Finesse Fishing For Smallmouth Bass

finesse smallmouth bass

When to Finesse Big Smallies

Smallmouth bass are notorious for being a little lure shy. This is not always the case of course as they are also notorious for being ultra-aggressive. Any smallmouth angler, that has experienced a day when the smallies seem to bite anything that you throw at them, will tell that story for years. However, more times than not, smallmouth bass tend to be a lot less willing to eat your presentation and can frustrate the most patient of anglers. They seem to know that there is a hook in the bait they are chasing. This is when finesse tactics win out and can be the difference between a wonderful day of fishing and a long ride home.

Crappie Bait Swimbait


The Bait Finesse System

There is a new tactic in town. The Bait Finesse System is gaining more and more in popularity and has added a new dimension to finesse fishing. The Bait Finesse System (BFS) Bait Finesse System (BFS) was developed in Japan. First for trout but bass anglers soon learned that it was the perfect system for catching highly pressured bass. Under intense fishing pressure, bass will refuse to bite the run of the mill bass lures.

The bait finesse reel offers distance and accuracy and my favorite, less line twist, than spinning reels. There are specially made rods for the Bait Finesse System. The system allows you to cast very small baits, even 1/32 oz jigs, but with a bait this small a limber fast action rod is best. If you don’t go below 1/16 oz then a good fast action medium light rod will suffice. However, to get the full benefit of the BFS a BFS rod is best. These rods really help when using light line, a must when finesse fishing for smallmouth bass.

The great thing about these BFS reels is the drag. While it does have a magnetic drag system to help prevent backlash when casting small baits they also have smoother drags than the bigger heavier baitcasters used for bass fishing. The very shallow spool, that helps make long casts with light lures, also helps the line to be pulled from the reel smoothly while fighting a fish, a must with light line. Now that I have explained my new favorite way to finesse smallmouth bass let’s look at when you might need to use finesse tactics.

Clear Water

Here on Kentucky Lake the water seems to be getting clearer all the time. It has also started to show signs of an improved smallmouth fishery. While it has always been a good smallmouth lake I think in a few years it could become a great smallmouth lake. If you fish where the water is crystal clear you should be looking at using finesse tactics to catch more smallmouth bass.

Clear water allows the bass to get a good look at your presentation. This calls for small diameter fluorocarbon line and small baits. Also, lures of choice should be as realistic looking as possible. Think match the hatch as in fly fishing. This is why I love to throw a Li’L TUFFY Swimbait in clear water. These little swimbaits in shad color or blue matches perfectly the small minnows that smallmouth eat.

When fishing clear water smallmouth bass will often track your bait half way to the boat or swirl at your bait right at the boat. Keep this in mind and keep your retrieve steady all the way back to the boat. Even if the smallmouth are hugging the shoreline, they might be tracking your bait, especially a swimbait, so don’t assume that the bass are not on the bank just because it hit your bait at the boat. This is why realistic baits are important as they will follow it and decide to eat it or not. If they do, they probably decided that it was a real minnow.

Fishing Pressure

Fishing pressure can put a damper on the bite. When smallmouth bass start to see the same baits over and over due to heavy fishing pressure, they will decide to stop biting anything that resembles these popular lures. This is a great time to do what no one else is doing or at least fewer anglers are doing.

The lighter the line the better. I know that even considering using 4-pound test line on a lake where there is a real potential of hooking into a 6-pound smallmouth sounds crazy. My philosophy, for what it is worth, has always been if you don’t get a bite, you can’t catch the fish. So, if you want to catch more smallmouth bass, when they don’t want to bite, use the lightest line that you dare. Have courage and remember you might fish all day with 6-pound or 8-pound test line and not get a single bite or use 4-pound test and hook into 6 fish and land 4 of them. Which would you prefer?

High Pressure Barometrically Speaking

Most people love to go fishing on those sunny bluebird days. This is a great day to be on the water but not always the best time to catch fish. When the skies clear and the sun shines bright and warm the barometric pressure is at its highest. This can cause bass to become less enthusiastic about chasing down your bait. With rising pressure or high pressure, a swimbait might not be the best bait to use.

High Barometric Pressure

Typically, during high pressure days, when the skies are clear, bass will move closer to the bottom and refuse to chase your bait. Their strike zone shrinks, and you must get your bait close to the fish to get a bite. High pressure days usually call for bottom baits worked slowly around stumps or rocks where bass tend to want to be during this time. Ned rigs, shaky head worms and other bottom finesse baits like the drop-shot can be the best way to get more bites.

Low Barometric Pressure

When the barometric pressure is falling, and a cold front or storm is rolling in, smallmouth like most fish becomes more active. They feel more comfortable and will roam around chasing baitfish. This is a great time to throw those little finesse swimbaits like the Li’L TUFFY Swimbait or any small profile bait. Remember even though the fish are more active when fishing bodies of water with clear water or high fishing pressure then finesse is still optimal for catching more smallies.

As I am sitting here in my office, I can see Kentucky Lake and it is drizzling rain with a cold front moving in tonight. So, I can tell you as I watch the clouds materialize with the sunrise, I am going to be on the water in about an hour to chase some big smallmouth this morning. Days like this in the fall can really trigger those big bass into feeding up for the long winter ahead and I want to be out there when they are.

About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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