Bass Fishing:
The Where-To & The How-To of Shaky Head Fishing – Part 2

By Darl Black


How You Can Use The Latest Pro Technique
To Land More Bass!

If you’ve read Part 1 of this article, you understand where the concept of shaky head bass fishing came from, how it evolved, and why it’s so successful. Now, here’s how to put it into practice.


Offshore smallmouth bass fall for the same shaky head presentation.

Aspects of Location

Guidelines on where to fish a shaky head are fairly broad but the focus is mainly on relatively clean bottom areas – at depths from four feet to as deep as you care to go. Possible locations include:

    • inside weedlines
    • outside weedlines
    • docks, ramps and marina basins
    • mid-lake humps
    • gentle contour breaklines

The shaky head approach is particularly effective on sections of shoreline or deeper flats which appear to lack bottom cover – some fishermen refer to these as “nothing banks.” In reality, these areas likely host some inactive bass which are holding tight to isolated cover like a large rock, outcropping of gravel, a sunken tire, a half-buried log, etc. The shaky head presentation helps you find those bottom features and entice a strike.

Elements of Presentation

Whether you’re fishing shallow or deep, and regardless the soft plastic trailer choice, the retrieve is pretty much the same. It should involve these six elements:

  1. Cast out and allow the shaky head jig to find bottom.
  2. Engage line – take up slack line as you lower the rod tip in the direction of the jig.
  3. Begin slowly reeling the bait, maintaining contact with the bottom at all times.
  4. When the jig encounters resistance from a bottom object such as a single large rock, small area of cobble or gravel, a small ledge, a log, branch or whatever – stop reeling but maintain light pressure on the jig.
  5. With the shaky head/bait pinned against an unknown object, begin to lightly shake your rod tip. At this point you don’t want the jig to dislodge from the object, so don’t shake too violently. The goal is to maintain the lure’s position while having the soft plastic worm or creature bait dance with its tail in an upward position.
  6. After a brief period of shaking, pause and then shake again. If a fish does not pick it up, gently lift the shaky head over the object and continue the bottom crawl until it encounters the next object, and repeat the process.


    Shaky head fishing is a favorite summer technique for angler Bryan Stuyvesant. Note he keeps his rod low as he slowly retrieves a shaky head along the bottom attempting to intercept a piece of cover – then the shaking begins.

Two Ways to Respond to Pick-Ups

When shaky head fishing, you have to be ready to set the hook, but not every strike will be the same. You’ll need to get a feel for how to respond.

    • Sometimes strikes may be a detected with that distinct tick of an aggressive bass, which generally requires a quick snap hookset before the bass spits the lure.
    • At other times the bite may be so light that it goes undetected except for unusual pressure on the line or sideways movement of the line as the bass moves off with the bait. These pressure bites are best handled with a less aggressive hookset – simply reel quickly and forcefully pull upward.

Once you start having success at shaky head fishing, you’ll start catching bass others can’t, filling your livewell more often, and shaking your own head in amazement.


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


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