As I read the comments and questions on different forums about Strike King’s King Shad it seems to be a love/hate situation. For me it has been a love affair from day one, and as with any love affair there are the normal ups and downs. Here are a few things I have learned about this big fish lure that might help you.
Been reading about how well swimbaits are doing out West and on several of the tournament circuits and had to try them out. Started with the soft plastic swimbaits first, but with all the toothy critters in the waters of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River these soft baits did not hold up for very long. Being an avid Musky fisherman and using big hard baits I decided to find a Bass sized hard bait. This was when I first looked into the King Shad.
I can still remember the first time I fished a King Shad. It was a weekday morning on the St. Lawrence River. A light breeze was blowing the misty fog off the water as I backed the boat into the clear water. A couple of older gentlemen were fishing off the dock and asked if I was heading out Musky fishing. Told them not today, I was going to do some bass fishing with some new lures I just purchased. They just laughed and said those things (the King Shads that were rigged on my deck) were way too big for bass fishing.
Turned the key and the 150 Mercury Optimax fired to life, I could feel the anticipation build as I dropped the throttle and headed out across the river. Headed toward a favorite milfoil weed bed to try these King Shads. After a run of 15 minutes in the cool morning air I shut the big motor down and quietly dropped the Motorguide electric motor into the water. I had two rods rigged, one with a shore minnow color, white, with a chartreuse strip down each side and the other was a gizzard shad. I used a 7’3” Medium Heavy rod for each bait, Quantum Energy PT reels, 50-pound test Power Pro braid on one and the other with 20-pound test Berkley Big Game. Tied the lures directly to the main line using my old faithful Palamor knot.
The first one I tried was with the 50-pound test Power Pro line. It cast easily and quite a long distance due to the bait weighing close to 1 ounce. The bait floated on top of the water and I played with jerking and twitching it. The bait did not look that good as it folds over on itself when sitting still. With the tip held high I cranked the bait just fast enough to get a good wake going and the bait came alive with a seductive swimming motion. It did not take long before getting my first strike and I pulled the bait away from the fish. Threw back to the swirl and tried saying to myself, “Wait until you feel the fish before setting the hooks.” Same thing happened again, pulled the bait away from the fish. Got to love getting nervous and excited after 40 years of fishing. Picked up the other rod with the mono line on it and first cast nailed a Largemouth close to 5 pounds. Might not be a monster in many parts of the country but in NY that is a nice fish. To make this story of my first trip a bit shorter, caught 3 Largemouths over 5 pounds, 2 Smallmouths over 4 pounds, and a Northern Pike that was over 10 pounds, plus several other fish I did not bother to weigh.
Now that I have your attention will share some technical information with you.
Needless to say I was impressed, but I did break one of the King Shads at the plastic joint with the rig I was using braid on. Since that first day on the water with the King Shads I have learned a lot on how to fish them and refined the tackle used. These baits were actually invented by Allen Borden, of ABT lures in California. They still sell these lures, but in different colors then Strike King. ABT simply call them the 4” Shad bait. The main problem with these lures from the beginning was the plastic hinge pin breaking. ABT and Strike King now have a metal pin imbedded in the plastic hinge pin. I have several of the newer baits and have yet to break a single one with the new steel pin.
Having the right tackle seems to help with the amount of hook-ups as well as cutting down on broken hinges with the older ones. I learned that 7’3″ or longer Medium Heavy rods make casting a lot easier, as well as handling a big fish. A reel with a good drag is a must. After lots of experimenting I have found 17 pound test Trilene XT to be the best overall line, it has just the right amount of stretch and is very abrasion resistant. With braided line it is too easy to pull the bait away from the fish and I have broken several baits due to pressuring a big fish with the no stretch braided line.
Fishing Largemouths with these baits is really easy. I prefer long, deep edges of milfoil to crank these baits along and flats with scattered clumps of thick weeds. A slow rolling type retrieve along the outside weed edge with the occasional jerk of the rod is all it takes. With the Trilene XT line most of the times all you feel is the rod load up like you have hung in the weeds. Reel down and sweep the rod to the side, if it is weeds you just cleared them, if it is a bass the hooks are set.
Fishing the flats is a lot more exciting! Make a long cast and hold the rod tip high and reel just fast enough to get a visible wake going. Don’t change the speed, don’t jerk the rod, just keep the wake the same for the entire retrieve. Don’t worry about setting the hooks, worry more about a heart attack! When a big fish goes after a King Shad that is waked on the surface it is for one reason and that is to kill it and eat it. Something you need to pay close attention to is a fish that follows the bait to the boat. Some will strike as you are taking the bait out of the water. I read somewhere that predator fish actually use your boat to trap or pin the bait and hit at the last possible moment. If nothing else it will wake you up when it happens. Another trick that has worked is doing a figure 8 at the boat like Musky fishermen do. This is nothing more then taking the rod and making a big figure eight in the water and trying to get the fish to follow and hit as the bait changes directions. A word of advice when trying the figure eight Push the Button on your reel to disengage the spool and firmly keep your thumb against the line. Otherwise if a big fish grabs the bait and runs with only a few inches of line out you will not have a tip on your rod for long. Engage the reel after the first run and enjoy the fact you fooled a big one with the figure eight trick.
Smallmouths love to eat these King Shads too. These torpedoes with fins are a bit more difficult to keep buttoned up. Kevin Van Dam mentioned in an article I read that he changed out his hooks to thinner Triple Grip hooks. So I tried it and it does work well with Smallmouths in open water. I prefer to stay with the factory hooks as much as possible as they are sharp and strong, but if you are losing too many fish change out the hooks and see if it helps. Other then that, I use the same exact rod, reel, and line. The location for Smallmouths is different. Boulder strewn flats next to deep water are the number one areas I look for. Burning the bait provokes some bone jarring strikes. You may need to try different retrieves to figure out what will trigger them. Burning the bait and popping the rod tip during the retrieve has done very well for me, especially in the Fall months when they come up out of the deep water to feed for the coming Winter. The secondary spots for Smallmouths have been off shore humps or underwater islands with weeds that grow almost to the surface. Fish these places the same way as for the Largemouths and hang on.
There really is no right or wrong way to fish these baits. I have caught fish on points, along docks, next to timber, and a variety of other places. The biggest drawback is the two large treble hooks that hang off these baits. Not very weed proof or snag proof, but if there is any open water, throw these where you would a spinner bait. Over the past several years of fishing the King Shad, the size of the fish has been well above average. The strikes when waked are heart stopping, and the enjoyment can’t be calculated. Give a King Shad a try and see for yourself.
By Dave DeRemer aka Baron49