(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
When Bryan Thrift won the Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Conroe, he knew by the final day of competition that the fish had been beaten up. As the event came to a close, he had a limit in the boat but needed a kicker. He didn’t pick up a big jig or a monster swimbait. Instead, he allowed a shaky-head to do his damage. Fifteen minutes before he had to weigh in, he pulled up on a brush pile near the ramp, flicked in his worm and landed a 6-pounder that put him over the top to win by 4 pounds.
“Without that fish I would not have won that event and I promise you that brush pile had been fished several times during the week by other competitors,” he said. That’s the point of a shaky-head – not necessarily to fill limits, although it’ll do that just fine, but rather to catch fish that won’t eat anything else.
Thrift employs two different types of heads – a football style with a spring keeper and a round head with a barbed keeper. Both have a 5/0 hook. He doesn’t stress too much about their paint jobs. “To me, the head color doesn’t matter that much as long as it’s some shade of brown,” he said. The different styles have different purposes. The round head skips much better, so he’ll use it around docks. The football version gets the call when he’s keeping in contact with the bottom, bouncing it over rocks.
“When that bait hits a rock it’s going to kick up and it’s going to let it wiggle over that rock and give it a more lifelike motion,” he explained. His two primary soft plastics are a Zoom Trick Worm and a 4-inch Damiki Stinger. The latter bait is smaller but it still quivers a lot, and it gets the call in clear-water situations.
“The Stinger skips phenomenally well on a shaky-head,” he said. “It’s a lot heavier than the Trick Worm. You don’t have this big, long tail behind it to catch the water and create drag and slow down your cast to keep the bait from skipping.” The Trick Worm is his choice when the water is a little bit dirtier, typically when there’s less than three feet of visibility. No matter which one he’s using, he relies most heavily on a very natural palette of color choices, including baby bass and various iterations of green -umpkin.
Thrift has developed a 6’10” medium-heavy signature series rod with Fitzgerald for both shaky-heading and wacky-worming. He pairs it with an Abu-Garcia Revo Premier 30 spinning reel spooled with 15-pound P-Line braid for a main line and a leader of 8- or 10-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon attached with an FG knot.
If you want to learn some of the additional elements of the way Thrift maximizes a shaky-head’s effectiveness for kicker bass, including the proper way to rig various worms on different heads, check out his full video filmed on the water, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.