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Tops in Finesse

Lately, I find myself in a lot of scenarios where I need to get bites. A big part of this comes with the formation of the MLF Bass Pro Tour - my new home circuit where every fish counts, and there's no catch limit for the day. Along with this new concept comes a bunch of new, unfamiliar waters, and little or no practice time before the events. So, I have to catch 'em quick.

For some time now, my go-to for this scenario has been a shaky head. Today, I employ a few more rigs and tricks, but the standard shaky head set-up is still where I start. My lure choice, however, is a little off-the-wall.

A blend between two legendary baits - the stick worm and the tube - the Hula StickZ is the ultimate finesse bait for many rigging options and jigs, including a Z-Man Shaky HeadZ. Here, I start with the quarter-ounce model, and scale back as necessary. The heavier weight allows my lure to get to the bottom quicker, when time is of the essence.

Like all products made from ElaZtech, the Hula StickZ stands vertical at rest, and quickly flares its small, tentacle tail. That action generates strikes better than any other bait I've seen when fishing a shaky set-up and requires little or no rod action on my end.  For all of my shaky head fishing, I employ a seven-foot Favorite Fishing spinning combo, in a medium / heavy power. I want my rod to have a little backbone when fishing this method, as it allows me to drive the hook point through the bait. I spool 15-pound braid, attaching a short leader of 10-pound fluorocarbon to the business end.

While a shaky set-up remains my ultimate technique for generating bites, it's not the only finesse system I use. Numerous new techniques have popped up in recent years, most relying on Z-Man's revolutionary lures to offer pressured fish a new look. None has had more impact than the Ned Rig.

Beginning as a downsized version of a jig-worm, the Ned Rig has evolved to include the most minuscule jigheads and dozens of lure options. Here, I continue to use the Hula StickZ, but switch up my rigging method to include the Finesse ShroomZ head. This is one I've always liked, as it features a light wire hook and crazy-good keeper barb that blends perfectly with ElaZtech. The Ned Rig is a strong performer, especially when fish are cruising in the pre-spawn and post-spawn seasons. Often, I just throw the bait out, and bass swim by and gulp it up before I impart any action at all. Again, it's a bite-generator; allowing me to piece together the puzzle on a new lake.

You see, that's one overlooked aspect of learning a body of water: it's far easier to do when the bass are biting and guiding you down the right path. Therefore, I choose baits that get them going quick, regardless of conditions or the size of the fish.

Regardless of the lake, the Canada Craw color is hard to beat in a Hula StickZ. When Ned Rigging, I stick to the braid / fluoro combo, but scale back to a medium power rod and an 8-pound leader.

Another overlooked Ned Rig favorite is the TRD MinnowZ. This bait features an extremely subtle tail - it's just a little flat spot - causing the lure to have a slight glide on the fall. The TRD MinnowZ is a known winner when rigged on a drop shot, but it's deadly on a Ned Rig, too. Again, I start kind of heavy by Ned Rig standards, employing a 1/5-ounce jig from the beginning. I often use this set up to drop down on fish I see on my electronics, sometimes as deep as 60 feet of water, so I need the speed and control from a heavier head. I mix this subtle presentation in with more rowdy methods, like jigging a spoon, and often get the fish fired up once things have slowed down. It's a killer method for smallmouth and spotted bass.

Want to get bites? Employ my favorite finesse tactics, and you'll quickly be on your way to figuring out a new lake.

Z-Man Pro-Staff

Mark Daniels JR. 

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