I’ve caught bass from California over to New York, all the way down through Florida, and across Texas and Mexico. But I have a confession to make: I’ve never caught one on a shaky head. That’s enough to make half of the state of Alabama hate me. The other half probably hates me because I don’t like my tea sweet.
The shaky head is supposed to be the easiest lure to fish, the one disparagingly referred to as an “idiot bait.” Throw it out, eat a sandwich, pick your nose, lift up, and a fish is swimming away with it.
They’re going to need to find a smarter idiot, because when I first heard about it, I tied one on, threw it on a bluff, and let it sink. That damned ballhead jig wedged itself into a crack in the wall. I broke it off, retied, and the same thing happened. A few weeks later, I tried one on a stumpy point. I let it fall as instructed, lifted up…and felt the weight of an old root system about as heavy as a Volkswagen. It was then and there that I gave that shaky shit up.
That doesn’t mean I don’t utilize finesse tactics, but given the choice, I’d much rather be flipping big tungsten weights or slinging frogs on 65-pound braid. Furthermore, I hate to have more than three spinning rods on the deck of my boat or in the rod locker, because they’re about as easy to keep untangled as a herd of feral cats. I’ll use a spinning rod and light line here and there, but only when I’m convinced there’s no other way to put more (or any) fish in the boat.
What really bothers me is the idea that you need to buy 800 different specialized weights and hooks to finesse fish properly. I cringe when someone insists a 3.8-inch worm will outfish a 4-incher most of the time. The minutiae are maddening. Of course, there’s a bit of hypocrisy here, because over the course of my career I’ve written about the Mojo Rig, Free Rig, Neko Rig, Jika Rig, and Split-Shotting, but in most of those cases I’m rounding up info from dudes who fish 200-plus days a year. If you have the time and energy to dial in 10 different finesse presentations, more power to you, but most of us don’t fish enough days per year to earn a PhD in all finesse curricula. As far as I’m concerned, if you can master the following three finesse tactics, you’re 100% covered no matter where you fish.
Unless you regularly fish deeper than 20 feet, a weightless or slightly-weighted stick worm, hooked in the middle, will catch more fish—including big fish—than anything else. And it’s no secret that the Senko is the leading bait in this category. I like junebug and black-and-blue in stained, tannic, or dirty water; green pumpkin and watermelon kill it in clear water. I know what you’re thinking: “Wacky worming is for amateur YouTube kids.” Wrong. Lots of big-time pros catch the majority of their fish over the course of the season on this simple deal. It works 365 days a year, for all three major species of bass, anywhere they swim.
Yes, the shaky head technically fits in this category. No, I’m not going to be a late-in-life convert. The jighead that has caught more fish than any for me is the Charlie Brewer Classic Spider Slider Head, invented by the Tennessean of the same name, long before I was born and you ever heard the term “shaky head.” It’s surprisingly weedless and pointier than the modern ballhead used for shaky, which means you can skip it a mile with a finesse worm or Centipede on the back. It also falls in a gliding death spiral that I’m convinced triggers skittish fish to strike more consistently than a straight plummet. While the Spider has been a staple for me for 25 years, more recently I’ve added the mushroom-shaped Ned Head to my arsenal. I resisted because the little turd looks so dumb, and all you need to do is throw it out and let it sit, but the sucker just plain catches fish, even on do-nothing banks.
I resisted the dropshot for a long time, and I’m man enough to admit that was a dumb move. I’ve come to understand that there’s something about having your bait undulating freely in the current while it’s anchored to the bottom that really pisses bass off. By placing the soft plastic above the sinker, you can adjust the leader length to put your lure right in your quarry’s face and then taunt it ceaselessly. Many believe dropshotting is reserved for deep-water fishing, but that’s very false. It’s great in short grass and around dock pilings, and if you ever find a bass on a bed that won’t commit to the usual buffet of tubes and craws, try this and you’ll be amazed how quickly it gets over its commitment issues.
I’ve watched the best anglers in the world employ light-line techniques on big-fish factories like Falcon Lake and Lake Fork, so don’t think you’re above adding finesse to your bag of tricks. But don’t drink the Kool-Aid the hype peddlers are pouring, either. You don’t need to utilize every type of specialized tungsten weight and minuscule hook that arrives at the tackle store to make finesse fishing effective for you. And I’ll be over here not using a shaky head while not sipping on sweet tea.
Featured imaged by Pete Robbins