What's the hottest presentation technique on the professional bass circuit that you probably haven't tried yet? Shaking! It's a simple yet deadly tactic that's received tons of media exposure, both in this publication and on The Bassmasters tournament coverage on ESPN2. In fact, "shaky head" fishing is so big among pro anglers that manufacturers have rushed to introduce specialty shaky jigheads, shaky head worms, shaky head rods, even shaky head reels to the bass market. Yet in spite of all the media buzz and new product hype surrounding this tactic, shaking has yet to catch on in a big way outside of the cast-for-cash crowd — at least nowhere near to the extent that other methods born on the Tournament Trail (such as Carolina rigging and deep cranking) eventually filtered down to the masses.
If you're among the minority of amateur anglers who have discovered shaking, you already know how hugely effective it can be. If you've never tried shaking, we at Bassmaster think it's high time you got with the program! To get you started, we invited two of the premier shakers from the pro fishing ranks to share their insights on this simple yet deadly presentation method. Read their input, then get out on the lake and get shakin'!
"Shaking originated in California back in the '80s as a deep water technique," Florida Elite Series pro Bernie Schultz told Bassmaster. "Tournament fishermen there were dropping 4-inch worms rigged on jigheads straight down to deep structure and patchy cover, then shaking them on the bottom to provoke a strike — they called it 'doodling' back then. Today it's as much a part of the competitive angler's bag of tricks as pitching and flipping, and is primarily used in extreme conditions: midwinter, spring cold fronts, when bass are on their spawning beds, in hot water, anytime the bite is slow."
Shaking is the very antithesis of horizontal "power fishing" presentations such as burning a lipless crankbait or slow rolling a spinnerbait, Schultz explained. "With power tactics, you're combing a wide expanse of water quickly, searching for active fish that are often scattered across a big piece of structure like a flat or point. Shaking, on the other hand, is the ultimate pinpoint presentation. You're hitting a precise spot with your lure and keeping it in this exact place for an extended period of time, trying to provoke a bass that isn't in a feeding mode into striking by gently activating the bait."
Prime lure candidates for shaking include small jigs with pork or plastic trailers, straight-tail finesse worms, sinking worms, tubes, creatures and plastic craws, Schultz continued. "Soft plastic baits used with this tactic can be rigged either Texas style with the sinker pegged, or on a jighead with the hook point exposed or buried back into the lure body, depending on cover conditions. Jighead rigging has become so popular among tournament anglers that the entire shaking approach has become known as 'shaky head' fishing."
They say the devil is in the details, and if so, 2007 Bassmaster Classic champ Boyd Duckett knows enough about shaking to confound Lucifer himself. "Shaking is a California tactic, and with me being from the South, I didn't exactly rush out to try it," he laughed. "Initially I had a lot of misconceptions about the method, like it was mainly for smallmouth or spotted bass in cold water. But once I began experimenting with it, I discovered it has a much wider application than I expected."
Case in point: Duckett found shaking to be highly effective on postspawn fish, especially in clear lakes. "Here, bass have come off their beds and are holding around channel drops and ledges adjacent to shallow spawning flats in the last half to third of a tributary arm. Idle around this area slowly while watching your graph, then when you spot bass hanging close to a drop, back off and throw a shaky head worm at 'em. Even though the water temp may be in the mid-70s, these fish are every bit as sluggish as prespawn bass, and shaking is a great way to trigger a strike."
Selecting the right lure and sinker or jighead weight is imperative to shaking success, Duckett emphasized. "I've had great luck lately shaking a Berkley Gulp Slim Shaky Worm, a thin 7-inch straight-tail lure," he said. "It's a little longer than the worms most guys use for shaking, which makes it attractive to bigger bass. In water from around 12 to 6 feet deep, I usually fish it on a 1/4-ounce Tru-Tungsten shaky head jig — tungsten heads are way smaller than leadheads of comparable weight, and transmit bottom conditions far more efficiently. In shallower water, 5 feet or less, I may go to a 3/16-ounce head, but no lighter. If you use a head that's too light, you tend to lift it off the bottom when you shake it, which screws up your presentation."
Duckett gets things shakin' with a 6-6 medium-heavy spinning outfit. "I usually spool up with 8-pound Berkley fluorocarbon line, but I may go as light as 6-pound or as heavy as 10, depending on water and cover conditions," he noted.
When shaking, Duckett mentally focuses on moving his line rather than his lure: "Simply lowering your rod tip slightly and shaking the slack line will usually activate the lure sufficiently and prevent you from moving the jighead around too much."
MORE SHAKING BASICS
Our experts offered these additional tips for successful shaking:
Stiff wrist: "I've found if you bend your wrist when shaking, you move the bait too far," Schultz advised. "Instead, keep your wrist stiff and just move your forearm."
Initial approach: "If I'm unsure where the bass are, I'll start shaking as soon as the lure hits the water," he added. "On a boat dock or steep bank, for example, I'll cast beyond the target and shake the worm or jig as it's dropping. You can't believe how many strikes you get when the lure shakes as it's falling."
Limit getter: "Shaking a finesse worm usually won't catch you 25 pounds a day in a tournament," Duckett conceded, "but it will put a limit of keepers in your livewell when all other approaches are hauling water."
Reel & line: "When shaking with fluorocarbon line, use a large spinning reel," recommends Pure Fishing's Eric Naig. "A larger arbor will significantly reduce line twist. Also, don't fill the spool more than two-thirds full and always close the bail with your hand, not your reel handle, to further reduce twist."
GEAR UP FOR SHAKING
Want to shake up a lunker? Here's some of the coolest gear out there for this hot technique.
Daiwa Megaforce baitcasting reels have a built-in Twitchin' Bar feature that imparts a subtle shaking/twitching motion to a worm or jig with the simple push of the thumb. They also have a 7.1:1 gear ratio and sell for $59.95 from Cabela's (800-237-4444; www.daiwa.com).
G.Loomis Shaky Head spinning rods have the perfect combination of sensitivity and hook setting power needed for this deadly technique, thanks to a proprietary blend of graphite. Three versions of these sweet 6 1/2-foot sticks are available from Bass Pro Shops (800-BASS PRO): the SHR821S ($214.99) combines a light tip with a stiff butt section and is ideal for light lines/small lures; the SHR822S ($219.99) and soon-to-be-available superpremium SHR822SGLX ($360) are slightly stiffer and rate for 8- to 12-pound line. (www.gloomis.com)
Jigheads for shaking are the biggest terminal tackle innovation since the extra-wide gap worm hook. Among the hottest heads we've tested are Picasso's Shakedown Head (www.picassooutdoors.com), Strike King's Shaky Head (www.strikeking.com) and Tru-Tungsten's Ikey Head, Ike's Spike and Ball Buster (www.tru-tungsten.com). They're available at major tackle outlets.