Shaky Head Fishing for Bass

Fish a shaky head worm for fussy bass on the bottom.

Two purpose-built jigs for the shaky head technique, the Mega Strike Shak-E2 (left) and the Gambler Giggy Head.

The shaky head, essentially a Texas-rigged worm-and-jighead combo, is pure dynamite on bass oriented to the bottom, in deep or shallow water.

Also called a dink-head or ball-head worm rig by many, it hit the tournament circuit with great fanfare over five years ago. The predecessor may have been the so-called slider-head rig—a 4-inch worm rigged on a flat-sided jighead, with an exposed hook, made popular in the 1970s. Today’s shaky head rigs are typically
6- or 7-inch floating or relatively buoyant finesse worms matched with lightweight jigheads that have “worm keepers,” screws or spikes that allow for Texas rigging.

The jigheads are designed to bounce along bottom generally in a hook-up position. Some have flat bottoms to encourage that orientation at rest. But the real secret is pairing them with a floating or buoyant worm. A floating worm will remain at basically a 45-degree angle to the bottom as the rig is inched along the bottom, or at rest. It’s highly visible, easily detected by bass as it wiggles and undulates while the angler twitches the rodtip.

“It definitely qualifies as a finesse fishing technique,” said Lake Okeechobee guide Mark King. “Shaky head worms are ideal for light line and light tackle, the answer for selective bass that get hit day after day. It can save the day in especially clear water.”

King has used the shaky head technique on out-of-state lakes, and is successful with it on the Big O and in the Everglades canals.

“I fish shaky heads over the holes in Lake O’s rock reefs offshore and also in the Lake’s Rim Canal when water levels are low,” said King. “In the Everglades canals, during springtime low water, thousands of yearling to 2-pound bass are forced from the prairies and crowd those ditches. Anglers fishing mostly surface stuff are overrun by ‘em. I find that I catch bigger bass on average with the shaky head smack on bottom.”

Make it Shake

Many anglers fish this rig with spinning gear and 6- to 10-pound-test line to better feel the lure contact bottom. Plus, the lightest heads (1⁄16- to ¼-ounce range) can be easily cast with spinning gear. On waters with lots of cover, such as Lake Okeechobee, King suggests going a little heavier.

“I use 12- to 14-pound fluorocarbon line and baitcasting outfits that can cast ¼-ounce jigheads,” he said. “The heavier head sinks quicker and helps me maintain contact, or feel, as I work the rig over the bottom from a drifting boat. But I do employ my Power-Pole if I find a hot bite in water less than 8 feet deep.”

Though many anglers fish the shaky head vertically in deeper water, it is equally effective if not more so to make long casts in shallower, clear water. King reasons that long casts not only allow for maximum water coverage, but at a horizontal rather than vertical angle, when he drags the rig along bottom, it hops over bumps, which really gets the tail of the worm dancing.

“I don’t reel the rig along bottom with a static rodtip,” said King. “Once the worm hits bottom, I move the thing by steadily pulling my rodtip low and to the side, from straight ahead to about 90 degrees at my side. I can better detect every bump and every subtle strike.”

Heads and Tails

There is a proliferation of shaky head jigs and worms. Popular makes include the Gambler Giggy Head (which is poured on 3/0 to 5/0 Gamakatsu hooks). This head’s worm “keeper” is a short, integrated barbed lead spike. It is a snap to push the worm head flush with the head. Others employ a screw on which you rig the worm head, but those tend to be trickier to rig until you get the hang of it. If the worm is not rigged straight on the screw, the top end of the bait will have a slight kink and the bait will tend to spin.

The Giggy Head’s keeper design allows the worm to break free from the head enabling a more solid hookset than a jighead with a screwed in piece of plastic. When rigging, you can cut off the tip of the worm head so that it is flush with the flat edge of the head. Others include the Owner Ultrahead, Chompers Football Jighead and Luck E Strike’s Bass Magic, all of which employ a screw-on worm keeper.

Bobby Uhrig of MegaStrike Lures says his company’s new jighead, the Pro Model Shak-E2, has a unique head design that allows it to be fished horizontally due to the 60-degree bend in the hookeye. “More importantly,” said Uhrig, “when the jig lands on the lake bottom its fulcrum action head keeps the worm in a vertical orientation, not lying unnaturally on its side. It can also be fished in matted grass because the head slides like a sled across the matted surface grass until the angler allows it to punch through an opening.” FS

First published Florida Sportsman June 2011