For years on end, a 1/32-ounce mushroom-style jig with either a No. 4 or a No. 6 hook has played a critical role in the repertoire of Midwest finesse anglers. It is especially effective when they ply shallow-water lairs that are adorned with laydowns, flooded terrestrial vegetation, piles of rocks and boulders, riprap, manmade brush piles, aquatic vegetation, and other kinds of objects that litter our waterways.
What's more, it facilitates our incessant quest to employ a no-feel retrieve.
To our dismay, however, we lost our primary source of 1/32-ounce mushroom-style jigs in 2017. And since then, Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, has been working with Robert Shue to create a state-of-the-art mushroom-style jig that weighs 1/32 an ounce and possesses a No. 6, No. 4, or No. 2 hook. It is called the 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig.
Myers is an occasional contributor to the Finesse News Network and In-Fisherman's Midwest Finesse column, reporting about how, when, where, and why he plies the streams in West Virginia for smallmouth bass with Midwest finesse tactics.
Shue is the proprietor of River Rock Custom Baits in Waynesboro, Virginia. And during the winter of 2016-17, he converted Travis Myers into becoming a River Rock disciple.
And nowadays Myers and Shue converse almost daily about how, when, and where to use Midwest finesse tactics to catch the smallmouth bass that abide in the rivers and streams that crisscross the Appalachian Mountain region and nearby environs.
As their friendship developed, Shue began manufacturing a 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig, which he calls a Tactical Finesse Jig. Then in February of 2018, Shue began manufacturing the 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig, which he calls an ultra-finesse jig. As of now, they are a special-order item. Therefore, he makes them only when an angler orders them, and he suspects that most orders can be made and shipped in two to three weeks.
Shue reported in an email that the diameter of the head is about .250 inches or a quarter of an inch. Its circumference is about .785 inches or slightly more than three-quarters of an inch. The head is about .093 inches or three-thirty-seconds of an inch thick.
Each jig is built around an Eagle Claw 570 black-platinum hook, which are corrosion resistant. It is available in three hook sizes: No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6. From the bend of the hook to the face of the jig, the No. 2 hook is fifteen-sixteenths of an inch long. The No. 4 hook is thirteen-sixteenths of an inch long. The No. 6 hook is eleven-sixteenths of an inch long. Myers notes that the hooks on most finesse jigs are too long. And he has found that a long hook prevents a soft-plastic bait from undulating and quivering alluringly. But Myers says that is not the case with the River Rock's 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig that Shue has created.
The gap between the point and shank of the No. 2 hook is three-eighths of an inch. The gap between the point and shank of the No. 4 hook is five-sixteenths of an inch. The gap between the point and shank of the No. 6 hook is nine-thirty-seconds of an an inch. Midwest finesse anglers work with an exposed hook, and an exposed hook with a smaller gap is relatively snag-free. The small gap, however, does not impede these thin-wire hooks from readily penetrating the flesh in the mouth of a black bass.
A wire bait keeper radiates from the back of the head and is positioned parallel to the shank of the hook. The bait keeper is five-sixteenths of an inch long.
They are available in black, blue, green-pumpkin-black, red, and yellow. A package of 10 costs $7.00.
On Feb. 14, 15, and 16, we exchanged a series of emails with Myers about how he uses the 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his emails:
Straightaway, Myers said that the 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig is the only jig that he uses, and he uses all three hook sizes. It is, in fact, the first jig that he has not had to modify before he affixes it to a soft-plastic bait and fishes with it. "Simply put," he said, "they are my perfect jig and one that has been in my head for a lot of years hoping that someone would offer it."
If he is dissecting sections of a stream that are embellished with flooded trees, laydowns, and ranks of boulders, Myers will use the jig with the hook that has the least amount of gap between the point of the hook and the torso of the soft-plastic bait. This tactic prevents that rig from becoming easily snagged between the crevices of the boulders and on the limbs of the trees and laydowns. Thus, he will often opt for the No.6 hook when he is probing snag-filled lairs.
Myers employs the No. 2 hook with a River Rock Solid Head Finesse Tube. It is 2 1/8 inches long. Shue creates customized tubes and other soft-plastic baits for anglers, and the 2 1/8-incher that Myers uses is a customized one. According to Myers, the No. 2 hook will also work well on River Rock's 2 3/4-inch Fat Stick and three-inch Single Tail Grub.
As for the No.4 hook, Myers says it works well with River Rock's 3 1/2-inch Helgripede, three-inch Single Tail Grub, and 2 3/4-inch and shortened Fat Sticks.
He uses the No. 6 hook with the three-inch River Rock's Savvy Shad and a shortened River Rock's 4 1/2-inch SM Killer, which is a finesse worm. He is fond of using either a Bluntnose Shiner Savvy Shad or an Emerald Shiner Savvy Shad when the smallmouth bass are abiding in their wintertime haunts, which occurs when the water temperature is below 45 degrees.
Most of the time, Myers opts for the red 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig. But there will be spells, when the other colors will come into play, such as when the water temperature is below 45 degrees, and then he regularly uses a blue one.
He concluded his discourse about the merits of River Rock's 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig by noting that it facilitates his ability to implement a no-feel retrieve. In addition, it does not rapidly plummet to the bottom, but instead it falls slowly and beguilingly. Another important factor is that it is relatively snag-free when he is plying boulder-laden and flooded-timber-laden environs. Also, the thin-wire hooks allow the smallmouth bass to hook themselves. Like scores of veteran Midwest finesse anglers, Myers knows that it is often better to err on the side of lightness and smallness, and River Rock's 1/32-ounce Tactical Finesse Jig allows him to accomplish this feat on every outing.
(1) Here is a link to River Rock Baits' website: https://river-rock-custom-baits.myshopify.com.
(2) Here are links to two Midwest Finesse gear guides that feature River Rock's soft-plastic baits:
(3) Here is a short history about small jigs and hooks in the world of Midwest finesse fishing:
For decades, many Midwest finesse anglers have wondered, fretted, and debated about jig sizes and hook sizes.
One of the cardinal tenets that one faction of Midwest finesse anglers subscribe to is that it is best to err on the side of lightness and smallness rather than err on the side of bigger hooks and heavier jigs. Years ago Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, was a member of this faction. Back in 1991, he was quoted in Michael Jones' book entitled "The Complete Guide to Finesse Bass Fishing," and he said "fishermen tend to use too much weight. And with too much weight the baits don't work right." Hibdon was one of the pioneers of Midwest finesse fishing. In 1960, he joined his father and brothers as a guide on the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. One of their primary largemouth bass rigs was a Creme worm affixed to a split-shot rig, which consisted of an exposed No. 4 claw-style hook and either a BB- or No. 1-size split shot placed about 12 inches above the hook and worm; this was the same rig that the Hibdons employed when they used live crayfish or live creek chubs, and they affixed the hook through the last tergum segment of a crayfish's abdomen or through the lips or gape of the creek chub. As the years unfolded, Guido employed tiny bucktail jigs that were adorned with either a small and customized pork eel or chunk. He also wielded a Bass Buster Lures' Beetle, Beetle Spin, and Mar-Lynn Lure Company's Ensley Reaper, and various sizes of the Guido Bug, which Dion Hibdon created for his school's science project in 1977. Ultimately, he became the bass-fishing world's tube guru, and Michael Jones' book lauds Guido's genius with a tube.
Nowadays, a significant number of Midwest finesse devotees are using lighter jigs and smaller hooks than Guido Hibdon used during the formative years of Midwest finesse fishing. These anglers contend that the lighter jig expedites the no-feel presentation that lies at the heart of Midwest finesse fishing. These anglers also note that a smaller hook allows a soft-plastic bait to undulate and quiver more than can be accomplished when it is affixed to a jig with a big hook, and according to the experiences of these small-hook advocates, these quivers and undulations seem to help elicit strikes from wary, tentative, and unresponsive largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass.
And as these anglers espoused the virtues of these small jigs and hooks, it has generated some debate. For instance, there are scores and scores of anglers who maintain that it is necessary to feel what their jigs are doing at all times and all places, and they contend it is an impossible task to feel what a light-weight jig is doing. There are other anglers who think that small hooks are not an effective way to hook and battle largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass, and these anglers argue that it is a figment of the imaginations of the small-hook devotees that the quivers and undulations provoke strikes.
This debate has been raging for many years. And it is unlikely that these two conflicting perspectives will ever be ameliorated. Nevertheless, there should be a multitude of Midwest finesse anglers who are thankful that Robert Shue has created a 1/32-ounce mushroom-style jig for them to wield.