The Battles Shad is nothing new. It’s a soft bait made by Mike over at Working Class Zero that’s been around for awhile now and has caught a lot of big fish across the Country. He recently started making it in a new 6 inch size after only offering it in 7.5 and 9 inch prior. I was instantly intrigued by this new option. I like smaller soft baits. They tend to mimic the forage size for the bodies of water that I like to fish. A lot of anglers think smaller profile means smaller fish and I firmly don’t believe that. It’s all about getting as close to the prey size as you can. One of my favorite soft baits of all time is the 5 inch weedless Rising Son. That bait has put a ton of fish in the boat for me so when this new size Battles Shad released I knew I had to try it. My first thought when I got them was how much smaller it was compared to the 7.5 inch. It’s a pretty substantial difference but not in a bad way. All of the new baits come with the Headcase Harness. Designed by Mike to increase the durability of the baits and eliminate the typical nose blow outs that you get from the screw lock. I rigged it up with an Owner 8/0 1/2 ounce Beast Hook. I like to be able to fish my baits as low in the water column as I can and the 1/2 ounce really seems to work well for soft baits in this size range. My go to rod setup for smaller soft baits is the Irod Kaimana 764. It’s easy to get carried away and overpower a bait this size so I like to use a rod that has some give. Parabolic with backbone is key to drive that hook home and keep the fish pinned. As far as my line preference, I like to use 15 pound test and usually stick to either Pline Halo or Tactical Fluorocarbon paired up with the Shimano Bantam 6.1. I got to put the Battles Shad to the test the first day it showed up when me and Ceaser went chasing Striper. We pulled up to our first spot and got lined up for the cast. These fish were positioned off a flat and were ambushing bait when it would come off the ledge. I made the cast about ten feet onto the flat and slow rolled it out. No sooner did I hit the drop off and she ate. Hit like a bat out of hell and instantly started ripping drag. I was confident that as long as I kept tension she was gonna get into the boat. It wasn’t until Ceaser asked me what pound test I was using and seeing his reaction that a slight nervousness started. She came up and rolled a few times and would immediately start swimming for deep water. After what felt like forever, she hit the net. I finally landed my PB Striper. Coming from someone that typically doesn’t chase line sides it was a major accomplishment for me. To get that opportunity the first time fishing a brand new bait was special and the best part is that it still looked new. The bait not only worked but it held up to a fish that typically thrashes soft baits to the point of no repair. We kept fishing and the Battles Shad 6 kept getting bites. After numerous trips, it has continued to catch fish. Between Stripers and Largies, the fish count is now at 36 and it still has plenty of life left in it. I don’t use Mend It on Working Class Zero baits. WCZ offers their own plastic repair so I’ve stuck with that and its worked great the couple times I’ve had to use it.
There is one trick that I do even though it is frowned upon by Mike. I think he even says don’t do it but its something that I’ve been doing with my soft baits for awhile and I notice personally that it has helped my hook up ratio. I cut the belly of the bait(see photo above). Not a lot but enough so that the hook can pass into the air chamber without having to stretch the bait to rig it. The cut is about 3/8-1/2 of an inch long. There are two reasons why I do this. The first being it helps assist the bait in collapsing and gives it more bite. The second is it eliminates the need to bend the hook up at all keeping the bait extremely weedless and stealthy in the process. The Battles Shad 6 has become one of my favorite soft baits. It has gotten bit everywhere that I’ve fish it. The head case harness truly makes this bait extremely durable and worth every penny. I will keep this setup on the deck going forward.