Tackle & Techniques – finesse

Tackle & Techniques – finesse

Mar 28, 2012

Outfit Matches & Misfits:

Ike’s Four Rods for Finesse

By Mike Pehanich

The “Outfit Matches & Misfits” offers an unprecedented framework of understanding to help make sound tackle decisions when matching rod, reel and line to specific fishing technique. Here, Bassmaster Elite Series angler Mike Iaconelli clears a major misconception about finesse rods and outlines the reasoning behind the four rods that cover nearly all his finesse situations in this feature and exclusive SWF video.

Finesse Misfits

The term “finesse” fishing connotes delicacy and a fine touch. But if you are Mike Iaconelli, finesse fishing is a far cry from silk gloves and ultra-light tackle.

“Most people assume that if you are purchasing a rod and reel combo for finesse fishing, it’s got to be a little, itsy-bitsy dainty whippy rod – this super light rod almost like a trout rod or fly fishing rod,” he observes. “That’s all wrong!

“Finesse” is a broad category of techniques intended to capitalize on conditions when bass prefer slow presentations and small, lifelike baits over more conventional presentations.

Exclusive SWF Outfit Matches & Misfits video: Ike’s Four Rods for Finesse!


But many “finesse” situations require long casts and forceful hooksets – objectives that can be tough to achieve with that five-foot buggy-whip ultra-light sitting in your basement!

Four for finesse

Four types of rods cover virtually all of Ike’s finesse fishing:

Shaky head and other "jighead" finesse techniques require a rod with strong enough backbone to drive the hook through plastic and into the fish's jaw.

#1 Jighead/shaky head rod

“My first is what I call a jighead rod,” he explains. “I use it for any application that has a single hook, like a shaky head, like a mushroom head, like a flick shake head – anything with a big, single hook.”

True, a shaky head worm is a “finesse” bait, but, just as with a standard Texas rigged worm, the angler has to drive the hook through plastic to achieve a solid hook-up.

“You’ve got to drive that hook home!” emphasizes Ike. “A lot of guys use a medium or medium light power, but you need backbone to drive that hook home!”

His choice is a 6-6 (six foot, six inch) medium heavy rod with a 60-40 ratio of backbone to tip, meaning the rod flexes roughly 60 percent of the way up the shaft.

Ike employs seven-foot spinning rods for many applications, but he likes the 6-6 rod for shaky head and other jig worm finesse techniques for two reasons.

1) The shorter rods facilitates casting accuracy when he’s fishing “up close and personal” around brush, branches and docks. “The shorter rod is better when I’m making those ‘check swing’ casts,” he explains.

2) The shorter rod forces you to slow down. “It’s something I learned from Larry Nixon,” says Iaconelli. “The shorter the rod, the less you move the bait – or the slower you move the bait,” he explains. “Think about it. If you’ve got a rod that’s 7-6, and you pull from the 3 o’clock position up to 12, you are pulling a lot more line. So the shorter rod forces you to slow down a little bit. It’s simple mathematics.”

Ike’s choice: Abu Garcia Veritas VRS66-6, a 6-6 medium heavy spinning rod.

Ike's dropshot rod has a 50-50 action. It is the "whippiest" rod in his finesse arsenal.

#2 Dropshot Rod

Ike brings out the whip for dropshotting. Well, not exactly. But he does opt for a softer, more parabolic rod action for dropshotting.

His choice is a 6-9 medium power spinning rod with a roughly 50-50 ratio of backbone to tip.

“It’s the whippiest rod I own,” Iaconelli says. “When I’m using those octopus or circle hooks, I don’t set the hook. As I feel the fish moving away, I just reel down and apply pressure.”

Ike’s choice: Abu Garcia Veritas VRS69-4, a 6-9 medium light power with a moderate fast taper

#3 Split shot, French fry, workhorse finesse rod

The closest thing to an all-around finesse rod in Ike’s rod locker is a 7-foot medium rod with a 70-30 action – 70 percent backbone,  30 percent tip.

“That seven-footer is the most versatile,” he says. I can split shot with it. I can throw a tail-weighted French fry. I can do a lot of stuff!”

Ike adds extra distance to his casts with a 7-4 spinning rod and 30 size Abu Garcia Revo spinning reel -- often loaded with thin superline.

#4 Finesse Long Rod (jerkbait, stickbaits, hair jigs, long cast situations)

An oversized 7-4 medium to medium heavy spinning rod is a valuable finesse tool.

“A lot of companies don’t make that extra-long spinning rod,” says Ike. “I use it for applications like soft plastic jerkbaits and soft stickbaits where you have to cast a weightless plastic a hundred miles.”

The added rod length adds casting distance; the added backbone increases hooksetting power.

Ike used this rig at Lake Murray in 2011 to make extremely long casts with fluke-style soft plastic jerkbaits as bass fed on blueback herring. He tied for second place with Davy Hite, behind winner Casey Ashley.

Iaconelli also uses the long rod for 1/16- to 1/8-ounce hair jigs, fishing them on superline for longer casts and better feel.

Ike’s choice: Ike’s choice during our meeting was a fast-tipped (80-20 action) medium heavy rod that is currently unavailable. Abu Garcia now offers a 7-4 medium power, fast action spinning rod in its Vendetta series.

The biggest mistake anglers make in selecting finesse tackle is choosing a whippy rod.

Reel: He also upsizes to a 30-size Abu Garcia Revo spinning reel. The larger diameter spool enables longer casts and reduces the amount of coiling when he is using fluorocarbon.

Line: He fills it with fluorocarbon or braid.

“A lot of times I use braid,” he says. “Spiderwire Fluorobraid is one of my favorites. I will use a length of fluorocarbon leader to it, and I have the perfect rod/reel/line combination for making long casts and setting the hook hard.”

Ike also uses smoke-colored Fireline in 14 pound (six-pound diameter) and 20-pound (eight-pound diameter) test.

At the time of our interview, he had also added Berkley Nanofil to his finesse tasks, calling its performance “unbelievable.”

When using braid/superlines in tannic or muddy water conditions, he ties his hook directly to his main line. In clear water, he adds a two- to three-foot fluorocarbon leader.

Swivel tip: Often Ike adds a Berkley barrel swivel (ranging from 00 to size 6, depending on line size, lures and conditions) between his main line and leader.

Up your odds for "success with finesse" by selecting the right tools for the task -- rod, reel and line!


“Don’t just buy one whippy rod for finesse fishing,” says Ike. “Think about those four finesse rods, and you’re going to become a better finesse fisherman!”

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