It’s no secret that shad is one of the best baits (if not the best) for catching blue catfish but catching shad can be a bit cumbersome if your not experienced locating and catching them or throwing a cast net.
One of the simplest ways to be successful is to make sure your using the right tools for the job (you’ve got the right cast net) and using the tools you have correctly. Combine the right cast net with the right techniques in the correct location and you are immediately on the path to not only having fresh shad for catfish bait each and every time you fish but also catching more catfish.
Here’s some down and dirty cast net tips to help you catch more shad, and help you stay safe in the process by making sure you’re throwing your cast net correctly.
Eight Cast Net Tips To Help You Catch More Shad
1. Choose The Right Cast Net
Make sure your using the right tools for the job. That means having the correct cast net for the time of year you’ll be using it or the depth water you’ll be using it in.
Sure, you can use the same cast net all year long but if you’ll use the right net for the right depth water your success catching shad will skyrocket!
In the warmer months (or when threadfin and gizzard shad are in shallower) water this is less important but in colder months or when shad are in deeper water having the right cast net is critical and will make or break your success.
The general rule of thumb to follow is to use a larger mesh and more weight in colder water when shad are deeper and always throw the largest cast net that you can legally use in your home waters.
Larger mesh and more weight makes the cast net sink faster which is critical for catching deeper water shad. Check out our tutorial on choosing the right cast net for more details. I like Fitec Super Spreader Cast Nets.
2. Stay Away From Cast Net Gimmicks, Rings and Circles
Don’t get suckered into adding stuff to a cast net for throwing it or buying a cast net with some sort of “throwing aid” attached to it. You’ll find a variety of cast nets sold with these devices on them and even more companies that market products that you can add to the cast net yourself.
Not only do you not need these items but most often they make the cast net harder to throw and it will not perform as well.
There’s no need for these devices and they’ll only hurt you in the long run.
Stick to a “plain jane” cast net without these add ons and learn to throw it correctly and you’ll be much more successful. Stay away from throwing rings, circles and any other cast net devices.
3. Throw That “Perfect Circle”
You need the net to open all the way in a “perfect circle” ideally, this way you are covering as much water as possible. If you use a seven foot cast net that only opens halfway when you throw it you’re no better off than you would be throwing a four foot cast net.
You want the net fully open when it hits the water so you can cover as much water as possible as it begins to sinker. The deeper the water is the more critical this becomes.
4. Pay Attention To When The Net Hits Bottom
When you throw the cast net, pay attention to what is happening and when it hits bottom.This is done by maintaining a very slight tension on the hand line with your hand and allowing the rope to slip through your hand so you can tell when the net hits bottom.
When the net hits bottom immediately give the rope a good hard yank and start pulling the cast net up.
If the net sits on the bottom too long you are giving the shad an opportunity to escape. That first “tug” of the rope gets the net to close and a moving net is much more difficult for shad to escape from.
You’ll catch more shad.
5. Coil The Rope When Retrieving
Coil the rope back up in your hand as you are retrieving the net.
This allows for a faster “reset” when you get the cast net pulled in and you can throw again quickly. It also keeps you from having rope all over the deck of the boat or on the ground that you can get tangled in (which is very dangerous).
Coiling the rope up will give you the ability to throw again much faster and keep you from falling into the water as well!
6. Stay Sure Footed
Always be careful throwing your cast net on surfaces that get slick when they’re wet like boat docks or the deck of a boat. In cold weather, be careful as water may freeze on the deck or floor of a boat or on a dock as you are catching bait.
It doesn’t take much for your throwing surface to turn into an ice skating rink. I’ve slid right off the deck of the boat on a few occasions over the years.
I can assure you that this is a “trick” you don’t want to attempt. Not only is it embarrassing but it’s dangerous as well! Nothing puts an end to a fun filled day of fishing like a fall into freezing cold water.
7. Use a Bait Bucket
Use a bucket to dump your bait in. This not only saves time picking the bait up off the floor of the boat but also keeps the floor from getting slick with shad slime. Similar to ice skating in the boat, you don’t want to go sliding off the boat or end up falling because you slid in shad slime.
Most dollar stores and big box retailers sell large plastic buckets that have rope handles for a few dollars each. These are great for catching shad as they’re easy to dump bait into and also great for storing cast nets.
When you finish catching shad you can use your cast net to stretch over the top of the bucket and keep the shad in it while you drain the water and excess slime before transferring your shad to plastic bags and putting them on ice.
8. Never Tie The Hand Line On Your Wrist
Never tie the hand line of the cast net on your wrist so it cannot be removed quickly and easily. You simply make a loop with the hand line so it stays on your wrist but is not secured.
You’re throwing something in the water that is subject to hanging up and snagging. If you’re in a boat battling wind, waves and current you need to be able to remove the rope from your wrist quickly of the net snags or hangs.
A tight knot on your wrist can easily put you in a situation where you get pulled overboard and are hung up on something under water which is a very dangerous situation.
The Most Important Cast Net Tip
When catching shad in deeper water using a small net or not having your net open fully when you throw puts you at a disadvantage.
When you throw a net in deeper water the net begins to close as it falls. The lead line is always going to sink faster than the rest of the net and because of this, it starts to close. The deeper water you’re throwing in the more the net closes as it sinks.
This is why it is so important to use the largest net you can legally throw and why you need to get the net to open fully when you throw it. If the net is only open half way when you throw it then by the time it reaches the bottom in deeper water, there is not enough net open to catch any bait!
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Want More On Catching Shad?
Learning to locate and catch shad is essential to your success fishing for blue catfish. Not only do you need to know how to locate and catch shad to use for bait but it’s also the simplest way to learn how to pattern and catch blue catfish.
If you want to shorten your learning curve and get on the fast track to being a better catfish angler our in depth guide on locating and catching shad will put you on the path to success.