Cold front at the end of the season? Sudden drops in water temperature can make fish lethargic. Warming up is often their first concern for feeding in the back seat. Summer tactics of big plugs and big baitfish imitations may not be your best bet. Instead, reduce the size of your deals, lighten your team, and slow down your presentations.
Some very productive finesse techniques worth trying this time of year started on the freshwater bass scene, predominantly out of the Midwest. Anglers realized that with a few small tweaks, these rigs and tactics cross over to the salt.
Shrimp and stickbait rigged with finesse-style jigs borrowed from the bass world.
The Ned rig has gained a lot of popularity in recent years due to its effectiveness on demanding fish. This presentation is a small mushroom-style jighead or weighted weedless hook (same forward weight design) usually 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 ounce, rigged with a small soft plastic no larger than 3 inches. A small worm was the original bait that started this craze and it really works well in the salt. But when it comes to coaxing lethargic inshore gamefish to eat, there’s no better choice than a shrimp.
The plastic shrimp at the head of the Ned rig are tail up. Light strokes of the rod tip will give this bait movement.
Z-Man’s 3-inch Salty Ned ShrimpZ paired with one of these jigs allows for that natural drop through the water column like a shrimp. Once down, the forward weight combined with the buoyancy of the lure allows it to sit on the head, leaving the tail up for the fish to see. Minor movements of the rod tip, and I mean barely vibrating the tip, give that tail action in the water. This subtle movement may be all a fish needs to commit to eating. It’s killer for staging trout and redfish in the pits in my experience. Make it a shrimp if you want, but the beauty of a Ned rig in saltwater is being able to give the bait action without much forward motion. This can be key when fish don’t want to chase a bait. Keep this leader light, no more than 20 pounds of fluorocarbon. Yes, you might lose a fish or two, but the amount of bites you get will make up for it.
Dropshot feather with jerkbait. The hooking of the nose allows the lure to have action with the slightest vibration of the rod tip.
Another great option for when the fish need a little convincing is a dropshot rig. Here again, you want to give your bait action with minimal forward motion. I like this tactic for fishing docks and holes where I know the fish are staging. You can even fish it vertically around bridge pilings. A 4-foot piece of 12- or 15-pound fluorocarbon with a ¼-ounce bench weight tied to the bottom will be the start of this rig. Depending on how tall you want the bait to be, add a dropper loop above the weight. Around 10 to 12 inches is standard. If you’re dragging this through the grass, you might want to lift it up a bit. Then add a J-hook size no. 1 in your loop. You will hook your bait for the best action. A small weedless worm hook can be substituted if fishing around grass or snags. Small shrimp and fish imitations are good choices for the dropshot rig.
Salty dropshot platform needs.
It’s all about feel with these subtle tactics. Bites can be very subtle. A light, fast action rod will still allow you to cast those small lures, but more importantly, you’ll feel what’s going on. The length varies; Some guys like to downsize your standard 7 foot rod to a 5’6″ or 6 foot rod for those light presentations. Pair this rod with a 1000 reel and 6 pound braid and not only you’re going to hear it all, but have a blast with every fish you catch this spring, no matter the size.