Shakey head bass fishing swept the country several years ago, and if you didn’t jump into this fire storm you missed out. While most think of Shakey Head fishing as “Finesse” and something you do off of deep points and along bluff walls or ledges, it is also a very productive technique in the shallow brush filled lakes and rivers.
To be honest, I was one of the many folks that was behind the times on getting the full potential out of this bass fishing technique. I fished many years out on the west coast where we used darter heads and jig heads in all different shapes and sizes. However, we fished them open hook as many of the reservoirs are void of brush or timber. At first, I thought that while the Shakey head is a neat adaptation to the jig head style fishing, it just didn’t have any real application here in the south where I live. We use nothing less than 20 pound mono or 65 pound braid. Going back to 8 or even 10 pound test lines just didn’t seem feasible or something I was willing to risk.
Last summer as the waters were getting hot and clearing up; the fishing was getting tough. So I decided to give the Shakey Head a fair shake if you will. At first I was very timid with it for fear of hanging up $1.50 hooks and then losing them because I was using such light line. This was not working; I wasn’t getting many bites at all. I was ready to give up on the application in my local waters. So my thinking is, if I’m not going to use these hooks there’s no big deal in hanging them up and losing them. I started skipping them up under boat docks and into brush piles, and this is when I started catching bass. What surprised me even more is that they came through the brush very well. I very seldom lose a Shakey Head unless I set the hook when only a brim had a hold of the tail of the bait.
For me the best set up for a Shakey Head is spinning reel on a 7 foot medium action rod with an extra fast tip. Most baits I use on a Shakey Head are small worms or creature baits. Since these are light weight lures, a spinning rod is much easier for me to cast them. Plus, I find skipping light weight baits under docks to be much more effective with a spinning rod.
In learning how to fish a Shakey Head I tried just about every type of jig head I could find. Read articles on which one is best, many claim to be the best but what I’ve found is there is no one shape or brand that works best in all applications. No matter which brand or brands you go with, I like to use ball shapes for rocks or areas that don’t have a lot of brush and pointed heads when I have a lot of cover or grass. Just like with the shape of the head, there are many different ways that hold the plastic to the Shakey Head, to me the spring seems to be the most effective at keeping the bait in place without tearing up your plastic offering.
When experimenting, with all these different types of Shakey heads, I did find head designs that helped the bait stand up make a huge difference in strikes. Making the tail of the bait stand up and then shaking it in the face of a bass seems to drive them crazy.
The actual presentation of the shakey head is normally subtle. Whether fishing structure or cover, you want your bait to hit the bottom. The most effective way, I have found, to work a shakey head is to keep it in contact with something. Rocks, brush, or a dock, I get more bites when this bait is physically touching something. This lends to the fact that it’s a slow, finesse presentation. If I’m working a rock pile, I will try to shake the bait in one place. No matter how subtle you shake your rod tip you will be moving the bait towards you, the slower you can do it, the better. I will try and leave some slack in my line and lightly shake the tip of the rod. This makes the bait quiver in one spot. You’ll notice strikes because your line will slowly tighten up. When fishing brush piles I like to pull the bait through the brush feeling the limbs. As the bait pulls against a limb, I will slightly drop and lift the bait to the limb so that it appears to be picking algae off the limb. Dock pylons are difficult to stay in contact with, but that’s part of the slow finesse, shake the bait across the bottom trying to knock it off of as many pylons as you can.
Shakey heads come in a variety of sizes. Ranging from 1/32 of an ounce up to 1 ounce. I always try to use the lightest weight I can get away with, most often using an 1/8th or 3/16th ounce version. Wind, current, and water depth will help you decide how large you’ll need to go. For me, keeping the bait in contact with the bottom or cover your fishing is very important to generating strikes.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to not horse a fish after you have it hooked. Since I use light line, 8-10 pound test, I had a tendency to try and quickly pull the fish away from cover to prevent getting wrapped up. Not being accustomed to using light line, I broke off several fish before learning to manage them better. After a solid hook set, steady pressure will usually guide a fish out from under a dock or out of a brush pile. With this technique, you’ll have to be prepared to go get a hooked bass occasionally; however, it happens far less than one would imagine.
Fishing the Shakey Head is no different from any other bait, to learn it, you have to get out and use it. Another key piece of advice would be, just like with a jig or Texas Rig, don’t be afraid to lose it. You’ll need to fish it in places that it may hang up. As you learn to work the Shakey Head and how it feels coming through various types of cover you won’t have a problem with hang ups. If you need to go to a finesse presentation, more than likely it’s because the fish are sluggish. Bass that are sluggish are not in a feeding mode and will be in any cover available. So, in order to get the best bites, you’re going to have to fish in that cover. This is just the nature of non active bass, and the Shakey Head is a great way to present a bait to these bass in a way that they will take a chance on eating it.
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