Monday, 28 February 2011

Using shads for cod from the kayak

Soft plastic or "jelly" shads have probably overtaken pirks as the most common way to fish for cod from charter boats and kayaks in recent years.  There are hundreds of types and prices to buy.  I like the Storm Wildeye shads, in 4" and 5" versions, though it must be said they are not the cheapest shads around. 
From our coasts, providing you are not in water that is too deep or facing too strong a tide or drift, it's possible to fish shads on lightweight tackle.  On the kayak I use 30lb braid with a 20lb mono trace, onto which I slip a 30g lead bullet and attach the 4" 25g pearl shad below that, leaving the bullet to slide down onto the shad.  Simple, cheap and effective.

Admittedly this doesn't look pretty, but the fish don't seem to mind!  Neither does having the bullet tight against the eye of the lure seem to affect hookups.  Initially I was worried this set up would result in the bullet weight fraying the knot and leading to breakages, as you have to put quite a bit of force to get cod up sometimes.  But so far, I've not had this issue.  This might be because the bullets I use are cast with very fine holes, and so sit above the knot if you tie a tucked half-blood knot and leave a little stub protruding. While this method is quick and easy to tie, if you've got big tides to master in deep water, you'll need to rig your shads differently to use a heavier weight.  In that case, you could use what is often termed a drop shot rig for fishing jelly worms and lures as this rig just bounces the lead off the bottom and so is less prone to snagging up when drifting at speed.

The shad below is the 5" version in blue herring.  There's a great finish on these with holographic glitter inside the lure, though I'm not sure the cod care that much down there in the depths! 
Although this is rated 42g, the extra body size means it will probably need extra weight to get it down near the bottom, so I would still fish it with a 30g bullet above it.  There has been some talk on the forums that 5" shads do not fish as well as the smaller 4" or even 3" versions.  I can see this might be the case at certain times of year - and it might be best to try and "match the hatch", i.e. your bait fish size, to get the best from them.

Cod of 5lbs and upwards can give surprisingly good account of themselves on light rods, and I often fish with just a stiffish (casting rated at up to 50g) 7ft spinning rod.  However, if you feel there is the risk of hooking something much bigger and not having the backbone to lever the fish up to the surface, you can always stick with the standard 6-12lb or heavier boat rod. 

I like to let the shad hit the bottom and then simply jig up and let it fall back.  I tend to use as large a jigging motion as possible, and watch for slack line on the drop.  If you don't feel the shad bounce your rod tip at the end of the drop phase, then chances are a fish has grabbed it! 

Last year shads accounted for most of my cod, and I find they nearly always out fish pirks.  However, one handy trick with pirks is that you can use the fast sinking weight of the pirk to fish a set of hokkais above it.  Hokkais can be very effective for cod and many other fish, and I've been searching for a way of combining both hokkais and shads.  Until recently, I hadn't been able to find a shad with the weight and smallish size that would suit our type of cod fishing.  Then I came across these:
This is the Storm Wildeye Giant Jigging Shad, weighing in at an impressive 135g.  At 6" they're are a bit on the large side, and that hook could haul up a porbeagle shark!  But as a pirk replacement at the bottom of a set of hokkais, they might just do an even better job at attracting nearby fish.  That huge paddle tail will really send out some vibrations down there in the inky depths, and besides which even quite small cod sometimes have a go at large and heavy pirks.
Finally, here are the fruits of the method.  Two cod from last year that fell to successive drifts using a 4" Storm shad in pearl, weighted with a 30g bullet. You couldn't ask for a simpler, easier way to catch cod!

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