By Darl Black
Why “Shaky Head” Fishing Has Pro Bass
Anglers All Shook-Up!
In today’s high-tech angling, one newly popular presentation is uncomplicated – shaky head fishing. Rig a soft plastic worm on a lightweight jighead, cast it out, let it settle to the bottom and begin shaking your rod tip.
Well, that’s the Cliff Notes version, but the complete story of shaky head fishing is much richer and full-bodied with plot twists not covered in the quick summary.
Shaky Head History
While the present day shaky head technique hit its stride within the last few years, the back story can be traced to the 1970s and 1980s as similar small worm techniques developed in various geographic areas. In Tennessee, southern gentleman Charlie Brewer was promoting his Sliderheads and 4-inch Slider Worms with a light-line technique he called “polishing the rock.” He’d slowing drag the jighead/worm along the bottom, and crawl it over each object. In the upper Mid-West, bass anglers were using a small worm on a lightweight mushroom jighead to feel where hard bottom meets the deep weed edge on natural lakes. Meanwhile, light-line West Coast bass anglers were using small worms on darter jigheads in a bottom dancing presentation they call California shaking.
The melding of these regional approaches occurred on the national level during B.A.S.S. and FLW tournaments as pro anglers sometimes struggled to find techniques to catch pressured bass in “used water” under less than ideal fishing conditions. It was back-seat competitors (i.e. riders) who most often made headlines with the small worm/jighead shaking-dragging technique.
The Technique Evolves
When fishing offshore water, the back-seat tournament angler doesn’t have the luxury of viewing possible lake bottom targets on the sonar like the front seat guy does. However, dragging a worm on the bottom allows them to independently locate isolated targets, and tease a bass into striking. Soon the pros also realized the effectiveness of shaky head fishing, and that’s when specifically designed worms and leadheads began showing up.
Today, manufacturers who offer soft plastic all have shaky worms in their lineup, and jig manufacturers have their own particular styles of shaky head jigs. I’ve witnessed shaky head fishing while accompanying pro bass anglers and regional experts around the country. Everyone does it a slightly different way, and the technique continues to evolve.
Shaky Head Designs
Shaky heads come in various shapes – round, football and wedge. But the specific design of these heads has the line tie coming off the nose or forward part of the leadhead at roughly a 45-degree angle, as opposed to the top center of a traditional leadhead. The design creates a pivot point allowing the jig to rotate forward when it encounters a small object on the bottom of the lake. That pivoting of the leadhead causes the soft plastic trailer to stand nearly erect while pressure is maintained on the jig.
Typical head weights range from 1/8-ounce to 1/4-ounce on 6- to 8-pound line, but heavier heads are now being used on deep structure. Head design may include a spike or coil to provide for weedless rigging of the shaky bait, or anglers may rig with hook point exposed.
Shaky Head Examples
• Jewel Bait Squirrel Heads
• Gambler Giggy Heads
• Yum Pumkin’Ed Jighead
• Booyah “Big Show” Shaky Head Jigs
• Strike King KVD Premier Jighead
• Rapala/VMC Dominator Shakey Head Jig
Shaky Bait Designs
Shaky baits typically are flexible, thin-body worms usually 5- to 6-inches in length. With the technique evolving however, some anglers are now using much longer worms for extremely deepwater jigging. And the trailer is no longer limited to worms. Anglers are shaking ’craws, creatures and shad-shape soft plastic lures. The shaking presentation mimics either shad or minnows feeding on the bottom with head down and tail up, or the defensive position of a crayfish – take your pick.
Shaky Bait Examples
• Gene Larew 5″ Salt Head Shaky Worm
• Gambler Giggy Stick and Shakey Shad
• Yum Shakalicious Worm
• Strike King KVD Finesse Worm
• Lunker City Ribster Worm
• Berkley Power Shaky Worm
• Skippy Fish 4″ Shad
Now that you understand what shaky head fishing is, and what tackle you need, stay tuned for Part 2 – The Where-To and the How-To of Shaky Head Fishing.
About Darl Black
A lifelong freshwater angler and veteran writer/photographer, Darl tackles a wide variety of fishing related stories for print publications and websites. Of all fishing, angling for smallmouth bass is his favorite pastime. He may be reached for assignment at email@example.com.
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