Have you ever wanted to catch a fish that no matter how big it is, it will put up a big fight, thereby increasing your enjoyment of catching it? Well such a fish does exist. I’m talking about Smallmouth Bass. I have caught my fair share of smallies and believe me, they are big fighters regardless of their size. The fight is what makes catching them fun, but to see them break water and watch them dance on the end of your line is truly exhilarating.
There are plenty of lures out there that you can catch these fish on, but today I am going to talk to you about two oldies but goodies. They are the plastic finesse worm and the grub jig. Look into any fishing catalog or go to any tackle store and you will notice that every year there is an abundance of new plastics in every form, size, weight, color and even scent that you can imagine, yet for smallies, two stand out beyond the rest and they are the 4” finesse worms and the 2” through 3” grub jig.
I am going to tell you about a great day of fishing that my brother, my nephew and I just had on Saturday, May 31 using these two deadly baits and I will explain how to fish each one to hopefully help you catch a few more fish.
We started the day at 7 am when we launched our rowboat and kayak into the Androscoggin River at the gated bridge in Errol. Our plan was to drift fish down the Androscoggin River between Errol NH and the Pontook Dam in Dummer, NH. Once getting on the water, we fished the far bank of the river, hitting every sunken tree, overhang, undercut, current change and depth change there was.
Click the photos to see them full size.
We caught quite a few Smallies, trout, perch, pickerel and a few river chubs and had a great day of fishing. What was funny about this small trip is that what we thought would be about 4 hours on the water, turned into a 13-hour fishing marathon as we caught so many fish that we were not drifting fast enough down the river.
I know, we have all heard fish stories at one time or another where the fisherman exaggerated the size or number of fish they caught, but hopefully you’ll believe me when I say we each caught more than fifty fish. We caught all these fish on the 4” finesse worm and the 2” to 3” grub jig.
You may ask why a finesse worm and not the larger 6” or 7” plastics, after all it has been a long held belief that the larger the bait, the larger the fish? The answer is…
- Because the smaller cousin to the power worm, which is what the larger worms are known as, is a much better bait for the Smallmouth Bass.
- With Smallmouths, it is more about the presentation and not the size of the bait that counts.
- The finesse worms are small enough in diameter that the hook can easily penetrate the soft plastic and you will more consistently set the hook in the fish.
- Because you are using the lighter weights with the finesse worm, you will get less hang-ups whether it be through sunken trees or along the rocky bottom.
- The finesse worms work well with rods rated light or light-medium. Larger, heavier plastics make hooking Smallmouth bass more difficult with these same rods.
In an earlier post I explained how to Texas rig a plastic worm. To fish the finesse worm you will rig it up the same way. The only difference is the size of the hook and weight you will be using. I suggest using 1/0 offset hook with a lead free sliding weight of 1/16th to 1/8th ounce. On this day I was using a general fishing rod with 6lb test line and I was using the 1/16th ounce weight. The reason for the lighter weight was so that the worm sank slower in the water, giving it a more natural look, as if the worm fell out of a tree. I switched the color of my finesse worms between pumpkinseed and motor-oil with each producing a number of fish. I did notice though that the larger Smallmouths were caught using the pumpkinseed color.
To fish the finesse worm, cast it and let it sink to the bottom, but be aware that smallies often hit the worm on its way to the bottom. Once you’re on the bottom, let your bait sit for 30 to 60 seconds before beginning the retrieve. Work your bait in either two ways.
- Crawl Technique; You can crawl it along the bottom by slowly lifting your rod tip to the 12 o’clock position and reeling in the slack as you drop the rod tip to the 9 o’clock. Repeat and if you feel the telltale tug of a fish then slowly drop your rod tip, take in the slack and then make a quick jerk up to the 12 o’clock to set the hook.
- Hop Technique; Work your worm across the bottom with short hops. You do this by using the above method but you would make quick jerks from the 9 to 10 o’clock. Once you make your hop, let your bait sit a few seconds and then make another hop.
On this day my brother was using a general fishing rod with 6lb test line and the 2” twirl tail white grub on a 1/8 ounce jig head (lead free of course) and I had an Ultra-lite rod with 4lb test and the 3” twirl tail white grub on a 1/4 ounce jig head. The grub jig is an easy bait to use. Basically all you really have to do is cast the jig and work the jig towards you while making short hops. Simply make alternating one, two or three quick jerks from the 9 to 10 o’clock position while reeling in line and repeat.
My brother used this technique with deadly precision as he was able to place his casts right where he wanted. He quite often called his shot by first saying there was a fish in a certain place and then using this technique to prove himself right. One of the things that stands out is that he caught quite a few very large river chubs weighing in at a pound each. I myself have never seen the Androscoggin chubs get so big.
With both the finesse worm and the grub jig techniques, you must keep in mind that the fish will not hold onto the bait for very long so be ready to set the hook as soon as you feel the strike.
If you find that the Smallmouth Bass are less active then what you will want to do is for the finesse worm is to increase the time of the pause between your hops or if you are crawling your worm then you will want to do so even slower, and, if you are using the grub jig, then retrieve your line faster or slower and change it up. This will often entice even the finicky bass into a hit. So what colors do you want to use? For the finesse worm, I suggest pumpkinseed, motor oil or black. Pumpkinseed works really well during the crayfish season and on this day caught the biggest fish. As for the grub jig we have found at least for the Androscoggin River, that white is the best color.
If you really want to up the ante on the fight as I did with one pole, then what you will want to do is switch to an ultra-lite rod and reel with 4 lb test. On light tackle even a small one pound smallie will feel like a lunker. The lighter weight gear will mean that you will have to play the fish differently. You won’t be able to just reel it in. Remember, too much stress on your light weight line and it will snap, losing the lure and more importantly, your prize.
Let me say one thing to all fishermen and women. Go, make a memory and share a day of fishing with someone you care about. Believe me the fun you have fishing will only be increased when you have someone to share it with. This great day of fishing was made possible because I shared it with my brother and nephew. If not for them, it would have just been another day of fishing.
Here are a few photos of just a few of the fish we caught. Click them to see full size.
If you are near the Androscoggin River, I hope you have an opportunity to use the finesse worm and grub jig techniques.
Tight lines, the Amateur Angler.