Finesse Fishing – Pro tips!
This article will thoroughly cover finesse fishing. Finesse fishing is a very effective technique for bass and many other game fish species.
Finesse fishing is a technique where anglers use smaller soft plastic lures and lighter lines and rods. The presentation is slow and subtle. Finesse fishing is especially effective when fish are finicky, such as after a front, in clear water, and in cold water.
While it seems fairly simple, just scale down the lures and tackle, there are nuances and techniques that will maximize finesse fishing. These include tackle, rigging and presentation along with locations.
Thanks to Sarah for the great pictures and fishing tips! She lives in the Pacific Northwest and employs finesse fishing quite often in those deep, clear, cool waters. Follow Sarah on Instagram
Best rod and reel for finesse fishing
In most cases, spinning tackle is the best choice for anglers finesse fishing. One look at a current bass fishing tournament on television will show how much more popular spinning tackle is now. Spinning outfits allow anglers to better cast and control these lighter lures and lines while still having the backbone to handle a good fish.
The best spinning rod and reel combination would be a 7′ to 7 ½ rod with a fairly “fast” action. This refers to how the rod is built. A “fast” action rod is stiff at the butt and through most of the rod, but then gets limber neat the tip. This combination results in a rod that has backbone and sensitivity, yet a soft tip for longer casts and fighting a fish.
The rod should be matched with a 25/2500 or 30/3000 series reel. Anglers can spool up the reel with braid, monofilament, or newer flourocarbon line. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Most anglers opt for 10 lb braid with a 24′ to 30′ piece of 8-10 lb flourocarbon leader. Braided line has excellent sensitivity, no stretch, and will last a long time. It is a tad more expensive initially.
A light baitcasting rod and reel certainly has a place in finesse fishing. Modern reels are much easier to cast without the famous “backlash” that used to be common. They are an excellent choice for Texas rigged works and other baits, especially when fishing heavy cover. Baitcasting rigs also work great for fishing with swimbaits, especially the fast retrieve ratios.
Best finesse fishing lures
The list of soft plastic fishing lures that can be used by anglers finesse fishing is literally endless. It would be impossible to list them here. Instead, several of Capt Jim and Sarah’s favorite baits and types will be listed. By no means does this suggest that the many other quality baits on the market are not effective.
Read more about Soft Plastic Fishing Lures in this article by Capt Jim
Plastic worms were introduced to the fishing world in the late 60s and it changed things forever. Early models were stiff and not very life-like; that has certainly changed! Many companies offer a finesse worm. Some anglers refer to them as “do nothing” lures as the less action imparted by the angler the better they generally produce.
Most finesse worms are 4” to 5” long and straight. They are versatile lures that can be rigged a variety of ways. The smaller profile and subtle presentation will appeal to bass and other game fish when they are not feeding aggressively. Both Sarah’s and Capt Jim’s favorite finesse worm is the Yamamoto Senko worm. Capt likes a 4″ bait in green pumpkin hooked wacky style. Sarah prefers the larger Senko and usually fishes it Texas style. Her second choice is the Z-Man TRD worm.
Grubs are small soft plastic lures that can mimic bait fish, crustaceans, and other forage. They are available in several different shapes including curly tail and flat tail. They are most often fished on a jig head, but can be fished on a drop shot rig as well.
Mister Twister curly tail grubs hit the market in the late 70’s. The action that this simple design put out in the water was amazing! These are truly finesse baits as they work best fished very slowly. The tail will spin with the slightest movement, including on the fall. These are Capt Jim’s favorite grubs, with chartreuse being his top color.
Creature baits are basically any soft plastic lure that does not fit into other categories. These include crayfish, lizards, shrimp, crabs, and even critters that look like nothing in the water. These baits are generally just a bit bulkier and are often used as trailers on jigs and spinnerbaits. They can be rigged in a variety of manners.
Capt Jim and Sarah both like the Berkley Powerbait line of creature baits. The selection is endless in sizes, shape, and color. Also, these lures has scent which will not only attract fish but more importantly, cause fish to hang on longer. They can re rigged in a variety of ways. Sarah especially likes the Chigger Craw. Her second favorite is the Yamamoto Cowboy.
Tube baits are very effective finesse fishing lures. Many anglers associate them with smallmouth bass, and for good reason. However they are effective on virtually every species, from panfish to northern pike. It is a bit of a secret bait for anglers ice fishing as well.
The tube bait skirt consists of a bunch of thin ‘tails” that move seductively in the water with the slightest motion. They can imitate bait fish as well as crayfish and other crustaceans. Once again, Berkley gets the nod from Capt Jim with the Berkley Powerbait Power Tube.
Sarah loves fishing with tubes baits! She likes the Bite Me Tackle Big Dude Goby jig heads with Strike King Coffee tubes and Big Bite Baits Craw tubes threaded on. Sarah mostly uses the 4″ size on the larger bass that she fishes for.
Swimbaits are soft plastic lures that resemble a bait fish. They have a bit of a bulky body along with a tail that puts out a steady action and vibration when retrieved. Anglers can purchase lures that are one unit ready and rigged or just the soft plastic body which they can then rig themselves.
These lures are most often fished on a swimbait hook, but can be used on a jig head as well. While these lures can get a bit larger, the fact that they are retrieved slowly and steadily still puts them in the “finesse fishing” category. Capt Jim likes the Bass Assassin line of lures while Sarah does well on the Megabass Dark Sleeper series.
Finesse fishing, rigging and techniques.
There are several rigging and fishing techniques that anglers use when finesse fishing. These include Texas rig, drop shot rig, swimbait hooks, jig heads, Carolina rig, and wacky worm rig. Some bait can be rigged using all of these methods, while others are more specific.
Texas rigging a soft plastic lure involves the use of a specially designed hook. This hook allows for the bait to hang straight while having the point buried in the lure, rendering it virtually weedless. A sliding sinker can be added to get the lure down. It is most often used with a worm or creature bait.
The Texas rig is a terrific choice when fishing in or near heavy cover or vegetation. Anglers can slowly pull a worm or lizard over every log or rock as well as through weeds. Anglers “punch” a Texas rigged creature bait through mats of heavy cover as well. This is one situation where baitcasting tackle works fine.
Drop shot rig
The drop shot rig is an extremely effective finesse technique, particularly when used in a vertical presentation. It uses a weight at the bottom with a hook tied 12” to 18” above the weight, tight to the line. A soft plastic lure (any type can really be used) is then hooked through the nose.
The effectiveness of this presentation is that it suspends the lure just off the bottom, right in front of the fish. The rod tip is jiggled gently, causing the lure to dance and flutter. Game fish find this irresistible and this will trigger bites from inactive fish like to other presentation.
Swimbait hooks are similar to worm hooks, with a couple differences. They use some type of keeper to attach the bait to the eye of the hook. A weight is located on the bend, resulting the bait presenting horizontally in the water. The bait can then be hooked weedless. Most swimbaits have a “pocket” for the hook to ride in.
Swimbaits work best with a slow, steady retrieve, often just above the bottom or the tops of submerged vegetation. In most cases, this is a “big fish” bait. Anglers will usually get fewer bites, but they will be larger fish.
A jig head is an excellent vehicle to present a soft plastic finesse bait. A light jig head and a small grub will catch just about every fish species that swims. Many an anglers casting a 1/16 ounce jig for panfish has been surprised by a larger bass or pike that took it. Anglers can fish a grub, swimbait, or worm on a jig head effectively.
There are also a few “specialty” jig heads out there, specifically designed for finesse fishing. These include a Ned rig, which uses an oddly shaped head and a small, straight worm. Also, “Shaky Head” jig heads have a fine wire hook and if needed a weed guard. They are excellent for fishing worms and other finesse baits.
Wacky worm fishing is a very productive method. It almost always uses a finesse worm. What sets it apart is the hooking method; the hook is inserted in the center of the worm. It is cast out and allowed to slowly sink through the water column. The best aspect of this is that it is very easy for novice anglers to use.
Read more about wacky worm fishing in this article
The Carolina rig is used less than it used to be, due to the popularity of the drop shot rig. It is mostly used in deeper water over structure such as channel edges and other cover. It uses a leader between the hook and the weight allows the worm to float up above the bottom while the sinker crawls over the structure.
Finesse fishing produces a variety of species.
While many anglers associate finesse fishing with bass, the reality is that this technique of downsizing lures and slowing the presentation can produce on most fish species. There will always be days that smaller baits and more subdued retrieves will produce, even on bluegill and panfish.
Larger game fish such as walleye, northern pike, striped bass, and even trout will respond to finesse fishing techniques. Ice fishing is a perfect example of this. Anglers downsize everything in the cold, clear water. The same applies in open water fishing after a cold front moves through, bringing bright skies and cooler water.
In conclusion, this article on finesse fishing will help anglers better understand this extremely effective technique!