Historically most anglers use simple baited rigs weighted down with an ounce or two of lead for sheepshead. And sure, these are effective. But many anglers prefer to use light tackle and a bit more finesse than weighted rigs allow. If you fall into this category, reach for the jigheads… but don’t necessarily thread on a jig.
While any jighead will do for this job, some are certainly better than others. Pick out one with enough weight to reach bottom, and a relatively short-shank thin wire hook. Thin wire hooks can bend out, but they also work better for penetrating the sheepshead’s rugged jaws. And, since the whole idea here is to catch them on lighter tackle, we’re going to assume you set your drag accordingly and fight the fish with finesse as opposed to brute strength.
Some anglers also preffer to use a “stand up” style head, which allows you to rest it on bottom while still presenting the bait in an upright form. Some others even use heads with offset, weedles-style hooks, which tend to be very thin but strong. Just what bait is best? It’s debatable, but there’s no doubt that one of the most effective is shrimp. And with a bare jighead, you can thread a shrimp tail onto the hook just as you would a soft plastic. Net result? While the presentation may not exactly be 100-percent realistic, it is deadly.
Using a jighead you can get away with a half ounce of lead in areas where casting out a bait rig might require an ounce. You can hover over structure and drop directly below, or pull in close to pilings and send it down vertically right next to them. Will you catch as many fish as you would with a top-and-bottom rig on a beefier stick? Maybe, and maybe not. But you’ll almost certainly have more fun.