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By Margie Anderson
Oudoors Editor 

Bait Finesse System 101

Get Hooked On This System


September 1, 2023

Bait Finesse System 101

Get Hooked On This System

(originally published on

The Bait Finesse System uses very small and light baitcasting rods and reels and it's gaining popularity with bass fishermen everywhere. But John and I love it for trout fishing on the small forest lakes and even in streams – we're long-time bass anglers who are more comfortable with baitcasting gear than a fly rod or a spinning rod.

Ideal For Panfish

The BFS method is ideal for trout and other panfish and since the lures are so small, you can put a tackle box in your pocket! We bought a couple of 4-piece baitcasting rods from Bait Finesse Empire (he's an Arizona man!), and we just toss them in the Jeep with a small tackle box and we're ready to go. I think you'll really enjoy this kind of fishing – it's a blast!

Japanese anglers often fish limited waters that are highly pressured, so smaller baits and more finesse are often called for. But that presents a problem: those small baits are almost impossible to throw using traditional bait-casting gear, and spinning gear often lacks the precision needed to put a tiny lure exactly where you want it.

Without Drawbacks

Another drawback of spinning gear is line twist. The beauty of a baitcaster is that the line rolls straight off the reel and doesn't spool off like it does on a spinning rod. This spooling action is what causes the dreaded spin caster line twist. So, between the inaccuracy, lack of power, and line twist, sophisticated Japanese anglers wanted baitcasting reels that would allow them to cast small lures like spinning gear, but without those inherent drawbacks.

So about ten or fifteen years ago, Japanese fishermen began tweaking their baitcasting reels with smaller spools. From there, the movement grew and now you can get BFS rods and reels from online stores like Bait Finesse Empire. BFS reels are built small with shallow spools that allow light lures to pull the line out for casting.

Enter Bait Finesse Empire

Early in 2020, Gary Dobyns of Dobyn's Rods posted on his Facebook page that he was toying with the idea of building a lighter power-fishing baitcast rod. Amir Azabbi, who had gotten into BFS via a small online community, answered Gary and suggested he build BFS rods. Gary had never heard of it, but he agreed.

He sent Azabbi and one other fishermen two rods and they fished with them, tested them, and gave suggestions. At first, shops didn't seem interested, so Azabbi started a shop himself (Bait Finesse Empire) and Gary supplied him with the rods. Dobyns told me he is amazed at how fast BFS fishing has taken off. Now Dobyns Rods makes the Sierra Ultra Finesse Casting Rod Series, and he tells me he can hardly keep them in stock.

Special Gear

We all know that baitcasting gear gives you more precision for better accuracy and control, and that's why the Japanese anglers who started the system started tinkering with the smallest baitcasters they could find, putting even smaller spools on them and tweaking them until they could throw super small baits.

Now companies like Tsurinoya, iFishband, Daiwa, and Shimano make specific BFS reels that are perfect for the Bait Finesse System. For instance, the Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS HG 2017 has a 6.8:1 gear ratio that takes up 26.8 inches of line per handle turn. It holds just 49 yards of 8-pound-test line.

Light, Limber Tips

The BFS rods are specially designed with very light, limber tips to make casting the small baits easier. They aren't noodle rods – they tend to be fairly stout with a medium to medium-light action ,so even though you can cast small lures, when you get hooked up you know you've got a true bass rod.

BFS is also hugely popular with trout fishermen and the trout rods are generally shorter rods (6-7 foot) with a moderate action that is ideal for what the Japanese call "area fish", meaning stocked trout. These rods really bend when you cast, and they are noodle rods that allow you to play a trout slowly and keep it on the line.

Handle Light Lures

BFS bass rods will typically handle lures as light as 1/8- to 1/16th ounce, while the trout rods will allow you to throw as light as 1/32 ounce. Over the past year, BFS has gone beyond niche – this year at ICAST two or three American companies had BFS rods on display.


BFS lures run the entire gamut of bass lures – everything from plastics to metal baits to plugs and topwater. Azzabi says that it isn't the size of the bait, per se, it's the weight of the bait that matters with BFS gear. If you start getting too heavy, you're better off with regular baitcasting gear.

In fact, you can fish many traditional bass baits with the Bait Finesse System – many worms are light enough, as well as small 1-1/2- to 2-inch craws and creature baits, 1- to 3-inch swimbaits, etc. Azzabi says hard baits are the most popular on his website: things like crankbaits, jerkbaits, etc.

Many Imported From Japan

He imports a great many of them directly from Japan, as the Japanese have been doing this a long time and have better quality spinnerbaits.

Topwater baits are one of his biggest selling categories and BFS has just about every kind you can think of, including Spook-like baits, poppers, and the Z-Man Baby GOAT – a floating soft bait with kicking twin tails. There are also frogs, inline spinners, and even spoons.

Why BFS?

First of all, hooking a bass on gear this light is an incredible rush. It's just plain fun. Azzabi says that for most guys (here in America, anyway), BFS isn't going to be their primary bass fishing gear. It's going to be one part of what you do. So you can certainly use your power stuff, but as pressure increases, finesse is going to be more and more important.

Supplies The Need For Speed

Amir has also seen a lot of avid bass anglers getting into BFS because they love power fishing, but shoulder or other injuries have made it too difficult for them to use traditional heavy bait-casting gear all day long. BFS is the ideal solution – much lighter, but supplies the need for speed!

If you like to fish small rivers, creeks, and ponds, BFS is the way to go, especially if you walk the bank. Amir absolutely loves walking creeks for bass, getting away from other anglers and just enjoying the sport and the outdoors. Most of the fishing that a creek or pond fisherman does is shallow fishing, and that's ideal for BFS since the reels don't hold a lot of line. If you want to fish deep, you'll be better off with your big gear.

Travel Rods

Some of the most popular BFS fishing rods on Bait Finesse Empire are the 4-piece travel rods. They break down small enough to fit in a day pack, so you can easily carry your gear with you anywhere, easily. Azzabi uses a fanny pack as a tackle box, and only needs to carry a couple of small boxes for all the lures he needs, plus pliers, etc.

Walks And Power Fishes

He says that when you're fishing a creek that's only ten inches deep you don't need a lot of line out, so BFS is perfect for that because it still gives you the backbone to get a smallmouth out of current. And it's much easier to cast with a bait caster when you are surrounded by trees and brush. He loves fishing Japanese minnow lures in creeks. They sink, so it's an aggressive bait, and you have to fish it with a fast twitch. He just walks along the creeks and power fishes.

Amir also says that he's seen a lot of crappie fishermen getting into BFS, especially in conjunction with the new Live View technology. It allows them to cast directly to the target. But basically, for bass fishermen, BFS is like Power Finesse Fishing. It lets you cover shallow water very quickly, but with smaller baits. It's ideal for pitching or flipping small baits just outside cover; for instance, but you probably wouldn't use it to pitch right INTO the cover.

A Nice, Quiet Day Of Fishing

BFS fishing is perfect for travel, particularly when you're not bringing a big bass boat. Imagine being able to pack a single day pack with all the fishing gear you'll need! You can probably think of a lot of places near you where the Bait Finesse System would be the ideal way to have a nice quiet day of fishing, so check out BFS – I bet you get hooked!


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