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Finesse Smallmouth Rig Great for All Kinds of Bass

The Cindy Rig is red hot in the bass fishing world, and its use has spread far beyond the Great Lakes and the smallmouth bass it was designed to catch. Let’s take a closer look!

Cindy rig smallmouth bassCindy rig smallmouth bass

Noone is surprised anymore by the tiny lures created by Great Lakes Finesse producing BIG smallmouth bass, especially from the ultra-clear waters of the Great Lakes. The same might not be said about largemouth bass from Toledo Bend, which straddles the Texas/Louisiana border and has little in common with the Great Lakes. Yet a tiny Cindy rig with a GLF Drop Minnow played a vital role in Luke Palmer’s sixth-place finish at the recent Bassmaster Elite Series event at Toledo Bend.

The Cindy rig, which Palmer has used with great success in multiple Elite Series events, has surged in popularity because of its extreme effectiveness. It was developed for fooling fussy, clear-water smallmouths and has gained most of its momentum with those very applications. However, many anglers – Palmer included – are quickly figuring out that the Cindy rig is not only for Great Lake smallmouth bass.

“It’s finessey –something different – and it just catches fish,” Palmer said.

About the Cindy Rig

Cindy rigCindy rig

The Cindy rig is a jig head minnow combination, but not just any jig head minnow. Specifically, it refers to a GLF Drop Minnow rigged on a Stealth Ball Jig Head and fished with a straight reeling presentation. It is a very small offering, with a natural profile and extremely subtle action.

The Drop Minnow is 2.75 inches long, with a slender minnow shape, a ribbed body to create vibration and a tail that comes to life even at very slow speeds. The tail action is quick but tight, keeping the presentation subtle and natural. Neutral buoyancy keeps the drop minnow completely horizontal as it comes through the water. The Drop Minnow comes in 10 colors.

The Stealth Ball Jig Head is a premium finesse ballhead jig, built on No. 1 or 1/O Gamakatsu 604 Hook. It has oversized keepers for holding a bait in place and has a durable matte powder coat finish. It comes in 1/16-, 1/8-, and 3/16-ouce sizes.

The Cindy rig is best fished on fairy light spinning tackle with a long rod and light line – typically braid, with a long, light fluorocarbon leader.

New Twist to Cindy Rig

Great Lakes Finesse Sneaky Swimbait HeadGreat Lakes Finesse Sneaky Swimbait Head

Great Lakes Finesse just released the new Sneaky Swimbait Head, which was modeled after the popular Sneaky Underspin and provides an even greater measure of finesse for Cindy rigging. The Sneaky Swimbait Head has a natural fish head shape and 3D eyes that provide an extreme measure of realism, making it the head of choice for extra clear water.

The Sneaky Swimbait Head features a 1/O fine-wire hook to allow for easy hook penetration, even with extra-long casts for fussy fish, a light action rod and 4- or 6-pound test line.

Designed for ultra-finesse baits, the Sneaky Swimbait Head fits a Drop Minnow perfectly, and the head design and forward hook position allow it to run level and come through sparse vegetation. A wire keeper keeps baits securely in place.

Tournament Turnaround

Luke Palmer with Cindy Rig largemouthLuke Palmer with Cindy Rig largemouth

The Cindy Rig played a critical role in Palmer’s 2023 tournament season because it delivered success in the Bassmaster Eliter Series northern swing, where smallmouth bass had provided significant struggles for him in the past.

“This is something that has changed smallmouth fishing for me,” Palmer said. “I have had a lot of trouble the last four years trying to figure out what I can do and stay on top of those smallmouths.”

Palmer had learned about the Cindy rig from Dan Miguel, brand manager of Great Lakes Finesse and co-founder of the brand. Relying heavily on the Cindy rig when the Elite Series move north last year, Palmer managed a second-place finish at Lake St Clair, 13th at Lake Champlain and 11th at the St Lawrence River.

“It was a total swing in the northern swing for me,” he said.

The amount of success Palmer found catching northern smallmouths on the Cindy rig prompted him to experiment with it farther south through the offseason. He quickly realized this rig is not only for smallmouth bass and that it is a highly effective approach for targeting fish he sees on forward facing sonar in a broad range of water types and for largemouth bass.

“The size and profile of the bait makes for a bite size sack, especially when fish are highly pressured,” Palmer said.

That discovery prompted Palmer to turn to the Cindy rig at this year’s Elite Series season opener at Toledo Bend, and the rig played a key role in his sixth-place finish.

Fishing the Cindy Rig

Cindy rig largemouth bassCindy rig largemouth bass

In its most basic form, fishing the Cindy Rig is about a simple and straightforward as it gets. Cast the rig, let it sink to the depth you want to fish and reel slowly and steadily. No lifts. No jiggles. No pauses. No added action of any kind. Just reel and let the Drop Minnow do its magic.

Keys to success with the Cindy rig are casting it to the right places and swimming it at the right level in the water column. Palmer couples the Cindy rig with forward facing sonar, using his electronics to find schools of fish and individual fish and to monitor the depth of his bait as he swims it. He wants his bait to stay just above the fish he is targeting.

Palmer uses the Cindy rig to target fish in a broad range of depths and uses different Stealth Ball Head Jig sizes to work different depths. He uses a 1/16-ounce head for working less than 5 feet deep, 1/8 ounce for 5 to 10 feet and 3/16 ounce for 10 to 25 feet. Changing the jig head size allows him to reel at the same steady pace for different depths.

Palmer us a 7-foot Falcon Bucoo spinning rod, spooling his reel with 10-pound braid, adding a 7- or 8-pound test Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon leader.

Palmer’s primary color choices for the Cindy rig are Matte Black, Crushed Shad and Green Pumpkin. He typically starts with Matte Black for the shallowest presentations and uses Crushed Shad to imitate a shad or herring and Green Pumpkin to imitate a goby or bluegill.