Ultra Light Bait Finesse Presentation 2019

A small group of trout anglers started reaching beyond the noodle soft spin rods, spin reels and inline spinners into a new era redefining the ultra-light fishing approach. With the help of Japanese anglers, along with precision Japanese manufacturing modern levelwind baitcasting reels and ultra light baitcasting rods are carving a path to fish lighter, more accurate and more fun than ever thought possible. Light lines and small lures are no longer just panfish toys. In this presentation I will cover rods, both available and custom build options, available reels, lines and lures. I will share where and how I've found success. Join in as I share the excitement I have experienced with this amazingly fun technique and be a part of the early progression as it evolves.

What is BFS

Have you've heard of a fishing term called BFS or Bait Finesse System?

I first heard of BFS being associated with bass fishing especially Japanese bass fishing. Japan luvs American bass fishing so much that they stocked their reservoirs with bass. They hold tournaments just like Americans do.

But Japan has few reservoirs and a ton of fishing pressure. To overcome highly pressured fishing conditions the Japanese anglers turned to downsizing their fishing equipment to light lures and plastics.

In order to fish these light offerings spin gear was employed. But bass anglers, especially Japanese bass anglers, don't really care for spinning gear so they created a movement toward ultra-light baitcasting gear.

You won't find an american bass casting rod under medium power...maybe a couple ML's out there. At one time shorter casting rods were pretty normal like this old 5'6" Cotton Cordell. While not an ultra light I still enjoy fishing this 35 yr old rod. It's casting accuracy is tough to match.

Japan bass scene is where Bait Finesse System was conceived. At least that is one story. Members of the trout movement lay claim that they started BFS. I'm not sure which is true but I lean toward the bass story.

My belief is that some of the mountain trout stream anglers were also bass anglers. Knowing the advantages of ultralight baitcasting reels they saw an opportunity to fit it into their trout quiver. All they needed was to craft some custom BFS trout rods and let the games begin.

My Evolution of Ultra-Light Bassin' with a Baitcaster

In 2007 I started fishing the Columbia River Smallmouth bass

About that time, without ever hearing the term BFS, I started pushing my bass casting gear toward a similar revolution.

About year 2008 I had bought a gloomis casting rod from the new nrx line of rods. It was the lightest in the bunch of casting rods. Model nrx802c rated medium. Soon after I purchase a Curado 50 size reel.

At first I fished this rod like any other casting rod and it was impressive. Then I started downsizing line, downsizing lure weights, even fishing weightless plastics with baitcasting gear.

I also experimented with using baitcasting gear in drop shot fishing situations.

I kept reducing my lure weight trying to find when this rod would no longer load.

I finally got to a point were I was casting weightless senkos on 8lb line.

One day fishing with my friend Gabe he says to me, you're like fishing ultralight with a baitcasting.

This was before either one of us had heard of BFS bass fishing.

Later, like much later I continued to evolve into bfs bass fishing with actual japan models of bfs bass rods


To Ditch the spin reel
I'm not against spin reels and they are the right tool for certain uses but my goal was to ditch them!!!

I grew tired of twisted line and the awkward size in relation to a rod and the oversize rod guides needed to make them work right.

Also I didn't like how much room they took up in my boats rod box and spinning rods were always the cause of lines being tangled with other rods.

It just seems to me that baitcasting, levelwind style reels are superior in so many ways most notably in line management and casting accuracy but also are also compact and store easier.

Japanese bass anglers must feel this same way. Most won't even consider using a spinning reel.

A Vote for the Spin Reel

Please understand I'm not totally discounting the positive attributes of the spin reel.

If you want max casting distance or super tough casting situations spin rods are your friend.

Maybe you are starting someone into fishing, spin rod is a great tool for this.

*Guess who holds the original patent for the spin reel. I understand it is Orvis

Switching Gears...Exploring Ultra-lite

A few years back on found myself on foot fishing a large reservoir in New Mexico. With the size of water, shoreline obstacles and wind I ruled out fly fishing pretty quick. I felt like I would need a spin rod to fish this place.

The lightest thing I had was a drop shot spin rod so I loaded it with some small line and went for it. At first I was just throwing some light jig/grub combinations and soon started catching some walleye and bass.

I was having fun so I decided to explore deeper into "lite" or ultra-light game.

I bought a good ultralight spin rod and reel and started to collect some small lures. I also started to tie some of my own extra heavy flies to use on my ultra-lite rod. I found some success with some and none with others but I continued to have fun therefore I continued to explore.

Story..I remember way back I took a friend fishing. He needed to buy a new rod and reel....noodle rod

I always thought ultra-light spin rods were just too noodle like to take serious. So now with a good modern UL rod I have a different opinion about ultralight spin gear. Not noodle soft rods anymore.

Enter Trout BFS

Fast forward a couple years later on a trout stream in winter. I had been learning trout spey and swinging small streamers for trout. It was pretty fun fishing. Then one day I was talking a friend about swing flies and what we could do to improve them and in conversation he had mentioned how effective spoons were on trout and we could only get that same attraction in a fly it would be unbelievable.

I was curious about these spoons so the next trip I brought along my ultralight spin rod and a couple little spoons that I'd collected years before. On that day what I learned forever changed my approach to ultralight, for both gear and fly. TOTAL GAME CHANGER!!!

Before ultralight, while swinging flies my catch would be approx 95% rainbow trout. I really thought there wasn't many brown trout in this water.

My first run with the ultra light spin was quite a different story. Most of the fish I caught that day were brown trout. More than I've ever caught on that river in one day ever and I was still catching rainbows too.

In short what I was learning that day was trout are way more attracted to small lures than they are swung flies. I should tell you now that I still fish flies for trout...but why limit oneself!

How did I find BFS

While in my quest for small spoons I came across a website, www.finesses-fishing.com, were I found a small group of guys who were geeking out on ultralight fishing. On this sight I also found BFS trout.

At the same time frame I had just read this book, Piscatorial Absurdities by Joe Robinson. Joe was an avid fly fisherman who learned of ultra light fishing from Dave Whitlock. Joe spent many years exploring ultra light fishing about as deep as one could venture into. It's a well written book as well as quite entertaining.

Now I've already have heard of bfs in bass fishing.

So imagine now, I've been hooked on bfs bass since 2008 and also hooked on ultra-light angling for trout and here comes Trout BFS.

Wilt!!! Wilt!!! Holy shit Wilt!!!. Do you guys know JD?

Long story short, I vowed to hang up my spin rods forever and go all in on bfs baitcasting.
And you should too! End of story! I'm Out!!!

Hang on, Just Kidding! We're just getting started

For whatever reason I've always been attracted to small lures but fishing them was more of a novelty idea than actual reality. Most attempts to fish with them revealed that my gear was too large to effectively cast and forget actually feeling any of their action.

Do you have a collection of small lures, spoons or spinners?
Did you ever think they could be practical in anything other than the panfish fishing.?

Now, I know a few older guys that have fished mepps and panther martins for trout all their lives. And they are quite good at it.


Bait Finesse System - Born on the idea that an angler can fish small lures, spoons, spinners to mountain stream trout with highly accurate underhand cast enabling anglers to work upstream casting under overhangs, eddies, pockets, etc, with excellent presentations while seeking explosive reactions from predatory feeding trout.
Can we expand on this? Heck yeah! More on that in a bit!

Let's break it down starting with reels
As progression of bfs bass was taking place the demand for smaller reels with better cast braking / anti-backlash systems was coming around.

The technology that really drives ultralight bfs reels is lighter spools. With lighter spools it takes less inertia to get it moving so therefore lighter lures can be cast

The Pro's and Con's of BFS

  • Much more compact gear especially for boats, floats, kayak anglers
  • Can be much more accurate casting.
  • Virtually no line twist problems. This alone makes them quite attractive.
  • Generally much shorter rods
  • Underhand casting
  • Learning curve for reel setup
  • Learning curve for casting
  • Backlash
  • Lure size/weight restrictions...Greg's 3 gram rule
  • Available gear and prices..although good spin gear can be just as expensive
BFS trout rods - why so short

  • Underhand casting - picture yourself knee deep wading
  • Shorter is more accurate
  • Confined spaces

Note on the short rod subject

JDM markets trout rods in two different categories of fishing they call Mountain Stream and Area. BFS Trout rods that are referred to as Mountain Stream are short rods for small streams where as Area rods are longer and designed for lake type of fishing. 

Lure size/weight restrictions
  • Lighter the lure the harder to cast
  • Trout 3-5gm
  • Bass 4-7gm

Gear Availability and Pricing

  • True BFS reels still a jdm item
  • Limited availability of jdm rods. no USA rods (maybe a St Croix)
  • Build your own using US sourced spin rod blanks


So what is the drive to get into this? I believe for me it's several factors. For one the coolness factor.
  • In a day when most fly anglers frown at spin anglers I feel like I have a secret weapon. 
  • All those little lures, spoons, spinners are now open for me to explore. 
  • It's a one rod, one box of lures, one angler show
  • Compact and precise
  • Hard, reactive strikes
  • Attracts action/fish from all types of water
  • Very well suited to fish from kayak or inflatable
  • Light line... line can be a little as 5x tippet
  • Very challenging

Uncomplicated - While fly fishing for trout is awesome I feel it is becoming too complicated. 
  • Multi fly rigs and tangles
  • Euro nymph now a big thing and that's cool but where do we draw the line on what is fly fishing
  • Streamers are awesome but not so much on foot or your own self propelled craft. Have you ever tried to fish a streamer from your own craft while floating a river. this is why we have drift boats and guides
  • Swinging two hand for trout is cool but takes certain water types and limited in trout attraction
Why not just ultra-light spin fish?
  • No reason not to
  • Harder to cast accurate
  • Line twist
  • Good equipment just as expensive as BFS

My BFS Trout Day Looks Like...

Currently my trout time is limited to some winter days on San Juan River and some bassin on my local lakes. On the San Juan I float a 3 mile stretch known as the quality waters. It's loaded with rainbows and browns. Most anglers think to catch fish you need to fish size 28 midge patterns and there is some truth to this. Fact is the fish are so accustomed to anglers that as soon as they know anglers are around they lock their jaws on everything except the tiny bugs they are accustomed to eating. 

One exception is to be the first one down the river and hit the hot spots before other anglers get in them. There is always a fish or two that will ferociously attack on a reaction type of presentation: such as lure, spinner, streamer, etc.

Most anglers think it's fly water only but it is actually no more than two, single hook barbless fly or lure. I've become fine with the dirty looks. Fact is I move along quickly and if an angler is already in an area I was going to fish I just move along. I don't stay in one area very long with this presentation. 

On this float I encounter water types such as riffles and runs and long stretches. I also encounter lake like pool areas. There are eddy's and seams. I can adapt my BFS to any of it with nothing more than a change of lure. No indicators, no multi-fly rigs, no sink or float lines. Just one rod and one box of lures.

Pools I usually float and fan cast. Cast toward any structure you can see. Be mindful of followers. If you see them soon enough many you can coax to eat with a sudden pause.

Runs I will cast across quartering downstream and swing like one would for trout spey. Spoons are real good at swinging. Be sure to hit the far side. Fish are always on the far side, right Lance?

Look for any seams and cast across them retrieving back through them.

Look for back eddies, foam lines and drop offs.

If wading, I fish upstream to undercuts, overhangs, boulder pockets

Most areas I cover quickly either by floating slowing or get out and wade. I fish this from a Outcast stealth Pro and sometimes I just put my feet down, stand up, make a couple cast, sit back down and move on.

Big lake type areas I float and fan cast cover wide areas of water. At one time I could hardly catch in fish in this area. Now I can find many. They seem to respond better to lures. I think lures can call them from farther away to come in on curiosity. 

Staying ahead of the guide boats is my strategy.

The compact gear easily fits withing the confines of my watercraft therefore navigating rapids and other hazards are a non issue while floating

It's freedom! Just me a my favorite rod.

So Why Not Bass

Understand as the name "trout" enters this picture often I think the bigger overlooked area of bfs is in fact ultra light bass angling.

My assumption would be that there are a few of you here tonight with a bigger interest in bass fishing. As of matter of fact I'm willing to bet everyone of you is pretty crazy about bass fishing.

In America we have all the standard bass gear one could ever want! We have bass fly gear!. But where is the evolution of a real ultralight bass game.

I noticed a year ago St.Croix came out with some new kayak bass rods. I checked them out and was seriously disappointed. All they were was 7 foot medium and 7'6" med/hvy rods with the name Yak on them. Obviously whoever designed them has never fished from a kayak.

Whether you float, wade or boat I think you can have some fun with lighter, shorter, smaller rods for ultra-light bass fishing.

Lots of lures are available already including crankbaits, minnowbaits, topwater, spinbaits. Treble hooks can be replaced with either single hooks of doubles.

What do you need to get started?

Pick a rod. This is probably the hardest part at this point. Options are go JDM, build your own, or try to find a domestic offered product such as a bass pro micro light or the St. Croix Panfish model.

Pick a reel. US market Shimano Aldebaron 50. Or go JDM.  Or find a Shimano size 50 Curado or Core Or modify a reel with an aftermarket spool. Keep in mind any baitcaster will work but the better it is the better it will cast light line and lure.

Pick a line. Don't start too small. I like mono in the 0.007" size give or take 0.001". This typically falls into 4 to 6lb range.  Braid might be an option. I recommend one of the 8 carrier braid types. I'd avoid fluorocarbon just for reasons of manageability and cost. If fluorocarbon is something you feel will benefit you mess with it after you have dialed in a good working system with monofilament first.

Pick some lures, spinners, spoons. My advice don't start too small. Plenty of good trout stuff in the 3-5gm (1/8-3/16oz) range for trout and 3-7gm (1/8-1/4oz) for bass stuff. Start on the upper end of these weights.

As you are starting out and getting your outfit dialed in start on the larger size of lines and lures. They manage better and are easier to cast with. Gradually work your way down in size and find your comfort point.

Adjusting Reels

Baitcast reels have two critical adjustments: spool tension and backlash suppression.

Spool Tension: Note...Spool tension helps control backlash at the end of a cast
Set first with lure attached disengage reel and allow lure to drop under it's own weight. Adjust spool tension tight enough that the lure has a controlled descent. You are always looking for a controlled descent so if you change lure weights this might need to be re-adjusted.

Backlash Suppression: Note backlash suppression helps control backlash on the initial start of the cast when spool speed is the highest. Depending on reel this can be a dial or may be other adjusters under side plate or a combination of both. Once this gets to desire setting it won't need to be adjusted much if any at all. Start with large amount of suppression this will limit casting distance but control backlash better. Once cast are being performed without backlash you can start backing down this adjustment until desire control is reached.

Note about different systems..many reels use centrifugal mechanisms, others use magnetic systems, some use a hybrid of both. New on the scene is Shimano's DC reels found in select curado's and SLX's. Right now only in bigger sizes. I'm watching for this technology to come down in size. Even if they made a 50 size I would be all over it for BFS.


Will I build you a rod?
Reels? - if money no concern I would go with US market Shimano Aldebaron 50MGL

Stren Crappie mono 4lb
Sunline Super Natural Mono 4 or 6lb
Rapala Ultra Light all
Rapala Ultra Light Crank - Gold and Firetiger
Rapala Mini Fat Rap - Crawdad and Perch
Rapala Ultra Light Pop
Yo-Zuri L-Minnow 1/8 model - Gold Flame and Muddler Minnow
Dynamic Trout Spinnerbait
VMC Duolock Snap Swivels #10
Thomas Cyclone Spoons - 1/6th Gold Red
Finesse Fishing - USA JDM Gear Site
Finesse Fishing - Single hooks for lures and spoons - Micro barbed hooks awesome
Piscatorial Absurdities by Joe Robinson
North-One - JDM Reels
St.Croix Panfish Casting Rod

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