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Wednesday, May 31st
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Winter Shad Die Off And Tactics To Catch Fish

The Winter Shad Die-off, and how to Fish it

By, Vincent Rumsey

Image result for largemouth bassIn the Lake of the Ozarks, the most populous baitfish is shad. Bass fishermen, cat fishermen, and crappie fishermen all depend on the shad movement patterns. In the winter, many cold fronts hit the lake from the northwest. This affects all fish, but it especially hits hard on shad. During this period, shad move deep, but many die. This is good for gamefish because they also slow in the wintertime, but it can be a challenge to fish the dying shad pattern. Shad die off greatly depends on water temperature. The shad die-off is most significant when the water temperature dips below 40 degrees. These fish will slowly sink to the bottom and then flutter up and sink again. The slow flutter of the shad and the flash that they put off attracts all types of gamefish.

Related imageImage result for gizzard shadWinter bass primarily feed on dying shad in the winter. During winter, bass slow down. These bass are not going to feed on a fast-moving baitfish. Therefore, the fluttering action of a dying shad appeal to them. So, how do you imitate dying shad with lures? Personally, I feel that a blade bait is the best choice. These lures are fished on a clean bottom, especially off points. I fish this lure by casting parallel to the shore, letting it sink to the bottom, and then lifting the lure and twitching it.  Most of the time, bass hit the lure on its fall, so you should watch for any light movements in the line. The tackle that I use for this lure depends on my situation. On a clean bottom, I may use a spinning rod with 6-pound monofilament. When the bottom has more rocks, or I am near larger fish, I will use 20-pound braid on a bait caster.

Related imageCatfish have a different reaction to this time of year. They have habits of going to deeper water in the winter. Our lake is a very deep lake, so don’t be afraid to utilize the deep water. In your boat, find large schools of shad suspended over about 50 feet of water.   The shad in these schools will be killed off either by distress from the cold, or schooling bass will kill them. The dead shad will slowly sink to the bottom. While the shad is sinking, catfish will often eat it. To fish for the catfish, fish legal cut bait on a slip-bobber rig. Set your bobber suspended a few feet under the Image result for crappieschool of shad. I will use a medium heavy or heavy power rod with a large casting reel. I will spool the reel with 65-pound braid with an 80 to 100-pound leader. Unlike bass, winter catfish bite hard, and it is not hard to detect bites.

You may not think that crappie rely on shad patterns at all, but they do. They will feed on minnows that follow patterns that are similar with shad. They also feed on baby shad. In winter, crappies are often found in similar places as shad but slightly shallower.  When you encounter shad, you will often find crappie. Crappie rely more on shad in other seasons, but not as much in winter. If you want more information on winter crappie, read my article on winter panfish.

If you pattern the fish correctly, Winter fishing can be lots of fun.

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