Shake It Up

A Subtle Approach for Lethargic Largemouth

David Swendseid May 13, 2012

During the blistering months of summer air and water temperatures become downright stifling, which can at times make Florida bass very difficult to entice. Professionals call it lockjaw, and when bass play hard to get most anglers look to tempting finesse-type tactics and lures. One such approach popular with tournament pros is the shaky head.

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Photo: doughertyphotos.com

At its most basic element, a shaky head rig is a jighead outfitted with a plastic worm used for vertical presentations. While this classic combination has been around for years, an evolving industry has also brought us finesse heads that can produce an enticing horizontal swimming action. Ideal for smaller baits, slower presentations and lighter lines, finesse techniques work extremely well in state waters when bass succumb to the dreaded lockjaw syndrome.

From drastic temperature changes to increased fishing pressure and the seasonal availability of forage, bass will at times turn their noses up at just about anything.

Thanks to its tropical climate, the Sunshine State’s lakes and ponds feature an extended growing season. Light exposure is greater when compared to other areas of the U.S. and this is vital to the development of phytoplankton and zooplankton. Crustacean, insect and minnow growth are accelerated, allowing for healthy populations of forage. So, what follows a generous populous of minnows? You got it, bass!

In some states it may take six years for a largemouth to reach two pounds, but in warmer climates the same bass can reach two pounds in a single year. Even though this forage-growth relationship does wonders for a fishery, bass are still susceptible to environmental changes that temporarily slow their interest in feeding. From drastic temperature changes to increased fishing pressure and the seasonal availability of forage, bass will at times turn their noses up at just about anything. This is where finesse baits enter the equation.

While the tackle industry has spent a considerable amount of effort in creating lures that are geared toward abrupt action imitating fleeing prey, finesse presentations have a different approach altogether. Some would say finesse baits have little action, but there’s actually a lot going on in the way of water pressure and vibration. One of world’s best bass masters, Aaron Martens has spent 30 years figuring out how to make bass bite when nothing seems to work. Throughout his career Martens has amassed over $2 million in tournament winnings and has this to tell us about his experiences and on the water observations.

“Subtle wavelengths of vibration that mimic small fish, swimming insects or crustaceans work best to attract bass that are not actively hunting. Have you ever watched individual minnows propel themselves when searching for food? They move sinuously within their environment. Predators like bass easily detect these rhythms of micro movement. During their life cycle bass will come face to face with subtle vibrations given off from tiny critters millions of times. The rate a predator’s nerve network is exposed to micro-movements is extensive. These stimuli are integrated in their imprinting and finesse baits can exploit this with a non-threatening presentation,” continued Martens.

With their effectiveness, many of the industry’s most popular and well-known manufacturers have devised all kinds of finesse configurations. Most popular are various jigheads. Some flat faced, oblong or even football shaped that can be rigged Texas style for heavy cover or exposed for open water. With these proven head shapes anglers typically utilize slender worms or petite baits from 3 to 6-inches in length to stack the odds in their favor. Some think these smaller, streamlined offerings only appeal to juvenile bass, but the simple fact is that finesse heads catch bass of all sizes.

To maintain correct movement and action, be sure to match the plastic trailer’s profile to the size of your selected jighead. Robust trailer bodies that surpass the jighead circumference can hinder the action. When your shaky jig hits bottom the worm will stand up and pulse. Additional lifts, subtle hops and a steady retrieve can all be used to entice lethargic fish. With such a slow and subtle approach your bait will remain in the strike zone longer.

Aaron Marten’s extensive fishing experiences lead him to the refinement of the Shaky Fish. Produced by Davis Bait Co., the Shaky Fish allows for a more horizontal approach to appeal to neutral fish suspended in the water column. A unique variation to typical shaky heads, the Shaky Fish incorporates a transparent flared bill that traps water like a sail to direct the lure’s motion. The resulting tight vibration manipulates the body into a subtle wobble, giving the lure a natural, non-abrupt swimming motion. The enticing action effectively duplicates the shimmer effect you witness from observing schooling minnows.

While there are numerous variations, finesse type baits offer an unobtrusive yet specific presentation. Whatever the situation, finesse heads can pay big dividends while also increasing your opportunities. Hooking not so easy to catch lockjaw largemouth just got a whole lot easier. See you at the weigh-in.

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