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Lighten Up
Bob R. Myers - Pro Field Editor
February 2002

Finesse fishing with "sissy baits" isn't just a technique that works for Western bass, as anglers in Oklahoma have discovered.

For the past few years, the trend in bass fishing seems to have moved toward heavier lines, stiffer rods, larger lures and high-speed reels. However, many bass anglers have found that some of the best techniques for clear-water lakes, and lakes that receive a vast amount of fishing pressure, are lighter lures and equipment.

Several years ago in California, top pro bass fishermen started the technique of "finesse fishing," which basically means using smaller baits on light line. The technique was slow to spread to the rest of the country. But when top-name pros started winning tournaments with these "finesse" techniques, anglers from all across the country began to take notice.

If you fish a lake here in Oklahoma that has clear water and suffers from heavy fishing pressure, you might want to try pitching and flipping with lighter line and smaller baits.

Many anglers have found out that they can pitch or flip smaller lures effectively with a spinning outfit spooled with 8- or 10- pound-test line. In fact, there are times when light-line flipping may be the only way to successfully get a limit of bass on a pressured lake.

Light line allows for better control. It allows you to use a lighter bait that drops slower and perhaps the most important feature of all, light line enables you to feel the bait better and detect strikes. When I talk of light line, I'm not talking ultra-light. For the most part I use Berkley Big Game in either 10 or 12 pound test. If I need to go smaller than that, I will use 8-pound Trilene XL, and it's important that the line be green colored since clear and clear'blue line reflects light and is more visible to the fish.

Under tough conditions such as during a cold front, on heavily pressured water or with finicky fish, light tackle will improve your chances for success. However, angling mistakes are also magnified. This is where knowledge of your equipment, how to properly utilize it and its condition are all important factors.

Since I am not a big fan of spinning tackle, I utilize bait casting gear for all of my light tackle situations. With a Shimano Chronarch Super Free bait casting reel coupled with a G-Loomis IMX 6' light action rod (Model #CR721) I can use light line and throw small baits. I use this rod and reel combination for not only split-shotting, but when throwing small spinnerbaits and jerkbaits.

I have caught hundreds of smallmouth here in Oklahoma using light line, small lures, and light tackle. Most of the time the areas that you usually fish for smallmouth are around open water near points or underwater ledges. If you have good equipment and set your drag properly, you can catch trophy size bass on light tackle.

When fishing a spinnerbait or buzzbait for brownies, I like the Terminator Tiny-T's. These small 1/8 ounce baits have been my mainstay when fishing clear lakes. For the most part, I throw a white bait, but if the water is stained, or if it's cloudy, I like a chartreuse or chartreuse/white color.

My favorite plastic bait is the line of worms manufactured by RoboWorm. Although they make a wide variety of styles and colors, their little 4" Sculpin FX Series is my favorite. These hand-poured style worms will catch both smallmouth and largemouth on any clear water lake in Oklahoma. My favorite colors are the Fuschia Thunder, Aaron's Magic, Purple Weenie, and the Ayu.

If you like to fish a jig and pig for bass in clear water, the Terminator Tiny-T or Finesse Jig is a good choice. If the bite is slow I like the Tiny-T Jig in black/blue, black, brown & pumpkin, pumpkin & pepper green or the pumpkin & orange colors. If the surface water temperature is above 50 degrees I use a Zoom Tiny Chunk Trailer. If the water temperature is below 50 degrees, I go with an Uncle Josh baby crawdad trailer.

If the fish are more aggressive or when I am looking for bigger bass, I switch over to the new Terminator Finesse Jig in either the 3/16 or 1/4 ounce size, depending on the water depth that I am fishing. The new "Air Alive" skirts on the Terminator Finesse Jigs make the jig literally seem to come alive.

Using lighter tackle may not be wise in all situations, but more and more anglers are finding out that for many clear-water lakes, it often means the difference between having a great day on the water and just an outing.

Many of the top bass pros were critical of "finesse fishing" when it was first introduced to bass anglers by way of California. However, almost without exception, today's pros realize that there is a place and time for light tackle, and often it's on the tournament trail.

If you want to have more fun while bass fishing this year, and just perhaps catch more fish, lighten up.

Until next time, remember to practice catch and release.


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