Posted by Randy Bergin on August 08, 2016
You whip that pool cue of a fishing rod and send your 2 oz swimbait what seems like a mile, splash. Plop, plop, plop it goes that near musky sized topwater bait that you just know will catch the big one. You start that steady slow retrieve and wait for the tug. Send a few more casts and wait again. More casts, more waiting, and waiting, and casting, and retrieving. The anticipation of that monster strike quickly turns into a sore shoulder and a tight neck. Reality sets in, its hot, the river is at near record lows and surface temps are approaching record highs. Every ripple your bait makes can be seen for what seems like miles due to the gin clear water. That’s when you realize it’s time to put down the trophy chasing glory stick and double digit $$ bait and pick up the lightest rod, lightest line, and lightest presentation in your tackle box. It’s Ned Rig Season!
Arguably the ultimate modern day finesse fishing technique, the “Ned Rig”, as it’s known is simply a small natural looking bait that is fished with little weight and not much “angler input”. Most often fished in or near some kind of current allowing the water to do most of the work. In its infancy it was merely a Senko style worm cut in half and slid on a traditional ball head jig. Fast forward a few years and you can now see specifically marketed products such as Z Man’s TRD series which is full line of Ned Rig ready products. The Z-Man Finesse TRD Worm and Finesse ShroomZ jig head are a perfect match and are a great choice for your traditional Ned Rig style fishing and rigging. This bait excels in semi open water, with somewhat rocky bottom. Some type of current via natural current in a river, or wind drawn current in your favorite lake is ideal. The whole Ned Rig deal is quite simple, grab a medium light spinning rod, 6’6” – 7’ in length rated for 1/16th to 1/8th oz baits, add some 10-20 lb braided line and tie on a 2-15 foot, depending on water depth, fluorocarbon leader in the 6-8lb test range. If fishing deep clear lakes a full spool of fluorocarbon is also an option. Simply cast out your bait, with the lightest weight possible to keep it on/near the bottom, across any kind of current, current break, or current seam and just let it do its thing. You can swing it, bounce it, or just let it sit.
Now that we have the basics of the Ned Rig down let me tell you about a recent trip through Central and Western PA where we were met with these same low, clear, and steamy hot conditions most us are currently facing on our local waters. I’ll admit that when we planned this trip to fish multiple known PA trophy flows that I may have been caught up in the romance of catching huge fish with fairly large baits. I was expecting violent strikes as bronze rose and crushed your topwater offering. Well as you can assume by now, that was not the case. Yes there was a topwater bite, but it didn’t last very long and wasn’t very consistent. I knew it was time to scale it down and rig up a Ned Rig of my own.
My personal take on the Ned Rig is a little bit different than the norm. I start with a product from 412 Bait Co called the Free Minnow in the 3.5” size. It differs from the TRD in the sense that the tail tapers so it has much more action when doing “nothing at all", but also gives the ability to swim the bait if needed. I trim the slightest bit off the tip of the worm and add it to an Owner Ultrahead Finesse Type Jig. The bait is essentially Texas rigged with this jig head so it’s also much more weed-less and snag-free than a traditional Ned head. The Free Minnow (and Free Worm) actually comes in 2 formulas and both have their place with this presentation. When you just can’t seem to find a bite the Tournament Series formula is hard to beat. Its softer more salted nature gives the bait a ton of action and makes it swim very well. The standard formula is a great choice for all day long durability and a little more buoyancy for a little better bounce and pause presentation. This bait alone helped to turn long hot fishless floats into a fish catching frenzy, often boating double digit numbers each day on each river. Admittedly not the biggest fish, but a few good ones were caught in fairly tough conditions and hey catching is catching. In clear water and though conditions I would recommend green pumpkin black, green pumpkin special, and watermelon red, with a nod going to dreamsicle and cold steal if looking for more of a lone baitfish presentation.
Whether you fish lakes or rivers, shallow water or slightly deeper depths, the Ned Rig has a place in your tackle box. With multiple ways to rig various style worms and jig heads, from open water to slightly thicker cover there is without doubt a way it can work for you. When the temperature is hot and the water is low or even when the fish are cold and sluggish it is sure to get the job done. When you’re ready to tie on a bait you know will work check out the options here at Fishing Online!
Catch ya later!