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Finesse How-To: Changes by Season for Bass

by Tom Melton 20 May 2024

You have finally jumped into finesse fishing for bass. You have several spinning and baitcasting outfits made specifically for bait and spin finesse fishing, now let’s see what the year has to offer. As we all know, bass action will vary season to season, and geographical area. Seasonal changes are more definitive as to bass habits. The seasons may vary length wise from region to region, but for the most part the seasonal changes will be there. There is one aspect of bait finesse fishing for bass that will remain the same throughout the year and that is lure size… they will always be on the smaller side of things.

The 7 Seasons

Typical seasons really do not apply wholeheartedly to bass fishing. Rather than the traditional four, bass seasons can broken-down further to include the following:

  • Spring
  • Pre-Spawn
  • Spawn
  • Post-Spawn
  • Summer
  • Fall
  • Winter

These seven seasons will vary greatly depending on where you fish. In Florida, spawn could be as long as December through February. In New York the spawn could be the month of May or even less. Either way however, fish will bite differently during these timeframes. As the angler, you need to adjust your technique based on the seven listed.

Read, Ask or Learn

A bass angler is tasked with determining when these seasonal patterns will come into play. You will need to ask yourself questions, then seek out reliable answers from past experience, fellow anglers or the local tackle shop. Once you have determined when the differences take place you can now begin to develop what bait finesse tactic will work best at landing bass.

The "Bass" Seasons

In the spring bass will be coming off the winter period where they are super lethargic for the most part. This is the time of year where your smallest offering will be needed to target bass. There are many small insects and bug larvae in the water and this is what bass are feeding on. Small hair jigs and the likes are perfect for finesse fishing.

As the pre-spawn period begins, the females will be fattening up so the energy spent on the spawn will not decimate them. This is where a lot of young of the year fry and larger amphibian and even small birds, snakes etc. will be consumed. Finesse fishing is still in play, but the offering may be better suited for worms. Senko style short 4-inch offerings are ideal with young of the year fry.

As the spawn approaches, most anglers will be throwing big baits on heavy tackle, but that does not always account for bass. There will be times, especially on late spawners that the bass become quite finicky, and this is where bait finesse action can really shine. Bait finesse reels like the Kestrel Elite will allow anglers to throw slender jerk bait style soft plastics. The bass will need to be coaxed into biting. These baits for some reason really get the females excited, and quite aggressive. The technique is simple, cast past the bed and once it gets close, dance it across.

Moving to post spawn; this time, in my opinion can be one of the toughest times to catch bass. They are moving sporadically back to their deeper water haunts readying for summer, but are moving at different intervals, and feeding sporadically as well. This to me is where the Ned rig shines. The key to Ned rig fishing is thin wire hooks and fishing it very slowly. The Ned shines due to the subtle wiggle it gives while standing still. I try and fish the Ned in ways that imitate crawfish, small bream, shad and others, depending on the forage bass are used to seeing in a certain body of water. Although this will vary throughout the regions, in Florida, topwater action during the post spawn can be red hot, especially while throwing small topwaters like the mini Hula Popper.   

During the post spawn, smaller poppers like the Hula popper on light line with the Kestrel spinning finesse system will get hammered.

Here comes the heat of summer and at this point, finesse fishing could at times be your only option to catch bass. Water temperatures in most regions have risen well above bathtub temps, making bass lethargic. There are two factors that will aid in summer finesse bass fishing. The first is to fish in the early a.m. or after dark. The second is to throw small swimbaits. The Keitech 2.8 is perfect on a 1/4 ounce jig head. The secret is to fish it along the bottom, and very slowly at that.

As fall approaches bass will be putting on the feed bag again, fattening up for a long winter. Finesse fishing at this point again will center on worm baits, but larger ones in the 5 to 7-inch class. Worms of this size are great on drop-shot rigs as the waters begin to cool down. Although larger baits will be the norm, with heavy gear, anglers can still trick big bass in
the fall with worms – Ned, wacky and stick.

Carrying an assortment of bait finesse and spin finesse rod and reel combos will allow you have multiple lures ready to go for whatever “bass” season you choose to fish.

Winter is tough for anglers across the region. Water temperatures are nearing 40 below and colder and bass, if there is no ice, are feeding very infrequently. Finesse tactics in the winter will again focus in a similar fashion to spring with hair jigs and small crankbaits working well.

The shadow produced in front of this Cypress tree makes for a prime area to swim a small jerkbait or crankbait in finesse gear.

Year 'Round Finesse 

The KastKing Kestrel series of finesse rods and reels are perfect for all year long finesse fishing. You will have to change lure size and methods, but finding the right option will surely put a bass in the live well, or the bucket for dinner if you choose that route.

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