From the Skworm-N-Jig to the Wacky Jig: a History of the Jigworm and Its Many Modern-day Manifestations
March 08, 2015
The most of the 5,841 words that follow this introduction were written in the spring of 2011 when we were writing for In-Fisherman's printed publications. The original manuscript contained too many words for the printed world to accommodate. Thus, many of the words never appeared on the printed page. And because the jigworm has played a pivotal role in the history of Midwest finesse fishing, we thought that we should circulate this rambling history via the unlimited nature of the Internet.
During the four years that have unfolded since we put the last period on this story, a variety of new jigs and soft-plastic worms (or worm-like creatures) have been created, and many of those items have been featured in our Midwest Finesse gear guides, such as the one on Damiki Fishing Tackle USA's Finesse Miki that was published on Feb. 12. Our first Midwest Finesse gear guide was published on Oct. 20, 2011, and it featured Strike King Lure Company's Zero and Z-Man's Fishing Product's ZinkerZ. To locate other gear guides, readers can scroll through the archives of Midwest Finesse.
After we chronicled the history of the plastic worm and some of the jigs that Midwest finesse anglers have affixed these worms to, some readers and finesse anglers suggested that it is time to compose a detailed and chronological history of the other items and soft-plastic baits that we have affixed to our jigs across the years, such as Beetles, boot-tailed grubs, curly-tailed grubs, feathers, fuzzy grubs, Guido Bugs, hula grubs, pork chunks, pork eels, hair, Puddle Jumpers, Reapers, Senko-style baits, Sting Ray Grubs, swimbaits or swimming minnows, and tubes. We hope to write that history in the near future. Some of those items, however, are mentioned below.
The history of the jigworm stretches across 56 years, and the history of the rubber and plastic worm reaches back into the 19th century.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent in 1877 for an artificial worm concocted out of pure rubber. It failed, however, to catch the fancy of America's anglers. Seventy years later, Nick and Cosma Creme of Akron, Ohio, toiled in their basement, making molds formed from nightcrawlers and filling those molds with a combination of vinyl, oils and pigments. Ultimately their efforts gave birth to the Creme Wiggle Worm in 1949. Across the next two years, the Wiggle Worm garnered the attention of scores of anglers. Thereafter they manufactured and sold thousands of worms.
As more and more anglers wielded Creme's Wiggle Worm, Bill Norton of Marion, Indiana, created the Sportman's Worm, and Bill Stembridge of East Point, Georgia, made the Fliptail Worm. In the mid-1950s, Creme changed the name of his Wiggle Worm to the now renowned Scoundrel Worm.
We don't have an exact date of when an angler affixed one of Creme's, Norton's or Stembridge's worms to a jig. But we do know that Ted Green and Gayle Marcus of Mar Lynn Lure Company of Blue Springs, Missouri, purchased Dave Hawks' Thinga-ma-Jig in 1955. It was a horse-hoof-shaped jig that Hawks' dressed with a pork-rind eel to catch largemouth bass at Bull Shoals Lake. In 1956, Green and Marcus added one of Norton's plastic worms to Hawks' jig, and they named this combo the Skworm-N-Jig. Eventually Mar Lynn manufactured its own soft-plastic worm and a weed or hook guard that could be slipped over the collar of the jig. The weed guard was called the FAN GARD. In 1960, Harold Ensley of Overland Park, Kansas, Ensley used use the Skworm-N-Jig to win the World Series of Sports Fishing. In 1965, Green started manufacturing and selling Ensley's five-inch Reaper on a jig. The Skworm-N-Jig and Reaper-and-jig combo caught the fancy of many bass anglers in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. .
Ultimately variations of the Skworm-N-Jig emerged. One of those variations was the 1/16-ounce, Texas-rig jig that Chuck Woods of Kansas City created in the 1960s, and Dwight Keefer, formerly from Kansas City and now of Phoenix, used it with a six-inch Creme Scoundrel Worm to win the 1967 World Series of Sport Fishing at Long Lake, Wisconsin. Keefer described Woods' creation as an aspirin-head jig, formed around a 3/0 hook, and the segment of the hook's shank between the 90-degree bend and the hook's eye was long enough that it thoroughly penetrated the head of a Creme worm.
During the 1960s, a jigworm accounted for several of the first-place finishes in the World Series of Sport Fishing. What's more, Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, used Woods' jigworm at the first Bassmaster Classic at Lead Mead, Nevada, and garnered a seventh-place finish.
Around the same time that Woods created his 1/16-ounce jig, Cotton Cordell of Hot Springs, Arkansas, manufactured the Banana Head Jig, which anglers festooned with a worm either by Texas rigging it or using it on the Banana Head with a wire weed guard.
In addition, a bass angler from Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, created a jig similar to Woods' jig; this jig was called the Ouachita Jig. Then in the mid- to late 1960s, Virgil and Bill Ward of Bass Buster Lure Company of Amsterdam, Missouri, developed their jig with a fiberguard. The Wards also created the first marabou jig. What's more, the Wards manufactured and merchandised Chuck Woods' Beetle, which was graced with a jig head that generated a subtle wobble that seemed to enhance the Beetle's fishing-catching abilities; the modern-day Beetle, however, is not graced with that jig head. Back in the early days of Midwest finesse fishing, some anglers around Kansas City and the Lake of the Ozarks called the Beetle a short worm, and one of the reasons why it was called a short worm was that Woods created the first Beetles out of a Creme worm. Nowadays, most Midwest finesse anglers think of the Beetle as the first Senko. And besides the Beetle, some Midwest finesse anglers in the early 1970s began affixing a Mann's Bait Company's Sting Ray Grub to their jigs.
In 1970, Charlie Brewer of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, made a significant impact in the bass fishing world when he created his Crazy Head Lure Company. It was at his kitchen table that he crafted a jig with a flat head and exposed hook, which he adorned with a four-inch plastic worm and retrieved by sliding and gliding it through the water without any excessive action; Brewer called it the do-nothing retrieve. Nowadays his jig is called the Original Regular Slider Head. Besides his original jig that featured an exposed hook, Brewer created several Texas-rig jigs, such as the 1/16-ounce and 1/8-ounce Super Slider Head and 1/8-ounce and 1/4-ounce Snagless Slider Head. Until the length limit was increased and creel limit was decreased at bass tournaments, many contestants, such as Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, used one of Brewer's jigworm combos until they caught a limit of small bass, and after that they used bigger lures in an attempt to beguile a lunker or two. In 1984, the Crazy Head Lure Company became the Charlie Brewer's Slider Company, and Brewer retired, allowing his son to take the company's reign. To this day, Charlie Brewer Jr. is the proprietor of the family business, which produces a wide array of finesse jigs and plastic appendages for dressing those jigs, and they still catch untold numbers of bass. In 2011, Nojo's Baits created its rendition of Brewer's jig with an exposed hook that fits their hand-poured Serpent Worm; it's called the Nojo Glider, and Luigi Lucas of Nojo's says it worked exceptionally well during its prototype stages at Lake Mead and Lake Havasu.
Billy Westmoreland of Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee, was a renowned finesse angler and Charlie Brewer's friend. At times, he employed some of Brewer's wares, and before Brewer created his jig, Westmoreland crafted the aspirin head jig. Westmoreland's aspirin head is still available at Punisher Lures. To this day, when it's dressed with one of Charlie Brewer's four-inch Slider Worms, it entices Dale Hollow's smallmouth bass. Stephen Headrick of Celina, Tennessee, and Punisher Lures says winter is his favorite time to use it.
Rich Zaleski of Stevenson, Connecticut, notes that in the early 1970s Mar Lynn developed its Pow'RR Head, which was a stand-up jig, dressed with an Ensley Reaper, and the Tony Portincaso regularly exhibited its effectiveness along submerged weed lines in the natural lakes of the Upper Midwest and Northeastern states. In the late 1970s, Mister Twister created a similar jig.
Danny Westfall, of Glendale, Arizona, created the 1/4-ounce and 3/8-ounce Westy Worm in the mid-1970s. Westfall's rigs featured either a four-inch or six-inch worm attached to a jig and adorned with a stinger hook. Today, Lobina Lures of Mesa, Arizona, makes a five-inch rendition of the Westy. Although the Westy is virtually ignored by anglers outside of Arizona, it has been one of the mainstays of such talented bass anglers as John Murray of Phoenix, who has used it to catch incredible numbers of bass from Lake Mead and other Western reservoirs. It's especially effective at alluring suspended bass.
In 1979, Conrad Peterson of Deerwood, Minnesota, and Gopher Tackle Company began marketing his creation called The Original Mushroom Jig Head. It quickly became the standard-bearer for many northern bass anglers. The shape of the head of the 1/16- and 3/32-ounce Gopher was so unique that Al Lindner and others affably called it "a half of a jig." It is still the favorite jig of many anglers in Minnesota and northeastern Kansas. (For a short history of the Gopher Tackle Company, please see go to this link: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/a-short-and-informal-history-and-tour-of-gopher-tackle/.)
In the mid-1980s, the darter jig phenomenon erupted in California and nearby states. It featured either a grub or four-inch worm on an exposed hook. The darter-jig anglers expanded and refined the shaking presentation by using a 5 ½-foot spinning rod with a sensitive tip that tapered to a solid midsection and a stout butt.
As California's bass anglers became enchanted with the darter head, a new age of jigworm angling began to unfold in the 1980s on the reservoirs of the Coosa River in Alabama. It commenced when Fred "Taco" Bland of Birmingham, Alabama, converted an 1/8-ounce, ball-head, crappie-style jig with a No. 2 hook to a bass jig by incorporating a 2/0 hook in that crappie jig. In the eyes of Bland and scores of talented professional bass anglers, such as Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas and Stacey King of Reed Springs, Missouri, the big hooks remedied the problem that anglers had experienced with keeping bass pinned on the small hooks that normally adorn a crappie-style jig. Bland called his creation the Taco Head; it is also called Shake-N-Head. From its maiden outing to this day, the Taco Head has caught bass galore for scores of professional and recreational anglers. Bland is still manufacturing them in his home and distributing them to tackle stores in Birmingham and along the Coosa River. They are made in 1/8-, 3/16-, and 1/4-ounce models and sport hooks that range in size from 2/o to 5/0.
William Davis of Davis Industries and Davis Bait Company in Sylacauga, Alabama, also created a jig-and-worm combo around the same time that Bland was working on his jig, and there is a minor controversy about who was the first one to create it. Davis crafted his ball-head jigs in 1/8-, 3/16-, and 1/4-ounce sizes that were fitted with big hooks. He named them The Shaky Head, and since then, that name has galvanized the world of bass anglers and lure manufacturers.
Even though Davis acquired an Alabama trademark registration in 1994 and a federal trademark registration in April 2006 for The Shaky Head, his trademark has been transgressed upon by several tackle manufacturers. Davis noted that he has spent and will continue to spend a considerable amount of money and time protecting his trademark. Thus, some tackle companies have stopped using his trademark, several have reimbursed him and several have licensed the trademark. His original jig is still available, as are some newer renditions. Davis Industries also manufactures scores of jigs for 18 other tackle companies, such as Z-Man Fishing Products and Charlie Brewer's Slider Company. In total, Davis made around two million lures in 2010.
Since Bland and Davis created their jigs, and after Steve Price and Don Wirth chronicled Bland's prowess with his jig in 1997 and 1998, more than six dozen shaky head jigs have been commercially made in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Furthermore, many anglers, such as Aaron Martens of Leeds, Alabama, and other professional anglers on the Bassmaster and FLW circuits, make their own shaky head jigs.
From 2003 to 2006, the shaky head jig became an omnipresent and omnipotent bait on the professional bass circuits. During that spell, Buckeye Lures' Spot Remover and "Bite-Me" Tackle's Shakey Jig made several headlines and were wielded by a deluge of anglers. Even dedicated power anglers, such as Rick Clunn who hadn't used a jigworm for decades, were seen working various shaky head jigs along riprap shorelines and around boat docks. What's more, Kevin Van Dam won the Bassmaster Elite 50 event at Lewisville Lake, Texas, on June 1-4, 2005, using a 3/16-ounce Bite-Me Shakey Jig with a Strike King Lure Company's Finesse Worm; his winning catch included an 11-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass. In early April of 2006, Shin Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Palestine, Texas, used a red 3/32-ounce Japanese shaky head jig that was dressed with a four-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Bait's green-pumpkin Shad Shape Worm to win the FLW event at Beaver Lake. The shaky head also paid some handsome dividends to some of the co-anglers on the FLW circuit.
Though it's no longer the headline bait that it was in 2003 to 2006, Aaron Martens says the shaky head remains one of his most potent year-round tools, and he uses it at nearly every tournament that he fishes. Likewise, Fred Bland still wields the same jig that he crafted a quarter of a century ago, and it still catches bass galore. What's more, the pure finesse anglers still inveigle vast numbers of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass by using small aspirin-head, mushroom-head and slider-head jigs with an exposed hook and dressed with a small worm or small soft-plastic lure.
Despite the continued effectiveness of the common lead-headed jigworms and original shaky head jigs, renovations, refinements, embellishments and new concepts appear.
For instances, there have been several bait keeper innovations. In 1990 Lunker City Fish Specialties developed its Fin-S Head jig that featured a series of cones on the jig's collar; it's called the LunkerGrip, which allows easy insertion into the thinnest, most fragile soft-plastic baits without tearing or distorting them. Since then, the LunkerGrip is featured on all of Lunker City's jigs. Oldham Lures created their Screw-Lock bait keeper for the jig they called the Weedless Moss Head Screw-Lock Jig. Buckeye Lures' Spot Remover and Reaction Innovations Screwed Up Jighead featured two unique bait keepers. That was followed by the Barb-Wire keeper on Northland Fishing Tackle's Lip-Stick Jig-Worm, the flexible nickel-titanium spring bait keeper on the Picasso Lures' Shakedown jig, the stainless cable bait keeper on Jewel Bait Company's Squirrel Head Jig, and the clear plastic, screw-lock bait keeper on Keitech's Shaky Football Tungsten Jig Head. Owner American Corporation's Shaky Ultrahead features the TwistLOCK Centering-Pin-Spring molded into the lead, which facilitates screwing the bait onto the keeper. Gambler Lures' Giggy Head allows the plastic worm to break free from the head during the setting of the hook, and Fin-tech Fishing Tackle's Title SHot "Shaky" Jig features their Retainer/Guard System, which collapses when a bass strikes and allows the jig's wide-gap hook greater hooking ability. The collar of Z-Man's new Shaky HeadZ is situated away from the ball-headed jig; this design securely holds an ElaZtech bait or traditional soft-plastic bait in place, and Ecogear's Skip in the Shade jig has a similar design. Gamakatsu's new Stand-Up Alien Head features two wire keepers with opposing barbs, which holds soft-plastic baits without tearing them.
Other modernizations include changes in the configuration of the jig hooks. There are flat-eye hooks and hooks with a bend different than the traditional 90-degree bend. For instance, Davis Bait Company's Shaky Head HBT has a 28-degree eye bend that is said to assist in hook sets and maneuvering the jig through a bass' lair. Other companies developed jigs with 50- and 60-degree eye bends, such as Strike King Lure Company's Shaky Head Jig head. Some jigs have the hook's eye partially set inside the head of the jig, such as Northland Fishing Tackle's Jungle Jig-Loc and Lip-Stick Jig-Worm. MegaStrike Fishing Products' e2 Shakey has a hidden line tie eye, which is reported to stop hang ups. What's more, the shank of the hook on the Gamakatsu Skip Gap Head has a unique bend that holds a soft-plastic bait securely to the hook, and Fin-tech Fishing Tackle's Bass-N Nuckle Ball Jig has a similar hook and its eye is strategically situated at the jig's balance point, which allows it to stand up constantly, minimize snags and swim perfectly horizontally. There is a similar bend on the hook of Tru-Tungsten's Ball Buster jig for keeping the soft-plastic bait in place. Davis Bait Company's new Shaky ZBALL and Shaky ZFTBALL are constructed around an offset hook.
Weed guards have also been revamped, as reflected by the titanium weed guard of the Gamakatsu Finesse Series Jighead Wacky and Picasso's new Tungsten Ball Jig.
Listed below are some more of the changes that have occurred since the days of Ted Green, Harold Ensley, Gayle Marcus, Chuck Woods, Bill Ward, Virgil Ward and several other Kansas City area anglers who helped spawn the jigworm phenomenon in the 1950s and 1960s:
Bullet-shaped heads: Luck E Strike USA's Perfect Finesse Worm jig is a jig rendition of a pegged slip-sinker worm rig. It's made in five sizes from 1/32 to 1/4 ounces and sports either a No. 1 or 1/0 offset Gamakatsu hook. They also make a model with 2/0 and 4/0 hooks. Charlie Brewer's Slider Company makes a similar one called the Spider Slider. Decoy's VJ-36 Violence Jighead is another one. At times, darter heads have been called bullet heads. Also Oldham's Weedless Moss Head jig was described as a bullet head.
Crescent heads: The crescent head of Fin-tech Fishing Tackle's Bass-N Nuckle Ball Jig is formed so that it is situated under the hook.
Flat-heads or stand-up or tip-up heads: In the bass fishing world, Mar Lynn's Pow'RR Head was one of the first generation of flat-headed jigs. Then came Table Rock Bait & Tackle Company's Stand-up Jig Head. Buckeye Lure's Spot Remover was in the third generation. The fourth generation includes jigs such as MegaStrike's e2 Shakey Head Jig, Gamakatsu's Stand-Up Alien, Table Rock Bait & Tackle Company's Chompers Pro Model Shaky Jighead and Zuppu's Mustang Head.
Flipper heads: Table Rock Bait & Tackle Company has taken the shaky head into the power-angling realm with their Chompers Flipping Shaky Head, which is made in 1/4-, 3/8- and 1/2-ounce sizes.
Football heads: Many anglers contend that football head jigs are ideal for plying rock lairs because they don't become readily snagged in the crevices between the rocks. Consequently scores of jig manufacturers began making football-shaped jigs, such as Davis Baits' 1/8-and 1/4-ounce Z-Bend Football Head jig, which features an offset, ultra sharp, thin wire hook. Ezee Loop Company makes a big football shaky head jig; it's called the Ezee Football Jig Hedz; it's poured around a 5/0 hook and available in five weights from 3/16 to 5/8 ounces. MegaStrike's e2 Shakey Head Jig is a combination of a football and stand-up head; they call it a stabile football head; which allows the jig to be constantly in an upright position; it's available in six sizes: 3/16 to 3/4 ounce. Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minnesota, was one of the first professional bass anglers to herald the virtues of a football head jig, and All-Terrain Tackle makes Jim Moynagh's Football Jig.
Horseheads: For a short history of the horsehead, Road Runner, or underspin jigs, see the story we wrote for an In-Fisherman's Panfish Guide. Here is the link to that story: https://www.in-fisherman.com/panfish/spinners-for-panfish/. After Casey Ashley of Donald, South Carolina, won the Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, with a horsehead jig on Feb. 22, 2015, a lot of words were posted on the Internet about horseheads or underspin jigs. Thus a Google search will lead readers to scores of links.
Grass heads: Some shaky heads are designed for swimming through submerged vegetation. Tourney Jigs' Grass Slipper is one of those; it comes in five sizes: 1/8- to 1/2-ounce. Oldham Lures' Weedless Moss Head Screw-Lock Jig is another, which is made in 1/8- and 1/4-ounce sizes.
i-Motion jigs: Japanese anglers have adopted and modified Charlie Brewer's do-nothing method that he devised for employing his Slider Head jigs. The iMotion concept revolves around the Jackall Nose Jig and a soft-plastic iShad.
Magnum heads: These are shaky heads for 10- and 12-inch worm slingers. Fin-tech Fishing Tackle's Title SHot Magnum Jig illustrates the big bait theme; it features an 8/0 hook and seven sizes, ranging from a 1/4 ounce to two ounces. Davis Bait Company's Shaky Magnum fits into this category, too.
Mushroom heads or half-moon heads: Gopher Tackle Company made the original mushroom jig, and they remain the state of the art. But nowadays, several companies, such as All Terrian Tackle Products, Cabela's, Northland Fishing Tackle, Outcast Tackle, VMC Hooks, Inc. USA, and Z-Man, have similar ones, but the collars, hooks, and bait keepers are different. Rumors abound that Bass Pro Shops has one in the offing. And no one has been able to duplicate the effectiveness of Gopher 1/16-ounce Mushroom Head Jig.
There are a goodly number of anglers who make homemade versions of a mushroom jig, and many of those jigs are endowed with a weed or hook guard. Dave Reeves of Lansing, Kansas, is one these anglers, and now he is selling them to other anglers.
Tear-drop heads: The Keitech Fine Guard Jig Head is a tungsten teardrop head. It has a 5 fiber weed guard and a No. 2 Katsuichi hook.
Tungsten heads: The Keitech Shaky Football Tungsten Jig Head and Keitech Fine Guard Jig Head are made with a tungsten powder/polymer compound. Picasso's Tungsten Ball Jig is 97 percent pure tungsten.
U-heads or swinging heads: On a U-head jig, the hook and the head swing freely. Arkie Lures introduced its U-Head jig in 2004; it sports a 1/0 hook and it is available three sizes: 1/16-, 1/8- and 1/4-ounces. In 2010 Gene Larew Lures unveiled a football-head rendition of the U-Head called Biffle's HardHead, which ranges in size from 3/16 to 11/16 ounces and features 3/0 and 4/0 hooks and is regularly dressed with a soft-plastic creature bait. Likewise, in 2010, Table Rock Bait & Tackle Company fabricated the Chompers Wobble Head Football Jig that sports a 4/0 hook and four weights, ranging from 5/16 to 3/4 ounces. Dirty Jigs Tackle Company's Pivot Point Football Jig features a 60-degree line tie, hooks ranging from 2/0 to 6/0 and weights from 1/4 to 3/4 ounces. Instead of attaching an off-set worm hook to the swinging head, Logic Lures' Wiggly Jiggly works with a straight shank hook, and the hook can be exposed or Texas rigged. Owner has a jig called the Pivot Head. Strike King has one called the Jointed Structure Head. Owner American Corporation created its JigRig, which is also called a Jika Rig, and it features a split ring where the line is attached as is a free-swinging offset worm hook and elongated-tear-drop-shaped sinker. (For more information on Jika rigs, please examine the story at this link: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/stacey-the-jika-rig-king/.)
Wacky heads: Toshiro Ono of Jackall Bros. and Takuma Hata of Zappu Inc. were instrumental in the development of the wacky head in 2004. Since Seiji Kato, the noted Japanese lure designer with Jackall Bros., introduced it to U.S. anglers in 2007, a variety of wacky jigs have become available for U.S. anglers to employ. Here are some of them: Big Bite Baits Gamakatsu Wacky Head, "Bite-Me" Tackle's Wacky Jig, Buckeye Lures' Flick-It Jighead, Gambler Lure's Svebek Wacky Jig, Jackall Lures' Wacky Jig Head, ODZ Shank Chotto Wacky Jig Head, Owner American Corporation's Wacky Head Jig, Skinny Bear's Wacky Finesse Jig and Magnum Wacky Jig, Gamakatsu's Finesse Series Jighead Wacky, Stanley Jigs, Inc.'s Teardrop, and Zappu Inchi" Wacky Jig. (Since 2011, scores more of wacky head have been created, and in the months to come, we hope to write a column about the news ones.)
(1) How the bass pros rig and present a shaky head jig:
Aaron Martens of Leeds, Alabama, who competes on the Bassmaster circuit, said that he made a 3/16-ounce jig mold in 2003 that features Gamakatsu O'Shaughnessy hooks, ranging in size from a 1/0 to a 4/0. From his experience, the O'Shaughnessy hook does a better job of hooking and holding on to the bass than other hooks. Rather than sporting a ball or football head, Martens' jig features an oblong head with a single-barb collar. Within the next year, Martens' jig will be manufactured by the Davis Bait Company. Across the years he has dressed his jigs with either a six-inch FX Straight Tail Roboworm or a six-inch FAT Straight Tail Roboworm. He works this combo with Sunline's seven-pound-test Sniper fluorocarbon line, probing depths from one to 30 feet of water.
In an e-mail Martens wrote: "It's honestly good everywhere. I've whacked them everywhere on the shaky head from Lake Shasta to Lake Mead to the St. Johns River to Lake Champlain. It's got an awesome action." Thus, he uses one at nearly every tournament that he fishes. Wherever he is fishing, Martens implements a variety of retrieves, trying to find the one that the bass prefer. Therefore, he swims it with an occasional bounce off the bottom. He dead sticks it. He strokes it, which is quickly lifting and dropping it, similar to retrieving a jigging spoon. He hops it. He often shakes it after each dead-stick pause, and shakes it erratically when he swims, strokes and hops it.
Brent Ehrler of Redlands, California, tours on the Bassmaster and FLW circuits, where he often uses a 1/8-ounce Picasso Shakedown jig, which is a ball head jig that features a flexible nickel titanium spring bait keeper along with a 3/0 cross-eye Gamakatsu or 3/0 cross-eye Owner hook. He primarily dresses it with a four- to seven-inch worm, such as a five-inch Yamamoto Kut Tail worm. He also rigs it with a Yamamoto Swimming Shad. The color of his jig head is either brown or green. At one tournament, he used it with a five-inch Yamamoto Single Tail Grub. Unlike Martens, Ehrler uses it only in Eastern waterways; he opts for a drop shot in the West.
His spinning reel is spooled with 12-pound-test Sunline braid with a seven-foot, 8-pound-test Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon leader, which allows him to fish a 1/8-ounce jig as deep as 25 feet.
Ehrler always retrieves it along the bottom. Once the cast is executed, he allows it to free fall on slack line to the bottom. Along the bottom, he drags it, hops it and shakes it; the only time that he doesn't shake it is when he is reeling slack line. He rarely dead-sticks it. He has used it with a vertical presentation, but normally opts for a drop shot in vertical situations.
Jeff Kriet, who is a Bassmaster circuit pro from Ardmore, Oklahoma, says he is virtually addicted to fishing with a shaky head jig. Thus, if he is not using one, he always has one at the ready. Ninety percent of the time, he uses a Jewel Bait Company's 1/8-ounce Squirrel Head Jig, which features a football head with a recessed hook eye, stainless cable bait keeper, a 60-degree flat-eye hook, and a specially designed O'Shaughnessy-style hook that is between a 3/0 and 4/0.
Ten percent of the time, Kriet works with one of his homemade 1/16-ounce jigs.
He dresses both jigs with either a 4 ½- or six-inch Big Bite Baits' Squirrel Tail Worm. As for the color of the jig head, he uses unpainted ones and dark-colored ones with red eyes.
Kreit spools his spinning reels with 6- and 8-pound-test fluorocarbon in clear waterways, and in stained waters, he opts for a 10-pound-test high-visibility braid with a 10-pound-test, two-foot fluorocarbon leader. He makes vertical presentation with a 1/8-ounce jig as deep as 40 feet.
When it is falling to the bottom after the cast, he doesn't shake it because he wants it to drop straight to the bottom with a lot of slack in his line. In fact, the jig was designed to facilitate an absolute vertical descent. Once it reaches the bottom, he slowly drags it along the bottom until the jig encounters a boulder, log, stump, shell bed or something unusual that bass might inhabit. Then he places a significant amount of slack in his line and commences to shake his rod. The slack allows the tail of the Squirrel Tail Worm to seductively shake without moving the jig across the bottom; some folks call this a dead-stick shake.
(2) Hooks, weed guards, Texas-style jigworm, and alternative dressing from some recreational anglers' points of view:
Most recreational bass anglers prefer to follow the ways of the professional bass anglers who wield a jigworm or a shaky head jig that has a 1/0 to 4/0 hook and affix the worm to the jig Texas style. They also like to feel their jig crawling and hopping across the bottom; therefore, they opt for 1/8-, 3/16-, and 1/4-ounce jigs.
But there's a contingent of finesse anglers across the Heartland who contend that 1/32-, 1/16-, and 3/32-ounce jigworms with small exposed hooks bewitch and hook more bass than heavier jigs with big hooks and Texas-style riggings. One of their favorite jigs is Gopher's Original Mushroom Jig Head. These finesse anglers wield their jigworms with exposed No. 6, No.4, and No. 2 hooks from January through December. Even though some observers decisively castigate their tactics as using crappie jigs for bass, these anglers catch impressive numbers of bass. In fact, a pair of these anglers caught 5570 bass in 509 hours of fishing in 2010. Though many of the bass they catch are small, they occasionally tangle with some lunkers that range from five to eight pounds.
Because their jig combos are so light, these finesse anglers also note that they rarely feel their baits during the retrieve. Thus, they call it a no-feel presentation, which, in their minds, is a more natural presentation than the one that most anglers execute with heavier jigs. The lightness of their baits, as well as the small hooks, makes them snag resistant without employing a weed guard or a Texas rig. Moreover, these finesse anglers contend that No. 6, No. 4 and No. 2 exposed hooks allow worms or other soft plastic lures to flex and undulate more than the soft-plastic lures do when they are rigged Texas-style on big hooks.
But if an angler prefers a weedless, open-hook presentation, the 1/16-ounce Picasso's Tungsten Ball Jig, which features a single nickel titanium weed guard and a No. 2 to 1/0 hook, is a good option. Another possibility is the Keitech Mono Guard Weedless Tungsten jig with a No. 4 hook. The Picasso jig is 97 percent pure tungsten; the Keitech is made with a tungsten powder/polymer compound.
In addition to dressing their jigs with Z-Man's four-inch Finesse WormZs, some of these finesse anglers use a 2 ½-inch segment of a Z-Man's ZinkerZ, three-inch Yamamoto Senko, Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ, Gene Larew Bait Company's Baby Hoodaddy, Gene Larew's Long John Minnow, 2 ½-inch segment of a Strike King's Zero, Strike King's Bitsy Tube, Zoom Bait Company's Mini Lizard, and various four-inch grubs.
These anglers have noticed that the slower the jigworm or jig combo drops the more strikes it elicits, and several of these anglers have observed that ElaZtech baits made by Z-Man facilitate a slow fall.
(3) Shin Fukae's deep-water presentation with a shaky head:
During the PAA Bass Pro Shops Tournament Series event at Lake Norman on August 12-14, 2010, Shin Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Palestine, Texas, found spotted bass suspended around brush piles in 20 to 30 feet of water. He employed a 1/16-, 1/8-, and 3/32-ounce shaky head jig dressed with a Yamamoto's green-pumpkin Pro Senko. He presented this bait by casting it well past a brush pile. Then he allowed the jig to fall with a pendulum swing to the bottom or to the top of a brush pile. Once it touched the bottom or the brush, he executed a series of quick rotations of the reel handle and then he stopped reeling and allowed the jig to pendulum towards the brush or bottom. He continued the reel-and-stop motif until he caught a bass or the bait was out of the strike zone. The bass wouldn't engulf the bait when it was on the bottom. Most strikes occurred after he stopped reeling and the jig began to fall.
(4) Fukae's wacky jig:
Since 2010, Shin Fukae has worked with Gamakatsu to create a new wacky jig. It is designed for American waterways. It features two titanium V-shaped weed guards, which have perfect stiffness, lengths, and angles, and they retain that correct positioning throughout the day. The head has a unique taper with a recessed hook eye. The hook is a EWG Gamakatsu. It's called Gamakatsu Finesse Series Jighead Wacky.
(5) The kinky worm rig:
Even though many pre-rigged worms have a kink in them and the wacky worm is extremely bent, most bass anglers are fastidious about rigging a perfectly straight worm on their jigs. But recently some anglers have discovered that a goodly number of bass can be bewitched by a plastic worm that is graced with several significant bends or kinks and affixed to either a 1/32-ounce or 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom Jig Head. In some ways, it is similar to the slow-death presentation that walleye anglers employ. By the way, Kevin Van Dam used to like his Strike King's Finesse Worms to have a kink in them.
(6) Fred Bland and William Davis on salt impregnated worms:
Fred Bland of Birmingham, Alabama, has been wielding a jigworm - - his Taco Jig - - for more than a quarter of a century. Across those years, he has discovered that a salt-free worm is more effective than a salty one. According to Bland, heavy applications of salt prevent the worm from standing perpendicular to the bottom, and the perpendicular motif is a critical factor for the proper presentation of a shaky head jig and worm. William Davis of Sylacauga, Alabama, however, says that his company's new Aaron Marten Series of the Shaky Worm is both salt and anise laden, and on a jig, it rises perpendicular from the bottom.
(7) Some minor insights to the history about one manifestation of the jigworm: In addition to employing a jigworm, Midwest finesse anglers have wielded split-shot rigs and slip-sinker rigs since the 1960s. When we affix a plastic worm to the slip-sinker rig and split-shot rig, we usually rig it Texas-style. Occasionally, the sinkers on those two rigs weigh as much as an eighth of an ounce, but most of the time, the sinkers weigh about a sixteenth of an ounce or less. At times, both rigs have inveigled an array of black bass for us.
Since the turn of the millennium, and at the behest of some finesse anglers from Japan, we have also spent some time employing drop-shot rigs and Neko rigs. These two rigs, however, were never as effective as the split-shot and slip-sinker rigs.
As the years and decades unfolded, it became apparent to us that a plastic worm affixed to a jig was more effective than the other methods. Furthermore, a plastic worm rigged on a jig with an exposed hook was more effective than a Texas-rigged one. We also found that a jig with a small hook elicited more black bass bites than a jig with a big hook.
The photograph below features a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a No. 4 hook. It also features a Midwest finesse innovation that supplements the plastic worm in our repertoire. That innovation is a customized Strike King Lure Company's Zero on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.