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Finicky Bass – Finesse Fishing Tips and Techniques

This will part one of a two-part series from 17-year-old tournament Angler Patrick Zajdel

Being a successful tournament angler consists of many factors. To me one of the most important factors that can make it or break it during tournament day is the decisions we as anglers make on the water. Knowing when to approach bass with finesse tactics as opposed to power presentations and understanding the feeding patterns of the fish during different periods of the year is what I believe sets the great anglers apart from the good.

The formula to becoming a successful finesse angler is quite simple. It consists of three things; smaller baits, lighter tackle and a slower, more subtle presentation.

There are many things to consider when faced with a situation like this; however, one of the biggest factors an angler should be aware of is how the water temperature affects the metabolism of the fish. Finesse tactics can produce quality bites when nothing else will, especially in the spring and fall months of the year when the water temperatures are in the high 40’s to mid 60’s. In colder water temperatures the Bass’ metabolism drops drastically, thus making them very inactive or lethargic. Finesse tactics are unbeatable when bass are in a negative feeding mood. Their strike zone is significantly smaller and therefore will not expend too much energy to chase a meal down. Finesse presentations allow you to slow down, and put the bait in front of the Bass’ mouth, where they will eat it! Nevertheless, do not get too caught up in this, while a much slower approach is dominant in the colder months of the year, finesse tactics are equally effective in warmer months of the year – let the fish tell you what they want.

There are some tips and techniques that you need to know to become a better angler when faced with these conditions. I will share with you some of the finesse techniques and patterns that may help you catch more fish when it comes to these cold water or inactive periods. Through multiple tournaments and countless fish caught, I was able to narrow down my technique arsenal to three particular finesse tactics that will allow me to cover the entire water column from top to bottom in search of both large and smallmouth bass! In this article I will cover techniques for both shallow and deep water bass, as well as techniques for suspended fish.

Shakey Head

The first technique that I want to discuss is the Shakey Head which is typically fished in shallow water up to 8 feet in-depth. This rig is extremely effective in the spring and fall months of the year when bass are coming off the beds (spring) or moving up into the shallows and strap on the feeding bag for winter (fall). When traditional shallow water techniques do not produce, the Shakey Head will! It can be fished around man-made structure such as docks and bridge pilings, however, it is equally, if not more effective when fished around hard bottom structure, submerged timber and transitional areas such as drop offs and outside weed lines. The Shakey Head is a simple rig; it consists of a jig head and a finesse worm. Almost 100% of the time I am fishing a Shakey Head I am throwing a D&M Custom Baits 5 or 7 inch finesse worm, rigged on an Owner Shakey Ultrahead 3/32oz. Jig. When approaching bass with a finesse technique such as the Shakey Head, it is important to use a lighter weight for softer entry of the bait into the water to avoid spooking the fish. The reason why this rig is so effective for lethargic bass is because you can precisely place it right in front of the fish to where they do not have to exert almost any energy to grab it!

My equipment of choice for the Shakey Head technique consists of the brand new 2012 Shimano Crucial 7’1M Shakey Head rod released at iCast 2011, paired up with the Stradic Ci42500F, spooled with 10lb High-Vis Yellow Power Pro Super Slick braided line. The reason why I like to fish this technique on braided line is because it provides ultimate sensitivity and more strength while maintaining a thinner line diameter. The High-Vis Yellow is vital when the bass are in a negative feeding mood, as the bites will be very subtle; the color of the line makes it easier to detect the slightest of bites. I will fish straight braid in stained or dirty water; however, in clear water I will tie a double-uni knot to connect a 6 to 10lb fluorocarbon leader to my braided main line, dependent on the cover I am fishing.

Fishing the Shakey Head is simple, it is best to retrieve it slowly along the bottom, with short hops while keeping your rod between the nine to eleven o`clock position. The key to fishing the Shakey Head is letting it sit on the bottom for 10-15 seconds before you begin working it back to the boat. While for most anglers this seems like a lifetime, dead sticking the presentation on the bottom can be the key to success on the days that the bass are in a negative feeding mood. At this time the finesse worm will be sitting in a vertical position, the natural currents in the water will cause the tail of the worm to quiver. If there is a bass in the area, it will quickly dial in on the presentation and will inhale your bait!