I do a lot of light line fishing for bass. I started light line finesse fishing in about 1991 or so. Prior to that I was fishing nothing lighter than ten pound monofilament. That was what was handed to me as a kid. I caught plenty of fish as I recall, but that had perhaps more to do with the relative abundance of fish in south east Texas than it did with my skill set.
Sometime in the early nineties we moved to Austin. A long time ago (a few hundred years if you believe young earth creationists) what is now central Texas was covered by a warm, fertile and shallow sea. Marine life was eventually left high and dry as the sea retreated. Walk the hills around Austin and pick up rocks in gullies, and you will encounter abundant marine fossils. The remnants of this ecosystem were encased in sediments which eventually formed limestone. Limestone is a chalky and porous sedimentary rock that is extremely effective at filtering impurities out of water, and so the streams in the area tend to be crystal clear. Having grown accustomed to the muddy brown waters of the bayous and ponds of south and east Texas, the clarity of the water was a shock.
One day I was fishing Walnut Creek, a small stream that flows through Austin, using my standard seventeen pound Berkley XL. As a kid with no money, I reasoned that using line heavy enough to free most snags was best practice. After all, if I lost a lure it was unlikely to be replaced.
My standard method for fishing the creek at that time was to go early, capture crawfish, minnows, and sunfish with hands and bait nets, and fish these on Carolina Rigs. For reasons I did not understand, my spinnerbaits and worms were not met with the same degree of receptiveness in Walnut Creek that they enjoyed in Rusk State Park or at Toledo Bend.
An older gentleman made his way down to the water a respectful distance away and began casting a tiny lure. Almost immediately he caught a nice little bass of about fourteen inches. There are a type of spotted bass in Texas called Guadalupe bass, and these predominated in the area we were fishing. He then repeated the feat, and again. I started watching him closely. He had a tiny spinning rod, and was casting an item so small it made hardly a ripple when it landed. I could not stand it, I had to see what it was.
I approached the fellow and asked what he was using. He dug a small Plano box out of his pocked and allowed me to inspect its contents. Microscopically small spinners, crank baits, and jigs stuffed the box to overflowing. I was astonished with how tiny all the lures were, and more than a little skeptical that they would be of interest to the sort of fish I was after. I enjoyed catching the Guadalupe bass, but I had seen some pretty solid largemouth lurking in darker places in the creek, and it was these I sought.
He reached into the box and handed me an inline spinner, a black and yellow Rooster Tail with brass willow blade and a pad printed bee on the body of the lure. The identical bait was tied on his line, I noticed. I did a double take when I looked at his rig. He was using the thinnest line I had ever seen. Asking him about it, he told me it was four pound. He asked me what I was using, and I told him seventeen. He chuckled and told me “Stay right here for a bit, I’ll be right back.” Curious, I did as instructed. He returned in a few minutes with a spool of line, the four pound he was using. He wanted to spool up my reel with it. What the heck I thought, I can always take it off when I get home.
He set to work stripping off my seventeen and spooling up the four. He tested my drag, and loosened it till I expected the spool to fall off. Job complete, he handed me back my rig and I tied on the spinner. As small as it was, I would not have expected it to go ten feet.
The first cast was a revelation. The tiny spinner flew well clear of its intended mark and bounced off a concrete retaining wall. Snapping the blade to motion as soon as the spinner splashed down caused a swirl in the water and the drag slipped as a large fish went tearing across the pool.
A tense minute or so later I was holding the biggest largemouth bass I had ever pulled out of Walnut Creek, a solid three pounder. And I had caught it on a bait so small that it looked ridiculous. The man had a satisfied smile on his face as he watched me release the bass back to its lair. I did not realize it at the time, but looking back, that moment had a profound impact on my development as an angler.
After that, I started paying attention to details with my gear. I had always been good at seeing what was going on around me, but had not considered the ways that my choices in tackle could be guided by those observations. If the bass wouldn’t eat a Jelly Worm or a spinnerbait today, they would eat them tomorrow. I was pretty basic in my methods.
As my inventory of finesse tackle began to grow, I realized that these items presented special storage problems. Micro-sized hooks, minute split shot, and undersized plastics had ways of getting lost or damaged that never happened to a Devil’s Horse or a Scum Frog. So I started looking for a better way to store them. Plano Micro-Magnum two sided boxes, the size of a pack of cards, would do for spinners or micro-jigs, but plastics were another matter. Later, when I discovered western style hand-poured worms, the problem of how to store them safely was compounded by the softness of these new baits.
After years of trying different storage methods, I found a solution. Michael’s hobby store sells a storage system intended for printed photographs, but it works extremely well for my finesse baits.
I put all the baits into new poly-bags first thing. The bags that most baits come in are heavy duty types that don't like to be folded. I lay them into the bags as evenly as I can, and I typically squirt a shot of crawfish Bang! into the bag.
I label the bags for easy identification. I found markers won't last writing directly on the bags because the oils make the writing smear, so I use masking tape to write on. Observe that the size limit of plastics that you can put into these boxes is about 5.5 or 6 inches. Bigger baits will need to live elsewhere.
I also label the individual boxes so I can see at a glance where my Roboworm Sculpin FX are hiding, for example. Shameless plug here, go buy some Roboworms. They are the greatest baits out there for quality, consistency, and amazing colors. Plus, the guys at Roboworm are SUPER cool people. Mike and Ken are just awesome dudes. I can't say enough about how much I love Roboworms.
All the bass below were caught in Colorado, in public water, on four pound test. In my opinion, they make a strong case for finesse fishing.