By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
Brett Hite is considered among the top anglers in the sport when it comes to finesse fishing. Sure, he’s won nearly $1 million with a vibrating jig tied on, but he’s a guy who is willing to stick with a spinning rod when others are quick to abandon it. He’ll zig when others zag and he’s proven it time and again.
At the 2015 Kentucky Lake Elite Series BASSFest, where he finished 3rd, he fished a vibrating jig, but he also used a nail-weighted Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Kut Tail Worm and nearly won the event.
Confidence From Experience
Hite first learned about nail-weighting in the early 2000s at a Lake Shasta Bassmaster Invitational, where one of the anglers who landed in the top 3 fished the rig.
“What’s funny is that everyone thinks it’s a big secret, but out West it’s been a staple for a long time,” Hite said.
Today, few anglers ever mention fishing nail-weighted baits nor have they appeared in many post-tournament recaps.
“It’s just not that popular,” Hite added. “It’s all about having confidence in it. If guys don’t have confidence in it they aren’t going to throw it, just like a lot of other baits.”
Any time bass are relating to bottom and would eat a jig or a shaky-head, a nail-weighted worm will shine, Hite says.
“If they are pressured fish and need a little different presentation, that seems to work real well,” he said.
At the 2015 Kentucky Lake tournament, those fish had been not only pressured by the tournament field, but by locals as well. Hite went to a more subtle presentation – a nail-weighted bait – and nearly won.
“The fish are down there, they have just seen so many baits, it’s just something different,” he said. “It’s about tricking bass into something a little different. I was using a big worm like a lot of people, just with a little different presentation to get them to commit.”
When fishing water in the 30- to 50-foot range, he’ll fish it vertically because casting the bait causes it to fall too slowly to fish efficiently.
“You’ve got to almost fish it vertical so you have contact with it,” Hite said.
If smallmouth are being targeted, he’ll fish nail-weighted baits when they are on bottom in rocks or relating to some type of cover.
Fall Rate Key
Once his bait hits bottom, Hite will shake it along the shell beds and drag it along. He lets the mood of the fish tell him how to fish it as a stop-and-go shaken retrieve can work also.
“Closer to the bottom is where I want it so I’m not going to use sweeping rod movements,” he added. “I’m going to keep it relatively close to the bottom.”
If he’s fishing shallow water, or when bass are suspended, he’ll opt for a 1/16-oz. Reins Tungsten weight. Most times, if he’s fishing deeper water, his weight will range from a 3/32-oz. to 1/8-oz. He’ll also take into account how heavy the bait is to properly gauge the fall rate. Bites can come during the fall and also once the rig hits bottom.
“That big Yamamoto Kut Tail is real heavy so some baits produce their own weight,” he said. “They just need a little guidance down on the bottom with that nail.”
At Kentucky Lake, Hite used a heavier nail weight, reasoning it would get to the bottom quicker, he could cast it a long way and cover water more effectively with it.
In order of preference, Hite’s go-to plastics for nail-weighting are a Yamamoto Kut Tail worm, a 5-inch Senko, and a straight-tailed Roboworm.
The 5-inch Senko is a staple out West. He inserts a nail where the egg sack starts and pushes it toward the head of the bait. He’ll secure the weight with a dab of crazy glue only when he’s skipping the rig under docks. All other times, the sinker should stay embedded.
He also uses an O-ring as it saves time and allows him to extend the life of each bait.
Plum, black/blue, green-pumpkin, and shad patterns with gold flake are a good color baseline for selecting baits.
His favorite hooks include Aaron Martens' dropshot hook made by Gamakatsu and the Decoy Bodyguard or Cover Finesse HP hooks with a weed guard for fishing brush piles. He especially likes the VMC Neko Hook, which sports a short-shank O’Shaughnessy bend that allows for maximum hooking power. He uses hook sizes ranging from #1 to 1/0.
Hite uses a recently released 7-foot, 4-inch medium-action Evergreen USA Combat Stick spinning rod specifically designed for fishing the Neko rig and dropshotting. It has a soft enough tip to impart action when he’s shaking the bait without moving it too far.
He prefers the top-tier Daiwa 2510 Exist reel that sports a super smooth drag. Hite often gets questioned about the reel’s hefty price tag, but he reasons that the drag is silky smooth and he’ll take care of the reel so it will last him for many years.
He spools it up with yellow Sunline TX1 braided line so that he can line-watch more easily, especially as the bait is falling. When he’s fishing the gin-clear waters of the West, he fishes a 10-pound main line with a 5-pound fluorocarbon leader joined by an Alberto knot. Other times, he uses a 7- or 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.
The key to success when fishing nail-weighted plastics, he’s found, is not being too aggressive on hook sets.
“When you feel that bite, wind until the rod loads up and then do more of a side-sweep hookset,” Hite said.