How To Catch Gizzard Shad On A Rod And Reel

Catching gizzard shad on a rod a hook is a technique that many anglers may want to try. Many anglers prefer to throw a cast net for them. It is important to understand how to catch gizzard shad on a rod and reel. There is a big difference in how other species get caught on a rod and reel compared to the gizzard shad and other shad species. There are actually a few but we will cover some of them briefly. The first factor is location. Gizzard shad and other shad species are plankton feeders.

This means that they will not bite a hook very often unless you bait it with a wax worm, an insect, or something else. Even in places where catching shad on a hook is allowed, you need to understand that you may find it hard unless you find the fish first. Shad will take very small offerings presented on a small hook. The main thing to remember is that hook selection is of paramount importance. For all of our catfish anglers, you already know that the gizzard shad is a fragile but effective bait choice.

It is also a primary source of forage for most predator species such as largemouth bass, smallmouth, walleye, and pickerel. Because of this, they make an excellent bait for anything that swims in the water. We are going to go over the entire process of catching this great bait on a rod and reel. The main thing to remember is to have confidence in yourself. It can be done as long as you have some patience and the right gear. Let’s dive right in.

Make Sure To Get The Location Right In On The Action

Where you are going to find the shad is it going to vary from season to season and from day to day. During hot summer months, the bait is balled up tightly on the bottom. As winter and fall rolls around, you should find the shad in loosely packed schools congregating around concentrated oxygen sources. If you have a boat with good electronics, hunting them down will be a lot easier. They like to congregate near the surface because often, it is rich in plankton, the primary food source.

School of baitfish inside a net over water.

Big schools of these fish will look like a brush pile on your chart but it will be orange or yellow in appearance. Sometimes too, you can also find them near the bank which is helpful for landlocked anglers. Always look for structure changes on the bottom and not cover. The shad prefer open water but they will not shy away from abnormal structure such as drop-offs and deep areas. Also if possible, try to catch them on a day where the water is clear. Shad and other baitfish relate heavily to light.

Gear Selection And What You Need to Get Started

While gizzard shad do not fight hardly at all, it is still worth noting that having the right tackle is essential. If you are in this sport for this fish, lighter is always better. This particular baitfish species comes in a ranges sizes. Gizzard Shad can vary anywhere in size from a couple of inches to over a foot long. It just really depends where you are fishing. I suggest using an ultra-light spinning rod and reel, no greater than six pound line, and a very thin wire hook. The smaller the better.

As for bait selection, I suggest using a piece of red worm, nightcrawler, wax worm, mealworm, or a maggot. Use a very thin wire hook that is small enough to fit inside the mouth of a normal sized baitfish easily. I suggest a number ten hook. If you are fishing from the bank or a boat, you can get away with an ultra-light crappie rod and monofilament fishing line. If you are fishing through the ice during winter, get an ultra-light ice fishing rod and use light line as well.

Bait Selection And Bait Options That Work Everywhere

Since gizzard shad are plankton feeders, many people believe that you can’t catch them on rod and reel with bait. As odd as it sounds, you certainly can. They will still eat very tiny offerings such as insects or pieces of worm. Try to select bait options like little pieces of nightcrawlers, wax worms, maggots, flies, nymphs, and redworms. The easiest way to target them is by using a tiny piece of worm that just barely covers the shank of the hook. Regardless of what bait you decide to use, make sure to leave plenty of hook point exposed.

Once you catch them, it is best to keep them alive by using a bait cooler or some other insulated container.

Earthworm in soil resting inside a man's hand.

Techniques That Are Popular For The Gizzard Shad

Cigar Float Rig

A cigar float is a long cylindrical bobber that is useful for detecting light bites which is what will happen. To make a basic cigar float rig, tie the tiniest hook you can find onto end of your line. Once that is complete, put a cigar float on the line a few inches above the hook. Optionally, you can add one small split-shot below the float. The result should be a cigar float, and a tiny little hook on the end. Put a very small piece of worm on there and cast it out.

Basic Hook-N-Bait Rig

The next rig is also effective although not as popular. Basically, it is the same rig as before but you are removing the weight and the float. This is a very discreet fishing rig that will not draw a lot of attention from other fish species but it is completely stealthy. This rig has been called by many a “weightless rig”. This is true. This particular rig takes a little more attention because it is very difficult to see when you have a bite. Once you master it though, it works wonders.

Cast Netting

Cast netting is the most popular method used to catch gizzard shad. I know. I know. This should be a post about catching shad on a hook. Trust me. I haven’t forgotten. The reason I mentioned this method is because in many places, catching shad on hooks is not a lawful practice. In many states, you can only use them as bait legally if they are taken with a net. For this reason, its best to learn how to throw a cast net well so you can collect your bait for the day.

Conclusion – Gizzard Shad CAN be Caught On Rod And Reel

To summarize everything, you can catch gizzard shad on a rod and reel but only in certain places. Although they are plankton feeders, it is not impossible to accomplish. So you can catch quite a few, you need to put the right size bait on the right size hook in the right location at the right time. As long as you go where the fish are, you can continue to catch them on a hook as much as you want. You just have to be confident. They make a great bait for many predator species are game fish so having enough on your person is essential.

Do you have a method that works better? Reply in a comment below to tell us your success stories!

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