A bass tournament in late September is a good example of what I am talking about. We fished Lake Logan Martin in Alabama for the first time ever for me and most other club members. In 17 hot hours in two days, I caught only 5 keeper bass weighing 9-1, but that gave me second place. The water was still in the mid-80 degree range and the bass were not feeding - at least where we could find them.
I had never seen the lake before so I decided to look for something familiar. We stayed just off I-20 which crossed the lake about two miles from where we took off each morning. I went back to the bridge and started throwing top water plugs Saturday morning in the almost-dark after the 7:00 blastoff. A couple of small fish hit at my Tiny Torpedo but did not take it.
Fish kept hitting small shad around my boat. I watched and the shad were tiny - about 3/4 of an inch long. I kept going to smaller and smaller baits trying to "match the hatch" like a fly fisherman. A slider was too big so I tried a small crappie jig. Soon after I started casting it to the bridge pilings, I caught a crappie that weighed a pound and 12 ounces on the scales at weigh-in. They would not let me count it, but it did fight good on the ultralight outfit and six pound line I was using. It also tasted good when fried the next week!
I managed to catch my five keeper spotted bass, including one that was big fish for the tournament at 3 lbs. 4 ozs, on either sliders or crappie jigs. Since they were spotted bass they really fought hard. I landed several throwback bass and about 7 more crappie, although none of them were as big as the first. I also caught 8 hybrids in the two pound range and didn't think I would ever get them to the boat.
Try small lures around deep water structure when the fishing is tough. Bridge pilings hold all kinds of fish - I have caught bream, yellow perch, two rainbow trout and one sauger as well as the species of fish I caught at Logan Martin on this pattern. I especially like a Slider rig or a crappie jig. Charlie Brewer's slider fishing got me started on this type fishing many years ago.
Another tactic is to tie on a tiny crankbait like a Tiny O or a mini Rat-L-Trap. These little lures look like tiny baitfish and work when the fish are feeding on them. They have more action than the crappie jig and you can fish them faster. They work well when the fish are schooling out over deep water, chasing tiny shad.
I fish all the above on a five foot ultralight rod and small spinning reel. Six pound Stren Maxithin Line is what I usually use but I will drop to four if the fish make me go that light. With the right outfit, you can cast a 1/16 ounce crappie jig a long way!
You can finesse worm fishing also. Use a 4 inch worm on a Carolina rig rather than a bigger bait. A Georgia company, Zoom Baits, even calls their short, thin worm a Finesse worm. Use it on a long leader when the bass are suspended off the bottom and won't hit. You can also use a short worm and a 1/16 ounce lead on a Texas rig when the fish want something close to the bottom. Split shoting is another way to finesse a worm. I discussed it last week in my article on the basics of worm fishing.
When fishing is tough, try tiny baits and light tackle. Even if you don't catch much, what you catch will give you a good fight. And you are more likely to catch something on ultralight. Give it a try. Let me know about your "finesse fishing. Send me a "Fishtale" about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. and I may use it in that section where readers stories are displayed.