Finesse Fishing Smallmouth Bass
If I had to choose one fish to catch for the rest of my life, smallmouth bass would be it. Don't get me wrong, flipping and frogging for largemouth is an incredible thrill, but picking apart concentrated structures on lite tackle and a spinning rod in search of giant smallmouth, to me, is the bread and butter in my world of bass fishing. The thought alone of reeling into a fish is the reason I get up at the crack of dawn to finesse fish smallmouth. As satisfying as finesse fishing can be, it's not for everyone nor is it easy to do efficiently without the proper equipment. Here are three smallmouth finesse setups I would highly recommend to anyone that wishes to feel the thrill I crave:
You knew it was coming - or did you? If you're a smallmouth fisherman and haven't heard of the Ned Rig by now, do yourself a favor and check it out. Not only is it a multi-species catching machine, the smallmouth simply cannot resist. There are many "Ned" jigs available that offer a flat mushroom shaped head that allow your bait to stand upright when scouring the bottom of the lake. Stick baits, small craws and creature baits have worked phenomenally for me when tipped on a Ned head. My line consists of a 10 lb. high vis braid to an eight foot long 8lb. fluorocarbon leader conjoined together by an Alberto knot.
The rod and reel selection for finesse fishing and throwing a Ned Rig on is nothing to skimp out on. Having total control of your bait is absolutely crucial. Rather than throwing moving baits like cranks, jerk baits or swim baits to create a reaction bite, you are mimicking the real life action and behaviors of a smallmouth's main forage, a crawfish, and every movement you make with your rod is a drastically exaggerated by the time the force you put into the rod reaches down to your bait. Small methodical movements in concentrated areas are key, crawfish don't just fly 6 feet off the bottom and fall back down only to do it over and over again. Lifting and shaking your baits just enough to get up and over boulders will produce more fish and will keep your bait in the strike zone longer. To have total control over my bait and feel exactly what my bait is running into or over, I rely on the quality and action of the 7'2"ML Fast Action Apex Elite spinning rod by Tuned Up Custom Rods. I can appreciate this longer finesse rod to make long casts when needed and throw heavier jig sizes when the winds come up, or to drag my bait across the bottom.
The drop shot rig is a downright dirty producer. It is arguably the most effect rig when picking up smallmouth, bouncing boulder to boulder, bed fishing or working over concentrated points and structures. It's a rig that allows a wide freedom of movement in your bait without leaving the strike zone. I like to get away with as light of line and weights as I can for this technique, so I will fish 10lb. high viability braided line with a 6 lb. fluorocarbon leader when fishing rock piles, or an 8 lb. leader when fishing in vegetation. Teardrop or round shaped weights work well when fishing in sand to rock transitions while the pencil shaped weights work well in vegetation, slimming down the chance of snagging weeds in the process. Tuned Up Custom Rods offers a 6'8" Medium Extra Fast Apex Elite spinning rod that serves as the ultimate drop shot rod. Many walleye anglers also choose this rod as a vertical jigging rod for it's shorter length and quick action into a sensitive but sturdy backbone to make solid contact with the roof of the fish's mouth when setting the hook in one big sweeping motion. It's the perfect rod for small precise casts or vertical drop shot fishing!
Perhaps it's a little on the faster-paced side of finesse fishing, but fishing a marabou jig is all about finesse work. much like a drop shot or ned rig, a marabou jig is typically fished on lite gear. The light line allows the jig to move through the water with as little resistance as possible, allowing the jig to swim fluently in and between boulders and other structures that smallmouth associate with. The 6'8" Medium Extra Fast Apex Elite is again my go-to rod when fishing a marabou jig.
You really can't go wrong fishing any one of these three techniques for smallmouth bass. Each one of them has their time and place, strenghts and weeknesses, positives and negatives, but they're all effective. I hope this write up helps you next time when targeting smallmouth, and good luck!