip, speak with the locals, and I will see you on the water!
- FishOn ProStaff
Inshore Kayak Fishing Charter
I wanted to start the New Year off right. I was in Florida for a short family vacation for New Years Day and wanted to try for any saltwater fish I could hook into. When I came across Deep Blue Kayak Fishing (a Florida based kayak fishing charter company) and saw these huge saltwater fish they were catching from kayaks, I immediately thought I have to give this a shot. I really enjoy kayak fishing at home in Pittsburgh, PA, but I was flying down and would not have my kayak. Deep Blue solved that problem by providing everything I would need for a day out on the water. The kayak, the rods and reels, live bait, and terminal tackle… all I had to do was show up and go fish!
Although I booked the offshore charter, the weather didn’t cooperate and I had to switch to an inshore charter instead. At first, I was kind of disappointed because all I could think about was a sailfish peeling drag and pulling me behind. Any thought of disappointment instantly disappeared when I hooked into my first good Snook. These fish fight extremely hard; jumping, diving, and trying to break the line off in the mangroves, it was insanely fun.
My guide, Matt, put us on plenty of fish and the action was non-stop all day. I had a great time and definitely recommend that you try one of these charters out for yourself! If you get Matt as your guide and want to hear an awesome fishing story, ask him if he's ever caught a Marlin. Check out their website below and watch my video recapping the trip and some footage of some sweet Snook fishing action!
Deep Blue Kayak Fishing’s Website:
- Seth Willoughby