A Technique for All Seasons
The shaky head is often seen as a last resort for anglers looking to fill out a limit or catch fish during tough conditions. While the technique does excel at bailing out tournament anglers, when used effectively it can lead to winning bags.Washington’s Luke Clausen proved this by winning one of the biggest titles, the Forrest Wood Cup in 2004 with the help of the shakey head. An interesting side note is that he had never used a shaky head prior to his win at the Forrest Wood Cup atAlabama’s Lake Logan Martin. Although it had been in use previously, Clausen’s big win helped spur numerous companies to develop technique specific tackle, fueling the shaky head craze. Now eight years later, Luke has just as much confidence in the technique and says, “The shaky head is one of the few techniques that is effective year round and at any lake in the country.”
Since the technique is really all about the jighead, it makes sense that this is one of the most crucial factors for success. Luke Clausen prefers to use a standard round bend style and will go as light as possible. “If I am fishing shallow, I will use a 1/8 or 3/32 oz. If the water is deeper than ten feet, I will use a ¼ oz. The reason for the heavier weight is that it disturbs the bottom more and lets the fish find it much easier,” says Clausen.
The jigheads come with numerous different approaches to attach the soft plastics, but Clausen prefers to use the type where the worm slides on versus the screw-in variety. He has several reasons for preferring this type. “For one, it has a better action and it also is better for skipping under docks, I have found that the worm doesn’t bunch up as much during skips. I also think you get a better hookset with this type of jighead,” adds theWashingtonpro.
The hook is also of key importance. “I like to use a shaky head from Z-Man called the Shaky HeadZ, it was designed especially for their ElaZtech soft plastic but it will work on all soft plastics. One thing I like about it is that they come with big, strong hooks,” adds Clausen. He chooses hook size based on the type of worm and also the type of fishing he is doing. “A 4/0 is my all around favorite for 6 inch worms; for anything smaller and for skipping docks I will use a 3/0. It’s amazing how one size down skips so much better,” notes Clausen.
The Where and When
One of the great things about fishing this technique is that there is no set time and place that it works best; it excels just about anywhere and during all seasons. Luke Clausen believes its use is more about the mood of the fish instead of seasonal approaches or cover. He has witnessed the effectiveness across the country. “Really it will work anywhere, but I feel it is best when the fish get pressured or the weights (fish weighed in) are going to be low. It’s more about circumstances instead of just a certain time of year.”
Soft Plastic Selections
Overall the most effective way to fish a shaky head is with a straight tail worm according to Clausen. He keeps his selection of worms and colors simple. “Ninety percent of the time I will use a green pumpkin Z-Man Finesse WormZ in 4- or 7-inch. If the water is a little clearer, I will switch to a little lighter shade of watermelon color,” Clausen informs us.
Like many top pros, Luke recommends to use a rod spooled with braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. He does this almost exclusively now due to the fact that you can get added sensitivity and also do not have to worry about losing fish. “I like to use 8lb TUF-Line XP braid and 6 or 8lb Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon as my leader. For my knot I use a knot called the Tony Pena knot as it’s a slender knot and doesn’t interfere with my casts.” adds the FLW Tour pro. This knot has become his go-to after experimenting with various types. He prefers this knot because during knot-tying the focus is on the braided line instead of potentially damaging the fluorocarbon leader.
Not Just for Spinning Rods
While the majority of shaky head fishing is done with a spinning rod, Luke Clausen says to not rule out the technique on heavier line and baitcasting gear. “If I am fishing around heavier cover, I will use a baitcasting setup with 10 or 12lb line. You can get a different look that’s not as much of a finesse approach as it is a new means to fish specific targets,” states Clausen. For baitcasting with a shakey head, he often chooses to use a thicker worm like a Z-Man FattyZ that has a larger appearance and is better suited for fishing laydowns and timber.
A medium action spinning rod will suffice for the majority of shaky head fishing. Luke prefers to use a Megabass Orochi F3-610X4S. “The rod is 6’10” and that is the perfect size for a shaky head, anything longer and you start to lose accuracy on your casts. It’s also the perfect action and in my opinion the parabolic bend allows you to skip much better,” states Luke who, by the way is the 2006 Bassmaster Classic Champion also.
The Right Depth
As noted earlier, there are no set circumstances that are more effective than others. Regarding depths, Luke mentions, “I have caught them from 3-4 inches down to 35-40 feet on shakey heads. Really it will work at whatever depth the fish are relating to.”
Luke Clausen has noticed that the majority of the fish will bite the bait on the initial fall. “I would say that 70-80% of them bite it as it is falling. The shaky head has such a great spiraling action if you let it fall on a slack line,” explains Clausen. There are times when they will want it on the bottom in deeper water, but generally it works best at the beginning of a cast. He adds one more piece of advice saying that, “If you notice they are all biting it on the fall, just cast, let it fall and then if you don’t get a bite, simply reel it in and do it again.”