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