Summertime can be a veritable bass fishing feast, schooling fish wolf down flukes like candy. Clouds can mean all-day top water action. The morning bite is good enough you don’t mind waking up at 4:00am to drive to the water. You can hit the twilight bite right after work and catch a days worth of fish in a few hours.

But it can also be famine, mornings that dawn at 90 degrees here in the south mean daytime highs in the 100s and even 110s at times. Lack of rain means clearing reservoir water that drives fish into cooler, darker main lake waters 20, 30, sometimes 40 feet deep. They’re hard to find, hard to catch, and that heat makes it hard to focus on the subtle ticks when you’re daydreaming of a la-z-boy, a good baseball game, and a big glass of icy Arnold Palmer (add Jack Daniel’s to taste).

It is into these doldrums that the football shaky head lazily meanders, not flashy or loud, not a sexy bait, little more than a hunk of lead, an oversized hook and some sort of funny metal contraption jutting out of it called a “bait keeper.” But stick a Senko or a straight tailed worm on it and drag it across main lake points, off ledges, down steep rock banks, and watch it shine like a happy hound dog who’s treed a squirrel in your backyard. It’s a favorite bait of mine in the dog days, and so my July columns will be devoted to testing some of the more interesting football shaky jigheads on the market and some discussion of tactics with notable touring pros.

This week, I field-tested two shaky football heads– the Picasso Shakee Football and the Bass Kandi Pro Series Shaky Head. I threw them primarily in ¼ oz. and 3/8 oz. sizes in water ranging from 10-30 feet deep. Here are my observations of each.

Bass Kandi Football Shaky:

I really liked this jighead. First, they are the most reasonably priced of any jighead I’ll be testing this month. A pack of three is 4.99, no upcharge for larger weights, a rarity in the industry these days. Second, it has a great hook. It’s Mustad hook has a sproat type bend, which in my experience aids in landing percentage, and many top pros like Aaron Martens have said that same thing. The hook has a heavier than average wire, though not “flippin’ hook” heavy, which made it a great match to the baitcasting tackle that I prefer for this technique. Still, with a relatively short shank, it also worked really well with two of my favorite shaky head baits, a 4″ Yum dinger and a 5″ Zoom Shakey worm.

It has a little flat spot on the bottom of the lead that helps the bait stand up at a 45 degree angle. I think the combination of the unique hook angle, short shank, the medium-gauge wire, and the shape of the head gave it another feature that made it my favorite of the heads I tested. It comes through brush like a champion compared to most football shaped heads, which tend to work great in rock and hang almost instantly in wood.

In fact, it came through rough stuff almost as well as my homemade round shaky heads. The paint options, though vanilla with only green pumpkin and black, were durable and slick, which may have also helped this jig be more snag resistant. In all, I caught a wad of bass on this head last week, and only lost one head when I stupidly tossed it into an overhanging tree. If I gave every bait an award like Field and Stream does, I’d give this bait “Best value.” I guess I just did. Maybe Field and Stream should hire me.

Editor’s note: if you go to www.basskandi.com and type in FISHBKB all in caps you can get a 10% discount on your order.

Picasso Shake-E Football:

Great paint. The little accent colors really make the heads look good, and a variety of metal-flake colors and accents let you match your head to your bait better than any other brand of shaky head on the market. The paint was plenty durable, even after hours of dragging senkos across the bottom they looked brand new. The Gamakatsu hook is plenty sharp, I don’t think I missed any strikes, though I admit I was thinking about Arnold palmers and watching Yasiel Puig make some boneheaded base-running move for a few minutes here and there, so I might have missed a bite somewhere.

The head has a spot on it with ridges, which I’m told is supposed to make it easier to feel the composition of the bottom especially over slick areas. We don’t have that many slick areas here in Eastern Oklahoma, where most of our lakes are rock, rock, and more rock, but I could definitely feel what the bait was doing.

Still, the absolute best thing about this bait was the keeper. It’s made of nickel-titanium, the same stuff they used to put in those gimmicky glasses frames for kids so they wouldn’t break them, and that stuff is flexible and has an almost infinite fatigue life. What that means is two things, 1) It won’t break easily, which extends the life of your jighead quite a bit (though I’ll confess, I tend to lose shaky jigheads long before they wear out). And it flexes just enough that it doesn’t tear up plastisol baits nearly as easily, which extends the life of your worm. I caught as many as 8 bass on the same YUM dinger before it finally tore off the jighead and a jumping smallmouth flung it to kingdom come.

If you throw expensive plastics like Yamamotos or any of the other pricey, fragile Japanese baits, this is the head for you; it will save you some bucks. This jighead comes in the widest variety of sizes of any shaky football head, ranging from 1/8 oz to 1 oz. the hooks go up to 5/0 on the ½ and ¾ ounce models, which is a great deal if you want to throw an Ol’ Monster on one (which I did some, but didn’t get bit. Sad.). All around a great jighead, and at around $6 a pack, not too pricey for the unique features they offer.

Next week, I’ll be reviewing two heavier duty heads, the YUM Pumpkin’ Ed and the Fin-Tech Title Shot Football head. Stay tuned.

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