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Lure Review

Updating an old friend with the latest armaments, the Excalibur Fat Free Shad

Date: 5/24/04
Tackle type: Lures
Manufacturer: Excalibur
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 8.33

Introduction: The Excalibur Fat Free Shad is no stranger to tournament anglers, in fact it is credited for winning a Bassmaster Classic. Excalibur makes sure that the latest benefits in technology are properly represented in this popular lure, and we take a look at this established performer to see if it still has what it takes to bring home the big money.


Excalibur Fat Free Shad (BD7F) Specifications

Material Plastic
Diving Depth 14'-18' with a #2 hook
Size 3"
Weight 1oz
Colors/Patterns 7+ in just this style
Color tested Dance's Fire Tiger
Additional Features 3D eyes, realistic scale finish, Excalibur Rotating Treble Hooks
MSRP $5.74

Impressions: The original Excalibur Fat Free Shad helped start the crankbait revolution almost a century ago when Mark Davis took the BassMasters classic with this lure, which hadn't even been released to market yet. Davis credited the lure with winning him the top prize, and within just a few weeks the lure was available on the market. Today the Fat Free Shad is promoted by none other than Bill Dance, and has undergone tweaks in technology in a effort to further enrich performance. Smaller variations like the Fat Free Fry and thin lipped Fat Free Shallow have allowed anglers who enjoy fishing the original to exploit the lure to target various depths.


The Excalibur Fat Free Shad now comes with new colors and rotating hooks


I have fished with the Fat Free Shad for years, and I'm not reticent to say that this lure was a staple in my tackle, but fresh introductions from other notable manufacturers have been advantageous for me, and with each passing year I found myself using more and more of the new-fangled lures rather than tying on the FFS (Fat Free Shad). I decided it was high time to revisit my old friend when Excalibur introduced a series of new colors and implemented their inventive "Rotating Hooks," as well as developed a suspending model.


Complete Rig for BSD7F Trap Tests

Rod Quantum Tour Edition PT (PTS664F)
Reel Shimano Chronarch 100A
Line 12 lb Trilene XL

Real World Tests: I tested the FFS on two local lakes, one which offered extremely clear water and rocky structure, and another which was chock full of early summer vegetation. I fished the entire time from the deck of our Nitro Bass Boat.


The Fat Free Shad features a unique profile and can be cast with ease


Casting: With one flick of the wrist I remembered why I liked tossing the FFS so much. This lure casts like a dream. The lure is well weighted, and this suspending bait can sail a good distance with minimal effort on the part of the angler. Best cast with baitcasting rigs, this lure is predictable and can be placed with great accuracy in and around structure. Though I was fishing with 12lb line the lure was still able to obtain excellent casting distances. This is important because the FFS is an superb fish searching tool, and the ability to cover a lot of water quickly will help you identify where fish are holding up.


The slender mid section and large bill help drive the Fat Free Shad down to 18 foot depths in seconds!


Retrieve: The FFS can dive to greater depths than most competitor's lures, and the secret lies in the profile of this lure. The lure itself is big and well weighted, while the  cross section of the lure is surprisingly thin, which helps the oversized bill drive this lure to desired depths quickly and efficiently. While most crankbait anglers target shallower waters, deep cranking is what I consider to be a lost art among anglers just learning how to fish cranks. There are plenty of fish in the deeper waters, and the enigma lies in how to effectively target them.

By using a FFS you arm yourself with a lure that can successfully reach deep structure. By clamping down on your reel you can drive the FFS down to depths close to 20ft! I have fished the FFS with soft rods only to become frustrated when setting on deep underwater structure, and finding myself horribly snagged. Make sure to choose a sensitive and responsive graphite rod so that it is easier to distinguish deepwater strikes and avoid potential problems with structure.


The Fat Free Shad can be used to target deep holding fish but digs into the ground in shallow water


To fish shallow water you need to use one of the newer and smaller Fat Free Shads, as the original will drive right down to the bottom. When in the water you can feel the very tight wobble all the way up the line, and when retrieved close to the surface you can actually hear the rattles clearly. The tight wobble does a first-rate job of shaking the rattles back and forth, generating plenty of noise underwater. The new suspending FFS can be fished just like the old one with one advantage, it can also be used for stop and go techniques. I was able to get bass to commit between retrieves, by just allowing the bait to sit and hover in the strike zone for longer periods.

When you feel the strike you can set instantly with the FFS. Excalibur's Rotating Hooks make it easy to drive the hook home. The Rotating Treble hooks feature a 6 degree counter rotated shaft and the new TX3 hook point. This counter rotated hook and 3 sided cutting point make it possible to penetrate with minimal force. During the test I hooked into two medium sized bass that jumped clear out of the water, both fish stayed right on the line thanks to the Tx3 hooks which embedded deep into the fish and kept them right on through the fight. These hooks are deadly sharp! But lucky for the fish they can be removed with the same twist and reverse motion used to remove standard hooks.


One of the unique features of the Fat Free Shad are the rotating hooks which feature the new triple edge Excalibur hook points for easy sets


Durability: The updated FFS features very high quality paint and to add more flash the lures also have a reflective characteristic to them, with an added holographic finish. To top it off the lures feature 3D eyes for increased realism. All this might add up to durability problems, but Excalibur does a good job coating the entire lure with a thick clear coat, effectively protecting the lure from aggressive strikes and contact with structure. The rotating hooks, while great for setting on fish, have one undesirable side effect. They do seem to snag up on weeds and woody structure a bit easier than standard trebles. They are very durable and wont break or bend even after tugging aggressively on them, so make sure you have a handy lure retriever with you, or be prepared to snap the line on those really dire snags.


The Fat Free Shad can be used to pull bass out of deep water, but watch out for those woody areas


Applications: The FFS suspending Shad is an excellent fish searching tool and can be used to target areas that many crankbait fisherman are simply ignoring. The new suspending models allow anglers to hold the bait in the strike zone longer, enticing weary bass to commit to what they assume to be easy prey. While this lure is best reserved for deeper waters, there are other FFS models available that can target the shallows. The only thing you need to watch out for is to avoid running the FFS too close to heavy vegetation or extremely woody structure. While the big bill of the FS will deflect the lure off of big rocks and stumps, the aggressive rotating hooks can snag up on small branches and brush.

Excalibur Fat Free Shad (BSD7F) Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The Excalibur Fat Free Shad is built out of top notch materials and the whole fit and finish of this lure is impressive. The rotating hooks are a nice upgrade 9
Performance The FFS worked well in deep to medium depths where it was able to reach suspended bass. This is a good lure for stop and go techniques, but if you want to fish the shallows you need to get one of the smaller lipped FFS baits. Only weakness of this lure is that it hangs up more than typical cranks 8
Price At under 6 dollars direct from lurenet.com the FFS is quite a good deal for such a proven bait 8.5
Features Featuring rattles that produce an audible call and a long bill for getting down deep real quick, and the tx3 hooks this lure is considered richly featured 9
Design (Ergonomics) The body design of the FFS hasn't changed much, and why should it? It continues to perform well and the new tweaks put it back into the technologically rich lures 8
Application This proven lure can be fished with success where other cranks cant even reach. By spending time to learn how to crank for deep bass you can effectively generate strikes that you wouldn't normally expect 8

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Great for deep water cranking L Hangs up easily on branches and weed
J Retrieve can be varied  
J New hooks make it easy to set  
J Reasonable Price  

Conclusion: Recent years have seen the introduction of thousands of new lures, and though many have become fashionable, few have as great a staying power as the Excalibur Fat Free Shad. While some lures owe success to design innovation or unique action, the Fat Free Shad is popular because it works. Tournament pros have utilized the deepwater prowess of the FFS to boat big fish, and take home big bucks. By taking the time to learn to anticipate snags and enticing fish to commit from deeper structure the Excalibur Fat Free Shad can be a top performing lure in your arsenal. It certainly has garnered a second look from myself, and judging from the recent performance in our tests it has secured a spot in the top drawer of my tackle box all over again.









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