Four to six inch shads seem to work best for our coast. Cod love the smaller size, but when I came across a supply of the 135g, 150mm Storm Giant Jigging Shads at reasonable cost, I was convinced I'd found the ideal pirk replacement. Sure enough, my catches of above average cod were testament to the greater effectiveness of a big weighted shad, the paddle tail seems more effective too at attracting fish such as pollack to the hokkais, and it inevitably tempted some big fat mamas to the shad itself. One day last season big cod were nailing it like there was no tomorrow, and I didn't need any more convincing after that day.
|150mm shad well and truly gobbled by a cod. Given you can easily fit your fist down the mouths of some of the cod, I don't think 6" shads are too big. You may get less of the smaller stuff, but that's fine by me!|
Making your own
I have always kept back a bit of sheet lead from any building work I've had to do. When we had the loft extension done, I ended up with a sack of offcuts and half a roll. Nearly ten years later I've found a use for it!! Step forward Do-it Molds...
Do-it Molds produce a great range of moulds, however not many in the ideal weight bracket for cod jigging in the North Sea. Fortunately, cod ain't fussy and they do a nice shad mould for 3oz and 4oz heads. First you need to get yourself a bag of old bits of lead sheet, off cuts from roofing work is best. Doesn't need to be clean, but it does need to be dry. Don't try putting anything damp near molten lead, it pops quite aggressively.
You'll need a simple camping stove, preferably petrol or similar fuel, though gas works fine it's just a bit pricey. I always work outside with a pair of leather gloves. Make sure there is absolutely no chance of a drop of rain coming near your pot of molten lead. Clear blue skies are what you want if you're doing this outside, if you're in a garage then give yourself plenty of ventilation. The moulds and jig heads that come out after being cast can be a bit too hot to hold, so get a good pair of leather rigger gloves. Plus gloves are generally sensible when handling lead. I also like to have a really good set of tin snips, so you can keep cutting strips off and adding them to the pot. The "pot" or saucepan needs to be steel (cast or stainless), not aluminium. Lead has a very low melting point, but you can sometimes overheat a pot trying to get the first bit to melt when there isn't much lead in contact with the pot bottom, when I was much younger I did once melt an aluminium pot doing just that! Steel is best, but watch out for cheap flimsy handles. A pot full of lead is very heavy, and you don't want that handle breaking when it's full of molten lead. You can try testing one by filling it with small rocks to the brim - remember a half full pan of lead will weigh a bit more than that!
If the lead does solidify around the entrance hole, it will block it up and no more lead can be poured. Generally you have a half finished jig head that is no use, but rather than riving at it with a pair of pliers trying to get the lead off the hook, you can simply toss the whole thing back in the pot. The hook will float to the top and can be plucked clear! When you open a successful cast, there will be some excess lead that needs breaking off - again, don't bother using a tool, most good moulds are designed so that you can break that off using your hands and just bending it back and forth, it generally breaks off cleanly on the jig head without leaving a stump of rough metal that needs filing back.
Once you get going, it's best to cast as many as you can while you've got the lead melting and the mould hot. I try and do enough for a whole season (and some!). Casting lead isn't something that's particularly family friendly, so make hay while the sun's out. :-)
cheap soft plastics from AGM Discount, they look the business. Perhaps not quite a nicely finished a Storm Giant Jigging Shad, but at less than a quarter of the price you soon recoup the cost of the mould (in fact, after about 5 packs and that's using the cheapest supplier of the Storm lures I can find). The bottom is the Storm Giant Shad jelly on a 4oz head:
The spire point mould in 3 and 4oz can be fitted with a standard jelly worm, which attached to set of hokkais gives a pretty plausible imitation of a launce. Below I've used some rather posh Megabass Vios (I'll never end using them for bass - too many hard lures to use first!), they look good, though the 3oz is probably the more suitable:
The other point to remember is that when the sea is infested with mackerel (and you've taken what you want), you can fish shads or other soft plastics on their own, rather than using them below a string of hokkais. I find this avoids the mackerel, which at times are impossible to get through to reach the cod and pollack beneath. Every year you a get a day or two where your hokkais never reach the bottom without the mackerel hammering them, and it can get a bit frustrating when you could really do with a few more cod in the boat. This is when to take the hokkais off and fish just single shad. For some reason mackerel seem reluctant to take shads, even those down to 4". The only issue is that the smaller shads tend to need extra weight to get them down when you're fishing with a strong tide or drifting in a wind. It looks ugly, but if you can't find a heavy enough shad at the length you want, you can just use something like a 4" Storm Shad with an ounce bullet running freely so that it rests on the hook knot. Doesn't look anything like a fish, but the cod don't seem to mind and mackerel give it a wide berth! The bullet can interfere with hook ups occasionally but you can catch plenty of cod like this. Thankfully this year I've a better, cheaper solution.
Tight lines for the coming season.