By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
Andy Morgan just put the finishing touches on his third career FLW Tour Angler of the Year title and while his shallow-cover, power-fishing know how certainly served him well this season, he knew that there was a time and place for a spinning rod and shaky-head.
Time and Place
The first time Morgan had ever heard of a shaky-head was at Smith Lake in Alabama, when he was a kid.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to fool with that thing. It catches a bunch of little fish,’” he recalled, “but boy was I wrong.”
Years later, he’s caught multiple fish over 8 pounds, thanks to the shaky-head, which he knows will be a player any time he is fishing a pressured lake, post-frontal conditions, when the water is flat calm, or when the water is gin clear.
“When you have to have a bite and they are not going to bite much anything else, that’s where the shaky-head becomes poison,” he said.
At the Beaver Lake FLW Tour this year, after three quick fish in the boat while power-fishing, the water slicked off, the sun came out, and the post-frontal conditions made things tough.
Morgan quickly realized that perhaps his only shot at filling his limit was to fish a shaky-head rig. Within 20 minutes, he’d filled his limit that included a big fish and snuck inside the cut line.
He’s also done well with the finesse set up at the Forrest Wood Cup that have been held on Lake Lanier, a lake notorious for its spotted bass population. Morgan fished the rig vertically while using electronics in 20 to 35 feet of water. On the same lake, he’s targeted suspended fish with a shaky-head that were locating well above brush piles.
Working the Bait
Morgan will lift his rod tip and glide the bait, but always keeps the bait within 40 yards of the boat. Should it go past that radius, he’ll lift the rod well up over his head to pull the bait up before letting it glide back down.
“Sometimes you can get extra bites without reeling it in and making a drop,” Morgan said. “Most the time, you get a bite on the fall, and after that it’s all about maintaining bottom contact and working it slowly across the bottom.”
Morgan believes that the shaky-head is best worked ever-so-gently along the bottom, almost subtle to a fault. He’s noticed that many anglers never get in the rhythm of fishing a shaky-head properly because they fish it too fast, are sloppy and do not cover the water correctly.
Most often, after casting the bait out, the bite will occur on the drop. In the case of spotted bass, once it hits bottom, they are all about the meal.
To set the hook, Morgan advises anglers to reel until their line tightens and the rod loads up.
“If you deeply load the rod, it drives the hook through the worm, and when the fish shakes its head the hook point will go into its mouth,” he said. “As the fish shakes its head it buries the hook – there’s no chance of escape.”
Morgan Texas-rigs a green-pumpkin Zoom Finesse Worm on a War Eagle Shaky-Head. He’ll rotate through 3/32-, 1/8-, and 3/16-ounce jig heads 95 percent of the time. The tougher the conditions, the smaller the head he’ll throw. If the water is cleaner and the fish are relating deeper, he’ll use a 3/16-ounce head.
He favors a 7-foot iRod spinning rod paired with a medium-sized Lews spinning reel spooled with 10-pound Gamma Torque braided line with an 8-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon leader.
“I can leave that braid on my reel and not have to change line all the time,” he said. “It stays good and you don’t get that backlash with braid that you do with fluorocarbon. When you are skipping docks, it comes off the spool a lot better.”