During the summer doldrums, shake things up for more bass
Under the rays of a summer sun, anglers and bass can get a little lazy. High temperatures in both air and water put a drag on any activity outside. Sometimes it may feel like everything is moving in slow motion. Fishing and catching can be slow during the summer months.
Many summer bass anglers will opt for early morning or late afternoon excursions for a few hours. Others may forego daytime fishing altogether and try their luck under the stars or wait until cooler fall temperatures make conditions more comfortable.
However, there’s no need to wait for autumn to catch bass. Anglers can still enjoy a great day outdoors in the middle of summer by shaking things up a bit.
A lure that has been around for many years really shines when fishing gets tough. The shaky head is a simple setup that can be fished any number of ways in various locations. Many bass pros go to the shaky head or a derivative of it to bag a limit when conditions get tough.
Plain and Simple
The shaky head lure is simply a small leadhead jig around 3/16 to 1/4 ounces in weight with a fine wire hook. The hook is threaded onto a short soft-plastic worm around four inches in length. This is the basic model. However, several lure companies have changed or modified the jighead and other companies have designed plastic baits specifically for shaky head fishing.
The shaky head jighead has many different monikers from different companies. Some common names include stand up jig, spot remover, flick it jig, spot sticker, slider and others. Jigheads are usually made of lead or tungsten. Head shapes can vary from round, flat, half-moon to football style. Weight sizes vary from 1/32 to 5/8 ounces depending on manufacturer and style.
“It is a simple method to catch fish,” mentions Donnie Sims of Lincoln, Ala. former co-owner of Spot Sticker Baits. “These baits will catch fish anytime of the year, but summer is probably the most popular time.”
While the shaky head style lure was designed to use with short, small soft-plastic worms, almost any style of bait can work with the jigheads. Tubes, crawfish, long needle-style worms and soft shad baits can be rigged for action on any lake for any species.
The original Spot Sticker and Shaky Head jigs were designed to catch spotted bass. However, the baits will also produce bites from largemouth, smallmouth and stripers. Different color and style trailers can easily be changed without having to re-tie a different head.
“The hook size should match the bait and the species of fish,” explains Mark Menendez, a B.A.S.S. Elite pro from Paducah, Ky. “A 2/0 or 3/0 hook size is fine for spotted bass, but anglers fishing for largemouths may want a 4/0 or 5/0 size hook.”
“It is a simple method to catch fish. These baits will catch fish anytime of the year, but summer is probably the most popular time.” — Donnie Sims, bass fisherman
Hook sizes can vary by head weight. The lighter jigheads usually have a smaller size hook. Hook styles can also vary. Some heads have an offset shank and others a straight shank. On some jigs, a twisted wire protrudes from the metal head so anglers can screw it into a soft-plastic trailer and hold it onto the jighead better. Offset hooks make it easy to rig the shaky head Texas style and be virtually weedless.
Menendez mentions shaky head style lures that have the hook tie at 90 degrees to the hook shank to provide a better hook set. When fishing ledges or deeper structure the presentation and hookups will be almost vertical.
Methods for Shaky Fishing
One advantage of the shaky head is it can be fished anywhere bass might be hiding. Originally, anglers used it to fish the ledges and channel drop-offs in the summer. However, using different sizes and various plastic baits, a shaky head can be fished in any situation.
“During the summer months, bass will usually stack up on the river ledges,” Sims comments. “Make a long cast and allow the lure to hit bottom. Shake or twitch the rod tip and work the bait down the ledge.”
Many anglers use spinning gear for shaky head fishing. Rod lengths in the 6.5- to 7-foot range in a medium-light to medium action perform the best. Spinning gear allows for longer casts with minimum effort. This is helpful on hot summer days, but some anglers may prefer light action casting gear. Both Sims and Menendez keep a couple different rods rigged with various weights and lure styles on deck ready for action.
Menendez usually opts for 8- to 12-pound test line depending on the water clarity and cover. The lighter lines help to impart more action into the bait. However, a heavier line will help pull the fish away from any cover. Menendez says the Seaguar fluorocarbon line is tough when fishing the shaky head in and out of cover.
Dragging the Bottom
Another method of fishing the shaky head, simply drag it across the bottom. After the lure hits the bottom, Sims recommends using a slow steady retrieve to pull the bait across the bottom. He starts shallow and works his way out toward deeper water.
“When the bait comes in contact with a stump or rock, just give it a little hop over the cover,” Sims explains. “Sometimes the strikes are very light.”
Sims mentions the hookset does not have to be bone jarring. A quick snap of the wrist with the rod will drive the hook home. He says the smaller diameter wire hooks are easier to punch through a bass jaw. Anglers don’t really need a lot of pressure to get a good hook up, he says.
“If the bass stop biting, move down the ledge a few hundred yards to find another school.” — Donnie Sims, bass fisherman
Anglers don’t have to power the fish back to the boat either, especially with spinning tackle. When using light line, allow the fish to swim out to deeper water and play it down. With spinning gear, it is more of a finesse presentation and fish landing style. Also, anglers will not want to put a lot of pressure on the fine wire hooks.
Swimming the shaky head is another method for fishing this versatile lure. Small curly tail grubs or swimming shad style plastics are perfect for the swim technique. Soft-plastic baits that can displace water or create a vibration are top choices.
“On cloudy and overcast days, bass will not be tight to cover,” Menendez explains. “The swimming technique will allow the angler to cover more water and locate the fish.”
Menendez mentions that during the summer months bass not actively feeding at the time don’t want to chase lures around the lake. Many times the bass don’t want a big meal, just a morsel. The shaky head presentation is just enough to get a fish’s attention and trigger a strike.
Fishing docks in the summer is a common way to catch bass on many lakes and rivers across the Cotton State. The shaky head is a prime lure for attacking and picking apart docks. Using a lightweight head in the 1/32- to 1/8-ounce size allows an angler to place the lure around and under the pier. Also, the lighter head will allow the lure to sink slower.
“Hit the outside edges of the dock first,” Sims advises. “Then cast as far back under the dock as you can get the lure.”
Docks with their front end at or near deeper water are top locations to look for bass in the summer and tempt them with a shaky head. Target shaded areas to the side or back of the dock. Don’t overlook piers and boathouses with large pilings.
Sims advises when fishing river and creek channels, the bass may be stacked in one precise spot. Always attempt to cast back to the same spot. He suggests casting past the fish’s location and working the lure to them. Anglers may need to experiment with different sized heads and lures to see what the bass prefer that day.
“You may have to sort through some of the smaller bass before catching any big ones,” Sims comments. “If the bass stop biting, move down the ledge a few hundred yards to find another school.”
The shaky head is a versatile lure and can be fished in many different configurations. The lures can be fished shallow around grass and weeds or out to deep structure. Anglers can even go outside the box and try different lures and retrieval methods so shake up your summer fishing with a shaky head technique.