By Todd Corayer
Special to Outdoor Enthusiast Lifestyle Magazine
Each year, fishing lure manufacturers entice us into more tackle purchases with their newest creations, designs and color patterns. Some are just variations on a theme but every so often, a company develops a real game changer, like the Steel Shad from the Steel Shad Fishing Company of East Dorset Vermont. This thin metal blade bait is a unique concept with a look unlike anything on the market and has proven to be a winner for targeting fresh and salt water fishes.
The first bit of design you’ll notice is the forward weight, which is lead on most models and helps provide its signature wiggle and dive. On the university and Elite series, there is a tin alloy weight available instead of lead for an extra $1.50. In a new age of conservation and awareness of our big footprint on the earth, that seems like an important and logical decision to eliminate more lead lost overboard. The body is also pliable so it can be easily manipulated for different conditions and depths which is part of the genius. Depending on where you bend it, it will act differently when cast and retrieve. Bends at the letters “D” or “S” will deliver different actions; if you keep it straight, it will swim from about one to five feet, depending on that retrieve speed. A little James Brown action around finicky fish or on a cold winter day really can make all the difference.
Over the last few winters, I’ve caught and released dozens of over-wintering stripers in rivers and salt ponds with the original 3/8 ounce silver version. Admittedly, it took me a while to become accustomed to how it cast and how it moved through the water but that’s part of its charm. Cold water stripers might hold at different depths on different days in a salt pond, depending where the alewives or herring are schooling. They can also be surprisingly choosy so several casts were needed to understand where it was in the water column. They sink at about one foot per second, which I didn’t know back them, so you’ll have an edge for timing your retrieve, especially if you have a fish finder and can see where fish are.
I’ve also fished the Steel Shad without any terminal tackle or leader. Winter fish are hungry for sure but their metabolism is slow and I don’t want anything to scare them away from taking a swipe at my bait plus I feel the lure has slightly better action without a snap or swivel. If your target species is small stripers or largemouth bass, I’d give it a go without a leader as well. Their jaw and teeth structures won’t be enough to tear through a decent 20# test mono or a higher rated braid. Going leaderless is purely for enjoying more of the fight; if the fish in your area are decent size, keep the 20# fluorocarbon leader right there.
Steel Shads come equipped with VMC Permasteel treble hooks. Permasteel is a proprietary anti-corrosion coating which they feel will protect hooks in fresh and saltwater for what the company states is over one thousand hours. The Elite Series lures are fitted with VMC hooks in black nickel. If you’re concerned with returning fish back to the water as quickly and in the best shape as possible, you might consider swapping out the trebles for single hooks. They are easier to remove from a fish’s mouth and usually have less chance of being inhaled down to the gills or gut.
That change is something to watch; its unique wobble might be affected, positively or negatively, by a change in hook shape and weight. But that said, experimenting with a new lure is part of the fun, like catching that first big largemouth or chunky striped bass of the season on the year’s coolest lure.