A heavyweight version of the wacky worm has become a hit with pros on the tournament trail.
Japanese anglers on the pro tours brought the Neko rig over from Japan, and the weighted version of a wacky worm has been adopted by many touring pros, including Stacey King. The Neko rig is a worm rigged wacky style with the hook impaled near the middle of the worm and a weight inserted into the lure’s head or tail.
“It’s a pretty subtle approach, and it sinks slowly the way I rig it,” King says. “It slithers along the bottom and is like fishing a wacky worm shallow.” King favors the Neko rig as a finesse tactic because it draws strikes when Texas-rigged or shaky head worms fail to produce.
King opts for a 5-inch Bass Pro Shops Stik-O Worm (a Senko-style worm) or a 6-inch Bass Pro Shops Mag Fin-Eke Worm in green pumpkin or blue craw hues for the Neko rig. On his Neko rig, he will also use a Yamamoto Senko in a cinnamon purple color.
The Missouri pro selects a 1/0 or 2/0 Gamakatsu round bend straight shank hook to match his worm and uses an O-ring to hold the hook instead of impaling it into the worm. “Most of those worms have an egg sack, so I typically rig the hook in the middle of that sack,” says King, who positions the hook with its point towards the worm’s tail. “That way, if the fish grabs it, theoretically it will get hooked in the top of the mouth.”
The 12-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier completes his rig by inserting a screw into the head of the worm so the lure will fall head down through the water column. While other anglers stick nail weights in their Neko rigs, King prefers wood screws for weighting the rig because screws stay in the worm better. “I’ve got a jillion old screws out in my workshop,” King says. “I like the screw because it doesn’t come out; the lead nails will often slip out.” The screws also offer King a variety of weights to try on his Neko rig.
The Neko rig is versatile enough to be used in shallow or deep water, depending on the size of the rig’s weight. King favors using the rig when highly pressured bass are on drops and ledges and have seen a multitude of lures and techniques. “That Neko rig seems to be something that will get you a few extra fish when the other baits have all kind of petered out on you,” King says.
The four-time Forrest Wood Cup qualifier relies on the Neko rig to catch quality bass 40 to 45 feet deep on his home waters of Table Rock Lake. After finding bass on his depth finder, King lets his rig fall vertically into fish that are suspended or hugging the bottom. When the rig reaches the desired depth, King starts shaking the lure up and down by slowly raising his rod.
“I keep my rod tip fairly high (10 to 11 o’clock position) and shake that rig four or five times and then move it towards me a little bit,” King says. He shakes the rig on a semi-taut line just hard enough to make both ends of the worm flare. The worm ends flaring back and forth give bass a different look that tempts even the most finicky bass into biting.
When King feels the added weight on the line, he tries to determine whether a bass has inhaled the worm or if it is stuck on something. “I will just kind of hold it for a second, and if it is a fish, it will eventually start to move,” King says. “Then I will lower my rod and take up the slack, which will have me in position to get a good hookset.
King’s gear for a Neko rig consists of a 7-foot medium-action spinning rod and a 40 series spinning reel filled with 20-pound Bass Pro Shops braid. He completes his setup by tying a 6- to 7-foot leader of 8- or 10-pound test fluorocarbon to his main line.
King keeps his hook exposed on the Neko rig when fishing in open water for better hookups. He uses a weedless hook with a wire weedguard when fishing the Neko rig around any cover.
The Neko rig has produced both numbers of bass and quality fish for King. The tournament veteran claims he can catch largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass on the Neko rig at Table Rock. He has also had success while competing in tournaments on the Potomac River, fishing the Neko rig with a light weight along the grass beds.
“It works anywhere,” King concludes.
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