As many of you have gathered from the many posts I've submitted, lure design is an obsession as much as fishing. For those that fish waters with larger fish of most species, those fish seem to be provoked by many lure designs and larger size lures. Maybe it's the bully in them that is challenged by those lures that exhibit a challenge that seemingly flaunt their girth, size and more extreme action.
Once upon a time I was exclusively a bass angler, casting larger lures only bass and species other than pan fish would strike. Crappie wouldn't think twice about striking a 3/4 oz skirted jig & trailer or spinnerbait with giant blades, no matter the size fish. But fishing only for larger species fish and getting far fewer fish to bite got old after a while forcing me to consider smaller lures and finesse baits which bass also bite. But how small is small and what should be considered a finesse action lure? Again it depends on the largest sizes of fish where you fish.
Large crappie over 13" don't mess around and nor do perch over 12" or sunfish over 8"! Larger shad tail and curl tail grubs get clobbered by larger fish of any species. In fact, I first started catching smallmouth bass and pan fish during their spawn (the craziest of any fish), on 4" yellow Mr Twister grubs. But over time I found some waters that averaged smaller crappie and sunfish didn't respond to greater action tail lures. Some might say, 'you didn't fish where the larger fish were', and that would be fine if I limited the areas I fished. But if I've learned anything from fishing for bass, location is everything and one size doesn't fit all and neither does one location or depth.
So, can a lure be too small to provoke fish to strike - especially smaller fish? IMHO fish that are challenged by a lure regardless of fish activity level will bite it. I've recently posted about catching fish in 39 degree water and those fish would no way hit a surface lure - an indication of heightened activity. What combination of lure and presentation factors allowed me to get those fish to strike outing after outing? Take presentation first. Slow & seductive is the best way I can describe it. A natural conservation of energy is key when considering lure speed. Fish not in the mood to chase, won't, which a usually assume is the case regardless water temperature and time of year. When some of you fish a live minnow, you might assume hungry fish bite it because it represents a recognized food. Hunger & recognition may be the reasons, but other factors that minnows have in common with finesse lures may be as important or more so.
Take the shape of a minnow - please: (LOL) streamlined, tapering to a thin tail. The tail, fin and gill actions are extremely subtle - something that predator fish are very sensitive to. They relate to weakness and vulnerability - even if they have a full belly. Much of the time lures that exhibit those characteristics in some way, get hit more often by a larger size range of fish.
What is considered a finesse action in a lure? Does it need an action tail such as a curl tail? This example may convince you that it doesn't. For ha ha's, I cut off the end of a plastic finesse worm (1.5') and rigged it on a 1/16 oz jig head. After I caught four species and over a dozen fish on it, I watched how it moved in the water. Being thin in shape and made of a soft plastic, I noticed the quiver of the body. Remember - the tail was round. The small size and quiver qualified the lure as a finesse bait, but can a lure that has an action tail also be considered a finesse lure? It can but only as long as it exhibits a subtle action at the slowest retrieve possible to keep it moving?
Remember the live minnow's shape and tapered tail? Many lure materials exhibit both: hair, fur, feather and flash-a-bou, taper off when moved allowing a subtle tail action. Soft plastic lures of a certain tail design are already tapered and exhibit just as much of a subtle action fish respond to more often than not. Take the Crappie Magnet grub. It's not the split in the tail that makes it one of the best finesse lure designs - I've glued the tails together and caught just as many fish. The cone-shaped body taper and action is what the fish ordered - an action that's more of a waddle & glide than anything else.
Thin straight-tail grubs are also perfect in design and at the top of my list of finesse action lures. The tail can be one or split but must be thin. Even a thin paddle tail can qualify. Here are some examples:
cone shaped hand pour and Magnet:
thin flat tail:
Thin spike tail:
and these examples:
If it weren't for the many examples above, I am sure my catch rate would have been far less over the last few years. But one last thing:
length matters! I've found that smaller in length is sometimes the key to getting fish to bite versus playfully nipping at the tail. In warmer water fish are geared to strike larger lures for some reason, but in cooler water the opposite is true - take ice fishing lures for example. But don't go too small; fish want some meat on the end of the hook to make it worth their while!