It was a slow day of fishing to say the least. The transition from summer into fall can be that way on any lake, especially on Lake Fork. My customer and I had fished from sunrise to midday and we hadn’t caught much if any as I recall. I remember we finished the day on one of my favorite big fish holes in hopes of a last second miracle. I rigged him up a magnum sized worm on a jig head and he set the hook on his first cast. I assumed he had hooked into a tree because his rod was bent and his line didn’t appear to be moving. I looked down at the trolling motor to maneuver the boat to his snag, when I heard what sounded like a Labrador retriever diving into the water. It was a huge bass on the end of his line!
The fish didn’t seem to fight very hard after that initial jump, and came to the boat quickly. I noticed the fish kept swimming toward the back of the boat and I warned him not to let the fish swim into the outboard motor. Sure enough it did just that, and the line tangled around the prop. By this time I was on the back deck with net in hand ready to see this giant up close. I was in disbelief as I stared at the biggest bass I had ever seen hovering motionless for a few seconds, with its nose against the steel propeller. The fish was just out of reach, and before I could dive in to get my hands on her, she swept her wide tail and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
I still think of that story often, and enjoy recounting it to my customers when I happen to be rigging up a big worm on a jig head like the one we were using that day. It may come as a surprise that one of my best big bass techniques is a shaky head rig. It has accounted for a good number of double digit bass in my boat over the past few years.
When most anglers think of a shaky head, they picture a small finesse worm on a dainty jig head and light line. However, there’s nothing finesse about the magnum shaky head. It’s a job for 20lb line, a heavy action rod, and is perfect in heavy timber.
There are only a few companies that offer a jig head that is appropriate for this application. I have tried several, and as of right now I’m still waiting for the “perfect” one to come along. Most importantly, the hook has to be big enough to accommodate a large straight-tail worm. A super strong 5/0 or 6/0 hook is necessary. I use a 1/2oz or 5/8oz size all the time, and I like a 10 inch straight-tail worm for this rig.
I typically fish the magnum shaky head in the mid-depth range. If I find bass in 8-20′ of water, this rig will likely be on my deck. It works great in heavy timber, but it is also very effective in areas without much cover, such as a road bed. It’s perfect for isolated rock or brush piles as well.
My favorite retrieve is simple, I drag the worm as slow as possible. I never shake or hop it. I feel like that big worm has plenty of movement as it crawls across the lake bottom. If I am coming over some type of wood cover, I make sure to allow the worm to fall all the way back to the bottom. I want to make sure I present the rig in the heart of the cover where a big bass is likely to be.
As for equipment, I’ve found the G. Loomis E6X 854 to be perfect for a magnum shaky head. It’s a 7′ heavy action rod and is very sensitive. It is important to feel the bottom cover and the light bites that are often associated with shaky head fishing. I always use 20lb fluorocarbon for this rig here on Lake Fork.
This is one of the few techniques that is truly effective year-round. It has been very good to me since I began guiding and still produces big fish for my customers. Hopefully it will work for you as well. Just be sure to steer your fish away from the boat motor!
Below are a few nice fish from the past couple trips here on Lake Fork. If I can be of any assistance on your upcoming trip to Lake Fork, please don’t hesitate to contact me.