Impressions: I am talking, of course, of the Spark Shad. Available in three sizes, three, four, and five inch, this bait is ideal for umbrella rigs hence the its popularity for this application. However, those in the know realize the bait is capable of so much more. It resembles your ubiquitous hand poured paddletail bait with its flat top. In fact, the body of the bait is a very pliable soft plastic reminiscent of your softest hand pours. However, the Spark Shad distinguishes itself with a belly designed on inspiration from the keel of a boat, and articulated exterior fins engineered to keep the bait stable during retrieve.
Megabass's Spark Shad Swimbait is available in three
sizes making it a popular choice for umbrella rigs
Real World Tests: I've actually had the Spark Shad for a number of years, but with our Rat Rumble and BFS themes over the past couple of years, struggled to find time to actually fish the bait with intent. I rigged it up a couple of times on a jig head and threw it sparingly, but never really spent time thinking about the bait and how to take advantage of its attributes. That changed this year when I finally dedicated some time to think about the best way to rig it.
The top of the bait is flat, reminiscent of hand poured
Ease of Rigging : Originally designed to be fished on Megabass's Body Balance Swimbait Heads, I had difficulty with this idea because both baits feature articulated faces with eyeballs. It's definitely a personal thing, but I just cannot, in good conscience, throw a bait with two heads on it. That plus what I really wanted was a weedless option, so I hunted through my terminal tackle and came up with two alternatives.
Rigged with Gamakatsu's Weighted Superline Spring Lock Hook
Gamakatsu Weighted Superline Spring Lock Hook - My primary objective was to fish the five inch Spark Shad. With that in mind, I chose the 4/0 size of this hook from Gamakatsu and found it fit the bait very well. Alternatively, the weighted superline spring lock hook is also available in a 3/0 hook size which is just barely right for the four inch Spark Shad. I think 2/0 might be better, but no one seems to make a weighted swimbait hook with centering pin in that size.
Rigged with Owner's Weighted Beast Hook with Twist Lock
Owner Weighted Beast Hook with Twist Lock - This hook by Owner is a popular choice for large baits like the Spark Shad's sibling, the MagDraft Freestyle. For the five inch Spark, similar to the previous hook option, 4/0 is the size I prefer. Unfortunately for Owner, there is no 3/0 or even smaller hook alternative, so if you like this hook but want to fish the four inch Spark Shad, you need to find an alternative.
I mostly fished the five inch
Ease of Actuation : What's important to me with either option is placement of the weight. Some swimbait hooks have the weight placed further up the hook shank towards the eye. I want that weight as low as possible towards the bend in the hook to provide a nice keel for the bait. This, together with the position of the line tie, seems to help keep the bait in a nice neutral position while swimming giving it more of a glide as that tail kicks. The Spark Shad's tail, by the way, kicks at just about any speed. It is a very easy bait to swim inspiring confidence fished slow to fast and anywhere in between.
Articulated fins provide the bait with unexpected stability
Quality of Movement : It seems every soft plastic swimbait has a different action in the water - even paddletails. I tend to take this for granted thinking all paddletails are created equal, but of course they are not. For the Spark Shad, that tail kicks with little to no effort and the body stays still - almost like a boat being propelled by a paddle shaped propeller. Some paddletails shimmy while swimming. This is definitely not the case with the Spark Shad. If it has any wobble at all, I couldn't see it. Those fins do a great job keeping the baits body stable and true.
The belly slit is kind of a suggested hook cavity