Finesse fishing is probably one of the most misunderstood things, especially for a lot of the anglers in the southeast part of the country. I think finesse fishing in a lot of parts of the world, in the West, up where you are, over where I am in the Northeast on the East Coast, finesse fishing is important, but in a lot of places guys grow up power-fishing, and especially in those power-fishing areas of the world, I think there are a lot of myths based around finesse fishing.
Here are probably four of the biggest.
The first one is finesse fishing is no good in dirty water. Man, I have to tell you, that is such a super myth. I grew up over here in New Jersey basically fishing the banks of the tidal Delaware River from when I was a kid till now, and the Delaware River in its entirety is a pretty stained fishery, in a lot of places muddy. I think one of the big misconceptions is that when you see dirty, muddy water, from brown mud all the way to orange chocolate YooHoo, that finesse fishing is out of the picture, and that is false.
Finesse fishing works equally as good in dirty water as it does, obviously, in clear water, and I think the key is that you just have to alter your finesse presentation a little bit. Typically, the more stained the water, the dirtier the water, the muddier the water, finesse fishing is still important in it, but what I do is I really slow down and I really get more target-specific.
One of the true things in dirty-water situations is the fish will get tighter to cover. They will actually suck in closer to whatever they are relating to, so in situations where you are finesse fishing, you just need to put the bait tighter and leave it there for a longer period of time.
The other modification that I will make is in color. I think a lot of times in finesse fishing, people assume that color of the finesse baits are always translucent, or clear, or colors that are almost see-through, so in muddy water, the only modification I do is I go to colors that are brighter, that stand out more, or have more contrast in that dirty water.
I can tell you one of my favorite finesse colors when I am fishing dirty water is straight black, and it is almost like the forgotten-about color, but I love a little black shaky worm. I love a little black finesse jig, a black finesse spinner bait, so I think one of the biggest misconceptions is you absolutely can't finesse in dirty water.
The second big misconception of finesse fishing is finesse fishing does not catch big fish. It is only for little fish, and it is only for numbers. Gosh, that is the biggest misconception in the world. I will give you two quick examples. The biggest bass I ever caught in my life weighed fourteen pounds, one ounce. I caught it from Lake Amistad, practicing for the first Elite event we ever fished there, and I caught that fish on a spinning rod with ten-pound test on a weightless soft stick bait.
Second example: last year at the Texas Toyota Bass Classic, Lake Conroe, I came in second place, and amassed--I cannot remember what it is--over four days, but averaging over twenty pounds a day, caught one fish over seven pounds every day of the event, including one that was almost ten, a nine-and-three-quarter, and every one of those fish I weighed, all those big ones, all came on a little shaky-head worm on eight-pound fluorocarbon line, so finesse fishing is absolutely a technique where you can catch big giant fish. It is not just for little fish. It is not just for numbers. It can catch giants.
Third misconception on finesse fishing is finesse fishing only means fishing a little tiny worm and finesse fishing only means fishing a little tiny whippy spinning rod. The're big misconceptions. I think one of the big things in finesse fishing is that people look at it and they see it as this one generic type of fishing, but in finesse fishing, like in power-fishing, there is a broad range of baits and there is a broad range of action rods and techniques that we are going to use to finesse fish.
To give you a quick example, you know, I have a book out all about finesse fishing, and we have thirteen chapters and pretty much every one of those chapters talks about a different finesse bait or a different finesse technique. The thing to keep in mind with finesse fishing is each bait, what you want to think about, so to give you a quick run-down of some of those: a shaky worm, a dropshot, a flick-shake, a tail-weighted French fry, a floating worm, a weightless stickbait or a minnow bait--any of those--the thing that I am thinking about is the action of the bait: the fall or the movement of that bait. When you look at them, when you break them down, they are all different.
So again, just like in power-fishing, just like in spinnerbait fishing--you spinnerbait fish, you are picking blade colors and you are picking blade sizes. Do I use a willow for flash, do I use an Indiana for in-between, a Colorado for vibration? The same way we pick those power-fishing baits, we are going to pick finesse baits, so finesse fishing is not just a little worm. It is a lot of baits.
The other thing is, it is not just a little whippy rod. I can tell you that there are four different actions of spinning rods that I normally carry in my boat, and I will give you a run-down of them real quick. One is a 6'6" medium-heavy action spinning rod. That is the rod that I love to use when I am skipping around docks, and it is the rod that I love to use on jighead applications: a seven-foot medium-heavy action rod, the best all-around rod there is, a little bit longer. It is perfect for flick-shake. It is perfect for tail-weighted French fry, stickbait--it is the best all-around rod.
A 6'9" straight medium spinning rod--that is my dropshot rod--a lot more tip, a lot more give to that rod, a lot more flexibility. You are not driving the hook home; you are just kind of sweep-setting the hook. Then, finally, a really long spinning rod: a 7' 4" spinning rod with a little bit more heavy action. It is a medium-heavy, but it is almost closer to a heavy action rod, and that is for applications like those bigger baits--a long-cast weightless minnow bait, a big weightless stickbait thrown into the bushes--some of those applications are used in braid on a spinning rod, so it is not just about a little whippy rod. There are other rods, so that is the third one.
Finally, I would say the biggest misconception in finesse fishing is that I do not finesse fish because I always get birds' nests in the spinning reel, and birds' nests, or that line twist has to be a part of finesse fishing, and I wanted to end it with that one because that is a big one for me. You do not have to get line twists, you know. Have I had line twists in the past?
Absolutely, and I think everybody has dealt with it at one time. They have seen it, but there are ways to finesse fish and use a spinning reel and use light line without getting line twists, and real quick, I am going to give you the four techniques I use to stop line twists on a spinning reel when you are finesse fishing.
The first one is when you are putting on the line. You go to your favorite store and you pick up a spool of line. You buy some Berkley Trilene fluorocarbon. The first thing you want to do is as that line is coming off the filler spool, you want to make sure that the line is coming off counterclockwise, because as you reel that line in on your spinning reel, it is putting the line on clockwise, so you always want that line coming off of that filler spool counterclockwise.
The second thing I do as I am bringing that line in--so now, it is coming off of that filler spool counterclockwise, and I am trucking it in, I am reeling it in--before I reel it in, I am going to use a silicone spray, and I do not spray the line, but I spray a cloth. I will get a really soft cloth, something like you wax your car with, and I will spray a silicone spray into that cloth.
There are a lot of good silicone sprays on the market that are geared toward fishing. There is Reel Line Magic. Kevin has one. I will be honest with you: I use generic silicone spray. You can go to a Lowe's or a Home Depot, and you can buy just regular 3M silicone spray. I will spray that into the cloth, and I will reel the line through that cloth as I am bringing it into the reel, and what that does is helps a little bit with that memory, gets a little bit of that machine chalk off the line, so that is number two.
Number three is never, never, never overfill your spinning reel. My general rule of thumb is when I am bringing that line in, I like to leave, at a minimum, an eighth of an inch of the rim of that spinning spool showing. I see way too many guys that buy this great expensive fluorocarbon line. They get so excited. They are filling up the reel. They will fill the reel too much, and you never even see any of the rim of the spool. At a minimum, leave an eighth of an inch of that spool empty: in most cases, almost a quarter of an inch, so do not overfill your spinning reel.
Finally, number four--and this is the big one, this is the kicker--is never close that bale on your spinning reel by turning the reel handle. It is funny, because in Pro-Am events especially, I will be up in the front and I will have a co-angler in the back and we are finesse fishing, and I hear him make a cast, and I can hear that "clink" of his turning the handle and the handle making the bail click back, and I cringe. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard, you know. I am thinking, "Ahhhhh." I turn around and say, "Stop that."
If you look, when you do that, if you use the reel handle to close that bail, it throws in a really little amount of slack into the spool, and so after 10 casts, after 50 casts, after a hundred casts, before you know it, you have a big amount of slack, and that is the beginning to a birds' nest.
My last rule, number four, simple rule is get in the habit that every time you cast your spinning reel, click the bail back by hand, so you are using your hand to click the bail back, and then make sure the line is under the roller, and you are ready to fish. If you do those two things, it becomes second nature after a long time, so make your cast, click the bail over by hand, make sure the line is under the roller, and you are ready to fish.
If you do those four things, I guarantee you that you will not get bird nests in your spinning reel, and you will not be afraid to finesse fish.