Bass Basics: Finesse Rigs

Ed NelsonThis month we are going to look at 3 of the most common and probably the deadliest Finesse Rigs out there; The Shakey Head Rig, The Wacky Rig and The Drop-Shot Rig. With these three rigs in your arsenal you will be able to cover water from only a few inches deep to 20, 30 even 40 feet or more. Not only will you be able to cover nearly any depth of water, these rigs will also allow you to make a subtle presentation and keep to bait in the strike zone for a long time. This alone can be the key to catching those finicky bass.  


First, what do I mean when I’m talking about Finesse Fishing? I’m talking about light line, spinning tackle and small soft plastic lures. I’m talking about 6, 8 or 10lb fluorocarbon or braid, a 6’ to 7’ medium action spinning combo and 3” to 7” soft plastic baits.  My weapon of choice is a Bass Pro Shops - Pro Qualifier spinning rod, 6’ 6” medium action; Bass Pro Shops - Johnny Morris Signature Series JM20 spinning reel spooled with 14lb Berkley Fireline Crystal with a Bass Pro Shops - 8 or 10lb XPS Fluorocarbon leader.

The Shakey Head RigShakey Head Rig


The Shakey Head Rig is made up of 2 key components, the jig head and the soft plastic bait. The jig head is unique in its design. It does not have your standard size hook but an oversized hook when compared to a standard jig of the same weight. I carry 3 sizes, 1/8oz, 3/16oz and 1/4oz. I use the lightest weight I can get away with for the days conditions and the water depth I’m fishing. Usually its 1/8oz for less than 5ft, 3/16oz for 5-10ft and 1/4oz for deeper than 10ft. This is just a general rule; wind also plays a key role in my choice of head sizes. The head has to maintain good bottom contact to work the bait properly. If the wind is pushing my 1/8oz around in shallow water then I will up-size to a 3/16oz or even a 1/4oz to get the good bottom contact I need. The soft plastic bait can be just about anything. I prefer a 4” finesse worm in either straight or curl tail. Rigging the bait is a bit unique as well. The worm is not threaded onto the jig head like the traditional Jig-Worm but it more like a Texas-Rig. The object is to force the tail of the worm up and off the bottom. This gives the bait incredible action. It’s fished on a semi-slack line and works best around specific targets. Try not to move the rig forward but shake it in place, “try NOT to get bit”. I know most of you just read that twice but it’s not a typo. If you will fish the rig with that mind-set and work at sneaking the bait back to the boat, the bait will spend more time in the strike-zone and have plenty of action to entice a strike from even the most lethargic bass.


Wackey RigThe Wacky Rig


The Wacky Rig is my go-to rig when bass are buried deep under docks. It can be skipped across the water rear about as far as it can be cast. Since it has no weight other than the hook, it falls incredibly slow. It consists of 2 key components, the hook and the soft plastic bait. My choice in hooks is a #1 short-shanked hook with a weed guard. For plastics I like a 6” to 7” straight tailed worm. Fishing this rig is super easy but requires a lot of patience. It works best when left alone to do its own thing. The best presentation is with a skip-cast. The cast itself is what gets the fish looking in the direction of the bait. This is followed by a painfully slow fall. This is where patience comes in. You have to just let it fall on a semi-slack line. If the fish is there, the skip-cast got it looking. When you can’t stand it any longer, just pop your wrist up once or twice to bring the bait off the bottom and let it fall again. Be ready, the bites are usually subtle. Most times the rod will just start to load up as the fish picks up the bait and swims off with it. If you want the bait to fall a little faster try pinching a small split-shot to the shaft of your hook or leave your tag end long when tying your knot and pinch the split-shot there. Never pinch a split-shot to your main line. It can crush your line and create a weak spot that will cause your line to break.


Drop-Shot RigThe Drop-Shot Rig


The Drop-Shot Rig is a great way to present soft plastics off the bottom. It consists of 3 key components, the hook, the weight and the soft plastic bait. I prefer a #1 Drop-Shot hook. The hook is tied to the line using a Palomar Knot with a long tag end. After you’ve tied on your hook, pull your line straight and make sure the hook hanging with the point up. If not you can pass the tag end back through the point side of the hook eye and this will make the hook stand point side up. The long tag end will now become your dropper (the line the weight hangs from). The weight is specially designed with a wire clip on top so you can adjust your dropper length without having to retie with every adjustment. Weight size is the same as the Shakey Head Rig, 1/8oz, 3/16oz and 1/4oz. However, in depths of 25ft or more it’s not uncommon to see weights in the 1/2oz range. The same rules still apply, use the lightest weight you can get away with but still maintain good bottom contact. The soft plastic bait is a matter if personal preference. My favorite is a 3 ½” tube, nose hooked, but finesse style worms, crawfish and minnow plastics, even lizards can be rigged. It’s fished in much the same manner as the Shakey Head Rig in that it’s cast out and fished in place. When the weight hits the bottom its left there and the bait is fished on the semi-slack line between the rod tip and the weight. Just barely shaking your rod tip will give the bait plenty of action. It can also be fished vertically over the side of the boat on targets found on your depth-finder and is deadly effective in situations where you Shakey Head Rig is getting covered with weeds or algae on the bottom. With the Drop-Shot Rig, the weight might be on the bottom in the weeds but the bait is able to ride over the top of the weeds by adjusting the length of the dropper.

- Note - When fishing the Drop-Shot Rig vertically in water depths of 10ft or more, line twist can be a big problem. The bait wants to spin when retrieved up from deep water. To combat this, tie a swivel to your line about a foot or so above the hook. This will allow the rig to spin but not twist your main line.


Next time you are at your favorite fishing hole and the bass won’t bite. No need to cuss the boating traffic, tie on a Finesse Rig and have a great day on the water. For a more in-depth discussion of Finesse Rigs or any other bass fishing questions feel free to come visit me at Bass Pro Shop. Just ask for Ed.


Tight lines to all and to my bass fishing brethren “See you at the scales”

Comments for Bass Basics: Finesse Rigs

Name: TJ
Time: Saturday, May 21, 2011

what is the easiest way to learn how to tie the hook so it is facing up for drop shotting?

Name: Tobi
Time: Monday, May 23, 2011

The best way to learn is practice. Here is a link to tying the palomar knot that is mentioned in this post. You can also stop by the fishing department in our stores and they will help you out.

Name: Danny
Time: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Great article! I have always been more of a power fisher (cranks, spinners, and swimbaits.) but told myself I was going to slow down a little this year. This definitely has me feeling more knowledgeable and confident. Thanks!

Name: dylan
Time: Thursday, May 26, 2011

I love fishing i go with my dad all the time, but we only go to Indian lake and Kiser lake to we leave in troy and I am good at fishing so is my dad to ,and i hope one day i will be the best fishermen out there. i hope u will write back bye. thanks for reading this.

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