Finesse Lures and Presentations Catch Just About Anything
Many years ago I discovered how well a yellow 3″ Mr Twister grub, rigged on a yellow ball head jig worked for catching smallmouth bass. Little did I know that the term finesse would one day describe the lure and presentation I used so many years ago. In my book, finesse lures are small, not necessarily teeny, and the retrieves are pauses mixed with slow lure motions.
The style of lure determines pretty much it’s retrieve. Shad tail (Sassy Shad grubs) and curl tail grubs (Mr. Twister mentioned) and worms require a certain speed to make the tails move; straight tail grubs and worms move with the slightest movement – even under a float.
What makes finesse fishing special? For that answer I must offer an explanation you most likely will never read anywhere else, namely:
Fish in general survive by a super sensitivity to their environment and anything in it. Do they know before they attack a lure that it represents a prey animal, even one they’ve never experienced? Do fish know instinctively the real animal from an object made from metal, fur or soft plastic? My guess it yes.
Lures are objects that annoy; live prey are for eating; the outcome of both of their presence is the same: aggression. A bass or sunfish may swim near a minnow and not go after it. But when a finesse lure is twitched repeatedly nearby on the bottom, at the same depth as it’s head or on the surface, teasing is what makes that fish attack no different than you or me swatting a mosquito buzzing around our face. The decades old claim that fish know what a lure represents just doesn’t hold water in that fish don’t have the brain required to make such distinctions. Even cataloging fish types is likely beyond it’s ability to do so and regardless the fish species it decides to attack, a fish is a fish is a fish.
The above may be for some a bit hard to swallow, but fish do hook, line and sinker. Instead of trying to use a color you think fish think is a certain species, you’re free to use colors you have confidence in all of the time. How does this apply to finesse lure colors? Breaking color down in a natural setting, there are only a few qualities colors have: bright or dark and maybe containing flakes that flash. Color underwater changes depending on the water and available light. Heavily stained water 10′ down, subdues colors (hues), changing some to gray visually. Color emphasizes shape and motion and gives a lure away among other nearby prey minding their own business and against a background – bottom, sideways or surface.
As stated above about finesse lure motion: it is always slow and subtle. Even the tail of the bright yellow Mr Twister grub mentioned has a finesse action that flutters like a flag on the slowest retrieve when used on a light jig head – a yellow flag to boot! There are lure designs that fall into the finesse category because of their action on the slowest retrieve. I designed a few in the last few year that surprised me the first time they caught fish of different species – including bass and a few very large cat fish. One is in the shape of a bullet or cone tail. Being of a soft plastic, the tail quivers with the least amount of angler input on the horizontal retrieve. It can be made to waddle back & forth with rod tip twitches or dart from side to side doing the same. You can cut off 2 or less of the tail of a thin plastic worm and attach it to a light jig 1/32, 1/16 or 1/8 oz depending on depth fished and fish aggression level. I guarantee you will catch fish. Maybe not huge fish, but fish nonetheless.
Finesse lures, action and presentations set them apart from much larger lures such as spinnerbaits, large deep dive crankbaits and skirted jigs with action trailers. Those lure types must initially be moved much faster to initiate their built in action and generally speaking, they are visually imposing on a fish that may or may not react to them. Finesse lures in my opinion are not the last resort for fish not chasing a large lure, but the first choice to locate fish in the first place. There are areas that are void of fish in all waters and unless anglers find fish, they can’t catch them.
When it comes to line diameter/ test used for finesse presentations: the lighter and the smaller the diameter is better. Is it because fish are line shy? Definitely not ! When a lure captures a fish’s attention, it’s the lure that holds its attention – the line not a distraction. My best leader is 6lb mono or fluorocarbon lead attached to light braid which has the advantage of zero stretch. Zero stretch allows a faster hook sets with the least amount of rod action to drive the hook home but only if the hook is sharp.
Using lighter line allows the following:
- Better lure action.
- Less slack for subtle strike detection and faster hook ups. In fact, when a fish strikes a finesse lure, the strike is as subtle as the lure and all that’s required is raising the rod to the side so the fish starts to panic, starting the hook set.
Is braid a good choice for directly tying to a finesse lure? For dropshotting a finesse worm maybe, but for other lures, a light mono or fluorocarbon leader can make a difference when it comes to a lure ‘s response to imparted action. That’s not to say that a motionless lure can’t catch fish, but that more or less motion is a requirement. Line color doesn’t seem to have ever been a distraction and I’ve used orange, bright chartreuse and red line colors equally well as clear.
Rod action is very important when it comes to finesse fishing. The use of light lures requires a light action rod with a fast tip :10 % of the rod’s end toward the tip is very flexible in order for ease of casting, for working a lure and detecting the subtle strike. Opinions vary as to a rod length best suited to light lures. 5.5′ – 6’ is the range I stick to. You may find that shorter or longer rods do fine but only if light action.
Many angler chose not to fish slow & small, but most times I’ve fished, slow & small win out. It’s not that I don’t carry and use large lures, but my first lure and presentation choice is finesse, with larger lures used for deeper fished and/ or more aggressive fish shallow or deep. Many a pro might say, give em what they want. I say, give `em what irritates them into striking.
Author: Frank Manuele aka Senkosam