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The Shaky Head: Perhaps the Best Finesse Technique for Pressured Bass

Written by: John B
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Two finesse techniques dominate bass angling: the drop shot rig and the shaky head. 

By contrast, the Texas and Carolina rigs use the same soft baits but are entirely different techniques.

That doesn’t stop a lot of questions about the Texas rig versus the shaky head, but that’s an apples to oranges comparison that misses the point of the differences between finesse and non-finesse worm techniques.

The shaky head is essentially a light jig with an asymmetrical head. It can be rigged weedless, but it doesn’t have the weight to punch grass mats or lily pads, and it’s not the most visible presentation in heavy cover. 

Instead, like the Neko rig, it excels in relatively open water, on hard bottoms, and around sparse vegetation. By forcing your worm or creature bait into a head-down position, it really lets the action of your soft bait strut its stuff, and that shaky head lets you stick to the bottom, working your bait slowly for pressured, spooked bass.

Devastating when fished properly, the shaky head is a must-know technique for bass anglers.

Want to know more?

Keep reading!

Related: Ned Rig, Neko Rig, Tokyo Rig

What is the Shaky Head?

The shaky head is nothing more than an asymmetrical jig head, typically armed with a bait screw to hold a soft plastic like it’s welded to the hook.

When paired with the right bait, you get some real magic.

That head nails your worm or creature to the bottom, letting you drag the rig without losing contact. It also forces your bait into that attractive head-down position, letting the fluttering tail do its thing without you needing to impart any action of your own.

That subtlety puts the “f” in “finesse,” and when the bass are pressured, spooked, or struggling with the heat, gentle action is the key to getting a strike.

But - and this is a big but - the shaky head is often misunderstood by bass fishermen. 

Someone, somewhere got the idea that it was essentially a pegged Texas rig, and this idea spread. And while you can see why some anglers think that the shaky head is just a simple way to rig a worm or creature Texas-style, that’s not true at all, and they’re entirely different techniques.

The Texas rig is great for heavy vegetation, and it can be weighted to punch grass and weeds really well. It’s typically rigged weedless, and when fished properly, it really draws strikes in the thick stuff. 

But it’s not a finesse technique at all, and it’ll get its lunch eaten on an open, hard bottom by finesse techniques like the shaky head.

In short, these are techniques suited for entirely different situations and purposes, and cosmetic similarities aside, they’re nothing alike.

Awesome shaky head jigs are easy to come by, and one of my favorites is Owner’s Ultrahead. This unpainted lead head is available in 1/16-, 3/16-, ⅛-, and ¼-ounce weights.

Owner Ultrahead Shaky Head Jig Hook, 1/8-Ounce

Amazon 

If you take a close look, you’ll notice immediately what sets a sky head apart from a standard jig head. 

The bait screw is in-line with the point of the hook, leaving the head of your soft plastic in place and orienting it properly for rigging. The head itself isn’t round but asymmetrical, and the eye is oriented 90 degrees from the screw rather than the shank.

All of that adds up to create the finesse presentation this rig is known for, something you just can’t get from a standard jig head or Texas rig.

Another one of my go-to shaky heads is Reaction Tackle’s Tungsten

Reaction Tackle Shaky Head Black 1/8

Amazon 

Available in a nice range of colors, you can really see the asymmetrical design of these compact tungsten heads. Available in 3/16-, ⅜-, 1/8 -, ¼-, and 1/2-ounce weights, Reaction Tackle has you covered for pretty much any situation and depth. The shaky head is best fished with the lightest weight that gets you to the depth you need, so start on the small end.

But don’t forget Chompers’s Shaky Pro Heads.

Chompers’s Shaky Pro Heads

Bass Pro

That weird head shape really delivers when you drag your bait over riprap and boulders, across logs, and over stumps. Available in ⅛-, ⅜-, and ¼-ounce weights, you can pick black or green heads.

In deeper water, the “old style” shaky head has an advantage.

It can be rigged to create a spiraling descent that really attracts the attention of bass. We’ll get to how to do that in a moment, but my choice for this presentation is the VMC Shaky Head Jig. Offered in ⅛-, 3/16-, and ¼-ounce weights, those heavier sizes reflect its ideal use.

VMC Shaky Head Jig

Bass Pro

 

How to Rig a Shaky Head

Rigging a shaky head is easy.

With a screw-down shaky head, just feed the head of your soft plastic onto the screw, then pass the point in through the body and feed it just out over the skin.

You will get a more secure soft bait this way, and you’ll lose a lot fewer worms during the fight.

With the traditional style shaky head, you run your worm onto the hook about ½ an inch, pull the head up flush, and find the place where the point should pass through the body.

To create that spiraling descent we mentioned above, you need to keep a slight bend in your worm.

Check out 6:42:

How to Fish a Shaky Head

You want to keep a slack line, leaving 3 to 4 feet of line on the surface, and gently shake your rod tip. You don’t want to launch your shaky head toward you or pull it off the bottom. 

Instead, you’re just trying to get it to subtly dance, setting that worm wriggling.

Every few shakes will pull that head fractions of an inch forward, but you don’t want to really try to get the rig moving. Go as slow as you can with the shake, and only pick up line to keep the right amount of slack.

Look at the technique, starting with 9:52:

The Drag

The other technique relies on the bottom as much as rod tip movement.

In the drag, you cast and let your shaky head settle to the bottom.

With your rod at about 8 to 10 o'clock, gently shake the rod tip while pulling your rig very, very slowly over the bottom. It’s essentially the shake with a bit more forward movement, keeping contact with the bottom, and allowing any features like bumps, ridges, rocks, boulders, sticks, or logs to impart a bit of action to your worm.

But in this case, keep your line tight rather than semi-slack.

See how it’s done:

Tackle For Shaky Head

Rod, reel, and line

Finesse techniques rely on light terminal tackle, and that means spinning gear reigns supreme.

For my finesse fishing, I prefer a 6 ½- to 7-foot rod in medium light to medium power, like the St. Croix Premier. I’m looking for a fast action to provide extra sensitivity, and of course, that rod will be wearing a high-quality spinning reel like a Shimano Ultegra or Pflueger President.

St. Croix Rods Premier Spinning Rod

Amazon 

ULTEGRA FB

Amazon 

Pflueger PRESSP30X President Spinning Fishing Reel

Amazon 

20-pound braid will typically be my line of choice, with a 6- to 8-pound fluorocarbon or mono leader. On my finesse rod and reel combo, you’ll find Sufix 832 tied to a Seaguar InvizX leader.

Suffix 832 Braid 20 lb Low-Vis Green 150 yards

Amazon 

Seaguar Invizx 100% Fluorocarbon 200 Yard Fishing Line (12-Pound)

Amazon 

That combo is going to provide the best feel for finesse fishing while still allowing great abrasion resistance if a bass decides to tie me up around a stump or downed tree. And that InvizX is going to be very, very hard to see for any spooky bass.

Some anglers like to run hi-vis line with their shaky heads so they can maintain the proper slack for the shake, and if that sounds like a good idea to you, go right ahead!

Sufix 832 Advanced Superline Braid, Hi-Vis Yellow, 20-Pound/300-Yard Spool

Amazon 

Knots

Braid to fluorocarbon connections can be tricky, as neither of them accepts a knot as well as mono.

We’ve covered this topic at length before, and if you want the complete run down, take a look at this article:

Connecting Braided Main Line to Leader: Best Knots for Bass Fishing

My pick for the leader connection is the 5-Turn Surgeon’s Knot, because it’s faster, easier, and typically stronger than the Alberto. But some folks like the FG knot even though it’s slow and hard to tie.

For my terminal connection, I usually run an Improved Palomar.

Soft plastics

Worms

For shaky heads, you want a really buoyant soft bait that has a lot of wriggle in the tail.

For that, it’s hard not to like Zoom’s 5” Shakey Head Worm. You have four good colors to choose from, and the tapering tail on this worm really does come alive on a shaky head.

Zoom’s 5” Shakey Head Worm

Bass Pro

I also reach for Zoom’s 6” Shakey Tail, and there’s just no question that the wriggling action of that ribbon tail works on spooky bass.

Zoom’s 6” Shakey Tail

Bass Pro

Zoom’s Trick Worm is also an excellent choice, and I like a bright tail tip in murky water to attract attention.

Zoom’s Trick Worm

Bass Pro

And it’ll come as no surprise that I throw YUM’s Ribbontail Worm on a shaky head.

YUM’s Ribbontail Worm

Bass Pro

Creatures

Worms may be the most popular choice on a shaky head, but there are fantastic creature options, too.

Any bait that has a lot of subtle action is great on a shaky head, and this includes the ever-awesome Rage Tail Craw from Strike King.

Rage Tail Craw

Bass Pro

These little guys will hammer bass all year long, but I especially like to throw them in early spring, pre-spawn, where bass are feeding on crawfish.

You’ll also find me with a bag or two of Zoom’s 6” Lizards. They provide great color choices, and the action of the legs and tails is hard to beat on a shaky head.

Zoom’s 6” Lizards

Bass Pro

Final Thoughts

The shaky head rig is often misunderstood, and more than a few anglers consider it little more than a modified Texas rig.

That’s a big mistake, as it’s actually completely different.

Ideal for open bottoms and sparse vegetation, this finesse approach delivers numbers and size year-round, making it a tournament favorite and perhaps the ultimate high-pressure technique.

As always, we hope that you learned something new from this article, and we’re here to answer your questions and respond to your comments.

Please leave a message below.

About The Author
John B
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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