By Jeff Samsel

Big fish? You bet.
Big appetite? Absolutely.
Big show? All the time.
Big baits? Well, not necessarily.

Terry “Big Show” Scroggins stays true to his nickname with the size of his presence, personality and the bags he bring to the scales, but when it comes to bait selection, maybe not. He considers versatility an essential attribute, and plans strategies based on the waters he is working, the conditions and what the fish reveal about their mood. When those indicators suggest turning to a finesse approach, Scroggins isn’t afraid to go big with small baits.
“The best answer to when I downsize is any time I am looking to generate a bite,” Scroggins said. He added that the presence of smallmouth and spotted bass is a hint to go finesse, and if the body of water is extra clear with steep shorelines, finesse is the first thing he considers.

“At some lakes, it’s just what you’re going to do. In other places, it’s because of a cold front or something else that makes the bite tough,” he said.

Finesse Rigs
Scroggins’ set-up for finesse fishing is a 6-foot-10-inch medium-weight spinning outfit spooled with 10-lb braided line and a 15-foot section of 6-lb fluorocarbon leader. Braid allows him to make long casts when needed, takes most of the stretch out of the line, and helps him feel the bottom and detect even the lightest of strikes. The long fluorocarbon leader is important because braided line is buoyant and he needs a significant section of sinking line to get the best action from his finesse presentations.

For largemouths and most spotted bass, Scroggins’ new go-to finesse worm is a 6-inch YUM Sharp Shooter worm. He uses the 4.5-inch version of the same worm or a YUM Warning Shot to drop-shot for smallmouths in clear northern lakes, but the 6-inch Sharp Shooters cover the biggest range of finesse applications. He fishes it down steep banks, in flooded treetops, over submerged grass and around docks, to name just a few situations.

Scroggins typically uses a Sharp Shooter in clear water and for fussy fish, so he sticks with natural colors like green pumpkin, watermelon seed and ox blood red flake.

“Because it’s new this year, it’s a shape and action that the fish haven’t seen, which is an advantage,” Scroggins said. “It’s ideal for a drop-shot or a shaky head. I’ve fished it a lot during the past couple of months and I’m really excited about it.”

Finesse Techniques
Shaky head fishing and drop-shotting stand out as Scroggins’ primary finesse tactics. He generally prefers the shaky head when he’s searching for fish and working along a bank. The drop-shot rig more commonly comes into play when Scroggins knows where the fish are and is trying to coerce them into biting, or when he finds suspended bass that need the bait right in front of their faces to bite.

(LEFT - YUM'S new Sharp Shooter finesse and drop-shot worms come in two sizes. Both catch fish!)

For either technique Scroggins always uses the least amount of weight he can get away with, based on the water depth and the amount of wind or current. The fall of the Sharp Shooter, with its shimmying tail, entices a lot of strikes, so Scroggins wants an enticingly slow drop rate. That said, he also has to consider how long it takes to reach the bottom (or fish). Too little weight simply takes too long to reach deep fish.

Scroggins’ primary shaky head presentation matches the name well. He casts, often toward a steep bank, and lets the bait fall on a slack line, watching carefully for strikes. After the bait finds bottom, he leaves it motionless for several seconds.

“Then I just shake it,” he said. “That makes the worm shake, but it also causes it to drag a little, and when it reaches the edges of shelves it will fall slowly off – often right in front of a bass.”

He alternates shakes and pauses throughout the presentation, keeping the bait in place longer any time he feels it bump into brush or any type of cover.

Scroggins’ typical drop-shot presentation involves quite a bit of holding the rod motionless and letting the subtle action of the worm do the work. If any current exists, the tail will move constantly even with no added action. He intersperses jiggles of the rod tip, varying the amount of movement based on conditions and what the fish show him, but he stresses that holding the rod still for a period of time is important to getting strikes.

One thing Scroggins does differently from most anglers in rigging a drop-shot is that instead of attaching the hook with a polomar knot, he uses a snell. He still keeps the tag end long, runs it through the hook eye and adds his weight to the end just like most fishermen do with a Palomar, however, he believes the snell does a better job of extending the hook and worm straight out from the line.
Scoggins also varies the length of the leader from this hook to his weight based on the situation. A default leader length for him is about 15 inches, but he might shorten that to keep the bait tighter to the bottom or lengthen it to account for more current or to keep his worm, which he normally nose hooks, above grass or other cover.

Finishing the Job
Strikes tend to be subtle with either technique, especially early in the year while the water remains chilly.

“You usually don’t feel that classic ‘thump.’ It just gets heavier or feels kind of spongy,” Scroggins said.