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You name it a largemouth bass will eat it. If it fits in their mouth and they can catch it’s a meal. Any creature in or around the water is fair game. Snakes, birds, frogs, bugs, even baby bass but they love crawfish but what they end up dining on more than anything is shad. Gizzard and threadfin shad make up a majority of the diet of all species of bass. When I keep fish to eat I do the amateur autopsy and check the stomach contents. Again while you liable to find anything in their most often its crawfish or shad. They love crawfish because its high energy food, I’ve often referred to them as Red Bull for bass. Once cold weather hits the crawfish will bury up but shad are there all through the year. That’s exactly why bass eat more shad than anything, they’re more available than any other food source.

Huge numbers of shad populate most major lakes and river systems. With the shad spawn during the summer months after the bass and in water temperatures above 65 degrees. The shad can be the key to the catch for bass anglers since studies have revealed that up to 75% of their diet is the shad. Adult shad, if they make it that far, can be up to 20 inches long, weigh three pounds and are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids, bass as well as catfish and other game fish will gorge themselves on this particular forage base food source. Many baits mimic the shad and produce numbers of fish. My choices are spinnerbaits, crankbaits, soft plastic swim baits and buzzbaits. In my opinion matching the color is more important than matching the size. In choosing a bait I almost always upsize. The logic being if you’re competing with thousands (millions) of shad you have to make your bait stand out, for this reason I go to a larger lure. A typical spinnerbait blade is #5 willow, it’s good but to draw the attention of a big bass I switch my blades to #7 willows. The profile of crankbaits is important I prefer and have had the most luck with the square lipped models (the Strike King 2.5 in color #584 Oyster is a hit with the bass) to crank into cover and get the deflection bite. On the lipless cranks, same color or chrome and blue in the ½ ounce version of the Red Eye Shad also for Strike King. I throw the buzzbait to try to simulate a small school of fleeing shad. I like to change the skirt to a #204 blue shad skirt to give the most authentic look to buzzers and spinners.

Retrieving the bait is critical to make the shad imitators appear to be making a break for it, injured or just in a panic. A swim that goes into a stop and go with a change of pace is generally the most effective. Giant school of shad especially in the fall will draw the interest of bass who follow like a pack of wolves and attack the large gathering of shad. Another fall trick is to change the blade on your spinner out to a straight white Colorado (round) blade. As the waters get cold and drop below the 40’s shad will in many instances die off. The flutter and fall of a dying shad is hard for bass of any size to resist. A retrieve that allows this bait to helicopter down and look helpless pays off. A white swim jig with a soft plastic minnow body trailer is also a great late season bait.

For most of the lures a stout monofilament or even braided line should be spooled onto a baitcasting reels, most of mine are Lew’s with a mid-level retrieve ratio. The baitcasters have the guts to battle big bass and stand up well to larger lures and a heavy schedule. I cast and catch on 7 ½ foot medium to medium/heavy rods. If it’s possible I prefer standing in my kayak, generally the Jackson Big Rig but I maintain a fleet of kayaks for different types of water. The stability of the Big Rig gets the nod from me.

While I keep a jig handy for those bass searching the rocks for crawfish I always have a rod rigged for baits that look like shad. What are they feeding on? Shad…oh.