In the word association game, “finesse” and “heavy” are not typically connected. However, there exists a strategic melding of the two concepts in which “heavy finesse” tactics can yield big results in the bass-fishing world.
More of a concept than a specific rig, this style of bass fishing is a problem solver — an opportunity maker, of sorts.
As Toledo Bend Guide Darold Gleason pointed out, heavy finesse fishing is more about tweaking, retooling and retrofitting than creating something new and novel.
“When I think of ‘heavy finesse,” I may throw a Carolina rig on 15- to 17-pound line with a 1-ounce weight, but I’ll throw a trick worm on the back of it, which to me is more finesse,” Gleason said. “Instead of throwing a creature bait, which is big and bulky, I’ll throw a (smaller) worm.”
Gleason said this setup is a good bet on those days when the bite has gotten tough or he’s gotten into the midday lull. You know: When he’s seeing fish on the electronics, he’s tried other presentations that didn’t work but he’s convinced the fish will still bite.
Likewise, instead of drop-shotting on spinning gear with 8-pound line, Gleason might use a baitcaster with a beefier drop-shot on 14-pound line and heavier weight with a 10-inch worm.
“If I’m getting a lot of fish pecking at my Texas-rigged worm and I’m missing the bites, a lot of times I think they’re suspended a foot or 2 off the bottom and they’re pecking at the weight as it goes by them,” Gleason said. “I’ll go to a heavy drop-shot rig to get the bait off the bottom just enough to get the worm in front of them.”
Probably the most widely used of the finesse rigs, a drop-shot’s conversion to heavy finesse duty merits deeper examination.
For starters, FLW pro Larry Nixon said he’ll use the technique in lakes with off-colored water. Decreased visibility allows anglers to conceal heavier tackle while leveraging the greater water displacement of a big worm, a creature bait or a craw body.
Some anglers, like FLW Tour pro Stetson Blaylock, refer to heavy drop-shot tactics as “power-shotting” — essentially the strategy of blending of power fishing with the poster child for light-line techniques.
It’s less about stealthy drops and long waits while reluctant fish make up their minds. Rather, it’s simply a presentation style used to cover water and show the fish a different kind of look.
This is not to knock thin line and light spinning outfits. But baitcasting gear with line stout enough for flipping and spinnerbait duty serves well the objectives in which power-shotting applies.
In short, you want to get the fish away from cover and heading topside ASAP.
Over inhospitable bottom, power-shotting offers the benefit of minimal contact with entangling cover. Whereas a Texas-rigged plastic or a jig might frequently hang up, a power-shot — particularly one with a slender, cylinder-style weight — will typically slip across or through any threatening snags while keeping the bait visible and accessible.
Blaylock Texas-rigs his baits to further minimize snagging concerns.
“Keeping that bait off the bottom just allows those fish an easier way to see it coming, rather than just dragging it right on the bottom like a Texas rig,” Blaylock said. “And it’s just a little different approach. It’s not so much about what it does — it’s just about giving them a different look.
“If you’re fishing (deeper water) and you’re catching them on a crankbait, those fish are more than likely suspended. If you take that power-shot and cast it out there, a lot of times they’ll have it before it ever hits bottom.”
In terms of presentation diversity, Nixon said an upsized dropshot does a good job of replacing a big Texas-rigged worm or jig for targeting fish near the bottom.
“The heavier application works when you get a lot of fishermen on a lake and everybody is fishing offshore structure with big worms, jigs, crankbaits and all that stuff — and all of the sudden, the fish get hard to catch,” he explained. “That’s when you can go to 12- or 15-pound line and a big drop-shot — a heavy one, like a 3/8- or 5/16-ounce weight — and go right behind people and catch fish.”
On pressured waters, Nixon knows it doesn’t take long to educate resident fish. Once they’ve seen enough of the standard mix, the fish will tend to shy away from the familiar. This is where power-shotting a big bait can work wonders.
“One day they may bite a Texas rig and then the next day they won’t touch the thing,” Nixon said. “You fish two or three days in a row, and it changes every day.
“When those fish get beaten up pretty badly, you have to switch on them.”
Other power-shot pluses include better castability and a quick fall rate, both of which can get your bait into tight quarters where a lighter rig might struggle with lesser precision. And, while traditional light drop-shots rely on persistence, the power-shot’s faster fall often triggers reaction strikes.
“You can be just as effective with 15- to 20-pound line and flipping (a power-shot) shallow in heavy cover,” Blaylock said. “It works really well in bushes — you just have to shorten your leader so you’re not tangled up as much.
“If I’m pitching a drop-shot around heavy cover, I don’t usually go over a 6- or 8-inch leader. If you’re going to throw it offshore, you might go up to 12 inches. You just have to get out there and experiment with it.”
As Gleason noted, the heavy finesse concept might be your primary tactic or a follow-up, depending on the scenario. He’ll adjust during a day, as needed.
But if a previous day’s results clearly indicate bass have soured on a traditional presentation, he might start the next morning with a heavy finesse look.
“With these heavy finesse techniques, it’s something you have in your arsenal,” he said. “You try to have a rod rigged up for it, if you know the conditions are lining up for it.”
Whenever you think a situation might call for a heavy finesse rig, Gleason suggests giving it 20 to 30 minutes to see if it makes a difference for you.
If it doesn’t do the trick, it’s a safe bet that the fish are just not interested. Call it a negative feeding mood, but no sense belaboring the situation.
At that point, it’s probably best to relocate and give those heavy finesse rigs a new stage on which to display their fish-tempting appeal.