Gizzard Shad (pictured)
Live gizzard shad are a to- producing bait for hybrid striped bass since they are the prevalent bait fish in most hybrid waters. Since gizzard shad are a sensitive bait to use, make sure to have a large bait tank with a good aerator to provide plenty of oxygen for the bait. When you are ready to use the shad, hook them through the lips with a single hook to allow them to swim freely. Whether you suspend the shad under a float to attract cruising fish or fish them on the bottom where hybrids hide between feeding blitzes, be sure to keep a fresh bait on at all times as hybrids do not care much for a dead bait.
Since shad are a favorite food item of hybrids, it makes sense to use a bait that looks and acts like the real thing. Crank baits, such as the Shad Rap, work well at covering water looking for actively feeding fish. Cast the lure to a likely looking spot, and use a steady retrieve with a fast pace. Hybrids do not like to see a meal escape and tend to react favorably to a fast-moving bait that looks like a shad running for cover!
Choose a deep-diving crank bait in the summer when hybrids are deeper in the water column, along structure like a creek bed. In the springtime, hybrids can be found in less than 10 feet of water chasing shad that are relating to the warmer water. Using a shallow-running crank bait is a good bet as you want the lure to stay just above the hybrids' sight line.
Since hybrids chase shad and other bait fish to the surface, it pays to have some top water plugs like poppers or chuggers on hand. Look for water birds diving on the surface of the water as a sign of feeding hybrids below. Cast the top water lure past the activity, as a lure that lands right on the fish may spook them. Use short, sharp twitches of the rod to generate commotion that will attract the feeding hybrids to your bait. If the fish are just slapping at the bait but not getting hooked, speed up the retrieve, as this will trigger the fish to totally commit on the strike.