Elite Series pro, Mike McClelland defines finesse fishing this way: "I'd say it's fishing with something smaller than the norm, something smaller than what you'd usually use in a particular body of water. It's not ultralight though. My finesse baits are probably bigger than most guys think but they're still smaller than what you'd expect. It's really a complete system of downsizing."
This 4-part series, "The Finesse Way," will look at how four experts fish finesse. We start with Mike McClelland's finesse jigging technique.
"Finesse jigging is one way to catch fish when the bite is tough or the fish are heavily pressured," says McClelland. "With the right equipment it's one of the best techniques around."
Most important is the jig. His first choice for deep water — over 10 feet — is the Jewel Heavy Cover Finesse Football Jig. He likes the 1/2-ounce weight for most applications. In shallower water, less than 8 feet, he likes the Jewel Eakin's model in 5/16 or 7/16 ounce.
Either way, his reasoning is the same. "I've cleaned quite a few bass over the years and most everything in their stomachs is between 2 1/2 and 3 inches long. I want my jig about the same size."
McClelland's color selection is based on the local forage — usually crawfish or bluegill. If he's trying to imitate a crawfish he'll attach a Zoom Brush Hog trailer, for bluegills it'll be a Zoom Super Chunk Jr.
Next is line. McClelland's choice is Seaguar fluorocarbon. Depending on conditions he'll spool with something between 10- and 20-pound test.
"Seaguar fluorocarbon is heavy and sensitive. The weight is important. It makes the line sink, and that helps keep the jig down on the bottom where it'll catch the most fish. The sensitivity of fluorocarbon lets me determine exactly where the fish are biting. That helps me develop a pattern," he explains.
His rod selection is a custom designed Cara Reaction casting rod by Falcon. Naturally, he prefers the Mike McClelland Heavy Cover Finesse Jig Rod (CCB-6-174HC). It's 7 feet, 4 inches long with a fast tip and heavy action.
"The right rod is important if you're going to fish finesse jigs. The extra length helps with casting and fish control, the fast tip allows you to throw lighter jigs and the heavy action lets you set the hook with a sweep, rather than a cross-their-eyes jerk."
Once your equipment is in order it's time to think about how to fish with it. McClelland emphasizes two things.
First, slow down. "Too many anglers move too quickly around an area. Cover the spots where you think you'll get a bite but don't try to cover everything. That's a waste of valuable fishing time."
Second, keep your jig on the bottom. "Years ago we all liked to hop and drop our jigs. Over time we've learned that's not always the best way to fish them. It's usually much more effective to drag them along the bottom than it is to hop them up off of it.
"I finesse fish mine like a Carolina rig. My rod is pointed at the water, off to the side, at about 30 degrees. I sweep the jig along, never allowing it to lose contact with the bottom. Sometimes I try to shake it in place. When I feel a bite I set the hook with a strong sweep."