What is Finesse Bass Fishing? Meaning, Setup, Techniques

This is a term that you will hear very often when guys talk about bass fishing. It’s a skill or approach that is simply taking over as the sport grows in popularity. It’s also a method that everyone should learn or get used to if they’re going to get into the realm of bass fishing.

What is Finesse Bass Fishing? Meaning, Setup, Techniques

The Meaning of Finesse Fishing

When I think of the word ‘finesse’, I immediately think of delicacy, subtlety in action, or skill - and these terms all link to the definition of ‘finesse’. This basically sums up finesse fishing, as it involves presentations that are more subtle, natural, and precise. 

Finesse fishing for bass involves adjusting your presentation in a way that makes your lure more natural, less imposing, and therefore for appealing to finicky bass - especially if they see lures on a regular basis. This method of catching bass is taking over the sport - especially in the competitive scene.

Why You Should Own Finesse Bass Fishing

You’ve heard the term and you’ve probably been uninterested in trying it. It’s slower, it can be less exciting, but it works, and it works better than any other method - all things considered. 

Here are just some reasons why you should install finesse fishing in your arsenal of techniques:

Our Waters are Pressured

No matter where you’re based, the chances are your local lake is getting hammered by boats and anglers on a daily basis. This leads to fish becoming a lot more selective and educated on what they bite.

The more natural, subtle, and basic your presentation is, the greater chance an educated bass is going to bite. Although this may not always be the most exciting method of targeting bass, you’ll get way more bites on this presentation compared to other imposing baits. 

Fishing pressure becomes especially prominent in a competition environment and finesse fishing is quickly becoming the most used style of fishing on the circuit.

Light Line = More Bites

Because you’ll be fishing lighter and smaller profile baits, you’ll want to match that with lighter, thinner line. Light line has plenty of great advantages, with the main one being enhanced action on your bait.

Thinner, lighter line means less restriction of movement on the bait, as opposed to heavier line - which has more restriction of movement within the water column. This less restricted movement means a more lifelike and natural action, and this is simply more attractive to any bass. 

Lighter line also means you’ll get to the bottom faster - which is ideal when fishing deeper channels. This is important for certain seasons where bass are less active and sitting further down the water column. 

Dealing With Weather

Weather pressure systems play a massive role when it comes to catching bass. Cold fronts and other high-pressure weather patterns can turn any bass off the bite, leading to a frustrating trip of fishing. 

Cold fronts are a scary period for bass anglers, especially if they notice one just before their weekends fishing. Bass can become less active during these short periods and your usual go-to lure may not get picked up anymore. 

I have no doubt in saying that finesse presentations are your best bet during these periods, as bass will generally only look to the most appealing or natural food. Having an array of finesse techniques will give you great versatility when dealing with unwanted weather patterns. 

You Can Follow Fellow Anglers

Unless you’re going to race guys to hit certain spots first - the chances are you’re going to be fishing in an area that has already been worked. There’s a common misconception about these spots and many anglers will avoid them.

The beauty of finesse fishing is that you can follow boats and get those ‘second-hand’ waters. There’s a good chance the guys before you were purely power fishing and throwing less attractive baits to selective bass.

Slowing down your presentation, downsizing, and remaining in the strike zone for as long as possible will often get bites that weren’t accessible by the previous fishermen. 

All-Season Method

Finesse applications will work all year, no matter what season you’re in - simple as that. The wide array of finesse techniques each have their place for different scenarios and waters - these techniques will be discussed a bit later.

This guy couldn't resist a downsized Senko - wacky rigged.

The Finesse Fishing Setup

In terms of equipment and tackle, there needs to be a considerable adjustment compared to the usual bass fishing techniques. When I say usual, I mean your Texas rigs, spinnerbaits, and so on. 

One key thing to remember is to match the weight of your lure with your equipment. This will result in feeling more bites and just presenting your bait as best as possible. 

Finesse Fishing Rod Setup

Most finesse setups are on a spinning rod. The reason for this is better castability, as you’re casting a very light lure. Baitcasting setups are better suited to heavier presentations. 

In terms of action, you’ll want a lighter action to match the weight of your bait. A medium-light or medium action is ideal and this will benefit your casting accuracy majorly.

Imparting action on your bait is also very important, and that’s why you’ll want a spinning rod with a softer tip. A lighter rod with a soft tip will help give your bait a subtle, stationary action - without ripping it out of the strike zone. 

Sensitivity also plays a huge role in finesse fishing - as most of the time you’ll be fishing on a semi-slack line. Being able to detect bites of all kinds is crucial. A lighter rod with a soft, fast tip will aid sensitivity majorly. 

Finesse Fishing Reel Setup

For the reel, nothing special is needed. A spinning reel that is braid-ready and reliable in overall operation will do the job. You definitely don’t need to spend an arm and a leg for a finesse reel - rather spend more on the rod. 

A size 1000 reel is lighter and more comfortable, but it may not be the best for line management or pulling in lunkers. Ideally, a 2500 sized reel will have the necessary line capacity to deal with any bass. 

Line For Finesse Fishing

This can be a very subjective topic, as many anglers have their preferences when it comes to line selection for their finesse presentations. 

An application that changed the game of bass fishing, was the introduction of braid to a fluorocarbon leader. This setup provides the ultimate in terms of sensitivity, strength, and presentation. Pulling power is absolutely vital when going for lunkers and this combo ensures you can get big bass out of tight areas.

Braid is used as it is extremely tough and also has zero stretch - which helps with sensitivity and hook setting. Braid will seldom get cut off and does a great job in dealing with underwater structure.  

Fluorocarbon as a leader is key with this setup. It has very little stretch and incredible strength, especially considering how thin it can be. Fluorocarbon is also arguably less visible - helping to hide the imperfection of your presentation.

Line Setup:

  • Braid: 15lb braid has a pretty similar diameter to that of 6-8lb fluorocarbon. This makes for comfortable knot tying and overall manageability. It also provides the necessary strength to deal with large bass and dangerous underwater structure. Seaguar’s Smackdown is a world-class braid.
  • Fluorocarbon leader: The length of the leader can differ, especially when fishing different water clarities. The shorter you can make your leader, the better for the presentation of your bait. Leader lengths can range from 10-25ft+. In terms of strength, 6-8lb is the usual when fishing finesse - but this can go up to 12lb. As mentioned earlier, the lighter the line - the better the action. Seaguar’s Tatsu or Inivzx are both unbelievable fishing lines.
  • Straight fluorocarbon: Another option is to go for a full fluorocarbon spool. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, as fluorocarbon has very little stretch while having immense strength. Fluorocarbon has developed majorly over the years, which has caused many to avoid braid and rather go with straight fluoro. 

Whether you go with braid to fluorocarbon or pure fluorocarbon, the quality of modern lines have ensured that a spool will last you the whole season and potentially longer. 

Finesse Fishing Techniques for Bass

There are several finesse fishing rigs and each has their place for different waters and scenarios. I’d like to cover the basics of some of the major techniques when it comes to finesse tactics. 

Drop Shot

The drop shot rig has won more money than any other presentation. It has grown into the most prolific and successful technique, and it is still evolving today. 

The rig has a leader attached to the eye of your hook, which has a weight at the end of it. This results in the weight sitting on the bottom, with the soft plastic flowing freely in-between. Moving the bait rather than the weight is absolutely key with this technique, as this is a more stationary presentation. 

Drop shot rigs can remain in the strike zone for as long as you like and a popular way to fish it is to wait for a bass to find it, rather than you finding the bass. 

This is without a doubt an all-season technique. If the fishing ever gets tough, a drop shot should always be considered.

The Drop Shot Rig for Bass Fishing
Simple illustration of the drop shot rig

Ned Rig

Another presentation that is starting to dominate the scene - the ned rig. A simple and arguably unattractive presentation that for some reason, can’t stop getting bit. 

This technique is dead simple as it only involves two terminal tackle elements - a mushroom-styled jighead and a soft plastic. This presentation is motionless, quiet, but quite often, irresistible. 

The ned rig also ‘stands’ on the bottom, which often brings about curiosity in bass. The gliding motion of the bait, when twitched, is also very attractive to bass. 

The Ned Rig for Bass Fishing
Basic illustration of the ned rig

Wacky Rig

Weird and wonderful, the wacky rig. The unique rigging style of this technique creates a unique bait action that bass can’t get enough of. 

The wacky-rigged worm will sink slower and will stay in the strike zone for longer - a classic finesse characteristic. The falling action of a wacky rig has a subtle little shimmy - which drives bass mad. 

There are several different wacky hook options. Some being weightless, weighted, or weedless. With each hook, there is the same unique shimmy. 

The weightless wacky will be better for shallower water, while the weighted wacky will be better for finding those deeper strike zones. 

The Wacky Rig for Bass Fishing
Basic illustration of the wacky rig.

Neko Rig

The neko rig is very similar to the wacky rig, but just with one added piece of hardware - a nail. A nail is placed in the head of your favorite worm and this gives your presentation a unique but attractive action - especially once it’s on the bottom.

The nail in the bait keeps the bottom half of the bait afloat on the bottom, almost like a ned rig in a way. This is seen as a pretty new technique in bass fishing, but it’s growing very quickly. 

One thing to note with both the wacky and the neko rig, is that most of the bites you’ll get are on the initial fall - so track your line after your cast. 

A slight adjustment to the wacky rig that just gets plenty of bites - learning the neko rig will give you added versatility when fishing pressured waters.

The Neko Rig for Bass Fishing
Simple illustration for the neko rig.

Shaky Head

The last technique I’ll be talking about - the shaky head. This extremely basic application has been a winner for a very long time and many still turn to this technique when nothing else seems to cut it. 

The shaky head includes a jig head that varies in style and weight, with most having a screw where the bait is placed. Other than that, all you need is a suitable bait - and trust me, there are endless options for this.

Unlike most other finesse applications where the hook is more exposed, the shaky head hides the hook point pretty well, meaning you can throw your bait into more dense cover with less threat of getting snagged - similar, but not as risk-free as a Texas rig.

‘Shaking’ a shaky head involves twitching the rod tip slightly to give the bait a wriggly, lifelike action that bass really struggle to resist. For this reason, the shaky head is always a great option when you’re struggling to get a bite. 

The Shaky Head for Bass Fishing
Basic illustration of the shaky head.

Wrapping Up

As mentioned earlier, finesse fishing is quickly taking over bass fishing as the most prolific method in catching bass consistently. 

Our waters are constantly gaining pressure throughout every season, and bass are more educated than ever. Adding subtlety, delicacy, and precision to our presentations will greatly increase our chances of getting bit all year round. 

The process of finesse fishing may seem like a boring or less exciting one, and we may not be able to cover the same water as we would with a reaction bait. However, learning to master just a few of these techniques will guarantee getting fish in the boat - even in the toughest of conditions. 

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