He wasn’t doing it just few seasons back, but Brent Ehrler, fresh from yet another nice payday, has actually made some changes in his finesse game and it’s making a big difference in performance. (Can you tell what it is from the photo?)

Whether he’s going with the drop-shot, shaky head or wacky jig, the secret is not the worm color or some other little wrinkle, but rather an upgraded tackle approach that allows him to incorporate longer casts, better sensitivity and abrasion resistance all in one.

Says Brent, “With a spinning rod and reel I have gone exclusively with a braid main line and a fluorocarbon leader.”

While the notion of combining line types has been growing across the board in bass fishing, questions often arise over the specifics. The plain fact is, switching to this approach may require a fisherman to learn a new knot and also adapt to everything from cast control to a new feel in line handling.

When Brent began to share his ideas, it was obvious he has already tried a lot of combinations and discovered first hand what works and where there might be problems. For one, he has settled on 12-braid (specifically, Sunline PE-line that he says, “is very soft and manageable, lays on the reel well and is easy to tie knots with.”)

For his leader, however, he goes with 8-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon (.235mm diameter), which is contrary to the thinking among some finesse guys. Says Brent, “I like the heavier line in these situations (the aforementioned methods). I don’t think 8-pound is too heavy.”

Of course, the real issue is the connection. There is no getting around it. You have to become proficient tying a double uni knot, recognizing you may need a couple of extra wraps on the braid side. There are some good tutors.  I Googled “how to tie a double uni knot” and found a video from www.5min.com, but there are others out there.

And especially for competitive fishermen, Brent recommends, you practice thoroughly at home (say on a rainy day?). “Practice while you’re watching TV or sitting around the house. You don’t want to try and perfect it out in the wind or when you’re trying to maneuver the boat,” he advises.

“When I first started with the method, I kept breaking off. The line wouldn’t break. When I hung up, it always broke at the knot if I didn’t tie it right.”

Beyond that, the leader length is also important. “I like it as long as possible. The 7- to 8-foot range (with a 7-foot rod) is standard,” he said. “The one key for me is I do not want the knot in the spool when I make a cast. If you make a hard cast with the knot on the spool, the braid will shoot off the spool ahead of the fluoro and the knot wraps around the first guide. It will stop you like if the bail was closed.”

The long leader, of course, means he can retie a frayed line or have that extra tag length for a drop-shot sinker and not have to tie on a whole new leader with the double uni. If the leader is a little longer than the perfect length, you can still make lob casts without any problem from the knot. Also he says, “If you are just aware (that the knot could cause a problem) you’re still okay with a soft cast.”

And so you know, one of the reasons he settled on 8-pound leader is the knot gets a little too bulky with 10-pound, hitting all the guides and shortening your casts.

Now, what’s up with that photo? You can’t see his line! That was back when Brent was using straight fluoro. Not anymore.

 




19 Responses to “Brent Ehrler shares his best finesse fishing tip”


I’ve been using the braid -fluoro combo for 5 years now. I fish everything from a tiny split shot rig to a 1 oz football jig with it, mostly with a medium heavy spinning rod, and the sensitivity is unmatched. I came to this article from The Inside Line Ezine Newsletter, and it was from the print version, in an issue from 4-5 years ago that I got the knot I use with all my light line braid-fluoro connections (and often heavy lines as well). The J-Knot was described back then in an article by another Team Yamamoto member, Steve Lucarelli, and also mentioned again in Sept. 2009, detailing his STREN win on Lake Champlain. It is an easy knot to tie on the water, quite unlike the uni-uni. I trim it pretty close and have never had it pull out. THANKS GEORGE!! Be Safe, Alex

Many of us who are practitioners of the Midwest finesse tactics that Chuck Wood of Kansas City pioneered in the late 1950s have found that the Seaguar knot works as well as the double uni knot and J Knot. It is also easier to tie in the wind and cold than the other knots.

by George Kramer

Ned, I honestly don’t know the name Chuck Wood, but it points up what I often say: there are and have been innovative anglers in every corner of the country. And just because they’re not on cable it doesn’t mean they aren’t experts. But from the era you mention, I only had Dacron line and mono leaders for saltwater, and those were usually tied loop to loop. Thanks for the input!

George:
Chuck Wood created the Beetle and the Beetle Spin, as well as one of the first jigworms, which was an aspirin-head jig, and the worm was rigged Texas style. He developed them in the late 1950s, and one of his protégés, Drew Reese of Kansas City, competed the first Bassmaster Classic at Lake Mead, where he finished in seventh place using Chuck’s Beetle Spin and jigworm. In our eyes, the Beetle was the first Senko, and we used it as we use Senko-style baits today by affixing it to a 1/32-ounce or 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Chuck crafted the first Beetle from a worn out Creme worm. He designed the Puddle Jumper, which cut from the tail of a Reaper. By the way, the Reaper was also created in Kansas City.
Also Gete Hibdon of Missouri is fond of saying that the folks around Kansas City and the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, began using little baits and finesse tackle long before Western anglers used them. I think that Michael Jones in this guide to finesse fishing quoted Gete about the origins of finesse, but most readers dismissed it as poppycock because it is difficult for Western anglers to conceive that finesse tactics for bass started in northeastern Kansas and central Missouri.
Another part of our Midwest finesse history is centered on the pioneering efforts in the 1960 of Bobby and Billy Murray of Arkansas with a twister-tailed grub affixed to a jig. And as you know Bobby Murray won the Classic at Mead.
Of course, our finesse spinning tackle back in the 1950s and 1960s was regularly spooled with six-pound-test monofilament. But by the turn of the century, we began spooling our spinning reels with FireLine and various braided lines. Initially we attached a monofilament leader to the braid; at first, we attached the leader with a blood knot or surgeon’s knot. Then we experimented with the uni knot, but found the J-knot and Seaguar knot be more efficient, and nowadays we prefer the Seaguar knot.
Hope this clarifies some of the misconceptions that prevail about the history of finesse fishing for bass.
As ever,
Ned

THANKS Ned for that history. I love that stuff, and appreciate that you took the time to ‘school’ us!

Ned,

I saw in your backpage article in the 2010 In-Fisherman Bass guide that you use 8 or 10 lb Stren Sonic braid on your finesse rigs (in front of a flouro leader). Is that the mono-equivalent test or the actual test on the braid?

Dan

Dan:
Sorry to say that I don’t have an answer to your question; we merely transcribed what Stren printed on the packages of their braided lines. Stren printed that their eight-pound-test braid has the diameter of one-pound-test monofilament.

The In-Fisherman 2010 Bass Guide story was written in late 2008. Nowadays we are testing Cajun eight-pound-test braid and Cajun eight-pound-test fluorocarbon. It has the diameter of two-pound-test monofilament. It works okay, but it’s red and difficult to see. Traditionally we have used highly-visible braided lines.
Ned

Dan:
In the response to your question, I failed to note that we are using the eight-pound-test Cajun fluorocarbon line as a leader, and it should be noted that it doesn’t have the diameter of one-pound-test monofilament. We attach the leader to the braid with a Seaguar knot.
Moreover, I should have noted that we have gradually become accustomed to the red hue of the Cajun braid. Thus the ability or need to see our line is not as important as we originally thought it was. Initially, however, it was a touch disconcerting, and it took a number of trips before we became accustomed to not being able to clearly see the line.
As an avid recreational bass angler, I, as well as most of my fishing partners, have two primary missions.
The first one is frugality, which prevents us from using expensive brands of tackle. So, we haven’t worked with any of the high-dollar braided lines.
Our second mission is to catch 101 bass on each of our many four-hour outing, which in 2009 we failed to accomplish. In 2009 our best four-hour outing yielded 86 largemouth bass, and throughout the year, we average 12 1/3 bass an hour. We fish four to five times a week or 16 to 20 hours a week, and we fish from either 10 am to 2 pm or 11 am to 3 pm; we use a tactic that we call Midwest finesse, which the great Chuck Wood pioneered back in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Ned

Ned,

Thanks for your response. I live in Alabama very near the Wheeler and Guntersville reservoirs and thought I would give your finesse tactics a try down here. Besides the Bass Guide issue, I saw them also written up in a recent In-Fisherman article on winter bass. There you mentioned using MicroFuse braid I believe. Those are some impressive numbers of fish you and your partners are pulling in. If I can do half that well I’ll be happy.

I made a list of the soft plastics you are using and will try to located those locally before the weekend. I’ve got some Charlie Brewer slider jig heads in 1/16 that should do to start. Your articles said you rig the hook points exposed rather than Texas rigged. Why?

Dan

Dan:
One reason why we use exposed hooks is because the the size of the hook on the 1/32-ounce Gopher Mushroom jig is a number six, and in our eyes that is too small of a hook for a Texas rig or even a Tex-posed rig. Another reason is that we rarely ply flooded timber and brush piles; so we don’t need a weedless rig.
A third reason is that we think that the 2 1/2″ Zero has a more seductive action when it is rigged with the hook exposed.
Also when we fish a jigworm with an exposed hook around patches of coontail and curly-leaf pondweed, we like to hook a stem of those plants with the exposed hook; it seems to us that when that occurs we occasionally provoke a bass to engulf the jigworm as we shake it off the stem.
We also use a 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom jig with a No. 4 hook and a 3/32 Gopher Mushroom jig with a No. 2 hook. We use an exposed hook with them, too.
We have caught as many as 185 to 200 bass on the same Zero. But as a Zero ages, it becomes too buoyant to use on a 1/32-ounce Gopher. When that occurs, we use it on the 1/16-ounce Gopher.
We also soak the Zeros in Gulp Attractant. In 2009, we used Gulp nightcrawler, and in 2010 we will test Gulp crayfish attractant. We think the Gulp helps, but we can’t scientifically prove that it works.
We rarely use the 3/32-ounce Gopher Mushroom jig, and when we do, it is primarily employed with a 4″ Yum Muy Grub. On extremely wind days, which can be frequent in Kansas, we will occasionally use it on a Zero.
We let the flipper and pitchers and other power anglers have all of the brush piles and flooded trees at the lakes that we fish. In our eyes, most of those objects are overfished. So we tend to ply areas that many of the power anglers deem to be ugly waters because they are often featureless to the human eye. The Zero and a 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom jig rarely becomes snagged with the several of the retrieves that we employ. (Some of those retrieves were discussed in the Dec-Jan In-Fisherman article)
We frequently test new braided lines, and when we wrote the recent story on our finesse tactics, we were using Stren Microfuse. Now we are using Cajun.
I like the feel of braid, but I think that an angler can catch as many fish using eight-pound-test monofilament. We are thinking about spending several months making some comparison test of monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid, and we also want to work with braid that is devoid of a fluorocarbon leader; in other words, we tie the jig directly to the braid. We suspect that this line testing will evolve once we get over our mission to catch 101 bass on every four-hour outing.
Hope this explains our methods and some of the ideas behind them.
Ned

by George Kramer

Okay Ned. You got my attention. But what are those “weeds” you are talking about? We have very little in most SoCal lakes–just that snot moss in summer. Can’t I fish a 1/16 with an exposed #1 or 1/0 as I do with 1/8- and 3/16-ounce dart and peaheads. I would try a 1/32nd mushroom, only I’m the media guy fishing in the backseat. Nobody’s gonna slow down enough so my bait can hit the bottom in our world. 🙂 And why not 6-pound instead of 8- to speed up the fall?

George:
Yes, you can wield an 1/8- and 3/16-ounce jig with a soft-plastic lure affixed to it with an exposed hook. And you can use a jig with a No. 1 and 1/0 hook. You can use six-pound-test, too. We use six-pound-test in the winter sometimes.
But we have found that a 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jig with a No. 6 and No. 4 hook catches us more bass than the big jigs and hooks do.
We catch most of our bass in three to eight feet of water year-around — even when there some small sheets of ice floating around parts of the lake. We rarely probe deeper than 12 feet, and then we might opt for a 3/32-ounce Gopher Mushroom jig.
There are many outings when we don’t allow our jig and soft-plastic lure get to the bottom. We try to keep them in a semi-state of suspension, allowing them swim, glide and shake well off the bottom. To accomplish this, we have to use small or lightweight jigs. We also think that it might be easier to accomplish this task if we us a monofilament leader rather than a fluorocarbon leader; the reason for this that we have been told that fluorocarbon sinks more faster than monofilament.
Of course, there are some days, when we have drag and dead-stick our jigs and soft-plastics along the bottom to elicit strikes, and we like the way our light and tiny jigs perform this task, too.
Gete Hibdon told Michael Jones years ago, when Jones was writing his guide to finesse fishing: “fisherman tend to use too much weight. And, with too much weight the baits don’t work right.” Gete’s observation about too much weight lies at the heart of Midwest finesse.
As for the vegetation you asked about: several of our small reservoirs in eastern Kansas are graced with coontail, bushy pondweed, curly-leaf pondweed, American water willow and a few other varieties aquatic vegetation that bass tend to abide in.
Ned

George:
Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, is a devotee of Midwest finesse fishing, and after reading the comments on your Web site, he suggested that we should “mention the Gopher’s effectiveness on riprap. The snagless aspects of the Gopher are best with a small hook and braided line. Plus braided line allows one to easily snap a jig free when it is incidentally snagged on a rock.”
Ned

by George Kramer

We feel the same way about rap and rip rap. 🙂

Ned,

Can you describe more what you mean by “shaking” the rod? This seems to be a key part of your technique as described in your Jan 2010 In-Fisherman article. I’m assuming it’s a vertical up and down shake, that makes the most sense to me. How far up and down, an inch or two? What’s the frequency of the up and down motion? Once or twice a second or is it more rapid?

Thanks,
Dan

Dan:
We normally fish from 10 am to 2 pm, and in Kansas the wind blows a lot during that time frame. Therefore, to keep the wind from creating a bow in our lines, we have to point our rods down in the five o’clock position. When the rod is in that position, we shake it up and down, as well as side to side; it depends on how we are standing and the angle that the line enters the water
The length of the shake ranges from one inch to three inches.
The frequency varies. Sometimes it will incessant. Other times it will be as the bait is falling or gliding after a lift. Sometimes it will be only during the lift. When the angler in the back of the boat is executing the drag-and-deadstick motif, he will often shake it after deadsticking it and just before he commences the drag, and sometimes he shake it for the entire drag.
When we accompanied Shin Fukae at Beaver Lake, Ark., several Aprils ago, he performed what we call the Shin Shake with a jig and Shad Shape Worm for the entire retrieve. He also did it with a 3/8-ounce spider jig dressed a customized creature-bait trailer. His baits never touched the bottom. Watching Fukae was an eye-opening experience for us. Until then we were minimum shakers, and doing it mostly during the initial fall of the lure, and when we slowly retrieved it back to the boat, we primarily used Charlie Brewer’s do-nothing retrieve.
We still don’t shake our baits as much as Shin, but we shake them a lot more than we used to shake them. Because our waters are relatively stained,and much more stained than the clear waters that Charlie Brewer used to ply, our new procedure of incorporating significant series of shakes seems to provoke more strikes than we elicited during our pre-Shin Fukae days.
Of course, we don’t have any comparative statistics to validate that contention; yet our intuitions tell us that a lot of shakes often inveigles more bass than than a no- or minimum-shake retrieve.
You can read other stories were anglers are cautioned not to shake. Russ Comeau recently wrote such a story.
Nowadays, we will always try the do-nothing motif if our shaking tactics don’t elicit enough strikes. In short, it is often wise to be versatile rather than one way.
Hope this answers your questions.
Ned

Thanks. I searched on Shin Fukae after you mentioned him above and found an article you wrote on him at the In-Fisherman website.

My own approach would be: Take either end of the spectrum– shake or slide–and do it until you think you’re overdue in getting a bite. Then go the other way.

OR, use a one revolution (not of the handle, but the bail) go-and-stop retrieve, letting the bait fall all the way to the bottom since you’re shallow anyway.

Such a Neopolitan-like retrieve gives you a little acceleration, a little swim, a little fall, repeated over again. Somewhere in the bowl is the right flavor for the moment, at least it is with a Road Runner. 🙂

this tips are very useful for me,thanks for sharing,i hope to see your next trip