Finesse Fishing for Stubborn Bass

Finesse Fishing for Stubborn Bass

Flipping a jig or Texas-rigged softbait is a key presentation for anglers targeting bass holding close to cover. Often it's the only way to get a lure to these buried bass. At times they're active and strike the lure as it falls through the water column.

But they can become tight-lipped for a variety of reasons, many of which we can merely guess at. In these situations, finesse-style flippin' is needed to keep strikes coming.

Cold Water

Bass become tight-lipped for several reasons, but cold water early and late in the year typically reduces their activity level, causing them to feed less. When the water is cold and bass aren't moving much, they may be looking for a big meal when the time to feed arrives. In chilly spring conditions, fish need to prepare physiologically for the upcoming spawn, and big females, in particular, seek large prey. In fall, this tendency is less, but big bass sometimes go for larger items that may fulfill their metabolism for days on end, as winter approaches.


Many anglers associate finesse fishing with using small lures and light line, but finesse flippin' simply mean fishing slowly and precisely. That's why bulky jigs remain a viable option in several situations. I often use a 1/2-ounce black/blue War Eagle Flipping Jig with a Zoom Super Chunk trailer, as it represents a large meal. And with that much weight, I can flip it farther to cover more water.


//www.in-fisherman.com/files/2018/01/Finesse-Fishing-Jigs.jpg

When I flip a jig into cover, I let it sink to the bottom. Watch your line, as bass may bite on the fall and your line may barely twitch. Once it hits bottom, the rod does the work, as I ever so slightly I lift it and let it fall back. Sometimes you need to let a jig soak, as a big bass in heavy cover may need up to a minute to size up its meal. For such deadsticking to be successful, boat control is paramount to keep your jig in the strike zone for extended periods.

By paying close attention to details, from making a precise flip to working the jig back to the boat, FLW Tour Pro Ramie Colson Jr., has notched numerous wins and top-10 finishes on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. "When flipping in cold water, I take extra time in making sure each flip precisely targets a specific twig or section of a laydown because those bass are tight to the cover for a reason and they don't want to stray too far from it," he says.

In shallow water, I rely on my pair of Minn Kota Talons, as they neatly pin my boat to a spot so I can work a piece of cover or structure. Keeping the boat pinned in wind or current helps greatly in working the lure slowly and watching for light bites.

Using a lower gear-ratio reel helps work a jig slower, so I use the Wright & McGill Victory II model with 6.3:1 ratio and pair it with a Witch Doctor Oracle Pitchin' Stick, a 7.5-foot rod with medium-fast action and extra-heavy power. For these presentations, you want a rod that's light yet powerful.


Often, the amount of inviting cover is vast, so developing a pattern and eliminating unproductive areas increases your efficiency. Andy Morgan, FLW Tour pro from Tennessee, garnered a top-10 finish last May at the Mississippi River event at Lacrosse. "Identifying the characteristics of spots where you get bites is key to putting together an effective strategy," he says. "I don't want to cruise a long stretch of fallen trees with my flippin' stick if I can identify subtle patterns. You're far better off to identify the highest percentage spots rather than covering miles of water."

Dealing with Fishing Pressure

Another scenario that forces anglers to hone their finesse flippin' skills is when bass have seen a lot of fishing pressure. This is often the case in summer when bass occupying classic cover on popular fisheries have seen a vast array of lures, and perhaps been fooled by a few. If you've identified a stretch of cover that's holding good-quality bass, they're likely to remain nearby, so it can be wise to make small changes to your tackle to keep bites coming.


//www.in-fisherman.com/files/2018/01/Glen-Walker-Finesse-Fishing.jpg

One important change is reducing line size. Thinner line is less visible and it imparts a more natural action to your lure. My go-to line for flippin' is 20-pound-test Seaguar Flippin' Fluorocarbon. But when the bite gets tough, I switch to 17-pound Seaguar InvizX, which is extremely abrasion-resistant and has little stretch. And its smaller diameter allows a lure to move more naturally.

Another line change that can aid in getting bites is switching from braid to fluorocarbon. Braided line helps when flipping heavy vegetation, but sometimes this opaque line seems to spook bass as your lure descends in their face. I switch to Flippin' Fluorocarbon as it's abrasion-resistant, has reduced stretch, and is less visible underwater.

Lure Selection

Scaling down in size and weight can set your presentations apart and draw more bites. I've seen situations where switching from a 1/2-ounce to a 3/8-ounce jig dramatically increased the number of bites and even the size of fish. Downsizing the trailer reduces the lure's profile and alters its rate of fall and action. "Going from a Zoom Super Chunk to a Super Chunk Jr., is many times all it takes to give a 3/8-ounce jig a finesse profile," Colson says.

John Crews, Salem, Virginia, is a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, as well as owner and lure designer for Missile Baits. After 18 years of fishing 4-day events around the U.S., he's seen many hot bites fade, requiring back-up plans. "Patterns rarely remain constant for an entire tournament," Crews says, "and more often than not, the bite gets tougher. If I've been using a 3/4- or 1-ounce Missile Baits Ike's Head Banger Jig, I often switch to the Mini Flip Jig if I'm fishing wood, brush, or other hard cover. And for a trailer, I go from a Missile B Bomb to a Baby D Bomb, or else to a Craw Father if I want a bit more action in the trailer, but in a smaller package.

"In grass situations, I may use a Texas-rigged Missile Craw when the jig bite starts to fade and fish drop the lure," he continues. "The Missile Craw is a narrow lure that slides easily though even dense vegetation on a lighter sinker. And due to that lack of resistance, you easily detect light bites that occur when bass turn tough. With a 3/0-straight-shank hook, I can easily set the hook on bass I might miss with a jig."

//www.in-fisherman.com/files/2018/01/Finesse-Jigs.jpg

Though he owns an entire tackle company, he keeps color selections simple. "On dark days or when the water is murky, I use Bruiser (black-blue) or else California Love, a brownish, reddish hue," he says. "In clear water or on sunny days, I rely on Bamer Bug (green pumpkin with orange) a lot."

Reducing sinker weight can help when you're Texas-rigging softbaits and the bite turns tough. I tend to use the smallest tungsten weight I can get away with. Depending on water depth, current, wind, and the density of cover, you can scale down your weight by a size or two, say going from a 1/2-ounce sinker to a 3/8- or even 5/16-ounce model.

Behind that weight I scale down the lure, switching from a Zoom Z-Craw to the Z-Craw Jr., or to a Super Hog, which has a compact profile with minimal action. "I like to keep my soft-plastic selection simple whenever I'm flippin', but this is especially true when the bite is a tough," Morgan says. "The compact profile of a Z-Craw makes it a good choice in those situations." Indeed, Morgan has banked millions of dollars on this approach, winning three FLW Angler-of-the-Year titles along the way.

In any flippin' situation, an extremely sharp hook is important for hooking bass and getting them out of cover and into the boat. Moreover, matching the hook to softbaits gives them a more natural fall and appearance, and also hooks bass well. When downsizing, I use a 3/0 Trokar TK133 Big Nasty Flippin Hook instead of the 4/0 size. This style has the gap needed to hook and land big bass in smaller sizes.

Muddy Conditions

Heavy rain at any time of year can turn river systems muddy. With limited visibility, the strike zone of bass typically shrinks. Here, too, a finesse approach can help. Bass in such conditions often cling tight to shallow cover, relying on their ears and lateral lines to supplement limited vision.

//www.in-fisherman.com/files/2018/01/John-Crews-Favors-Finesse-Fishing.jpg

At times, a bigger weight is the key to generating strikes in near-mud scenarios. Bass tend not to roam then, but wait for vulnerable prey to wander within range. When a lure falls in front of their face, they react quickly, not wanting the prey to escape. In this situation, I use a modified flippin' approach with a big jig or heavy tungsten weight that falls quickly to catch a bass' attention.

If I don't get a strike on the initial drop, I pull my lure back out of that crevice, aim for another one, and repeat the process. In prime cover, such as a fallen tress extending from the bank out over 5 to 6 feet of water, I try to hit every branch, twig, trunk, or nook because each of them is an ambush spot where bass are likely to lurk.

When you get bites, pay close attention to where those fish are holding in the cover. Is it on the upstream or downstream side of the laydown; the larger limbs or root ball; outer branches or trunk?

Today, finesse fishing seems to be playing a larger role in bass presentations of all sorts. Traditionally, finesse fishing and flipping could be considered opposites. But by taking some of the finesse mindset to heavy-cover, heavy-tackle flippin' tactics, you find you can get inactive bass to strike when the bite slows slow down.

*Glenn Walker, Savage, Minnesota, is a freelance writer, tournament fisherman, and fishing industry insider. For more information check glennwalkerfishing.com or on Facebook at glennwalkerfishing.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

What

What's New from Cummings Nets?

There's more than meets the eye with new Cummings Nets Red Line. Find out what. With Mike Powell of Cummings and Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

X-Factor Smallmouths

X-Factor Smallmouths

The In-Fisherman staff keeps it on the cutting edge, as they use the X-Factor plus topwater lures for smallmouths.

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

From rugged reliability to smooth integration of cutting edge technology across several different platforms, OSG's Lynn Burkhead learns that there's much to like about the new Optimum and Optimum TS downriggers from Canon.

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven riggings. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven...

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

8 Best Catfish Rigs - When, Where and How to Use Them

In-Fisherman

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...


Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at catching Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

The best bites for early-season smallmouths tend to occur shallow. Bass

Tips & Tactics for Early-Season Smallmouths

Matt Straw - April 06, 2020

The best bites for early-season smallmouths tend to occur shallow.

Understand the importance of sinkers in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

Choose the Right Weight for Bass Fishing

Game & Fish Digital Staff

Understand the importance of sinkers in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

Non-tournament anglers won't kill smallmouths caught deep if they follow a few simple rules. Bass

Fizzing Smallmouths

In-Fisherman Staff - June 05, 2020

Non-tournament anglers won't kill smallmouths caught deep if they follow a few simple rules.

Learn how wind, water clarity impact topwater bass fishing in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

Topwater Techniques, Lure Selections for Bass

Game & Fish Digital Staff

Learn how wind, water clarity impact topwater bass fishing in this episode of Beyond the Bait...

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now