Swimming Shakey Jigs
We're witnessing an unprecedented shift of pro bass fishing techniques the past few seasons (say from 2005 onward).
On the top pro tours in the USA, the legacy and domination of top pro wins with staunch staples like crankbaits, Texas-rigged worms, flipping jigs and spinnerbaits isn't over, but it's not the only way anymore.
Lures, tactics and even locations being fished by winning pros are often new and unfamiliar at pro levels. A few examples include mop-sized rubber jigs, saltwater-sized pencil poppers, waking plastic-lipped floating and jointed minnows, plus humongous soft swimbaits to name a few unprecedented approaches we've seen pros embrace and win with lately. Some of these lures and techniques are regional practices not widely-used outside their areas, such as mop jigs in Georgia, big trout swimbaits in California or wiggle diggles (jointed Red Fins) in Missouri for example.
What all these regional favorites have in common is that these techniques are being used (many for the first time) by top pro anglers to win in top competitions.
The last several seasons, top pros have won and place highly with such new tactics. New, that is, at top pro levels. With the heavy media coverage of top pros on TV and in fishing magazines, these new and often regional tactics become communicated and disseminated to local and recreational anglers everywhere, causing major shifts in lure usage nationwide.
That's not to say every bass angler has gone and gotten a saltwater pencil popper or mop-sized jig, but do you have a Chatterbait due to top tournament successes reported with it in early 2006? Do you have a new interest in fishing deep with football jigs or shakey jigs since top pros have repeatedly won with such jig types by fishing deeper locations the past few seasons? Like many bass anglers, you probably have or will incorporate shakey jigs and football jigs into your repertoire, based on top pro's recent successes with such lures.
The shakey jig in particular was virtually unheard of across much of the country - until top pro anglers started to use them several seasons ago. Since then, due to top pros continuing to demonstrate success with shakey jigs, it is an incredibly popular tactic across the USA today.
Shakey jigs are associated with long, slender finesse worms and with 6, 8 or 10 pound test finesse spinning gear. It's hard to find a winning pro today who isn't using finesse spinning gear as part of his winning methods today. Consider however, such gear was relatively unused by top pros until a few seasons ago. You rarely if ever saw light spinnign rods used as much as they are now.
Begin at the Bottom
Shakey jigs are not really geared toward shallow water or the bank. One accepted way to use a shakey jig is to let it hit bottom in moderately deep water, say in the 10 to 30 foot range. Many anglers believe the shakey jig design will stand a finesse worm upright on its nose (which actually isn't the case much of the time). As the name implies, many anglers then shake the line to make the worm quiver and shake on the bottom. Keep in mind however, it's often the initial fall and touchdown - or it is a lackluster pause in the shaking process, when most bites occur.
Left and right: Shakey jigs for bottom contact. Center two: Shakey jigs for swimming..
Swimming Shakey Jigs
The Shakey Swim Jigs shown below can be used and works swell exactly as described above in a bottom-hugging approach. Yet its special value is, as the name implies, swimming and shaking it, keeping it moving above bottom. Swimming and shaking - not bottom-hugging - is what this Shakey Swim Jig is all about.
Getting the most out of swimming soft baits is the raison d'etre for this shakey swim jig head.
The shakey swim jig is optimized for swimming style soft baits like Gary Yamamoto's Swimming Senko, single tail grubs or any other brand or model of soft plastic bait used with the swimming method. However, it will work swell with straight-tail worms, small craw worms or any other soft baits that can be rigged on it. It is not designed to bounce bottom, although it can do that perfectly. It is purposely designed and optimized to swim soft baits anywhere from just below the surface to just above the bottom, and all mid-level depths in between:
Use near the surface, and just keep it coming at you in open water. It can be swam through weeds emerging close to the surface - or swam through deeper weed beds growing closer to the bottom.
Means to swim through suspended bass at any mid depth in the water column (called "mid-strolling" in Japan). This is a term coined and tactic practiced in Japan whereby a Japanese angler casts out and will softly shake the rod tip ever-so-gently little by little and have the lure swim back to the angler anywhere from 3 to 15 feet deep in the middle range of the water column - slowly. The retrieve speed can be from zero (just letting the lure pendulum fall back toward you with no reeling) to whatever reeling pace is needed to maintain a target depth level. That is, you should reel slower to maintain a 15 foot depth level, often requiring momentary pauses in the retrieve. Brief pauses in the reeling not only help the jig counter its ever-present tendency to ride up higher in the water, but the brief pauses are also high percentage strike moments. During the pause, the jig will reverse its tendency to rise and it will instead want to settle lower. When reeling is resumed, the jig will again want to ride up again. The overall up-down-up effect of a brief pause is a natural strike trigger.
So you will need to reel slower (often requiring pauses) to maintain a deeper strolling level. You will need to reel a little quicker (with the rod tip up) to maintain a higher (say a five foot) strolling level through the water column.
What anglers in Japan do during the retrieve, they shake it maybe 75% of the time. The other 25% should be equally-spaced, short intervals when it falls or glides slowly. Think of three slow turns of the reel (75%) while lightly shaking, then one slower, steady turn (25%) without shaking.
The mid-strolling technique excels under tough conditions, or whenever bass are suspended at mid-levels in the water column.
Swimming Deep and Slow
Swimming soft baits deep and slow close to the bottom can be done with the same tactics as mid-strolling, except touching bottom occasionally to make sure you are in the strike zone. There are many times that bass wil not rise much above bottom, and the painstakingly slow method of swimming jigs just above bottom often gets them when mid-depth or surface presentations fail.
The same size 4/0 Mustad Ultra Point round bend hook is used in both the 1/8 and 5/32 oz shakey swim jig sizes shown above. This strong medium wire hook matches well with 6, 8, 10 or up to 12 lb test line. The hook has an extremely low angle eye positioned to shed weeds and debris as the jig swims through cover. This jig and hook work best with finesse-sized soft baits and finesse fishing rods/reels/lines in the 6, 8, 10 class range, up to 12 pound test. On such gear, the jig can handle something up to the size of a 5" Senko or 5" Swimming Senko with ease.
The hook point can be rigged exposed for fishing open water, tex-exposed for light to medium cover, and Texas rigged for dense cover as shown here:
Don't screw the bait down too tightly too close to the jig head. There are more than enough turns on the screw wire so that just a few turns will attach a soft bait more securely than most any other means of attachment including glue. So don't screw the bait on too tightly. In fact, try to "suspend" the bait relatively set back from the jig head on the wire coil.
One common theory with jigs is to incorporate the jig head as a part of the bait presentation. An example is a jig head shaped like a fish face with eyes, realistically etch gills, etched fins, etc. With the swimming shakey jig here, it is not part of the bait presentation. Don't try to incorporate it as the head of the worm or bait. It is only a dot of ballast strategically suspended on the hook wire in order to aid casting distance, accuracy and most importantly, to govern proper swimming balance of a soft swimming bait. With some colors, such as the red-painted jigs, they also add a small spot of color flash, but it would be wrong to think of the jig head as the worm or bait head. It's just a strategic blob of balance weight put there to help make soft swimming baits swim at their very best. You'll see this in action when you start swimming a few baits with this jig.
This jig is so perfectly balanced that even an ordinary Senko (can one call the Senko ordinary?) on the shakey swim jig will swagger and sway, squirm and squiggle like a live earthworm that's fallen into the water. Just use a semi-tight line fall, and the Senko will vibrate both its tips, undulate its body in an oscillating S movement as it falls on a semi-tight line. A Senko makes the same famous shimmy and shake on the swimming shakey jig as when a Senko is fished weightless.
With the jig of course, it's a faster fall and gets deeper than a weightless Senko, yet has the very same tip movement and body vibration. The jig head lets you fish a Senko faster and deeper than possible weightless, without any loss of squirm or squiggle as it falls on a semi-tight line. Once it reaches bottom, wait a spell and then start a series of slow lifts followed by pauses. The lifts will raise the Senko above bottom, attracting attention. On the pauses (with a semi-tight line) the Senko will wriggle and squirm like alive as it glides forward and toward the bottom again. Repeat the lifts and pauses is all you need to do. It's too simple and devastating in its effectiveness. There's no better way I know to fish a weighted Texas-rigged Senko.