Shaky Head Rig

The best way to describe the shaky head rig is simple and effective. A shaky head rig is a soft plastic worm attached to a shaky jig head. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Yet the shaky head rig will pull in finicky bass all day long whe the bite gets tough and other rigs just aren’t producing results.

Shaky Head Rig

The best jig head for the shaky head rig is something in the 1/16 – 1/18-ounce range. This should be paired with a finesse worm. If there is a lot of movement in the water, either due to wind or current, you may want to use the heavier ¼-ounce jighead instead. This will keep the rig at the right balance so the bait still dances along the bottom.

There are two types of shaky jig heads—a traditional ballhead and a screw lock. Either jig head can be used for making the shaky head rig. The major difference is how the rig is setup. Whether you use a ballhead jig or jig head with a screw lock is really a matter of preference. I find the screw lock a little easier to rig, but many angers swear using a ballhead produces a rig with a better hookset rate. Let’s explore.

Rigging a Shaky Head using a Ballhead Jig

Creating a shaky head rig using a ballhead jig is a popular way of rigging a shaky head without using screw lock. It’s simple, straight forward and only requires a ballhead jig and soft plastic worm.

shaky head rig with ballhead jig and bait keeper

Ballhead jig rigging steps:

  1. Cut the head of the worm to create a flat surface
  2. Thread your hook through the head of the worm 1/4 an inch
  3. Push the hook out the side of the worm
  4. Slide the worm down the shank over the bait keeper
  5. Rotate the hook so it is facing the worm
  6. Identify the point where the hook lines up with worm
  7. Bunch of the worm a little and push the worm through

Anglers report one of the biggest advantages of using a ballhead jig is that it creates an easier hookset. The reason for this is due to the angle created by running the head of the worm down and parallel to the shank. This applies additional inward pressure on the worm that makes it easier for the hook to penetrate the worm and enter a fish’s mouth when taken.

Rigging a Shaky Head using a Screw Lock Jig

Rigging a shaky head using a screw lock is a popular option. It’s easier to rig and provides a presentation similar to a ballhead jig. However, where the worm head is attached directly to the shank of the hook using a ballhead jig, with a screw lock jig the head of the worm is attached to the screw lock.

shaky head rig with screw lock jig head

Screw lock jig rigging steps:

  1. Cut the head of the worm to create a flat surface
  2. Screw the head of the worm onto the screw lock
  3. Identify the point where the hook lines up with worm
  4. Slide the hook point through the worm

One of the advantages of using a screw lock jig is that it enables your worm to sit more vertically in the water. Some anglers will even increase the angle of the screw lock by bending it out to create a more vertical presentation and allow their worm tail to float and dance in the current.

Screw lock jigs also allow for a better weedless presentation. The screw lock helps maintain the worm on the hook point preventing snags and unwanted hookups on weeds and cover.

Jig Head Styles and Hook Size

There are several styles of jig heads that can be used with a shaky head rig. There are football style heads, arkie style heads, horseshoe heads, finesse, canterberry, and more. Each head style provides a slightly different action. The most popular jig head used with a shaky head rig is the ballhead. A ballhead jig produces a back and forth rocking action as it’s worked through cover and across the bottom. It’s ideal for fishing gravel bottoms and along open water banks. It’s produces a spiral action as it falls through the water and is idea for deep water fishing.

Just as important as jig head style is hook size. Hook size is going to depend on the worm size you’re fishing as determined by your target fish. For finesse worms in the 4-inch range, you want a jig head with a 3/0 or 4/0 hook. For worms beyond 6 inches, a 5/0 is your minimum hook size. If you’re targeting bass larger than 5 pounds you really want to use a bigger wire hook that isn’t going to bend out. For monster bass, a magnum 9/0 jig head with a magnum baits worsmer is a lethal combination.

My go-to shaky jig head setup for bass fishing is a straight tail roboworm on canterberry jig head that uses a 4/0 hook. If I could only choose one shaky rig setup, this would be it. This is your day in day out presentation that keeps on giving. The canterberry jig head is perfect for fishing grass, weeds and around docks. Another popular presentation is a 4-6 inch finesse worm on a 4/0 ballhead jig. For targeting monster bass a setup I recommend is a 1/2 ounce football style 8/0 jig head with a 8″ Strike King Bullworm.

Every bass angler wants to reel in that once in a lifetime monster catch so it can be tempting to go big with your shaky head rig setup—but bigger isn’t always aways better. I’ve caught some monster fish on unassumingly small rigs. It’s not to say that larger presentations aren’t required, but sometimes they’re not the end all. For targeting monster bass using a shaky head rig start big and work your way down. If you’re not getting bites with an 8/0 jig with your 8″ inch worm, scale your presentation down a bit and try a 6-7″ finesse worm on a 5/0-6/0 jig head. At the end of the day the main goal is to catch some fish.

Shaky Head Soft Baits

The shaky head is traditionally rigged using a straight-tailed finesse worm, but it can be rigged and fished with a variety of soft plastic baits including paddletails, creature baits, and craws. A majority of anglers fish shaky heads with one of the following soft plastics.

  • Zoom Trick Worm – Provides great vertical presentation and good action with slighest rod movement.
  • Roboworm Fat Straight Tail – Has a larger body that’s easier to rig. Holds up well to multiple strikes.
  • NetBait Junebug T-MAC Straight Tail – Sits vertically in the water and provides a really good float.
  • Stickworm – Mimics the darting action as the baitfish. Fish during shad migrations.

Anglers report a productive tactic for fishing deep off-shore structure and flipping into heavy nearshore cover is to super size their presentation using a 1/4 to 3/8-ounce standup shaky jig head combined with a magnum-size paddletail worm, creature bait, or soft plastic craw.

How to Fish a Shaky Head Rig

The “drag and pop” is probably the most common and productive technique for fishing a shaky head. Drag your jig head along the bottom of a lake or waterway. As you feel the head hitting rocks or debris pop the rig up off the bottom 6 to 8 inches with one or two small jerks of the rod. Then let it fall back to the bottom. As the jig head settles back on the bottom the tail of the worm will remain floating above. This is when most fish will strike. Repeat the process as your retrieve the rig. Cast and repeat. If you don’t get any bites within a few casts, try a new spot.

Another productive approach to fishing a shaky head is the “shake it” technique. As you might guess, this technique involves shaking the shaky head as it’s moved along the bottom. This technique can be really effective when fishing the shallows around spring spawn. Bass will often hit the shaky head aggressively even when they’re not feeding just to get it out of their nesting area.