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RAPALA SHAD RAP

    Rapala introduced the Shad Rap in the early 1980's, and since it's introduction, the Shad Rap has been the best-selling crankbait in the US. There is no other crankbait sold that looks more like a baitfish, runs as true straight out of the box, and hangs up as infrequently as the Shad Rap. While I am not a strong proponent of crankbaits in river situations (they get hung up too often), the Shad Rap is one of my favorite lures. I have caught everything from crappie to stripers on the Shad Rap, and virtually every type of fish in between. I even caught five catfish on a Shad Rap one day on the Coosawattee River. Shad Raps are great in clear water because they look so realistic and also cut the mustard in dingy water because they throw off a decent amount of flash and vibration. Shad Raps work well in slow water and outshine all other crankbaits in swifter water because they track straight as an arrow. They are easy to fish, too. The best retrieve is to throw them out and start reeling.

    Every size of Shad Rap will catch fish, but I prefer the SR05, a 2" model that will get down to around 6 or 7 feet on a fast retrieve. This is the smallest Shad Rap made, and is perfect for the clear, rocky streams found in northern Georgia, where redeye and spotted bass are waiting for a meal just about that size. The SR05 also might be the best lure in the world for white bass! Crappie, rock bass, largemouths, big bream, stripers, hybrids, and even the aforementioned catfish all have trouble turning down this tasty little offering. I've even caught a carp pushing seven pounds on a Shad Rap, which would put me in the running for the Dog River Carp king trophy! This smallest member of the Shad Rap family is probably not the best choice if you are targeting largemouths or stripers (they usually prefer a bigger mouthful) or bream or crappie (they usually like smaller meals), but for good all-around mixed-bag fishing, the Shad Rap is tough to beat.

    I have some pretty good reasons for choosing the small Shad Rap over larger models. The main reason is that I hate getting hung up when floating down a river, and larger Shad Raps (with bigger hooks) get hung up a good bit more than the SR05. Another reason I like the smaller version is that I can usually get the lure back when I do get hung because the lure normally runs at about six feet or less, allowing me to reach my rod tip down into the water and jiggle it free. These things cost $5 a pop, and the difference between getting hung up in six feet of water versus nine feet of water is very important to me on those early spring trips when I'd rather stay in the boat. Having said that, I rarely have a Shad Rap make it through an entire season without leaving it on some river. Despite the fact that they ride over logs and through branches better than any other type of diving lure, Shad Raps are still crankbaits and will get hung a bit more than other lures.

Best Seasons and Situations

           

Shad Raps are tough to beat in the springtime when white bass and hybrids make their spawning runs. At left is a hybrid weighing at least four pounds and to the right is a white bass weighing about two pounds. Both were taken on the SR05 model in the shad finish.

    Shad Raps are a great choice any time white bass are in the river, which is normally during the spring spawning runs. Traditionally, the most famous white bass lure is a white curly-tail grub, but I prefer the Shad Rap. White bass normally reside somewhere near the bottom while making their runs, and the Shad Rap will get close enough to do the job 99% of the time. Any time you feel the lure come into contact with the bottom or any other obstacle, all you have to do to avoid snags is to stop reeling for a second or two (allowing the buoyancy of the bait to raise it over snags) then commence reeling at a slower pace. It is easy to control the depth of the lure, even in swift current. Curly-tail jigs are tougher to fish because you must reel faster to keep them away from snags, and if they so much as touch a tree limb, they get hung. Jigs are also tougher to fish in swift current, because in order to get down to the fish, a heavier jig head is often required, and then you are really talking hang-up city!

    The Shad Rap also shines in situations where redeye and spotted bass are likely targets. These fish are most commonly found in northern Georgia, where the rivers run fairly clear most of the year and there is not quite as much woody cover to deal with. You can get away with fishing a Shad Rap almost year-round for these bass if you remember to fish a little slower when its cold out. Despite it's small size, the Shad Rap will entice surprisingly large spotted bass into striking. I like to put on a Shad Rap on North Georgia streams during the spring and let the whites, spots, and redeyes fight over it! Another little tip: Trout in the Chattahoochee River will tear up a Shad rap in short order. This surprised me at first, because most people throw tiny flies and spinners at trout in the Hooch, but I've seen the Shad Rap catch too many limits not to mention it.

Tips and Techniques

    When bass fishing, I prefer to use the Shad Rap when the water is pretty clear. There are flashier and louder lures to use in murky water (though the Shad Rap is pretty good in stained water too!), and clear water allows me to spot potential snags in order to avoid hang-ups. The main reason though, is that fish in clear water are often a bit more selective in what they eat, and nothing looks as realistic wiggling through clear water as a Shad Rap! During the warmer months, if the fish refuse to hit topwater, the Shad Rap is often my second option, because it can be fished fairly quickly in the middle depths without getting hung up that often. When the sun is setting and I've still got two miles to float, the Shad Rap allows me to get there quickly and still have a great shot at catching fish.

    The SR05 Shad Rap works best with medium-light spinning tackle and 6 lb.-test line. I feel that 8 pound line inhibits the action a bit too much and 4 pound line might not get that three-pound spot into the boat without some answered prayers. I normally just throw out and reel in, varying the retrieve speed until I find what works. Whenever the Shad Rap makes contact with wood or rock, stop reeling for a few seconds and let the lure rise a foot or so. Many times, when you start reeling again a bass will have eaten it. Every once in a while on a slow day in midsummer, a retrieve consisting of violent jerks and pauses will sometimes entice a few bass that must like it rough.

    I don't fish the Shad Rap much for largemouth or shoal bass anymore, but I have had great success on these species using the Shallow Shad Rap in the next size up (SSR07, 2 & 3/4"). These lures get down as deep as five feet and run like a dream in fast shoal bass water or lazy largemouth hangouts. I have a friend that swears by one of the bigger Shad Raps for stripers, but I have not personally verified  that claim yet.

    I haven't mentioned lure color yet, but since I normally fish Shad Raps in clear water or for fish (white bass) that like to chow on shad, I go with the shad finish. I would expect that the brighter finishes would be really effective in stained water and that the crawfish pattern might be good at times too. Rapala is also making jointed, rattling, and suspending versions of the Shad Rap that are made of plastic rather than balsa wood. My guess is that since Rapala makes them, they are probably pretty good lures, too. If you are a crankbait enthusiast, I would suggest you have a few different flavors to try.  I am not a crankbait enthusiast, but the Shad Rap is slowly making a convert out of me. If Rapala ever comes out with a weedless version of the Shad Rap, this lure is headed straight for the top five!

 
 

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