In bass fishing, finesse fishing and reaction baits generally fit separately and in distinct categories. Finesse baits generally include those with light line and spinning tackle with tactics like the drop-shot, shaky head, and Ned Rig, most often associated with the fishing style.
Reaction baits are fished quickly to cover water and include power-fishing techniques like crankbaits, swimbaits, vibrating jigs, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits.
But why can't a bait be both and fit into each lure category and fishing style?
There are plenty of smaller, finesse-sized baits that get reactions from fish. They can be fished quickly to cover ground but offer a downsized look for fish that may be weary from fishing pressure or unwilling to bite bigger lures. These are the finesse reaction baits and worth the effort to fish as they produce some giant fish despite their small stature.
The spinbait or spybait may be the ultimate finesse reaction bait. They are generally small and fished with little to no action or rod movement but offer many of the same characteristics as classic reaction baits. They are made of hard plastic, adorned with blades, and have treble hooks connected to them, but the best way to fish them is with a bit of finesse.
The main difference is they are slowly retrieved through the water column while reaction baits are fished faster or with plenty of action imparted by the user. A spybait excels when the water is clear, and the fish are willing to chase after bait for a long distance. Smallmouth especially love the spybait, and calm and sunny conditions on a clear water fishery is a great time to try one out.
Like a spybait, a small marabou hair jig is a lure that can be cast and retrieved. They are lightweight and non-threatening to bass but do a great job imitating a small baitfish or leech as they move through the water. The hair jig's look as it swims through the water looks natural due to the flowing hair, and it imitates various forage species for bass.
Black is an excellent color choice to start, but natural colors imitating crawfish or baitfish are also great options. Generally, the most common bass sizes are between 1/8 and ¼-ounce and need a light line and a lightweight rod to cast effectively. Despite their small size, they catch giant bass at times.
Some of the best conditions to try them are immediately after the bass spawn when they are in a neutral or passive mood or during extreme water temperatures, both hot and cold. Cast them out and bring them back to you with a steady retrieve. Also, like spybaits, they excel any time smallmouth are in the area, and clear water is a must for bass to be able to see and track them from long distances.
Most hollow frogs are roughly the same size and do the same thing, no matter the brand name. They are fun to fish and catch big bass whenever they want to eat on the surface or hidden below matted vegetation. During the summer months, the frog excels but is equally effective in the pre-spawn period into the fall. One way to extend the frog bite into more of the year is to go with smaller finesse-sized frogs.
Most finesse frogs will weigh around ¼-ounce, roughly half the weight of standard frogs. They require a little more effort to cast and are not as good over thick vegetation, but they produce well when the fishing is tough, and everyone around you throws a bigger frog. Another great time to use them is early in the year when the bass are getting ready to spawn. A medium-heavy baitcasting rod and 30-pound Seaguar Smackdown Stealth Gray braided line is a solid choice for casting these smaller frogs.
The swimbait may be the ultimate "go big or go home" bait, and visions of giant trout imitating baits are often the first thought at mentioning them. But, small swimbaits in the three-inch range are excellent producers for hungry bass. When these little swimbaits are fished on a 1/8-ounce jighead, they fall into the finesse category and should be fished on light line and spinning gear.
Like spybaits and hair jigs, a simple cast and retrieve works wonders. Like those baits, they are best utilized when the water is clear so fish can see them from a long distance.
Downsized Cranks, Spinnerbaits, and Jerkbaits
The final category of finesse reaction baits are just downsized versions of your favorite jerkbaits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits. The benefit of going small with these baits is mainly connected to the size of the baitfish. When the baitfish are smaller due to the time of the year, going to a smaller size is the best way to match the hatch.
Another reason to go with smaller versions of these baits is when fishing pressure makes fish wary of bigger lures. Going down a size is one way to continue to catch fish when circumstances like fishing pressure or extreme weather conditions make it a challenge to catch fish.
Fishermen and lure manufacturers quickly categorize a lure as a finesse tactic or reaction bait, but there are some gray areas. Some lures can be considered both and fished with some finesse while still getting a reaction from the bass. The hair jig, spybait, finesse frog, small swimbaits, and downsized versions of bigger reaction baits all live in this gray area.