Dropshot vs Shaky Head

Dropshot vs Shaky Head: How to Know When to Use Each

Likely the two most popular finesse techniques for bass, the dropshot vs shaky head have a lot in common. Both are commonly rigged with the same baits on very similar gear. The two usually weigh about the same and are used to target a lot of the same fish. But there’s one key difference that separates them, a dropshot is primarily a vertical technique and a shaky head is primarily for dragging horizontally.

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Dropshot vs Shaky Head: The Primary Uses

Now, I say primarily in both instances because there is the off chance you see a fish on your graph and drop a shaky head straight under the boat, the fish may bite it. But if you look at the makeup of each bait and how they fall through the water column, you’ll see a stark difference in the efficiency of a dropshot over a shaky head on the vertical fall. A shaky head tends to glide and spiral downward. But a drop shot shoots straight to the bottom. This is extremely important when targeting structure and bass that appear on your graph only briefly as your boat passes by.

Dropshot vs Shaky Head: The Similarities Between the Two

I have also dragged a dropshot on the rarest of occasions. But the beauty of a dropshot is the ability to work the bait without moving the weight. So, dragging it really defeats the purpose. This brings up a common mistake that a lot of anglers make when they first start to fish a dropshot.

Dropshot vs Shaky Head(1)

One of the first times I fished a dropshot was while working on a story for FLW with Tom Mann Jr. We were on Lake Lanier in Georgia and Tom was targeting spotted bass in fairly deep brush.

The purpose of the article was to learn a technique from a pro and then pass the info along as a writer. For the young and aggressive power-fisherman I was, that day represents one of the most fundamental shifts in my fishing.

This will sound very obvious to anglers efficient with a dropshot. But for me, this key bit of advice from Tom that day was a gem. I, like many anglers, learned to fish a shaky head before I fished a dropshot. So, I was working the dropshot just as I would a shaky head, bouncing it along. Tom noticed my rod tip loading up and pointed out that,

‘You actually don’t want to feel the bait when you work it. Because if you do, you are moving the weight. That distracts the fish and draws their attention away from the bait. When working a dropshot, you only want to move the bait. So when you wiggle your rod tip, you want to let the bait drop again as soon as you start to feel any tension at all from the bottom’.

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Dropshot vs Shaky Head: Combining the Two

An interesting side note here is that I have actually seen a few guys use the two together by replacing the weight of a dropshot with a shaky head. I’ve done this myself a few times just to experiment with it. One thing that I heard from others who do this and that I also saw myself, quite often the fish would eat the bottom bait on the shaky head. This reinforces the ideal Tom instilled in me that the fish pay attention to the weight and also begs the question, ‘Why not just rig it that way all the time?

Dropshot vs Shaky Head(2)

Well again, the shaky head won’t fall straight down.

So you’ll either need to be targeting fish in fairly calm conditions where you have optimal boat control or you’ll need a substantially heavier shaky head. Also, since the invention of the Alabama Rig, many tournaments don’t allow multiple baits with hooks which takes something like this and the double Fluke rig and lumps them in with umbrella rigs. But it is something intriguing to try sometime.

From what little I’ve seen it used, anglers would primarily use this in super deep water situations where they had abnormally long drop leaders of 3-to-5-feet. This would give them the ability to fish a bait on the bottom as well as a bait up in the brush.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Shaye Baker


Shaye Baker started fishing with his dad in Alabama as soon as they could find a life jacket small enough to fit him. Competing with his father in local tournaments, Shaye quickly found a hunger for competitive bass fishing. He furthered his fishing career at Auburn University helping to establish the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. While at Auburn, Shaye served as the President of the club and qualified to fish on the traveling team amassing six Top 5 finishes including two 3rd place finishes in consecutive FLW College Fishing National Championships. While beginning to dabble in the world of outdoor journalism, Shaye continued to fish semi-pro events finishing in the Top 5 in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Costa Series and BFLs. Finding himself at a crossroads, Shaye chose to put down the rod and pick up the pen and camera to focus on his career in outdoor journalism. Shaye has had work featured in Bassmaster Magazine, FLW Outdoors Magazine, B.A.S.S.Times and the Japanese bass fishing magazine Basser. Shaye has also had work featured on ESPN and Wired2Fish.com, FLWfishing.com and Bassmaster.com. While working with B.A.S.S., Shaye initiated and spearheaded their GoPro division which brought more video coverage to the fans than had ever been done before in competitive fishing. After his tenure with some of the best companies in the business, Shaye identified a need for competitive fishing where participation didn’t cost a fortune. By founding UPLOADED, the Online Fishing Series, Shaye established a free tournament series where anglers could film their fish catches and upload their videos to compete against other anglers for prizes.

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