Finessing Them With The Shakey Head
Written By: Mark Fong, March 12, 2012 Species: Bass,
Each year new baits and techniques make their way into the Bass Fishing World. Recently anglers have seen the flow of innovation travel from the Far East and western United States eastward across the country. The soft plastic stickbait, swimbaits and drop shotting are prime examples of baits and techniques that have followed this path.
A new presentation that has countered this trend is the Shakey Head. The Shakey Head is a finesse technique that originated in the Southeastern United States. It is one of the hottest tactics on the tournament trail today and for good reason, this technique catches bass…lots of bass.
In its purest form, the Shakey Head is simply a jig head worm. The traditional Shakey Head is a light weight jig head combined with a finesse worm that is rigged weedless in a Texas style fashion. The Shakey Head is a ball-style jig head with a super sharp light wire hook. Popular jig head weights range from 1/16 oz. up to 5/16 oz. Hook sizes typically vary from 1/0 to 3/0.
As important as the proper selection of jig head is to the Shakey Head technique, the correct choice of worm is critical. A 4 to 7 inch straight tail worm fits the bill the majority of the time. An important key when choosing the proper worm is that it must be buoyant. When paired with the Shakey Jig Head, it is desirable to have the tail of the worm float up off the bottom in a vertical fashion.
My worm of choice is a BassTrix Loca Motion Worm. This worm is unique in that in addition to having a realistic hand-painted finish, it is actually hollow in the center like a tube bait. Its construction not only makes the worm extremely buoyant, but also the absence of a center core allows the worm to produce a tantalizing action when hopped, shaken or even allowed to rest in a dead stick manner. Color choices are simple. In clear water I select natural colors that mimic either shad or crawfish. If the water is stained or if there is cloud cover, I prefer darker hues such as purple or black with blue flake.
Rigging the Shakey Head is easy. Insert the hook point into the head of the worm and exit approximately 1/2 of an inch from the head. Slide the worm up the collar of the jig head and rotate it 180 degrees. Reinsert the hook point into the bottom of the worm and the bait will be weedless. In the absence of cover, I prefer to rig the bait with an open hook. Insert the hook point into the head of the worm and carefully thread it through the body of the worm until the head of the worm is snug with the collar of the jig head. The hook point should exit the top of the bait and the worm should remain straight without any kinks or bends.
Since the Shakey Head is a finesse technique, most anglers favor spinning tackle. A sensitive rod is important. My rod of choice is a 6’8” St. Croix medium extra fast action Legend Tournament Spinning Rod. A common problem that occurs with spinning tackle is line twist. I have found that one way to combat line twist is to use a larger than average spinning reel that has a correspondingly larger diameter spool. Unfortunately, using such a heavy reel will often overpower the rod, making the combination feel cumbersome and unbalanced. I have solved this problem by switching to a US Reel SuperCaster 240 SX Spinning Reel. The SuperCaster is a lightweight wide diameter spooled reel that minimizes line twist yet balances well with light tackle.
The use of fluorocarbon line offers a distinct advantage over traditional monofilament fishing line. I use Maxima fluorocarbon for its increased sensitivity, excellent abrasion resistance and reliable knot strength. Line size varies from 6lb to 10lb test depending on the amount of cover in the water. I like to use the lightest line possible for the conditions that I am fishing as I believe that lighter line gives the bait superior action and this directly translates to more bites.
The Shakey Head is an extremely versatile technique. It produces bass during all seasons of the year. It fishes well in both shallow water and deep water. It works great around sparse cover and clean lake bottoms. Last but not least, the Shakey Head is equally effective at catching all species of bass – largemouths, smallmouths and spots.
When an angler is faced with unfavorable conditions such as ultra clear water, bright sunny skies and little wind, catching fish can be challenging. Add to these difficulties, heavy boat traffic and intense fishing pressure and now you have an environment where the Shakey Head really shines.
The Shakey Head is a simple technique to master. Start out by making a long cast to the target structure. While the Shakey Head is primarily a bottom oriented presentation, always pay close attention to your line as the bait falls on controlled slack. Often times the bait will never reach the bottom as a suspended fish will intercept the Shakey Head before it reaches the bottom. I find that this scenario happens quite often when fishing for spotted bass as they have a propensity to suspend in the water column.
Dead sticking the Shakey Head on the bottom for a short period of time before beginning your retrieve can be extremely effective. The retrieve is typically a mixture of pops, drags, hops, shakes, and pauses. Vary your technique, cadence and speed until you determine what presentation is most appealing, as the fish will tell you how they want the bait presented. Remember that one of the primary triggering effects of the Shakey Head is the buoyant tail of the worm hovering and quivering tantalizingly above the bottom. Shaking the worm on a slack line will maximize this effect.
The bite can vary from a subtle tap or tick, to mushy pressure, to a loss of contact with the bait. It is not critical to set the hook in a hurry as fish tend to hold onto the Shakey Head well. If the fish are finicky, adding an attractant such as Smelly Jelly can encourage the fish to mouth the bait for a longer period of time. When setting the hook, a firm sweep set works well. The use of low stretch fluorocarbon line and sharp needle point hooks contribute to an effective hook set. Remember that the Shakey Head is a light line technique and a cross-their-eyes hook set will more often than not result in lost fish.
Whether you are targeting spotted bass on vertical structure, smallmouths on clay banks or largemouths around boat docks, the Shakey Head is a versatile weapon to have in your angling arsenal. So follow the lead of our southern bassin’ friends and give the Shakey Head a try. You will be glad you did!