Although it is a finesse bait, the shakeyhead frequently accounts for big bass because it gets bit when all others fail. The beauty of the shakeyhead is it can be presented in a multitude of variations with subtle tweaks to bait style, size, and jig head design. I prefer to keep things simple, so I will break down the two types and sizes of jigs heads, as well as the soft plastics I choose decorate them and the techniques I use to fish them.
For shallow water with some cover and mild current, I use a 1/8oz Arkie “Jerky Head”. It is a relatively obscure little jig that I seem to only be able to order online. The beauty of this style is the bait keeper puts the worm in alignment with the hook point, allowing you to fully “texpose” the hook point so it is relatively snagless. I fish this variety 90% of the time because most shakeyheads have a keeper that sticks out from the bait at slight angle. This exposes the hookpoint, leading to more snags around cover. A 1/4ozshakeyhead gets the nod in deeper or swifter water. I never go above 1/4oz, because it’s simply asking to get more snags. I greatly prefer round, ball-style jig heads because I feel like they ride upright better in current. I would only recommend the flat top or football style heads in lake fishing scenarios where cleaner bottoms are present. Many anglers dislike a shakeyhead jig because they get snagged easily. The majority of snagged jigheads occur because the angler is waiting for the feeling of the jighead striking bottom and making that bottom contact. That is fine in slack water, but you can’t maintain contact with your bait in current. By the time you “feel” the bait it is already swept by the current and wedged under a rock or hopelessly snagged in timber.
The plastic you choose makes as much of an impact on your presentation as the weight of the jig. I typically default to either a 6” or 4” straight tail trick worm in green pumpkin. This is pretty much a staple for tournament co-anglers because they can catch fish behind the pros. If the fish aren’t responding to that first offering, then begin to play with the weight, shape, style, and salt content of the bait. Don’t be afraid to run a craw, creature, or stick bait to change it up. Also, using a bait with a heavier salt content like a Senko or Yum Dinger will radically alter the fall and presentation, but they will not stay on the hook as well as the reliable trick worm.
I don’t actually even “shake” a shakeyhead in the current. It is actually a do-nothing bait that I drift across the bottom in a lift-and-drop retrieve. Just like a Senko, most of your bites come on the fall. Watch your line intently, as many takes can be detected visually. This is one reason why I run high-visibility braid with a fluorocarbon leader. With the proper plastic, it will fall in a soft, spiraling manner that is ultra-enticing to finicky bass. I simply cast it out and let it fall towards my target areas. Lift or hop it off the bottom, and let it swim in the current as you slowly work it back to the boat.
A shakeyhead is a valuable tool in my arsenal that is typically always tied on my spinning rod. It is a confidence bait that excels in clear water or bluebird skies when the fish aren’t committing to typical power fishing options, but don’t be shocked when big fish pounce on this finesse bait!