paddle tail vs jerk shad soft plastic lures

Unleashing the Power of Soft Plastic Lures - Paddle Tail Vs Jerk

Soft Plastics have become a go-to choice for almost all of my lure fishing lately. I may regret saying this but I almost prefer them over my surface lures. In this article, we'll explore two popular types of soft lures:  the paddle tail shad and jerk shad.  I'll also try and provide insights, tips, and some personal anecdotes to help you make an informed decision when choosing between these two options.

Soft Plastic Lures are flexible, lifelike imitations of baitfish that are made from soft, pliable materials. They offer several advantages over other bait types, including versatility, durability, and realistic action in the water. Paddle tail shad and jerk shad are two popular variations of soft lures that have their own unique characteristics and applications which will be explored in more detail below.

Paddle Tail Shad

The Paddle tail shads are probably the most familiar and feature a soft plastic body with a distinct paddle-shaped tail. The paddle tail design creates a unique swimming action in the water, producing vibrations and movements that mimic the natural motion of baitfish. When retrieved, paddle tail shad lures generate a side-to-side swimming action that is enticing to a wide range of predatory fish. The paddle tail creates a subtle thumping and kicking motion, attracting fish with its lifelike movements. There are a lot of different size paddles on these lures, the bigger the paddle the bigger the thump. BUT be careful, sometimes bigger is not always better. You can have times when a large paddle can frighten the fish and they won’t pay any attention. It pays to have a few different sizes in your lure box to see what they are attracted to on that specific day.

The Paddle tail shads are versatile and effective in various fishing scenarios. They can be used in shallow waters on various retrieves, deeper water and are deadly in the current, they excel in situations where fish are actively feeding and looking for prey. Bass, pike, perch, pollock and inshore saltwater species are among the common targets for paddle tail shad lures.

Paddle tails can be rigged on jig heads (Finess Nose Jig Head / Texas Free Jig Head), weighted (Belly Weighted Weedless Hook) and non-weighted hooks (Worm Wide Gap Hook), rigged with twistlock hooks, basically any way you want to rig them for the best action for your chosen location.  Experiment with different weights and hook sizes to achieve the desired swimming depth and action. When you’re out there giving them a bash, try a steady retrieve with occasional pauses, or subtle twitches to entice strikes from nearby fish. There is no one right way or wrong way to retrieve a soft plastic lure, try different things to find out what the fish are looking for.

“I remember a fishing trip where one of my paddle tails saved the blank. The water was clear, and the bass weren’t wanting anything to do with a surface lure! I have only been using Soft plastics like the Espetit Soft shads seriously this year, I clipped on a paddle tail shad with a natural colour pattern, a pattern as close as I could get to the bait fish that I saw, the Fishus Espetit soft shad Pro-blue was the answer and reeling it back towards me with a slow, steady retrieve, adding a few subtle twitches every now and again, I was able to trigger an aggressive strike from one of these bass. Feeling the initial hit and then an almighty run, was a beautiful thing!”

Jerk Shad

The Jerk shads (Fishus Espetit Soft Jerk) which are somewhat similar to the paddle tails, are soft plastic baits with a slender body and a forked tail. The design of jerk shad allows them to imitate injured or fleeing baitfish with their erratic darting action.

When jerked or twitched with the rod, jerk shad lures dart from side to side, imitating the erratic movements of injured prey. This action mimics the natural behaviour of baitfish, triggering predatory instincts in fish and enticing them to strike.

Jerk shads are particularly effective in situations where fish are less active or more cautious. The erratic movements and pauses of jerk shads can provoke reaction strikes from hesitant or lethargic fish. They are popular for targeting species like bass and pike. The smaller jerk shads can be a serious weapon for perch in the canals and rivers.

Jerk shads can be rigged on weighted or weightless hooks, depending on the desired depth and action. Experiment with different retrieval techniques, such as quick jerks followed by pauses or slow twitches, to imitate injured prey. Vary the speed and rhythm until you find what triggers the best response from the fish.

Paddle Tail Shad Vs Jerk Shad

While both paddle tail shad and jerk shads imitate baitfish, they have distinct swimming actions. Paddle tail shads provide a more consistent and rhythmic swimming motion, while jerk shads offer an erratic and darting action.

Paddle tail shads are effective in active feeding scenarios, whereas jerk shads excel in situations where fish are less active or more cautious. Both lure types attract a variety of predatory fish, but certain species may show a preference for one over the other. Experimentation and local knowledge will help determine the best choice for specific target species.

Paddle tail shads are versatile and can be used in a wide range of fishing conditions. Jerk shads are particularly effective when fish are in a finicky or sluggish mood, or alternatively using weightless jerk shad if you're casting into thick weed beds. 

Ultimately, the choice between paddle tail shad and jerk shad comes down to personal preference and fishing style. Some anglers may prefer the steady and consistent action of paddle tail shads, while others enjoy the finesse and artistry of working jerk shads. Let's be honest, learning how to work a jerk shad is definitely an art, but don’t let that put you off… they are DEADLY!


Try different colours, sizes, and retrieve speeds to match the local conditions. Be sure to pay attention to any reactions you see and adjust what you're doing accordingly. It might be that you need to slow down or speed up your retrieval speed a smidge to get that strike.

Have a look around for a while and observe the behaviour of baitfish (take it all in, learn all of it) and adjust your presentation to imitate their movements. Adapt to changes in fishing conditions and experiment with different techniques to trigger more strikes. Remember to make sure a paddle tail or a jerk bait are rigged correctly, soft lures need this to achieve the desired action and swimming depth. Properly balanced rigs will optimize your lure's performance.

Don’t be afraid to be flexible, adapt your lure choice based on the prevailing conditions, such as water clarity, depth, and temperature. The ability to adapt will increase your chances of success.

Soft lures, whether paddle tail shad or jerk shad, offer lure enthusiasts a powerful tool to entice fish and maximize fishing success. Understanding the unique characteristics, action, and versatility of each lure will help you make informed decisions on the water. Remember, experimentation, observation, and adaptability are key to unlocking the potential of these incredible soft lures.

So, the next time you're out on the water, consider having both paddle tail shad and jerk shad lures in your tackle box. Embrace the versatility they offer and be prepared to adapt to the conditions and the preferences of the fish. Soft lures open up a world of possibilities and can lead to unforgettable fishing experiences.

View our full collection of Soft Plastic Lures here

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