Author: Rob Belloni
Overview/History: The Huddleston Shad was released in early summer 2007. At the time of this review there are two sink rates available (Rate of Fall 3 and 12) and five colors - all of which are shad imitating. The baits are 4.25" long and weigh around 1/2oz depending on the rate of fall. Retail price from the Huddleston web site is $17 for two lures.
Pros: Before we talk cosmetics, let's talk internals. Great lures start from the inside and the Huddleston Shad is no exception. Like the Huddleston Deluxe 8" trout, the shad has foam attached to the harness inside the lure to ensure that the baits run true at all speeds, and sits right side up when deadsticked on the bottom. Putting a lead/foam harness in a lure this small can not have been easy, but this bait has it. The hook is a 3/0 Mustad Ultrapoint which is a great hook. Not quite as sharp as Owner, but very fishable and strong.
When the Huddleston Shad came out, the only colors were opaque, and they look good and catch fish. But the exciting colors to me are the transparent colors like "Smoke on the Water" and "Purple Haze". This is a very finessey bait, and the transparent colors are just beautiful in clear water. Yes, you can see the harness through the transparent baits, but they still look terrific in the water. I can’t say enough good things about the color selections available in the Hudd Shad.
The action on the Shad is brisk but straight ahead. The lure doesn't have a slow wag like the trout; it's much more shad-like and quick. You can't feel the bait kick on the end of your rod, but the tail action is strong enough to get the fish's attention. I wouldn't say that the lure moves like a shad moves (which is more side to side), but when a bait comes up to investigate and sees the flanks of this bait - bait holy smokes, it looks a lot like the real thing.
The eye of the Hudd shad is painted on with gold and black, then covered with a dot of clear plastic. I pushed on the eyes to see if they would pop out and they did not. Many times on the small plastic swimbaits losing the eyes is a problem, but these eyes are done right. Anatomically the lures are just like a real threadfin shad down to the black dot above the gill plate and the molded on fin detail.
Much like the trout, the Hudd shad is constructed from a tough but pliable plastic. From 1/4" behind the hook back the lure is soft enough to pull the tail around to the nose of the bait. This is nice when a bass goes to inhale the lure and collapses as it goes in. You might get a little more "chew time" based on this softness. I’d expect to get 5-10 fish per bait, with the chance that you will get your tail bitten off every so often. At $8.50 per lure, this is not too bad.
When selecting your rod and reel for this bait, think 10-20lb test, and more on the lighter end of things. I'd start with 12lb fluorocarbon and go from there. Rod choice should be your personal preference, but I am inclined to go with a fast action 7'6" rod and a standard baitcaster like a Curado 200.
Cons: I tested 14 hudd shads for this review. One of them did not swim perfectly straight. The bait did not roll, but was just a little off. Because the baits are so narrow, it's difficult to add weight to tune them. One out of 14 is not bad at all, but one is still more than I've experienced with the trout, where I have fished over 30 trout and never seen one that was not perfect out of the package. I'm nit picking here, but Huddleston baits set a high standard.
From a bite to land ratio standpoint, the Hudd Shad poses the same problems that all single "open jig hook" style baits pose. You get a fish on that is skin hooked inside the mouth and it's very possible that the hook will tear out. My friends who use this lure as a tournament bait report that they get a ton of short strikes from small 1-3lb bass. You would think that the fish would just swallow it and get hooked, but apparently in the southern California lakes where these guys fish the bass are inclined to swat at this lure.
If you are very careful, you can add a tiny trailer hook, like a #6 treble behind the top hook. Rigging like this can be tricky though, and may require constant adjustment on the water. It wouldn't break my heart if a version of the shad came out with a wire loop on the belly.
My last comment is more of a wish list item than a con. I wish there was a sink rate on this lure that got down to the bottom fast. Say ROF20. Many of the situations where I see this lure working well involve deep, clear water. The R.O.F. 12 shad gets down ok, but you have to be very patient to fish it in more than 20 feet if it's windy.
Overall, the Hudd Shad is a strong performer that has already proven itself as a successful tournament lure. I haven't heard of any giant catches on it, but when spring of '08 rolls around I think there could be some interesting bed fishing opportunities with this bait, and I think we will continue to hear more in the post spawn on the lakes where shad come up and cruise the weed lines in May.