I have been hearing a lot about the Spirit Shad from Gajo Baits. So, I was very excited when I learned New York’s Brad Paradis has been fishing this bait. Brad and I discussed how he fishes the Spirit Shad and how it contributes to his fishing success.
How has your fishing been this last year?
I had a few events that I was hoping to do even better in, but overall it was a pretty successful season. I caught a ton of fish this year in a variety of different bodies of water so I can’t complain one bit. It was a very different year with the bass spawn running later into the year in our area due to early season flooding. Flooding on this type of scale for this area has not been seen in my lifetime.
How has the Gajo Baits Spirit Shad factored into your tournament success this year?
The Gajo Baits Spirit Shad played a key role in my early season success which included a NNY Bassmasters Federated Club win out of the St. Lawrence River in Ogdensburg with a 23+ lb. bag of smallmouth. I used the bait to mimic predator panfish around nesting areas in the sand.
I also used the Spirit Shad to drop shot for bedding smallmouth at the Lake Champlain FLW Costa event in June. The fish were really finicky. From day to day during practice, they would move back and forth from a few gravel lines. The bait really helped me limit out both days and get a solid finish heading into the second event.
What makes this bait a standout out of the many drop shot soft plastics out on the market?
The Gajo Baits Spirit Shad is my go to drop shot bait for a few reasons. It provides great action with very little movement. There are times when I want that bait in motion and other times when I want the current to handle the movement for me. There are many other baits that are lethargic unless you’re really shaking them, but not the Spirit Shad.
Even with that movement the bait is extremely durable. This isn’t a bait that gets destroyed every single time you catch a fish, which is great for the average angler’s wallet. The bait’s success for anglers in the FLW is no secret anymore, as it was just recently featured in the In-Fisherman Magazine. Additionally the baits are all made right here in the USA so I can appreciate a company who keeps things in house.
I have to be honest that one of the things that has given me a tiny bit of hesitation about these baits is how well I have been told they imitate a goby. The waters I fish are not filled with gobies. Should I get over this concern?
Without a doubt they are a great goby imitator, but they also mimic baitfish. Many times on the St. Lawrence River and Oneida Lake I will use the perch color Spirit Shad when the smallmouth are following perch schools.
I have also used the Spirit Shad with great success on many Adirondack Mountain lakes in New York State where there are no gobies. The bait does a great job of portraying several of the key food items for smallmouth and largemouth bass no matter where you are in the country.
Earlier this year I was fishing an Adirondack Mountain lake with my daughter. It was early morning and we ran into one of the biggest schools of smallmouth I have ever seen on the graph. After catching a few on topwater, the bite began to slow. We noticed the smallmouth were feeding on a small perch fry as they were coughing them up. We immediately grabbed a 3.25 size Gajo Baits Spirit Shad in perch color and started tossing the drop shot into the school. Over the next 45 minutes my daughter caught more smallmouth than she had in her entire life.
It was insane. We actually left while they were still biting because we had caught enough, and we wanted to find some new areas. A crazy but true story from this season!
The baits come in 3.25 and 4 inch sizes. Which size do you use the most? What goes into your size selection on any particular day?
This is an interesting question because I love the 3.25 size. I’ve caught the majority of my bigger fish on the 3.25, including a few 6 pound smallmouth this season.
The reason I say it is interesting is that most people that I know that use the Spirit Shad regularly, prefer the 4 inch version. There are many times when I do opt for the 4 inch as well, particularly in the fall, but usually when I start the day off I am using a 3.25.
I will move up in the bait size if the fish tell me they are more active that day. I’ve always found the smaller version of baits in general to be more productive on bodies of water that are getting all the tournament pressure. This is important when fishing multi-day events while working the same areas over and over again.
What are your favorite 3 colors of the Spirit Shad?
My top 3 are: Green Pumpkin Blue Hilite, Ayu, and Bone White. While there are a few other colors that I love in certain situations like the perch for example, those three colors work everywhere on any body of water. I’ve caught fish from Canada to Florida on those three colors. The 01-Green Pumpkin-Blue Hilite is my favorite. The blue iridescent bottom on the bait really works well in just about any situation.
Have you used the bubblegum?
It’s crazy but smallmouth and largemouth do like that hot pink bubble gum color. I don’t really have an explanation for it but it works.
I love the color in the Gajo Baits stick, used wacky rigged. It’s productive on smallmouth. I have used the bubblegum droppshotting in the spring while dragging around beds. It’s enough to trigger a strike sometimes from those finicky fish.
You pair your Spirit Shad with Liquid Mayhem. Why do you like adding scent to your drop shot baits? Why Liquid Mayhem over other options?
I’m firm believer in scent. What people have to understand about scent is that it isn’t about applying and having fish jump into the boat because of it. The purpose behind it is multifaceted.
First of all, it covers your scent up that you have transferred to the bait. There are many times when it will give you an extra second or two to set the hook before they toss it. There are also days when the fish are being difficult, and it really helps.
So why Liquid Mayhem you ask? Simple…it’s the best product on the market. The #1 reason I love it is how long it lasts. Liquid Mayhem has unmatched adhesion properties. You could cast over and over again for 30+ minutes yet still smell and see the product on your bait. Other oil based products just don’t compare and since oil is lighter than water, it separates and just rinses off your bait in a few casts.
Liquid Mayhem is also made with real baitfish and as an added bonus has a UV component. Most predatory fish actually see UV light different than we do. Think about a black light. It acts as a beacon to your bait in low light, deep water, or murky conditions.
What is your setup for fishing the Spirit Shad?
Whenever I drop shot I use a 7 ft. 2 in. rod with a medium fast action most often with an Ardent Bolt spinning reel. I really like that length for my drop shot rod to get a nice sweeping hookset. I also like that super-fast tip to feel the bite at some of the depths I am fishing on the St. Lawrence River, which could be 50 to 60 feet at times.
For line I use Berkley Vanish and Sunline Super FC Sniper usually in 6 lb. test but sometimes will move up to 7 lb. in the FC when I am fishing in more rough water/waves. I’ve had good luck with both types of lines.
How do you go about selecting leader length for fishing the Spirit Shad?
Usually I have my Spirit Shad about 1 feet. above my weight. I will adjust it accordingly depending on the situation. If I’m fishing an area with weed growth and my bait is constantly getting caught in the weeds as I drift, I will increase the length and go closer to 2 ft.
Another thing to pay attention to is what your fish are coughing up. If I notice small crawfish being tossed up by the fish in the livewell, there could be a new crawfish hatch going on and the fish many times are keyed in on this. I will move my bait down to be close to the ground, possibly only 3-4 inches above the weight.
Who are your other sponsors?
Locally Wright’s Marine and the Ogdensburg UPS Store have been instrumental in my move to the FLW Costas this past season. I can’t thank them enough. Obviously Gajo Baits and Liquid Mayhem. A few other companies that have been there for me along the way have been Bayou Bug Jigs, Ardent, Fishidy, Swagger Tackle and Dunamis Rods.
I’ve been with Bayou Bug Jigs for several years now. They are a great jig company with a ton of color options to help you match the hatch on any body of water around the country. All the jigs are hand made by a great guy who knows his stuff. Dunamis makes killer custom rods, all 100% made right here in the USA. I love the mapping option with Fishidy. I use their site constantly while prepping and preparing for tournaments to map out various lakes and rivers. Prepping with their product has saved my tail on bodies of water I haven’t fished before on a few occasions.
I was seriously on the fence about adding the Spirit Shad to my arsenal. But this discussion with Brad has put me over the edge. I will be placing my order soon at GajoBaits.com. Thanks Brad for helping me spend my money!
All of us can keep up with Brad at BradParadisFishing.com.