If you want a heated discussion, pose that question at your next bass-club meeting. The chunk-and-wind boys are going to poke fun at the finesse crowd, and the light-line/small-bait supporters will defend their honor with undisputable records of success.
So who deserves the strongest support?
Frankly, they both do. The increase in fishing pressure on bass lakes has created an upwelling demand for more stealth-like tactics. But does that mean you should deep-six your flippin’ rods, crankbaits or heavy jigs?
The modern-day bass angler needs to blend the two if he wants to catch fish consistently on today’s tough lakes.
I know what you’re thinking. Hank Parker – the man who has won two Bassmaster Classics with power-fishing tactics and who has raved about his deadly success with heavy line on a flippin’ rod, deep cranks and a big, thumping spinnerbait – is abandoning the heart and sole of this fishing success?
Well, no. But times are changing, and successful anglers must learn to adapt or be left behind.
If you’ve watched my television shows over the last few years, you’ve seen me fishing with spinning gear, smaller baits and lighter line more than ever. There are times, like when the water is ultra clear and the fish are extraordinarily fussy, that the so-called “sissy” tactics are required to catch more fish.
Years ago, Texas-rigged soft plastics were my first option, but I now find myself rigging slender plastic worms on jigheads. They produce a smaller silhouette, and fishing them on invisible 10-pound fluorocarbon line gets more bites.
Don’t get me wrong. If I’m on a lake full of unmolested, aggressive bass, I’ll be using the heavy hardware. But how many times do we encounter that kind of fishing on public lakes?
That’s why integrating the two styles is a wise compromise and one that attracts more bites on public waters. The harder bass are fished, the more difficult it is to entice them to hit a big bait. You must either make them react out of impulse or finesse them into biting.
I still start the day with spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits or jigs, ripping them through and around cover, trying to trigger those reactionary strikes. However, I’m more likely to downsize my lure profile and fish more deliberately.
If flipping is a popular tactic on a local lake, I’ll do it with slightly smaller baits and even drop down in line size. I still use 20- and 25-pound line with big baits, but the smaller jigs simply perform better on 14- to 17-pound lines.
Today, I use more streamlined jigs and choose more transparent colors that look more realistic to the fish. I think the smaller profile and subtle color offer more appeal to wary bass that have been pounded by larger, more intimidating lures.
Presentation matters, too. Instead of making a couple of casts to each target, I may make 40 casts to one tree or bush, hitting every little limb. You must identify the smaller strike zones and work them effectively.
Or, instead of rigging a tube that drops abruptly into a bush or around a boat dock, I will lighten it so it spirals on the fall.
If I notice bass are following my spinnerbait out of the cover but not striking, I’ll show them a weightless stick worm that falls tantalizingly slow.
The point to all of this is that you don’t have to abandon your power tactics completely. But if you include finesse principles to your everyday tactics, bass will react more positively to your lures and you’ll catch fish that other anglers can’t get to bite.