Fishing Swim Shads for Trout (an awesome little lure)

Swim shads represent small fish, and they generally have a hyper realistic finish, on the retrieve their little tail does wiggle through the water in a rather fishlike fashion.

They are affordable. Depending on brand, a pre-rigged shad generally costs around a dollar. You can get a whole package for the price of a single inline spinner, and a half dozen for less than the price of a Rapala. Given the low price, Swim shads are a cost effective option when fishing around submerged trees or in other snag prone areas.

Swim shads usually come scented. The exact scents do vary based on the brand but aniseed is a common one. While I am not entirely convinced scents are required they certainly do not hurt unless fishing regulations restrict their use.

Swim shads are constructed from a soft plastic material that is very flexible. I have noticed trout that take swim shads generally take them deeper than hard body lures. They might even try to swallow them. This increases the chance of a hookup.

What is wrong about swim shads?

I do have a few complaints, they are not the perfect bait.

My biggest complaint has to do with durability, after a few fish the hook does start to tear out that limits its useful life. It feels quite wasteful having to throw away a shad simply because the hook had ripped out.

Another complaint is at times it can be difficult to find Shads that are not scented. While I feel scents often assist in hooking trout, many fishing regulations do restrict or outright ban the use of scented lures. This means the scented versions are banned in many areas.

Finally, the number of shads per package seems to be slowly decreasing. In the early 2000’s each retail pack typically had 5 or 6 shads. Now the same size packets only come with to 3 or 4. Getting fewer baits despite paying more is not a good feeling.

The best ways to fish swim shads for trout?

It is possible to fish a swim shad just like any sinking lure, cast out and slowly retrieve. With the occasional jig, jerk and pause. But there are a few tricks where I like to use them.

1) Downstream

I like to fish them downstream. One of my favorite fishing spots for swim shads is to fish them down fast rapids, I cast gently out then allow the current carry the swim shad downstream to where the water starts to slaken. I then close the bail arm and slowly suspend the swim shad mid current, ever so slowly I will work it back upstream.

When fished in that fashion, they are a highly effective bait and I have caught a lot of wild brown trout on them.

2) Trolling

While they are not my favorite trolling lure, swim shads are a cost efficient way to troll so are a good option to troll in areas where you are likely to snag structures and lose lures. They have a good action at trolling speeds, my only complaint is that they sink slightly too much and at times they rub along the bottom.

3) Around structure

Often trout like to live among the branches of submerged trees, and casting to them often results in snags. Swim shads are cheap enough so it does not break the bunch to lose a few when retrieving through structures.

Another great aspect, is that the paddle tail wobbles both on the drop and the retrieve so with precision placements they can be dropped between the branches, and because the only hook faces upwards they are less likely to snag than lures with bottom facing hooks.

Best swim shad color for trout fishing

Swim shads are available in a wide range of colors, and it is best practice to try and match your shad color with the prevalent bait species in your local waters. That is sometimes easier said than down. When trout fishing, my favorite colors is the Rainbow trout pattern in the Berkley powerbait range, and the Shad color in the Storm wildeye range.

The only color I have not had much success with is the plain white, or ‘pearl’ color. In my experience that color should remain in the clearance bin.

Best size swim shad for trout

I nearly always fish the smallest available size, which is typically 2 inches.

I am sure the larger sizes can be effective I personally find the 2” length ideal for typical wild and stock trout.

Best brand of swim shad for trout fishing

Two swim shad brands dominate the shops shelves, these are the Storm Wildeye and the Berkely Powerbait, and both are similar ineffectiveness. Storm does seem to have a slightly better color selection

The brands I fish the most often are Storm Wildeye and Tsunami Pro, although they all perform somewhat similarly.

I also often use the Tsunami Pro brand due to the lack of advertised scent which allows me to use them in fisheries that bans scents. Although, I have opened a few packages that did stink of aniseed. The smallest size is 3” but they are quite skinny so are still effective on trout.

Best scent for trout fishing?

Retail, most swims shads come with an aniseed scent which is what I typically use.

Pre-riged vs unrigged swim shads?

My preference is to use the pre-rigged versions because I am lazy. The included hooks are generally strong and sharp and the hook and sinker are nicely centered allowing them to retrieve in a predictable pattern.

In saying that, There are quite a few advantages to rigging you own.

The biggest advantage is the ability to decide what weight jighead to use, this then allows the lure to sink faster or slower depending on the depth you wish to fish it.

It is also possible to use a weedless jighead, when fishing around reed or weebeds.

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