By Ken Poor
Finesse fishing is for the most part, downsizing the lure or bait you are using and then fishing it very slow and precisely in the strike zone. Anytime you are faced with extreme seasonal weather conditions, finesse fishing should be your “go to tactic”. Certainly the hot weather during the summer is a good example of extreme weather. Just about any winter in the northern states would also qualify as extreme weather and as most ice fishermen know finesse fishing is a must.
The reason for using finesse tactics is that during extreme weather conditions a fish’s metabolism slows way down and when fish are inactive they will not expend great amounts of energy to chase down food or your lure. While other environmental conditions may trigger this lethargic or inactive condition, it is especially predictable during both extreme hot and cold weather.
Of course bass and walleye, by nature, are considered ambush feeders and will always expend the least amount of energy for the greatest amount of benefit. In other words, bass must be very actively feeding to chase a lure even a short distance.
Finesse fishing works well during these tough fishing conditions because your presentation is fished at a very slow speed and that keeps the bait in the strike zone for the maximum practical time. From a fish’s perspective, they should see your lure as an easy meal and one that it does not have to expend very much energy to catch and eat.
The small baits and lures used when finesse fishing match up best with a 6-foot, medium light action, spinning rod with a soft tip, but this can vary depending on the type of lure you plan to use. For most finesse tactics I spool my spinning reel with 10-pound test braided line. The 10-pound test braided line has a diameter equivalent to about 2-pound test monofilament line.
The thin diameter of the line is important because it makes it easy to cast tiny lightweight lures and also allows the lure to run at maximum depth. In addition to the benefits of the thin line and added strength of a braided line it is extremely sensitive providing a great feel for the cover or structure you are fishing, even with a lightweight lure. Line sensitivity is also important for detecting bites from lethargic fish.
Lure selection for finesse fishing does not require a separate tackle box filled with exotic lures. In fact most fishermen probably have several lures in their tackle box that will work fine. There are some tricks to rigging them correctly and then presenting them so that they will be more effective during extreme weather conditions.
The most common artificial lures used for finesse fishing are tube jigs, small plastic worms, plastic
creatures such as crawfish, lizards or centipedes and small crankbaits. When finesse fishing plastics they should be 4-inches long or less and the crankbaits should be about 2-inches long. As a starting point for color selection especially in clear water, lure color should match available forage. Experimenting with colors is okay, but more importantly let the fish tell you what they want.
Depth, amount and type of cover, or the type of structure you are fishing will determine how you should rig your lure. Keep in mind that bass and walleye will move to the cooler deep water in hot weather, so much of your fishing will be at depths over 20-feet. Even when the fish are deep, it is important to understand that you should use the lightest weight possible and no weight at all whenever practical.
If you are fishing in an area with deep plant growth, rig your plastic weedless or Texas style. Use a thin wire hook and the lightest weight practical. Your plastic bait should fall to the bottom very slowly. When your bait is on the bottom, let it set for several seconds, then give it a slow twitch by gently shaking your rod. Keep the slack out of your line and at the same time very slowly work your lure back to the boat.
Deep low growing weeds, rocks, logs or similar types of deep structure can be fished effectively using a using a finesse technique called Doodling with a worm set-up wacky style. To rig a worm wacky style, fold a 4-inch plastic worm in half and run a thin wire hook completely through the center of the plastic worm at the fold. This should give you equal halves of the worm on each side of the hook.
Lower the bait down to where it hangs just over the top of the structure, lightly twitch it and then let it just hang there again for several seconds. Keep repeating this technique until you have covered the area completely. A wacky worm is not a weedless set-up, but it is very effective when worked close to the bottom in areas with sparse weed growth.
Carolina Rigs are another good set-up for finesse fishing especially when the fish are very deep, the bottom is relatively snag free or any other time conditions dictate a slightly heavier weight. To set-up the Carolina rig, thread a small egg sinker on your line, tie on a barrel swivel and tie a 3-foot leader to the other side of the swivel. The leader can be rigged with a floating or sinking plastic worm, plastic creatures, tube jigs and even small floating crankbaits for bass. Live baits such as minnows, leeches or nightcrawlers are generally your best choice for walleye.
The split shot rig is the light version of the Carolina Rig and is a simple way of tying your hook on the end of your line and then adding a split shot, typically, 12 to 18-inches above the hook. The split shot rig is best fished on a spinning rod and reel with light line. A good set-up would be a 6-foot light action spinning rod with a fast taper and the reel spooled with 6 to 8-pound test monofilament line. Dress your hook with small plastic worms, grubs or creatures rigged weedless.
The drop shot rig is simply a way of tying your hook up your line, typically 12 to 18-inches, and putting the lead weight below it. The drop shot is best fished on light line and spinning outfits. A good set-up would be a 6-foot, light action spinning rod, with a fast taper and spool your reel with 6 to 8-pound test monofilament line.
Drop shot rigs are a popular way to fish small plastic baits, either weedless or with the hook exposed, such as plastic worms, grubs and creatures. It is an easy rig to set-up and fish, but more importantly it catches bass. There are drop shot hooks on the market that make it very easy and fast to set up a drop shot rig.
Many other techniques would qualify as finesse tactics, but the key is to down size your bait and work them very slowly. Even when faced with tough fishing conditions, finesse fishing will almost always put some fish in the boat.