Finesse fishing is a method of angling that typically uses light tackle and small-sized lures that goes against the gung-ho ethos of much of bass fishing. More graceful in action, these lures are designed to coax finicky fish into biting. Those that might be easily spooked by the loud lures that chug, wobble or flash a little too much.
Finding the best finesse baits for bass can prove more difficult than other lure types. Largely intended to be rigged (set-up on a line with a separate hook and body), anglers often have to buy lure components separately if they hope to fish this way.
The first step to gearing up the perfect finesse baits for bass is figuring out exactly what the lure type is, when to use it, and what its different categories are.
What is Finesse Fishing?
Presentation is at the heart of finesse fishing. The light tackle that goes with it, although considered a characteristic, has that purpose in mind. Finesse lures target bass who aren’t typically aggressive so heavy gear isn’t necessary.
Often misunderstood as a technique targeting smaller fish, finesse fishing (and the lures that facilitate it), work just as well with bigger fish too. Typically used in colder water or heavily fished water, where feeding activity might have dropped off, this approach can tempt the fish back into biting.
And while finesse fishing’s reliance on light skinny line, soft plastics, and light action spinning gear might be looked down on from the more action-hungry bass angler, even tournament pros turn to finesse occasionally when the circumstances call for it.
Power Vs Finesse
One of the big debates that often rears its head in bass fishing circles is the idea of subscribing to one school of style; power or finesse. But while this might seem simple enough on the surface, there are some complications. Especially when it comes to definitions.
For some anglers, being a finesse fisherman is more about getting fish to consume your bait as though it were real food, while the equipment and tackle take a backseat to that concept.
The opposite of this idea would be to cover lots of water in an attempt to draw reaction strikes where bass bite due to reflex, dominance or territory more than in an attempt to feed. A style that most “power” anglers seem to enjoy. Where multiple casts into the same area are made.
Newcomers or novices in bass angling, who could still be experimenting with the sport, might not have settled into one of these two styles yet. Usually, it’s not made out of choice. Most anglers arrived at power or finesse through multiple factors. Factors that can include existing gear, types of water, conditions and numerous other aspects that account for how, when and why they fish.
At its core, the decision over finesse or power is overly simplistic because it can pay to use both styles accordingly. Depending on what’s happening on the water, it’s best to remain flexible when it comes to both approach and gear. A varied tackle box, that has both finesse baits and heavier power baits, can help.
Types of Finesse Baits
Finesse baits can be broken down into several types depending on the components that help make up a rig. Here we’ll take a look at the most common.
Drop shot rigs are versatile in that they can be fished shallow or deep. Consisting of a line tied to a hook with a trailer, a weight sits at the bottom of the line to keep the bait upright in the water. Due to this setup, it’s also very customizable. Anglers usually experiment with different trailer (body) and hook arrangements.
Another component of the drop shot is a swivel at the top of the line (before the trailer and hook). This allows the line to rotate in the water and gives the bait and its action more of a natural feel.
What makes a drop shot a finesse lure is the bait attachment. Commonly bass fishermen attach finesse worms as a trailer to the hook body. These are soft plastic baits that bass love to strike on. Unusual as worms aren’t typical bass food.
Wacky worms are an idea largemouth bass bait that doesn’t require any rigging with a leader or weight and can be affixed right on to the hook.
Generally recommended for use with wider hooks, this bait type is “twitched” by the angler moving their rod tip (life and pause) allowing the bait to rise and fall erratically in the water. The heavier the weight of the plastic worm the farther they allow for a cast.
Good for casting out in the shallows, the bait does most of the work for the angler. This makes it an ideal beginner finesse lure but also suitable for anglers who want to use it on other rig types too.
Swimbaits are a hugely popular bass fishing lure that are designed to imitate fish in a way that’s different from crankbaits. Sometimes jointed or paddle-tailed in design, the action they generate can disperse a lot of water and attract bass in from afar.
Finesse swimbaits are retrieved slower than usual swimbaits and can be fished on a variety of rigs. Bass anglers who opt for this lure type recommend using a jig head with a soft plastic swimbait that wobbles gently on a continuous retrieve. That means no twitching or jerking.
As this lure type usually has an open hook it’s best used on the periphery of cover or in open water.
Tube baits are another option to rig with a finesse set-up alongside a jig head and line. Similar to swimbaits, these are elongated lures designed to mimic the body of a baitfish. Sometimes they’ll also have a skirt (short strips of plastic that oscillate in the water).
Many anglers who use tubes recommend going for options with a good salt profile (bait coated in salt) which encourages a bass to bite. Lengths in the range of 3.5 to 4 inches are usually considered the best options. While the green pumpkin color is another favorite.
Shaky heads have something of a bad reputation when it comes to catching big fish. The truth is however that this lure type, that gets its name from being “shaken” by the angler and their rod grip, has actually proven quite effective in big tournament fishing with fish of all sizes.
The key to using a shaky head is to go with as light a jig head as possible while still keeping whatever bait you choose in contact with the bottom. Usually, 1/16 or ⅛ ounce weighted jigs are best for finesse fishing with worm baits but most anglers experiment until they find something that works to their preference.
Finesse jigs work well throughout spring and early summer when the water is warming up and the bass become more active. Similar to a full-size jig in terms of design, a finesse is a smaller scaled down version that’s also lighter in weight.
Like all jig types finesse jigs can be found in football, casting and pitching varieties, each designed for a slightly different technique. They also enable anglers to customize as much as they want in trailer choice too.
Also known as the “Midwest finesse rig” this lure type is enjoying a growing tide of popularity among fishing communities across North America and beyond. Typically favored in tough conditions and pressured waters, the Ned Rig works well due to its small profile and subtle action. It can also mimic a number of bass food sources too.
Comprised of a soft plastic stickbait and an ultralight jighead, the Ned Rig is very beginner friendly in terms of setting up and gives a slow fall in the water that enables it to be retrieved slowly with a simple hook set that only needs the spin of the reel rather than a jerk.
Recommended places to throw this lure include docks, grassy areas and around the shoreline.
Pairing Finesse with Other Gear
Depending on which finesse lure set-up you aim to go for, pairing it with other gear can vary. Here we’ll take a look at the more general recommendations for the finesse fishing setup when it comes to rods, reels, and line.
When pairing a rod with the best finesse baits for bass, understand that baitcaster or spinning rods are equally recommended but generally you’ll get extra control with the baitcaster. That’s because baitcasters, due to their design with the rod guides facing upward, tend to be more sensitive. This can help with recognizing the strike and hook setting. Something that’s a little less obvious when fishing finesse.
In terms of rod length, anything around 6 to 7 feet is a good way to go, especially if you can pair that up with medium-light to medium action.
Reels should be large enough to avoid the tangles that can sometimes come with using fluorocarbon line on smaller reel sizes. In terms of gear ratio, you’ll want something close to 6:1, although finesse is often more dependent on a slower retrieve than a faster one (so that’s not a hard and fast rule).
The more ball bearings you have the better. That’ll help smooth out the cast and retrieve and help you avoid losing an already evasive bass.
The finesse fishing community can differ somewhat in terms of recommended line. In one camp you’ve got anglers fishing finesse only with braided. That’s because it’s more durable and tough to use in cover when opting to fish those tricky spots.
Fluorocarbon obviously has its advantages in being less visible and therefore better suited to the finesse presentation.
Best Finesse Baits for Bass
Finesse baits are some of the more inexpensive fishing lures available in the bass fishing world. Highly customizable, the following recommendations are some of the top favorites for anglers who are fans of finesse.
This snag resistant jig head has ultra sharp black nickel hooks that come in black or pumpkin green and sizes ranging between ⅕ ounce, ⅙ ounce and 1/10 ounce options.
- Pairs well with Z man finesse baits and other soft body varieties to work as a Ned rig
- Comes in a pack of five providing extra back up should you lose a lure or a line in heavy cover
- Easy to rig with a design that prevents baits from sliding down the hook shank that helps improve the rate of successful hook-ups
- Tendency to bend or become misshapen with particularly heavy bass
- Small size can be limiting for anglers who prefer to have a harder fight from going after bigger fish
Designed to be paired with the jig head above, this Z-Man TRD bait, although bought separately, is still compatible with most other jig variations making for a solid Ned rig set-up. Eight in a pack.
- Strong lifelike feel and a unique flutter action make the presentation look increasingly like a baitfish moving through the water
- 2.75” profile with a dimpled body texture gives it the ideal sink rate for catching a bass’ attention
- Easy to set-up, use and cast, this is very well suited to the beginner angler
- A few reported issues related to the texture of the bait melting in overly salty or warm conditions
- Not sufficient as an individual purchase to help you catch fish, you’ll need to buy a jig-head to complete a rig on top of this
The second jig head on this list, the Megastrike E2 is a popular shakey head lure that has two collar options to make for a weedless or exposed rig. Color options are black, brown and green pumpkin. Four in a pack.
- Football head-style jig makes this good for fishing a small worm or craw on a light line and going after finicky bass
- Fulcrum on the bottom of the lure give it solid balance in the water and on the retrieve that keeps the nose down and the tail up
- Dual rigging system allowing for an exposed or weedless hook presentation gives great versatility
- Issues with falling to its side when hitting many obstacles in the water can make it a little frustrating to use
This finesse bait pack has a huge range of color choices including options like cotton candy, june bug, houdini, smoke purple and red bug shad. Salt impregnated, these are designed to improve hookups by making the fish hold the bait for extra time.
- Versatile enough to be fished with a finesse head or other jig types, its resemblance to a worm is very life-like
- Plastic body allows for a good action that displaces enough water to draw nearby bass in
- Very effective when pitched at shorelines or cast into cover with a very slow retrieve
- The blue glitter finish on some color varieties can look a little unnatural in the water
- Tend to wear fairly quickly after a number of catches
This finesse jig mimics crayfish with its high-quality body design, cut skirts, and blue and black trailer. Unlike other finesse options on this list, this lure is ready to go out the packet. Comes in a pack of two.
- Effective for flipping and pitching in tight cover where the skirt gives it a good action that creates a solid amount of disturbance
- Well suited for catching smallmouth bass the blue and black color really pops in the water when this lure is slowly retrieved
- More expensive than other finesse lure options it’s also limited in terms of the customization options available with the purchase of a single jig head and the mix and matching of alternative trailers and skirts
Finesse fishing can definitely be an approach worth considering when circumstances are slow and the fish don’t seem to be biting. Hopefully, the lure recommendations above can help make a breakthrough.