(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Growing up in Ohio, Charlie Hartley referred to the best local fishermen as “soakers.” They had to milk every bite they could out of the best available cover because limits were not common and “a great day was three or four fish.” Time and again, he saw soakers like Ron Yurko and George Polosky take everybody’s entry fees, and they typically did it by flipping small baits.
Hartley himself was an early adopter of the flipping technique on his local waters. He employed an original Fenwick LunkerStik (“weighed about 2 pounds”) and a round Abu-Garcia 5000 to get the job done, but as waters became clearer and pressure increased, he had to refine the technique to conquer those changing conditions. That meant going lighter and smaller. It’s a strategy he still employs today, not when the bite is wide open because “finesse fishing is slow,” but rather when things get tough and every bite counts. It’s great on laydowns and docks, of course, but the two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier has also used it successfully on riprap and bluffs and in lily pads. It’s great when fish slow down because the water is cool, but it works just as well at the opposite extreme – in the dead heat of the summer.
No matter where he does it, Hartley employs a variety of small jigs and downsized soft plastics. Usually he starts with the jigs early in the year, switches to plastics during the post-spawn, and then reverts back in the fall.
One of his favorites is the D&L Advantage Jigs. The company doesn’t sponsor him, but they’re made for the clear waters of Kentucky, so they have “some of the best skirts,” he said, with distinct patterns for spring, summer and winter craws. Another favorite is green-pumpkin with a few strands of faded orange and faded chartreuse, which he believes is effective in both clear and stained water. One favorite trailer is a Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver, which causes the lure to glide. When he wants the lure to fall more vertically, he’ll add a Yamamoto Twin Tail Grub instead. Another one that he really likes is the Zoom Super Chunk Jr., which he relies on more heavily when the water is cold. A black/blue/purple jig with a “flippin’ blue” trailer is among his favorites.
While he fishes a variety of soft plastics, including a Zoom Speed Craw and Baby Brush Hog, another lure that he really likes is a Gambler 7-inch Ribbontail Worm “because no one fishes them anymore.” It’s “non-intimidating,” he added, and has a thicker tail than many other worms, meaning that it “almost has the mass of a Senko,” which means that it has to work its way to the bottom, making it exceptional in current.
Hartley knows that a versatile angler has to be ready to go to the finesse option at a moment’s notice, but he’s not necessarily excited about using a spinning rod: “If I can get away with a flipping stick and a little jig instead of a shaky-head, I’d much rather do it,” he concluded. Just remember, when you get that big one over a steel beam or another piece of heavy cover, don’t pull too hard – go in there and retrieve your trophy
If you want to learn some of Hartley's other finesse-flipping tips, including where, when and why he still uses old school Uncle Josh pork rinds on his jigs, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.