The Red Eye Shad is just another lipless crankbait in the rattle bait family. With glaring red eyes, weighted nose and mid-section, a flat smooth head, tapered and angular body, size 4 VMC treble hooks, and a split ring on its back, the Red Eye Shad still resembles many of its rattle bait brethren. What's different? The entire lure was essentially designed from the ground up, scrutinized at every turn, and held captive until the company felt it was ready for the real world.
The infamous Kevin VanDam wanted something more out of rattle baits. He apparently had his own list of improvements in mind from the start. Along with the help from the staff at Strike King, the Red Eye Shad underwent about 30 months of testing to arrive at a finished product, so a lot of effort went into designing this bait to be just right. KVD wanted a lure that had a more unique and natural swimming action on the fall and not the typical side to side "potato chip" flutter like some other rattle baits. According to the article I read, KVD turned out to be a bit of a perfectionist. This lure had to measure up to his standards. This was even true when it came time to pick out colors. To be honest, the color selection looks similar to the same old crankbait patterns we are accustomed to. The bait was originally released in a 1/2oz size and the design team faced some difficulty building a 1/4oz version, but it is now available in 1/4oz, 1/2oz, and 3/4oz sizes. I bought the 1/2oz version in a shad color.
I am certainly not an authority on lipless crankbaits, but after examining my own Red Eye Shad, certain aspects of the design caught my eye. First, the nose is more blunt than pointed, but the top half of the nose is flat. The underbelly actually has a bulging gut and the spot where the front treble connects is strangely recessed. Although the gut and this recessed point line up with a weight chamber and the treble hook anchor respectively, I see no other reason for such a distinct profile. I can't question Strike King's design staff, so I can only assume the swimming action and fall both rely on these changes in contour. Perhaps it was an attempt to appeal to our desire for a more natural look. Additionally, two curved gill markings line the sides in front of the black shad spot. My shad colored lure is also see-through. Not only is there a weight placed in the middle of the gut, but a similar weight is positioned between the eye and nose. There are two rattle chambers separated by a divider containing free floating rattle beads. The rear rattle chamber contains three beads and eight beads are inside the larger middle chamber. I have no idea what size the split rings are. The pair of size 4 VMC treble hooks are quite sharp. How do I know? I have to be careful where I set the lure. The hooks seem to get caught in everything, including my shirt if I'm not careful. I don't think any other lure I've owned has become this attached to my personal attire or belongings.
Work the lure just like any other rattle trap. Rip it through grass. Draw out a reaction strike. Burn it through shallow water. Slow roll it. Pause the retrieve and allow it to fall. When you hang up in weeds, give it a good rip and you should break free most of the time. Nothing new there in terms of rattle bait technique. Here's the take home point. This lure has a different wobble and fall as well as a unique rattle noise pattern which sets it apart from other rattle baits. One rattle bait might catch fish one day and produce nothing the next, so if your local bass are accustomed to seeing and hearing a specific brand of rattle bait, try another. When ripping the Red Eye Shad, the pitch of the rattle sounds more dull than a Rat-L-Trap, but it is equally as loud.
Casting the Red Eye Shad has been a breeze. It is much easier to cast than a 1/2oz Rat-L-Trap. Very little effort is required on my part to cast a good distance and still maintain accuracy. I have a lot more control when pitching too. The weighted nose and mid-section give the lure some direction and balance everything out. I also like that the lure enters the water without much of a splash. You won't startle anything with an outrageous uproar as it hits the water. Leave that to the bass. As I have already discussed, KVD wanted a lure that fell with a more natural movement. The fall does, in fact, appear more natural. When the bait enters the water, it stays correctly oriented and swims forward with a slight side-to-side wiggle. Job well done. Like its Bill Lewis counterpart, this lure has a tendency to rise out of the strike zone with fast retrieves. Those of you who visit this blog with any regularity know that I am addicted to high speed reels in the 7:1 range. A 6:1 reel might accommodate the Red Eye Shad's design, but I am managing fine with a faster ratio.
The price tag depends on where you shop. I've seen them as cheap as $3.79, but I don't think you'll see that again any time soon. Most places sell the Red Eye Shad for around $5. That's still comparable to the competition. No big price advantage there.
Despite KVD's demands for perfection, I still have a few complaints. I cannot consistently make this lure swim true right away. It tends to swim up on its side, especially right after I engage the reel to start the retrieve. I can only assume this means I should allow the lure to fall first before starting my retrieve. When using a sidearm cast, I noticed the lure had a little lift as it flew through the air, but so does a Rat-L-Trap. I accidentally put this lure into a few cypress limbs because I underestimated the amount of lift. Although the fall is more natural, I cannot reliably tell how the lure is falling. After the lure hits the water, I briefly lose contact with it. The more "natural" fall might be to blame as the lure tends to swim towards me, putting slack in the line. Seeing as how so much work went into designing this lure, I'm almost afraid to make any modifications of my own, including swapping out hooks and split rings.
Paint durability might be a concern, but so far I don't have any dents, dings, chips, or scratches. I've even thwacked it up against the pier a few times by accident. The lure does attract enough dirt to dull the finish along the sides. A good once-over with a brush should clean up those smudges. You might have a different outcome with a chrome finish. Chrome Rat-L-Traps have been notoriously plagued by chipped paint problems and I suspect the Red Eye Shad is not exempt from this shortcoming either, but because I have not used a chrome model yet, I cannot really offer any additional insight. Then again, some anglers claim a beat up chrome Trap catches more fish.
I differ with those who prefer to tie loop knots onto lipless crankbaits. If you are wondering about crankbait knots, consider reading my post on rigging crankbaits. I fish a Red Eye Shad with a snap swivel. In my experience, I would rather sacrifice a little bit of action in favor of having the ability to swap out lures of various colors. When fishing with a lipless crankbait like the Red Eye Shad, more often than not, I will be using it to search out fish. If one color, rattle pattern, or size isn't working or stops working, I will switch to another without wasting time retying. That's just my style of fishing. Just be sure to pay attention to how the crankbait swims. Some snap swivels don't alter the action too much. Others draw the lure up and to the side. If you find shame in using snap swivels, by all means, tie those loop knots. Whatever works for you.
Lastly, be sure to examine your line for any damage. Treble hooks on lures like this can sometimes nick your line as they sail through the air. I have not noticed any line damage yet, but it is something I am keeping a close eye on, especially since the hook points are so touchy-feely with everything they come into contact with.
The Red Eye Shad has not worked for me yet, though. I put it to the test during some of the prespawn season down here. A Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap still outfished the Red Eye Shad in the bodies of water I frequent, but the bass were not biting much for me to begin with. I will keep the lure handy to see if I can trigger some more bites, but I'm not sold on this bait yet. A red craw colored Rat-L-Trap does extremely well around here, so at some point, a similarly colored Red Eye Shad will be put to the test.
Remember, this lure was designed for KVD, but does it meet your own requirements? Just because it works for KVD does not necessarily mean it will for you. That's what really matters on the water. What's my advice? Have it in case you need to try something new when a confidence bait does not work. If the Red Eye Shad does not produce for you, change your technique first before abandoning the lure to the junk heap.
If you would like to know more about fishing rattle traps, check out one of my previous posts. I have also provided additional links to pages discussing the Red Eye Shad. The two ESPN links are excellent reads. Two other bloggers have also chimed in with their takes on this lure, so it can't hurt to get their perspective either.
Red Eye Shad Links
ESPN - The Red Eye Shad Part 1
ESPN - The Red Eye Shad Part 2
Red Eye Shad @ Rattletrap Ramblings
Red Eye Shad @ Team Bassackwards
Strike King: KVD's 2010 Bassmaster Classic Win
YouTube: How KVD Fishes the Red Eye Shad
In light of his performance at the 2010 Classic, you should seriously consider slowing down your presentation with a 5:1 reel and swapping out the stock hooks for the No. 2 KVD Mustad Elite Triple Grip treble hooks with short shanks.