For some anglers finesse fishing for bass is a last resort tried only when fishing is difficult. For others, it is a way to consistently catch big bass throughout the year. FLW Tour pro Brent Ehrler of California is one of those who have figured out how to turn finesse fishing into big wins on the professional circuit. A Forrest Wood Cup Champion and eight time winner with FLW Outdoors, he has done the majority of his damage with light line and a spinning rod and relies on it throughout each of the four seasons.
Locations and Seasonal Patterns
Brent Ehrler has a simple approach to locating bass locations during the different times of the year. “The fish are really always staging and ready for their next move, it’s kind of an ebb and flow as they move back and forth to the same types of locations. The fall and spring they will basically be in the same shallower areas and the summer and winter are also sometimes the same places,” shares the California pro.
“During the pre-spawn the fish are on more obvious structure and I always look for what I call secondary structure. Fish may be on the secondary points or if there isn’t one, they will be on the first cover, whether it is the first tree, the first dock or whatever is there,” says Ehrler. Even if the lake doesn’t have hard structure like this, Ehrler has learned that it may be grass that has the same effect. “They might be on the secondary points of grass, and it really varies from lake to lake. The key is just finding the secondary cover,” believes Ehrler.
During the summer the fish will generally be deeper. “This is when I will be fishing the deeper mainlake points, offshore humps and other deep water structure,” says Ehrler. As the fall begins and the shad commence to move shallower, so do the bass. “The fall is almost like the spring and you can find them in many of the same places as you would look for when it is prespawn or springtime,” shares Ehrler. Once the winter begins, the bass will retreat to similar locations as they were during the summer according to Ehrler.
The top three choices for finesse fishing are fairly simple according to Brent Ehrler and they are baits that he relies on throughout the year. “My top baits would be a weightless 5” Senko wacky-rigged, a shakyhead and a dropshot. Those three will cover each time of year,” says Ehrler. He will adjust his baits based on the water depth and also what type of cover he is fishing.
The wacky-rigged 5” Senko is one of the preferred shallow water finesse choices for Ehrler. “Anytime the water is less than ten feet, I’ll have one rigged up. The hook I use is a Gamakatsu Splitshot/Drop shot hook in size 1/0 or 2/0, I will use the weedless version anytime I am fishing around grass or heavier cover,” adds the FLW Tour pro. If he does use this rig in deeper water, he will use a small wacky jighead to get the bait down to his desired depths.
“The shakyhead is very versatile and you can fish it from 2ft all the way down to 30ft deep. If I am fishing grass I will tend to use the shakyhead more than the dropshot,” says Ehrler. He is also particular about the type of jighead he uses. “I have been working with Fish Boss on a new shakyhead with the soft plastic keeper molded with lead. I had been using the screw in type heads and I wouldn’t say it is a flawed design, but it just makes it a lot harder to keep your worm on straight,” says Ehrler. His choice in soft plastics is a Yamamoto Thin Senko and a Pro Senko when he wants a bulkier profile and larger size.
The dropshot may be what Brent Ehrler is best known for and it is one of his favorite ways to catch bass. “I’ll always have a dropshot on my front deck along with the shakyhead and wacky-rig. If I am fishing a lake that is really well known for dropshotting, I’ll tend to do that more,” says Ehrler. He fishes the dropshot in all depths where he would use a shakyhead, but prefers the dropshot over the shakyhead when he is fishing around brushpiles. “I use either a Roboworm straight tail or Yamamoto Cut Tail worm in various colors. If I’m using the Cut Tail it will be either a green pumpkin or a watermelon and with the Roboworm it will be a color like MM3 or Aaron’s Magic,” says Ehrler. He rigs his dropshot with a 1/4oz weight and a Split Shot/Drop Shot hook from Gamakatsu or a Gamakatsu ReBarb hook and will vary the hook size based on the worm size.
Rod, Reel and Line
Brent Ehrler can fish all of his finesse baits with just two different rods and with the same reel and the same line setup. “I use the same line on all of my finesse rigs; 12lb Sunline braid with 8lb Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon. I combine the two lines with a Double Uni Knot, I have tried all of the knots and this is my favorite and I can tie it the quickest,” says Ehrler. He uses a Daiwa Steez spinning reel for all of his finesse needs and a Daiwa Tatula spinning rod. “I’ll go with the 7’ medium for dropshot and shaky head and go up to the medium heavy for the wacky rig. That heavier action has a better backbone and is important when fishing the wacky rig Senko,” adds Ehrler.
Do I have to use light line and a spinning rod?
Some bass anglers shy away from finesse fishing because they are not comfortable with light line and would rather use baitcasting gear. Brent Ehrler and other finesse experts believe that light line and a spinning combo is a must. “I always use spinning rods because with baitcasting gear you will have too much strain on the line when you are using light line. I also break the line more with my hooksets if I am using baitcast gear, I will rarely ever go less than 14lb test on my baitcast gear,” adds Ehrler. He also prefers fishing with spinning tackle for fighting the fish once hooked on light line as he feels he has better leverage over fish hooked with light line.
Brent Ehrler is well regarded as one of the best anglers in the world with a spinning rod and light tackle. His ability to consistently locate winning bags of bass is due in part to his willingness to use finesse tactics and focusing on predictable seasonal locations. By understanding where the bass should be at any given time of year and presenting them with a finesse approach, Ehrler has turned finesse fishing into a four season approach. You can too.