When it comes to Bass, finesse fishing is the most misunderstood technique on the water. Anglers like to use the phrase, but they don’t understand what it means.
Okay, yes, we know that it means lighter tackle, spinning reels, smaller lures, and deeper water, but is that it? So much of finesse fishing applies to the presentation rather than the tackle.
The goal of this guide is to help anglers understand how finesse fishing can complement your normal routine and actually help you catch some Bass when they’re not biting.
What is finesse fishing?
To get a firm understanding of what finesse fishing is, let’s look at the word. Other words for finesse are skill, expertise, and flair. This method of fishing requires you to pay closer attention to factors that may impact your success on the water.
So, let’s be clear. You can finesse a crankbait with a 20+ lb line, and you can do so in any water depth you want – it’s all about the presentation. The technique requires you to think about additional variables such as weather, water clarity, barometric pressure, cloud cover, lure colors, noise, and a bunch of other factors you’d normally ignore.
These reasons are why I love this style of fishing so much. I can bring any lure to any body of water and catch Bass because I understand what the Bass are doing based on my surroundings and the current situation.
To get started with finesse fishing, you’ll want to use a lighter rod, smaller lures, lighter line, natural colors, and natural sounding lures. I’ll get into specifics shortly.
When to Finesse Fish?
The big question still up in the air is – when should you finesse fish for Bass? This technique works best when the fish aren’t biting, so that would usually be when a cold front passes through. I’m about to get really scientific on you here, so buckle up (good thing I watched a lot of Bill Nye The Science Guy).
When it’s cold out, the barometric pressure is high because cold air is denser than warm air. Bass bite better when pressure is moderate or low because the excess pressure on their bodies causes discomfort. In addition, extended periods of cold air lowers the water temperature, which slows their cold blooded metabolism down, resulting in a more lethargic fish.
During periods of low barometric pressure paired with warm temperatures, Bass are at their most active. That’s why I always suggest warm and rainy days for the best Bass fishing. The pressure is low, and water temperatures are warm during these conditions.
So, to answer the question in plain English. You should bring out your finesse tackle when there’s a sudden change in temperature as a result of a cold front.
Where to Finesse Fish?
Finesse fishing typically takes place in deeper water. This is because the barometric pressure in the shallow is too strong, so the Bass retreat to deeper areas where conditions are more stable.
This is the general rule of thumb, and I’ve tested it out plenty of times. While I’m not saying you can’t finesse Bass in four feet of water, I’m saying it’s not an ideal choice, and you’ll do much better at 10-20 foot depths.
Your fishfinder will be your best friend because you’ll need to look for sudden changes in the base of the lake or river to find the Bass. They generally hang out around dips, peaks, and drop-offs. If you’re fishing during the spring, I’d suggest going a little closer to shore because they’ll still be guarding their spawning area.
How to Choose a Finesse Fishing Rod and Reel
Now let’s talk about gear. The big misconception is that you need to go out there with a child’s rod and throw ⅛ oz jigs into the water until your arms fall off. That is a myth. You can still use average-sized tackle for finesse fishing. These are my recommendations. They’re not gospel, but this is how I do it.
For your rod, I’d go with a light action 6.9-foot spinning rod. The Ugly Stik from Shakespeare is a popular choice, and St. Croix makes some great light action rods as well. They’re affordable, lightweight, and easy to handle since you’re doing a lot of work with this technique.
When it comes to a finesse reel, the number one thing you want to pay attention to is your gear ratio.
The gear ratio is essentially the number of times you need to crank the handle to turn the spool. So, if you have a gear ratio of 6.1:1, it means each time you crank that handle, the spool turns 6.1 times. For finessing Bass, you need a high gear ratio spinning reel for a couple of different reasons.
Firstly, lightweight lures create a lot of slack line so you’ll need to retrieve it quickly, otherwise you won’t feel small nibbles. Secondly, finesse fishing requires you to work the rod a lot more than other methods, so keeping the line tight is important to the presentation of the lure.
Whenever you’re fishing jigs, worms, or small topwaters, a high gear ratio reel is always the right choice.
Believe it or not, your line is one of the most important considerations. Finessing works best when Bass aren’t biting, but it also works when they’re feeling skeptical. If you’ve ever fished a seriously “overfished” area, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
When you drive to the lake and pull up to the launch and see 25 trailers waiting in line to get their boat in the water, you know it’s time to break out the finesse tackle.
Choosing a finesse line is all about subtlety. You’re trying to present your lure in the most natural way possible, and the best way to do that is with a fluorocarbon line. Fluorocarbon has the same light refraction properties as water, which means it’s nearly invisible.
So, this is your advantage. While everyone else on the lake is spooking the Bass by throwing mono and braided, you sneak up with fluorocarbon and make the fish take a second glance at your lure.
The complete finesse fishing tackle set would include a 6-6.9 foot light action spinning rod, a high gear ratio spinning reel, and a 6-8 pound clear fluorocarbon line.
Rigging for Finesse Fishing: The Big Three
There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding what lures to use for finesse fishing, but I want to clear it up and cover the only three rigs you need.
Soft Plastic Worms
Soft plastics will always be the number one choice for this technique. Get a ¼ ounce or smaller Senko worm, rig it wacky style, and vertical jig it in open water of about 10-15 feet in depth.
As for colors, you want to take a look at your surroundings. If you’re dealing with clear water, go with something natural like a brown or pumpkin. When the water is murky, I’d go with a red or maroon colored worm. You don’t want to get too fancy with the colors because your goal is not to intimidate the Bass.
Always keep in mind that Bass bite for one of two reasons: You enticed it to react to your lure, or you created a desire in the Bass to feed.
Going with a drop shot gives you an almost unfair advantage. No other presentation can match the realistic nature of this technique. The sinker is also a crucial part of your casting accuracy because you’re fishing with such light tackle.
If you’re struggling to get the Bass to take your standard tackle, try switching to a lightweight Senko worm and a drop shot rig. Toss it near weed beds and around structure and see what happens.
When all else fails, take a ⅛ ounce jighead, hook up a small grub, and vertical jig around dock pilings, and you’ll never question whether finesse fishing works again.
Go with natural colors, no matter what the conditions are. When you’re fishing for Bass that are skeptical, the last thing you want to do is scare them away.
Putting It All Together
There’s a lot of information here, so let’s bring it all home so you can take action on what you’ve learned.
Finesse fishing is about taking a more delicate approach instead of presenting the bait aggressively. By doing this, you’re making the Bass believe they have an easy meal on their hands. It works best during periods of high barometric pressure, when water temperatures are cold and Bass aren’t biting.
The technique involves fishing light tackle on a high gear ratio reel. You should always use a clear fluorocarbon line, and choose soft plastics and neutral colors whenever possible.
Now you can use finesse fishing to leapfrog over all the other anglers on the lake who are coming up empty. Get out there and impress some people!
Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below with some of your best finesse fishing tips and tricks!
Coty Perry is a writer for YourBassGuy.com. He didn’t love bass fishing at first cast. It took a few (thousand) throws for him to become obsessed with mastering every possible fishing style, technique, and lure. As a third-generation angler, he has a plethora of knowledge and experience on the water and loves sharing what he knows.