How To Mimic Shad To Catch Huge Bass | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A man in a kayak holding a huge largemouth bass. Photo Courtesy: Stewart Venable

NuCanoe Pro Stewart Venable On The Secret To Matching The Hatch

Largemouth bass have a large appetite. It takes a big bait to satiate a big bass. Largemouth will feed on bluegills, other bass and large shiners or minnows, but they really like a fat, juicy shad. Not only are these baitfish full of fat and protein, but they often school in the open presenting bass a meal that is too easy to pass up.

Following the mantra that big bait equals big fish, the recent trend towards larger and larger lures has resulted in anglers catching bigger bass. For the past five years, NuCanoe pro Stewart Venable has systematically increased the size of his lures and his catch. Fishing out of Fort Mill, South Carolina, Venable uses a variety of lures to imitate gizzard shad.

“Gizzard shad spawn in early spring, especially early May,” he says. “This is a good time to use smaller spinnerbaits, crankbaits and soft body swimbaits.”

Venable chooses a floating or topwater swimbait that he works steady across the surface. Through summer, he goes deep with a crankbait that dives 12 to 25 feet to reach bass hiding from the heat.

He also likes a deep diving spoon. “Work it over humps and structure.” He suggests evening, morning and after dark are the best times to fish. “The low light brings shad to the surface and the bass follow.” He chooses a topwater popping or slash bait.

In the fall, as the bait schools up in shallow water, he returns to topwater and suspended swimbaits.

In the rivers, he often finds shad holding in the current sucking up plankton. “This presents a perfect opportunity for bass to ambush them,” he says.

When the water turns cold, Venable takes up the deep-sinking swimbaits he can work slowly across the bottom. “The fish want to get the most protein using the least energy,” he explains.

Regardless of the size and weight of the swimbait, Venable uses the same steady retrieve. “You can go faster or slower, even pause the lure,” he explains. “The jointed lure creates its own action.”

Fooling a bass with a nine-inch lure takes patience and practice. “The larger lure culls out smaller fish,” he says, “I get fewer bites but bigger fish.” He says that bass will often follow a big swimbait for some distance before striking. “Presentation is key, keep experimenting with speed until the fish respond.”

Shad give themselves away with a flash of silver. Venable chooses lures with plenty of sparkle and shine. Spinnerbaits with large blades, spoons and silver crankbaits are his favorites. He chooses swimbaits with a large profile and plenty of flash. 

Since there are often several generations of shad in the same water body, he lets the bass dictate what size lure he uses. “Experiment with size until they respond,” he says.

Pro Tips


8-inch Bullshad in dirty bone color

½ ounce Bionic Fishing Razor Spinnerbait in gizzard pattern

4.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT in Pro Blue


Speed up or kill the retrieve to trigger a reaction bite.

To throw big swimbaits, choose a heavy rod and reel with strong drag.

During the summer, work a spoon around dock pilings to find bass hiding from the heat. 

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