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As the Worm Turns
Story By Russ Bassdozer

There's no telling how much tournament money has been won on Southeastern waters the last few years by shaking jig worms. Unless you backtrack through recent national tournament results, you really won't realize just how fast the shaking jig worm tally incredibly starts to add up.

Now, savvy anglers in the Southeast are well aware of the shaking jig worm's effectiveness. Yet anglers in most other parts of the country are relatively unfamiliar and inexperienced with the resurgence of this technique. This episode of "As the Worm Turns" hopes to help fill in a few of the missing pieces. Please enjoy.

Southern Bass Pro Tom Mann Jr.

BASS and FLW pro Tom Mann Jr. of Buford, Georgia started shaking jig worms like a lot of other people way back when, about twenty years back.

When the fishing got tough, you'd grab a light spinning rod, some little worms, a few little jig heads and jiggle them down the deep and shady sides of boat houses, docks and bridges for suspended fish.

The jigheads used were often just crappie jigs with a hook barely big enough to hold a bass, says Mann. We threaded the worms onto the hooks and used them with an exposed hook point.

You'd cast out, start shaking the worm down, but if fish weren't suspended in the open water column, you couldn't let it get all the way to bottom because the exposed jig hook would get hung up as soon as it touched something. With the exposed hook, you couldn't fish deep brush near a boat dock.

Tom Mann Jr. laughs and says, "Back then, we didn't have enough sense to turn it around," meaning to Texas rig a worm on a jig. You just weren't supposed to Texas rig a jig. It took an awful long time for us to break that preconceived notion.

About six years ago, estimates Mann, the worm did turn. When we turned the worm around and Texas rigged it on a jig, if you used it around a boat house that had deep brush, now you could cover from top to bottom in one technique. That's when jig worms really became popular across the Southeast.

Today whether in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee or Arkansas, you won't see a bass boat without a 6-8 lb test spinning rod and a little worm Texas-rigged on a jig now. It would be a rare thing not to see one tied on, says Mann.

The shaking jig worm is not a technique to use all the time. It's basically:

  • a clear water technique

  • a deep water technique (say anything over 15 feet)

  • at its very best under tough conditions

  • works best when you really need to make a small limit (five keeper bass)

  • it's not a big fish bait, but Tom Mann Jr. has caught a lot of big fish on it

With the Texas-rigged jig worm, you have the jig nose digging on bottom. Meanwhile the worm tail stands up off bottom. There are a lot of different kinds of jig heads, but Mann favors fellow bass pro Fred Bland's Taco Jig. Made by Bush Hog Lures, there is an elongated 2/0 Eagle Claw hook in a Taco jig. The elongated hook shank lifts the worm tail up higher. When you shake it, there's more leverage to be gotten, more of a fulcrum effect to raise the tail. The hook simply stands the worm up more. Another reason why Mann loves it so much is it has a narrow gap hook that will fit a skinny finesse worm so nice. You don't want a wide gap hook for this technique, says Mann.

As far as how to shake it, Mann shakes the worm as it swings down toward bottom, and just keeps shaking when it gets on bottom. The only time Tom Mann Jr. may not shake it is probably for smallmouth, when he'll drag it. For spotted bass and largemouth, Mann just constantly shakes and hops it. But for Lake Erie and Great Lakes smallmouth, he will pretty much drag it.

It will hang up a bit more than a normal Texas-rigged worm with a bullet sinker. When a bullet weight rolls over something, it doesn't make much difference which way it rolls. But with a jig head, if it flops over sideways (which it will) is when it gets stuck.

As for exactly what worm Mann uses, the 5" Yamamoto Kut-Tail (7L series) seems best of all for him, especially on the 2/0 size hook in a Taco Jig.

Green pumpkin (color 297) is what Mann throws 99.9% of the time. That is "the" basic color in clear water. If there is a bass down there that is going to eat a worm, green pumpkin will work says Tom. It works anywhere from Mann's home lake, Lanier, in Georgia all the way to California.

Mann also says a Texas-rigged shaking jig worm is a great comeback lure, meaning that when a fish swipes at or follows another lure, Mann will switch rods and throw the Texas-rigged jig worm back at the fish on the next cast.

Western Bass Pro John Murray

Legendary Western bass pro John Murray has also been shaking jig worms a whole lot on the BASS and FLW Pro Tours this year. Murray favors the 5" Slim Senko (9M series) in watermelon red pepper (color 208). That's pretty much the only bait that Murray puts on a shaking jig head.

Buckeye Lure's Spot Remover jig head works real good for Murray, and the 208 Slim Senko is a good bait to put on it. The Slim Senko tail has so much more action than many of the other finesse worms out there. The key to Murray is "moving it without moving it," meaning when he shakes it on bottom, the Slim Senko tail looks like a crawdad sticking its claws up.

If you watch bass in a tank approach a crawdad, the craw lifts its claws up real slow, which is what Murray tries to imitate when shaking his jig worm. Murray does not give it a lot of movement. He uses 6 or 8 lb test Yamamoto Sugoi line with a spinning rod. He's not wanting a real hard shake. He just moves the tip, not the whole rod. Murray sums it up as pretty much a finesse movement that he is trying to get from the bait.

Murray like long casts, and he like to move a shaking jig worm up hill. Most of all, Murray is attentive to try to keep the jig in a position that keeps the tail up. Going uphill, Murray maximizes the advantages of a flat-bottomed stand-up style jig head like the Spot Remover. This jig type going uphill keeps the waving tail up versus a rounded ball head jig which will roll over more often. The best areas for going uphill, for keeping constant bottom contact are areas with gravel. Pea gravel type banks don't have a snagging problem to go up them.

Sometimes you can't move the jig uphill. For instance, to try to go uphill through real big chunk rock is just going to get you snagged says Murray. In such cases, you are forced to move downhill, but going downhill gives you less constant bottom contact and less ability to keep the jig (and therefore tail) from falling over.

Murray doesn't feel his fellow Western anglers have tried Texas-rigged shaking jig worms yet - but they should says John. A lot of anglers out West currently dropshot. It's still new to many anglers to dropshot, and it's what Westerners currently go to when a finesse worm situation is required. However, Murray warns of occasions he has witnessed (such as on Beaver Lake. Arkansas) when a dropshot rig wouldn't work, but the same worm on a shaking jig head would catch many keepers. It's the constant bottom contact Murray feels that makes the shaking jig worm work so well.

There is no doubt that shaking jig worms has gained a strong resurgence recently. Murray smiles wisely when he says it is a hot technique for top bass pros right now, but like all fishing trends, will fade in time.

Turns on the Path of Jig Worm Evolution

  • Jig worms seem like they've been fooling fish forever. Charlie Brewer's Slider Company of Tennessee started to manufacture Brewer's Slider worm and matching Slider jig heads thirty-five years ago in 1970. They're still made today, virtually unchanged and every bit as effective as ever.

  • Reminiscing about jig worm evolution is not solely for Southerners. Northern tier bass and walleye anglers have reached for worm nose jig heads for at least the past twenty years. That is about how long the Minnesota-based Gopher Tackle company has been offering anglers The Original Mushroom Head Jig®, the sterling example of the classic exposed hook "worm nose" jig head.

  • In the mid to late eighties, Western anglers began to fish finesse worms on exposed hook darter jig heads and aspirin pill-shaped jig heads. Also in this same era, Western angler Don Iovino first defined "shaking worms" not with jigs but at that time using brass bullet sinkers and glass beads. Brass was touted for the noise made when the sinker shook and clicked against the glass bead. Interestingly however, Southern pro Tom Mann Jr. who claims to have shaken (not stirred) as many worms as anyone never felt a pressing need for the bead or the noise it makes. Indeed, the shaking jig worm of today does not make a whole lot of racket. It's a simple deal.

  • In the mid-nineties, pro angler Fred "Taco" Bland put a larger hook in a smaller finesse jig, opening up the possibilities of landing larger bass on finesse jig worm presentations. Taco Jigs are still made today by Bush Hog Lures.

  • Especially in the last two to three years, innovative anglers and tackle companies have evolved specialized jig heads and even special jig hooks to turn the Texas-rigged shaking jig worm into a true angling art form. Some people say the Davis Bait Company in Alabama was one of the first to perfect and popularize the modern day incarnation of the shaking jig worm head.

  • Another worthy example of this modern trend is Buckeye Lure's Spot Remover jig head. At the FLW Beaver Lake Arkansas event in April, 2003, the co-angler winner Roy Altman Jr. landed first place and $41,000 in cash and prizes thanks to an 1/8 oz standup jig head he designed called the Spot Remover jig that makes a worm stand upright in the water.

  • One of the most recent entrants in the jig worm arena is Indiana-based Bite-Me Tackle. Kevin VanDam used the company's shaking jig worm head to help win the BASS Elite 50 event on Lewisville, Texas a few months ago, including an 11 lb. 13 oz. giant bass that went for Bite-Me's Shakey worm ballhead jig (3/16 oz). The FLW Championship on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas last month was also won (on the co-angler side) by amateur angler Trevor Jancasz who used Bite-Me's 1/8 oz Shakey jig rigged with a Yamamoto Kut-Tail worm.

  • Shaking jig worm heads are evolving in Japan also. The Skip in the Shade jig head by Japanese bass tackle manufacturer, Ecogear is an innovative example. Ecogear's Skip in the Shade jig has a kind of split jig head concept where there is actually a second plug of metal molded onto the hook shank, leaving a blank gap between the jig head and the retaining plug of metal. The shaking worm's soft head gets seated securely in this split spot.

  • The evolution and the resurgence in jig worm popularity is not over. In fact, several manufacturers are known to be working on new and better shaking jig worm offerings for 2006.

That's all for today's episode of "As the Worm Turns". Thank you for reading.

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