The Red Eye Shad

Kevin VanDam sings the praises of the Red Eye Shad. 

If you think I like Strike King's new Red Eye Shad, you're right. It's new, but I've already caught lots of good bass on it, won a tournament with it and cashed several checks because of the fish that have hit it.

Here are five important things you need to know about the Red Eye Shad:

1. Snag the grass

This is one of the best ways to fish it and one of the easiest. Locate grass flats in shallow water — up to 12 feet or so — and go to work.

By that I mean casting the lure out, letting it sink to a depth that'll allow the bait to strike and foul in the weeds, and then cranking it back slowly. When the bait hits the grass, or fouls in it a little bit, rip the bait loose and let it fall to the bottom on a semi-slack line.

The trick with this technique is to use sensitive equipment so you know what the lure's doing. I throw it with a Quantum composite cranking rod and a low gear ratio reel (Quantum Energy PT 750, 5.1:1) spooled with 17-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series fluorocarbon line.

With that tackle you can feel the slightest piece of grass on one of the hooks, and the fluorocarbon line helps keep the bait down. But that same tackle has enough backbone to let you rip the lure free and keep it clean during the fall.

It's the wiggle and shimmy on the fall that causes bass to strike it so viciously. The bass you catch doing this aren't the ones you'll catch cranking. They're bonus bass, and usually good ones, too.

2. Bang stumps, rock and anything else you can find on gravel flats and points

You should fish a Red Eye Shad around these areas the same way as grass, basically. The most important thing here is to hit something and then kill the bait.

Because the lure is so well balanced, it'll bounce off most of that stuff. It doesn't hang nearly as often as other lipless crankbaits. We worked very hard to develop a fall that made the lure look natural and realistic. We didn't want it to flop over on its side and just drop.

Take advantage of that. Most of your strikes will come on the fall or as you start moving the bait after the fall. Keep contact with the lure at all times so you can feel the bite when it happens.

3. Yo-yo in deeper water

If you drop your line size down to 10-pound-test — still using fluorocarbon, of course — you'll be able to fish the 1/2-ounce model all the way down to 15 feet. It really catches them at those depths if you yo-yo the lure along the bottom or against whatever structure you find down there.

If you have trouble keeping the bait down, try sweeping the rod tip to the side rather than pulling it straight up, but make sure you lift the bait off the bottom or whatever you hit so that it'll fall.

But again — and I can't emphasize this enough — the important thing is to hit something and then let the bait fall. I don't care what's down there. Hit it with the lure and then kill it. Let the shimmy work for you.

The 3/4-ounce size will be available in July or August. The heavier bait will make this technique easier and help you fish deeper water more efficiently.

4. Choose colors carefully

If you're fishing clear water, you want the bass to feel and hear the bait before he or she sees it. You don't want them to see it until the very last second and then strike from instinct.

Therefore, natural colors work best. They're not as visible and do what you want them to do. Study your fishing waters and then try to match the hatch.

In darker water, the principle is the same but you have to help the bass see. They can't do it all on their own. Try dark colors or fluorescents. They have the best visibility and seem to produce the most fish. Again, you want the bass to feel and hear the bait before he can see it, but you have to help them a little bit here.

5. Swap hooks with care

The standard hooks on a Red Eye Shad are great. They're high-quality and sharp as a tack. Most days the only thing you'll need to do with them is pry them out of a bass' jaw.

But sometimes — when the bite is soft or tentative — I swap them out with Mustad Short Shank Triple Grip hooks. Mustad also has an excellent short shank, round bend model that works great on a Red Eye Shad.

If you swap hooks, make sure they don't tangle with each other. Both the Mustad models I use have short shanks. That'll destroy the action of the Red Eye Shad. And that, in turn, results in a wasted cast — something we never want!