Excuse me? Finessing an aggressive fish, huh? I suppose you’re wondering what that even means and why I’m titling this article in a manner that would contradict itself. Well, believe it or not, even aggressive-natured fish need a little coaxing at times. So just how do we identify the aggressive fish that need to be teased with finesse applications? That’s a very fair question. I look to my Vexilar flasher. It’s amazing what your electronics will tell you. You can see when fish crash the bait only to halt upon impact, moments before striking. This tells me we’re dealing with aggressive-natured fish, but the offering didn’t seal the deal. Sometimes it’s because the bait is too large, not the right action, looks awkward, it could be a number of things. Me, I turn on my finessing aggressive fish switch. I move into finesse mode with the mindset that the fish I’m dealing with are eager to chase, but they just need a little coaxing. Enter the realm of finesse plastics and tungsten jigs.
Even though the fish are aggressive, it doesn’t mean they want to eat big baits sprinting through the water. Sometimes fish prefer smaller baits, even though they are in a highly aggressive mood. This is where targeting aggressive fish with finesse presentations comes into play.
As we’ve been taught in recent years, tungsten jigs allow us to fish smaller and faster. Now I can deploy a smaller profiled jig but launch it down in deeper water, or punch it through surface slush and even weeds where fish hide. I’ve now equipped myself with the ultimate delivery system to finesse aggressive panfish. Couple that with a subtle, tantalizing plastic tail and you have yourself a dynamite combo. You can work all depths and at just about any speed, allowing you to approach aggressive fish that prefer a smaller meal—presented in a more life-like manner.
My go-to presentations for finessing these aggressive fish consist of size 10 and 12 tungsten jigs. I prefer the Drop Series from Clam Pro Tackle, particularly the Drop and the Dingle Drop. The new XL versions have earned a starting spot in my line-up as well. The larger hook allows me to maximize the use – and hooking percentage – when coupling it with finesse plastic. Color doesn’t play a huge role to me; I’m more concerned about action and profile. I then tip these jigs with a Maki Mino, Maki Spiiki or Maki Draggi. I feel these three styles give me the versatility needed to offer just about any profile or action. You can change the action and profile of the plastic by simply tearing off a tail or shortening the body. I will do that quite often to get the desired result. So even though I only listed three options of finesse plastics, I can turn each of those into something totally different by a slight modification.
Tungsten jigs allow us to truly attack a pod of fish with the proper bait profile that the fish want. In the past, we would use small jigging spoons or larger panfish jigs to get the desired outcome. However, those ‘larger’ baits didn’t always seal the deal, even on aggressive fish. Now we can pick off these aggressive fish with a smaller presentation and continue to fish fast and effective. Tungsten truly improves our productivity and offers that versatile option for seeing positive results for a variety of fish behaviors and activity levels.
We’ve all experienced those bites where you can do nothing wrong, and everything you drop down the hole gets bit. We’ve also experienced those bites where you can do nothing right, and no matter what you drop down the hole you won’t get a bite. Teaching yourself to try different techniques depending on the mood of the fish can really change your success. The presentations mentioned in this article have quite a bit of versatility, and you will find yourself building confidence with finesse plastics as you encounter these aggressive bites. There is nothing more frustrating than when a fish comes scorching in on your Vexilar, only to have it stop at the bait and do nothing. Try the technique of dropping down a small – yet aggressive – presentation the next time you encounter that situation and get ready to set the hook!
By Matt Johnson