Catching Bass During the Shad Spawn [Complete Guide]

In bass fishing there is a short window in the spring where the shad are spawning and bass are aggressively chasing them. This can be a great opportunity for anglers to catch a ton of fish and have a great time out on the water.

So, you might be wondering when the shad spawn is and how can you as an angler take advantage of this great opportunity.

Shad spawn in the spring when water temperatures warm up into the 65-70-degree range. This occurs in April or May depending upon the part of the country, weather patterns and the type of shad. Shad typically spawn in shallow cover around grass, riprap, docks, areas with hard bottoms and other types of structure.

The shad spawn can be a gold opportunity for bass fishermen to have a great day out on the water. Fishing can be fast and furious as long as you know what to look for and how to utilize key strategies and baits to catch them.

In this article, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about bass fishing during the shad spawn. Including more information on when shad spawn, where they spawn, what baits and lures to use and key tips and strategies that can help you be more successful at catching bass during this time of the year.

Let’s go.

The Shad Spawn

Shad are one of the most common and widely distributed bait fish across the country and are a great forage for bass. When the shad spawn happens, bass love to take advantage of this and will come up and aggressively feed. Understanding when and where the shad spawn occurs is crucial if you are a serious bass fishing angler.

The shad spawn happens in the spring when water temperatures get up to around the 65-70-degree range. In most states this means the shad spawn will happen late March through the end of May. Some shad will have several spawning periods that typically start in the spring and continue in July and in September through October. 

Let’s look at the common types of shad and when each of them typically spawns.

When Do Shad Spawn

Type of ShadWater TemperatureMonthLocation
Gizzard Shad65-69 degreesApril-MayShallow vegetation, wood, boat docks, riprap
Threadfin Shad 67-70 degreesApril-May, July, September-OctoberShallow vegetation, wood, boat docks, riprap

When Do Gizzard Shad Spawn?

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation gizzard shad spawn happens in early April through May. They typically spawn in shallow water of protected bays and inlets around hard structure. The spawn occurs mostly at night and during low light periods in the early morning. The gizzard shad spawn can be a great time to catch bass.

When Do Threadfin Shad Spawn

According to the Texas Park and Wildlife website threadfin shad spawn in the spring when water temperatures reach approximately 70°F. This typically begins in the middle of April and lasts into the summer months.

Threadfin shad are also known to spawn several times during the year. They first start spawning in April in most parts of the country, but it’s not uncommon for them to spawn a second time in July, and again in September or October.

Where Do Shad Spawn

The shad spawn happens at night and can last until early morning when it’s still low light. In general, shad can be found spawning around riprap, docks, wood, grass and other types of shallow structure. Once the sun comes up the shad will wrap up spawning activities and will head toward deeper water making locating them first thing critical.

Here are some key areas to target where shad are likely to spawn.


Shad loved to spawn around and in shallow grass. If your body of water has willow grass or some other type of grass in it this would be one of the first areas I would look to find the shad spawn. Grassy points are one of my favorite places to target bass during the shad spawn.

Floating Docks

Another great place to target bass during the shad spawn is around floating docks. Floating docks provide cover and a place to hide. I’ve found docks to be especially productive on bodies of water that don’t have a lot of other structures like grass and wood.


Riprap setup well for a great spawning site when shad spawn during the late spring. Algae forms on the rocks which bait fish like shad love to feed on and it also provides some great areas to hide from predators like bass. Other bass forage like aquatic insects and crawfish love to hang around these areas as well making it a great place to catch bass all year round.

Big Marinas

If you are on a body of water that has big marinas like Lake Lanier then fishing around these big marinas is a great place to target bass during the shad spawn. There is a ton of man-made structure that the shad love to spawn around and feel comfortable in.


Another area I would look to find the shad spawn would be around wood. Keep in mind not all wood will attract shad. The most productive types of wood cover are found around flat points at the mouth of spawning pockets and trees with limbs and branches. These are great spots for shad to spawn and hide in cover. They are also great places to find hungry bass looking for a shot at something.

Natural Rocky Banks

Much like riprap, natural rocky banks can be a great place for shad to spawn. Shad typically don’t spawn around generic muddy banks. They want protection, food and a place where they can hide. Natural rocky banks can be a great area to target during this period.

Other Types of Structure

As we have talked about previously, spawn love to spawn around cover and structure. Each body of water may have a different mix of cover, grass, rocks and man-made structure. Regardless of what type of structure your lake has you can find the shad spawn up shallow at night and around the structure.

Best Baits to Throw During the Shad Spawn

If you are a serious bass fishing angler and your bodies of water have a good population of shad the shad spawn should be on your radar. The shad spawn can be a great opportunity to put fish in the boat if you utilize the right baits and lures.

Here is a list of what I would consider to be the top baits to throw during the shad spawn. Each bait has its own time and place depending upon the areas and lakes you are fishing.


There are a lot of great baits to throw during the shad spawn, but If I could only have one. I would choose a white and chartreuse spinnerbait. The spinnerbait excels around shallow grass where shad love to spawn and around wood and other types of structure.

There is something about the flash, vibration and profile of a spinnerbait that bass go crazy for during the shad spawn. The spinnerbait is probably my number one option during the shad spawn especially if there is a lot of wind or cover around.

Swim Jig

While fishing for the first time in Texas years ago my buddy gave me my first ever swim jig to throw. A few minutes later I hooked up with an absolute giant. Since that day I’ve been addicted to the swim jig and it can be a big-time player during the shad spawn.

The swim jig really excels around shallow grass and cover. It doesn’t have the flash or big hardware of a spinnerbait and can produce a lot of bites when they want a more natural looking profile. I tend to lean more towards a swim jig when there isn’t a lot of wind and when they want something with a different action/profile.

Walking bait

If you are looking for a fun way to fish the shad spawn with the opportunity to catch some giants then a walking bait should be at the top of your list. There is no debate that this is the most exciting and fun way to fish. You can absolutely crush them on a walking bait when the timing is right.


A white Z-man Jackhammer Chatterbait paired with some type of shad trailer is hard to beat. I like throwing the 3/8-ounce because it’s easier to skip and fish around docks, wood, brush and anywhere the shad like to spawn. The head rocking and vibration of the chatterbait really gets those aggressive bass triggered and striking.


Fishing swimbaits during the shad spawn is a really effective and fun way to catch them. The key to success for me has always been matching the hatch and throwing the right, color, size and profile of the bait the bass are keying in on.

If your body of water has smaller shad I would be throwing something like a 3.3 Keitech paired with a small swimbait jig head. On the other hand, if I’m targeting bigger fish or the shad tend to be larger I’ll throw a 4”-7” bait to entice those bigger fish into biting.


Another great bait to throw during the shad spawn that often gets overlooked is the underspin. I like to throw an underspin that has a single willow leaf blade and a bait that imitates the type of shad that are in the lake. The underspin’s blade will give your swimbait some extra flash and vibration which can be crucial during the shad spawn. I’ll bust this out on smallmouth and largemouth when they are not quite committing to the spinnerbait or chatterbait.  

Hollow Frog

If the shad and bass are up and holding tight to cover a great lure to use is a hollow bodied frog. During the shad spawn I like using a white or shad colored frog. I’ve also found that a popping frog can draw some extra attention and get more bites when the bass are up and the shad are spawning. A frog really shines when you need to get to those tough to reach places that no other bait can get to.

Lipless Crankbaits

It’s no secret that the lipless crankbait is a spring time staple for most bass fishermen. However, it often gets overlooked during the shad spawn. The Lucky Craft LV-500 is my all time favorite lipless crankbait. My favorite colors include American shad, BP golden shiner and ghost minnow. There is something about the sound, vibration and color that make this a great bait. The lipless excels around vegetation, rock piles, docks, other structures and is a great bait to use during the shad spawn.

Tips for Bass fishing the Shad Spawn

After the bass are done spawning they are worn out, hungry and are looking to recover from their spawning activities. Just as this happens the shad will start to spawn. What better way for a bass to recover than to feed up on some spawning shad.

Bass will cruise the shallows looking for an easy meal. Once the shad spawn begins, bass will attack with epic shoreline strikes.

As an angler you can take advantage of this incredible bite window by getting up early, scouting key areas and fishing lures that imitate shad and trigger strikes.

Here are a few strategies and tips that can help you maximize the shad spawn window

Here are some key strategies and tips that I’ve learned over the years that will help you capitalize and catch more bass during the shad spawn.

Fish at Night

The shad spawn primarily happens during the middle of the night. This is why night fishing can be a great time to catch bass during the spring. Try fishing late at night or super early before the sun comes up. That way you’ll be fishing at just the right time to capitalize during the shad spawn.

Casts on Casts

For me the key to having success during the shad spawn is to make as many casts as you can. Using moving baits like the spinnerbait that have a lot of flash and will trigger those shad eaters into striking. The more cast you can make and the more water you can cover the more success you are likely to have.

Cloud Cover Extends the Shad Spawn

When the sun is up the shad spawn has probably wrapped up for the day. That is unless you get a day with a lot of cloud cover. Heavy cloud cover can extend the shad spawn window and give you more time in the morning to capitalize on it. Keep this I mind when you are faced with cloudy conditions.

Be Quick to Switch

Most bass fishing anglers will only catch a part of the shad spawn. This is because it occurs mostly at night and there can often be only a short window where the bass are super aggressive. Because of this it’s important to fish fast and switch things up if something isn’t working. Don’t stick with the same bait for too long or it might cost you. Make sure to have a few different options that will allow you to switch things up and change baits fast.

You Can’t Fish Too Shallow

One of the best shad spawn bass fishing tips that I can give you is to remember you can’t fish too shallow. You will be amazed when you realize just how shallow a bass can get when they are chasing these early morning shad. Big fish can be caught in super shallow water, even if you can’t see them.

Be Aware of the Blue Gill Spawn

Much like the shad, bluegill tend to spawn around the same time and can also factor in bass behavior and what forage they are targeting. Bluegill spawn in the late spring when water temperatures reach 68-75 degrees. The bluegill spawn typically begins in April and can continue all the way into summer and late fall. When bluegill spawn is dictated by water temperatures, light penetration, moon phases, and other varying conditions. 

For more information check out this article: When Do Bluegill Spawn?

Shad Spawn Challenges

At times the shad spawn can present anglers with some unique challenges that they must overcome if they wish to have success. This is especially true for anglers participating in bass fishing tournaments.

Here is a video by professional bass fishing angler Randy Blaukat on the downsides of the shad spawn and some things to keep in mind.

Additional Bass Fishing Resources

Final Thoughts

The shad spawn can be a great opportunity to load the boat and catch a lot of bass. Keep in mind the shad spawn is all about timing and maximizing this short window as much as you can.

Pick up a few of the baits mentioned above and use the tips and strategies we discussed in this article you’ll have some epic days on the water chasing bass during the shad spawn. 

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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