We have all been there, no matter if you’re a tournament professional or a novice. We all have had to deal with finicky and non-aggressive fish. When days like this occur on the water it’s enough to send some anglers home in disappointment. I keep this quote from Doctor Wayne Dyer in my tackle bag just to remind myself that I am always in control of the situation that I’m fishing in.
“What comes out of you when you are squeezed is what is inside of you”.
To me when that tough day occurs it’s all about how you handle it and not letting it affect you in a negative way. You just need to dig deep and focus on the situation presenting it self. The simple decision of breaking down the water and coming up with a new game plan can help turn any trip around. When you’re squeezed and faced with a tough day of fishing, what comes out of you?
At times you will notice that the bite is not as aggressive as you would like it to be. In all reality you will have more tough days on the water and few days you can do no wrong. Every angler loves the trip when the bite seems to be unbelievably good but they get discouraged when the trip becomes more about casting then catching fish. It’s how you strategize on these days that can turn your fishing around.
When conditions get tough and the bite scarce I change over to finesse tactics to put fish in the boat. My finesse set up is light line usually 6lb test fluorocarbon or monofilament depending on the bait I have selected. My rod choice is a medium/light with a fast tip. Some rods are labeled finesse rods and make selecting them easier for the consumer when narrowing your search for the right setup.
When it comes to your finesse bait selection keep in mind small profile baits will produce big rewards when you’re trying to get non aggressive fish to strike. Three and a half inch and lower can be the change up the fish are waiting for to send them over the edge.
I was fishing a tournament on Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey. It’s the largest lake in the state and is highly pressured from pleasure boaters and anglers. The tournament was off to a very rough start and my competitors were bouncing from spot to spot. I was having a hard time trying to figure out where these fish might be.
My buddy who I was fishing in the tournament remembered that before our tournament happened a pervious tournament series just finished. They had their weigh in at the ramp we launched out of at the begging of the day. All those bass were released back into the lake and we were hoping that some might have stayed in that cove. With only about two hours left to the tournament and no fished in the boat we headed back to where we started from.
This was going to be our Hail Mary pass with a few seconds on the clock. We both began to use finesse baits and started to work the area methodically. Picking apart the grass and throwing our finesse plastics into each hole we could find. The bass did not hesitate to let us know they were there. We started to do what we couldn’t do all day, catch fish.
They really went bonkers for the smaller profile plastics and light jig heads 1/8 – ¼ ounce. We managed at the end of the day to boat five good fish and weighed in with over 8 and half pounds of fish and took a fourth place. We turned a negative into a positive and even managed to cash a check in the process.
A huge component to my success that day was the Finesse T.R.D from Z-Man. This bait was designed specifically for the Midwest finesse style of fishing, more commonly known as the Ned Rig, which has been gaining momentum nationwide as a subtle and easy-to-master, yet amazingly effective, presentation. The fall rate on this bait is nice and slow and allows it to entice fish as it sinks through the different water columns. Its profile is only 2.75 inches, you can’t get more finesse then this bait. I pair it with a 1/8 or ¼ ounce jig head and you’re ready to get your tough bite on.
Besides downsizing your bait you need to remember that the more subtle you can make your presentation is key for finessing the fish to strike. We sometimes don’t realize that we might be working the bait way to fast and just need to slow down our movements. Just lightly picking the rod tip up and giving the bait light twitches. It could also be just lightly bringing the bait back along the bottom and keeping contact with the bottom structure of the water you’re fishing in. Sometimes just the simple act of fishing slow will be your winning component for those tough situations.
The line your fishing needs to be light in order to feel those subtle strikes. When fish pick the bait up or just nip at it you need to be able to feel what’s going on. To me a huge part of finesse fishing is feel and sensitivity. If you can feel the rocks on the bottom or the grass you’re bouncing the bait through your doing it right.
You will find some guys are into the fluorocarbon lines and other prefer to fish monofilament. It’s all your preference and I tell people you have to fish what you feel comfortable fishing. The fluorocarbon line is invisible in the water and will have a quicker sinking rate. It is also extremely sensitive and lets me feel those light bites. There is also nothing wrong with anglers that just want to finesse fish with monofilament line. It will last longer than your Fluro line and be more cost effective.
You will get better stretch with mono and not have to re tie as often. Always check your line for nicks and abrasions and re tie your baits often. Keeping contact with the bottom can wear down your line and be the difference in landing a fish or losing one. Whatever you chose just remember to select light line when it comes to finesse fishing.
What comes out of you when you’re squeezed and the conditions are tough? You got this, you slow down and you finesse!