February 2011

Kevin VanDam on the Red Eyed Shad

Kevin VanDam is a big fan of the Red Eyed Shad because of its versatility. He explains all the ways he likes to fish it in different environments.

One of the things that I really like about working with the guys at Strike King is that they’re all fishermen. They understand my point of view when I say a bait needs to be changed a little bit, or we need to change the color, or this appendage needs to be a little thinner on this plastic bait. They know it’s the subtle things that make a difference between a bait that catches a few fish and having an awesome bait.

One of the things we try to do is keep our colors fresh and cutting edge. We want to match the foliage for all these different water conditions that pros face. There’s a huge selection of colors for most of the Strike King baits, but especially for the Red Eyed Shad.

Casting Techniques with the Red Eyed Shad

If you’re just casting this bait out there and reeling it back to the boat, you’re selling yourself short. There are so many other ways that I like to fish the Red Eyed Shad. 


If I’m fishing it over a flat with some type of cover on it, I want it ticking that cover. Every time it does, I pop the bait then let it flutter for a second, then continue with the retrieve. I reel it fast enough to keep it down on the bottom. If it’s deeper, between six and eight feet, you’ll have to slow your retrieve down a bit.

KVD Fishing Off BoatShallow Water

For shallower flats, I try to use this bait where it will hit the bottom. I’ll use my rod tip to control that depth, along with the size of my line. I’ll rig up a couple of different rods with different line sizes, from 10lbs all the way up to 17lbs or 20lbs. I want the bait to come in contact with whatever is out there, from gravel bars or rock points to grass. When it does hit something, I always like to rip that bait up and let it flutter down. 

The beauty of Red Eyed Shad is it stays balanced and doesn’t tip over on its side. It has this shimmer or wiggle as it swims back to the bottom, and that’s when the fish really bite it. That’s why I like to let it fall a lot.

My other favorite technique is a pump and stop retrieve. Instead of working it like a jig with your rod tip up and you’re lifting it off the bottom, I keep my rod tip to the side and sweep it and just follow the bait back down. I keep tension on the line but let the bait fall. That lets the Red Eyed Shad do its thing and swim to the bottom. I catch a lot of fish doing this. This works well in deeper flats, over grass, rocks, or whatever cover is down there. That pump and stop retrieve is a deadly way to fish it. I probably catch more fish this way than any other.

Deeper Water

In deeper water, I’ll yo-yo it on those ledges. Same kind of places where you’d throw a crankbait. I’ll cast it out, keep the line tight, let it sink to the bottom, then hop it up and follow it back down. The 3/4 oz Red Eyed Shad works best for this. You can get it down 15 or 20 feet, you need that extra weight. I use the ½ oz in the 7 to 12-foot zone. This is something you want to use with lighter line to help keep the bait down and keep it down. I always use fluorocarbon because it sinks and keeps the bait down deeper. I can get a really good feel with it, and it gives great lure control. It’s low in stretch so I can get a good hook set even on a long cast. 

Casting Distance and Rod

These are lures you want to throw a long cast with. You’ll cover a lot more water with it. I throw it on a 7’ to 7’10” fiber glass composite rod. I like that because it gives me the feel of the graphite but then I also get the slow reaction time of the softer glass built into the rod. It works well. I have enough power if I get it into grass, I can snap it out and clear that bait. It’s a fantastic way to fish the Red Eyed Shad. 


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