Small shad are fantastic live bait for a variety of species, and as long as you keep them well-oxygenated, they’re hardy and lively.
Most anglers use a cast net to gather shad for bait, but we often get asked about alternatives.
Can you catch shad without a cast net?
The basic answer is no - if we’re talking about bait shad.
I’ve caught shad once or twice on small in-line spinners, but they were a bit larger than bait shad, and I’ll bet the strikes were driven by annoyance rather than predatory instinct.
When shad get big - and gizzard shad, for instance, can grow to an astounding 18.8 inches and 3.4 pounds - they’ll hit lures occasionally, despite surviving on a diet of zooplankton, detritus, and in some cases small crustaceans.
But bait-sized shad just aren’t interested in anything you’re going to throw, so netting is the only option.
I’ve asked around and consulted fishermen across the country, and the answer is always the same: use a castnet (where legal) to catch shad for bait.