Shad season open on 1st December
Shad season open on 1st December. A guide to what tackle an angler should have to catch shad (Pomatomus saltatrix) will help any newcomer get started. It may even offer some ideas for those fishermen who have lots of experience with this fish #MargateAttractions
This article looks at recommended shad fishing tackle to use during the Natal Shad season, but the tackle is just as useful for other regions e.g. the Eastern and Southern Cape. While almost anything can be used (as long as it has line, a hook and bait), having suitable fishing tackle will make the experience more enjoyable.
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Shad Fishing Tackle – The Shad Rod
First of the right fishing rod is needed for shad. There are two basic types of rods suitable for shad fishing; a rod used for flesh baits, and a lighter one for lures (spoons) if that is your preferred method of angling. First off we look at the bait rod:
The rod should be around 3.7 m to 4 m in length and able to cast a bait and sinker combination of about 7 to 8 oz (190 to 220 g) and be stiff enough to control the fish around rocks and in the surf zone.
Control is extremely important when fishing with the shad crowd in KZN as lack of control will soon have tempers flaring.
In Natal we call this type of rod a ‘No 1′ or “Shad Rod”. Typically it’s used to to cast a 5 to 6 oz sinker with a whole sardine bait up to 80 to 100 m.
A ‘No 1′ shad rod should be the first rod any aspiring salt water angler buys. It is the most useful length and weight for catching everything from gully specimens and even to catch medium size game fish and sharks.
The Spooning or Spinning Rod
Although a No 1 can be used for spooning it is typically a bit too long and not sensitive enough to cast small low weigh spoons with a high degree of placement control. A lighter rod with a weight rating of 2.5 to 3.5 oz and length about 3.2m to 3.7m is better. These rods are known in Natal as ‘No 0′.
Most keen salt-water anglers will have several rods in their basic surf and rock kit, A ‘No 0′, ‘No 1′ and ‘No 3′ (for game fish and live-baiting).
Shad Rod Material:
Modern graphite rods are the first choice for any angler today. Their light weight means the angler can spend hours hanging on to his/her rod without tiring, and the relative stiffness gives superior control over hooked fish. Additionally the stiff “springiness” aids in long distance casting.
However, there is one situation where a graphite rod may not be the first choice – fishing in shad fever-stricken crowds, and especially the piers and other over-crowded hotspots. Graphite rods for all their superior strength are brittle, and rods knocked against each other in the frenzy will break a graphite.
Older type glass-fibre fishing rods are a better choice for these situations. Many local Natal anglers have a special “battle rod” they use to fish in crowds.
(A note to inland anglers Leave the long floppy carp rods at home – they are useless for saltwater angling and will not help you make friends with other fishermen during Shad Season.)
Fishing Reels for Shad
The type of reel used for catching shad varies by the type of fishing one intends (baiting or spooning) and personal preferences.
In any group of shad anglers in Natal ‘Multiplier reels’, ‘Coffee Grinders’ (spin-cast reels) and ‘Scarborough’ wooden or fibre reels (just about only in Natal) can be seen.
The choice is a matter of preference and experience. My first choice of reel for any fishing is a multiplier, although I will use a spin-cast reel in some situations.
Whatever type is chosen, it needs to be a good quality product, and if you fish often, should be a heavy-duty type. This rule applies especially to the coffee-grinder… 2 or three days catching shad will break a cheap low quality reel of this type.
Whatever type of reel is chosen, it must have a high-speed retrieve, and hold at least 280 to 350 m of 12.5kg (0.5mm diameter) mono-filament line
Multiplier Reels for Shad
Everyone has their favourite brand of multiplier – mine happens to be Daiwa. The reel I use mostly and always for bait fishing for shad is one of the SL50SH series. This range of reels have a fast 6:1 retrieve speed – essential for shad.
The 50 is perhaps a bit of overkill for shad and general fishing – the SL35H or SL40H are equally suitable. (However the 50 is my general purpose reel used for rock and surf, live baiting and offshore angling).
I have used these reels for several years of intensive fishing (daily) in a sport to commercial environment without ever breaking one. (And I am notorious for breaking weak reels!)
Spincast “Coffee-Grinder” Reels for Shad
If one is intending to use a coffee-grinder for bait fishing for shad – get a large very strong one! A size ’50′ or even ’60′ is ideal, and one of the Daiwa or Shimano salt-water game fish range is ideal.
The coffee grinder reel must have ball or needle bearings for the shaft and handle mechanism, and solid gears with a strong efficient drag system.
The only thing about these game fish reels is the price. You can pay 4 to 8 times more for a suitable good quality coffee grinder than an equal quality multiplier.
For spoon and lure fishing, a smaller size is suitable e.g. a ’35′ or ’40′
Unless you grew up with one of these in your hands and love them – leave alone!
Fishing Line for Shad
Here the choice is simpler: 12.5 Kg mono-filament line is the standard weight to use for bait fishing for shad, and 10 to 11Kg for spooning.
Once again line quality is a factor with imported mono-filament the first choice. Mono-filament from well known and respected manufacturers like Maxima (Germany) and Siglon (Japan) are the choice of preference.
Cheap, low quality line loses fish. There are many brands of budget line on the market: These may be fine for the holidaymaker who will use it for a few days, then it gets stashed away until the next vacation.
These budget lines are brittle, quality control is poor (a sample rated at 12Kg can have weak area that break at half that or even less), and the life of the line is short. A good quality line will last several years.
My personal preference for mono-filament brands has been Siglon for many years for general purpose fishing, although I admit Maxima is superior for use around rocky areas.
Siglon is a soft low-memory” line and is very thin for its strength allowing almost 30% more on a reel spool then the equivalent strength from other brands. (I like to have at least 500 to 600 metres on my general purpose reel)
The Braid Era
Modern braided line is the ultimate line for shad fishing. I was one of the first fishermen in Natal to try braided line with a multiplier reel for shad, even before the special casting braid designed for these reels was available locally, and was impressed with the results.
End Tackle for Shad
End tackle for shad – whatever gets put into the water – for shad is fairly simple. I will describe traces and rigging in another article, so this is more a ‘buying list’ than anything.
Hooks You Should Have in the Shad Fishing Tackle-Bag
J type hooks in several sizes are the basic requirement. And the hooks must be sharp! Modern chemically sharpened hooks are the best. Mustad 92671 offset (the old well known brown ones) hooks are popular, although these can always do with a good sharpening.
I have moved almost exclusively these days to using Mustad Red Tarpon Ultrapoint hooks for shad, finding the thin yet strong and extremely sharp hooks give the best hook-up rates.
Whichever type chosen, a selection of sizes from 2/0 to 8/0 is needed. At the very least the shad angler should have brown 3/0 and 5/0 in their tackle box, and if using Red Tarpon, 4/0 and 6/0 are ideal sizes.
A few anglers, myself included, have preferred triple hooks under some conditions – especially where shad has to be lifted onto high rocks. the standard treble hooks are notoriously thick and blunt (they MUST be sharpened). However Mustad’s new Ultrapoint range of chemically sharpened trebles are excellent, and a thinner than standard range is available.
Nothing special is needed here – the normal blacked brass barrel swivels in sizes from No3 to 1/0 are suitable. Avoid the silver type and discard any after a few catches or when they lose their black coating
Wire Trace Material
Trace wire is absolutely essential. Shad will bite through the thickest mono-filament trace line in seconds. Any single strand trace wire from 20Kg to 60Kg is suitable, although I have a preference for 35 kg (80 lb) and 60 kg stiff wire (and will show how to use this wire to make traces later.
If the angler only wants to keep a single weight of wire in the kit, 80 lb is the right choice for shad traces.
A Few Bits and Pieces for Shad Tackle
For ground baiting a stock of corks (red and maybe white ones) is essential, and some bait foam can be handy at times.Several rolls of ghost cotton (the type that is nearly invisible should be taken along as well.
Buy this in bulk, at least 10 rolls a time and always have several in the tackle box. The thick elastic type stuff is rubbish – throw it away, unused! If looking for an elastic bait binding material, the new ghost range is excellent; it’s extremely thin and very versatile.
A bait needle (open loop eye type) is also useful and will be used in my articles on Bait Rigging for Shad.
Medium size Styrofoam floats for “top bunging” (float/drift baiting) can be added to the kit
What about those ready made traces – the ones with a red cork, a short piece of wire and a swivel – THROW THEM AWAY – I will show you how to make superior shad traces for fishing in Natal!
Sinkers used for Shad Fishing:
5oz and 6oz conical sinkers for ground baiting (and perhaps a few 6oz and 7 oz sand grapnels if the currents are strong). For drift bait small 1oz ball to 3 oz barrel sinkers will complete the shad tackle bag
Nearly any type of spoon or lure will work SOMETIMES for shad – even bare hooks with flapping bait cotton have caught shad!
Some spoon designs have proven best for shad fishing in Natal and South African East Coast. These are “S” Bend types with a fairly slow retrieve and a very life-like action when worked correctly. The very best of these “S” bends is the MarkVas (AKA maak-vas or hold tight) spoon designed by a Kingsborough angler and occasionally available from his son. These spoons are not commercially available, and the alloy mix used is a closely guarded secret.
The other very successful spoon is the “Sheppy Bomber” which can occasionally be found for sale in tackle shops
If an angler ever has an opportunity to buy either of these spoons, they should buy the entire available stock – they won’t be sorry
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