You have heard about a new lake destination from a few fishing companions that have been there a few times. They told you that they caught them on a jig-n-pig and Texas rigged worms on their last trip a few weeks ago. This body of water has a reputation for its big bass and is why you have chosen to see what it's all about. After planning this trip for months, you're pumped to start when you get to the landing. Prepping the boat, you have a few things running through your mind as you back the boat down the ramp.
Knowing where to start, you get to your destination and take a good look at how the point is laid out, so you grab a jig-n-pig. What started with no bites in the first hour is now turning into the same three points a few hours later. You have fished all the areas your friend directed you to go to, and you're starting to double guess what is happening. How could they come and catch bass, but you have not even been able to get a bite? What is your next move? I generally sit down and ask myself a simple question, "What’s next?"
After thinking about it over a quick cup of coffee, I put down the jig-n-pig and grabbed a spinning setup out of the rod locker rigged with a Neko rig. Making a pass back around the point I just fished, I started to get bites and put bass over the side of the boat. The change to a finesse presentation was simply what was needed.
Let’s break down a few critical things about a Neko rig and why you need to make room for this finesse tactic in your bass arsenal.
Why A Neko Rig
Of all the bass finesse tactics you can use - including the drop shot, ned rig, and jig worm - the newest tactic in today’s finesse rigs is the Neko rig. So, to say that the bass have been conditioned to this presentation is far from accurate at this point of the game.
On a day-to-day basis, bass are getting bombarded from drop shots and neg rigs. When I was planning for this article, I asked a few fellow bass anglers at a tournament to give me your three top finesse presentations in that order. What are your go-to choices when it comes to finesse fishing? Many answered 1-drop shot, 2- ned rig, and 3- jig worm. Then I asked, "Where does a Neko rig come into your mix?" Over half told me that they have just started to look at and play with this tactic. Some anglers said they have not even tried it yet, and a few rated it #2 after the drop shot.
What Is Needed
You will need a few things that you may not have in your box to rig a Neko rig. Here is a breakdown of the components needed to get started. For this Neko rigging, I'll base it around a 6” finesse worm.
First needed is either an O-Ring or a collar. To make your worms or baits last longer, you should use an O-ring or a collar on your worm or bait. You'll rig your hook under this, and it won't tear up your bait as much when you're catching fish as without a collar.
The collar I'm referring to is a VMC Crossover Ring. It comes in 5 different sizes and three different colors. This collar comes with two different rigging options. One is to fish Neko style. The other way is to fish your worm wacky-style. If you buy the Crossover kit, it comes equipped with Crossover pliers to apply the collar onto your bait.
If you prefer not to use a collar or O-Ring, you can hook through the worm, but the chances are good that you'll go through a worm with every caught bass.
Next, you'll need a hook. I use a Gamakatsu fly hook, the B10S. This hook has a long shank that acts like a weed guard allowing you to fish your Neko rig cleaner in and around cover situations.
If I'm fishing around the brush and need more protection for my hook, I'll use a Gamakatsu Weedless hook. This hook comes equipped with a weed guard that provides superior protection when fishing in and around thicker cover.
Lastly, you'll need a weight. I carry two different weights for Neko rigging. The first is a nail weight. I carry both tungsten and lead nails. When fishing in weeds, my primary weight choice is a nail weight I insert up into the nose of my plastics. My theory on this rigging is I can't feel bottom makeup when fishing in the weeds.
If you want to expand your weights for nose rigging, you can use a simple screw. Add a drop or two of Super Glue onto the screw and push this into the nose of your worm, and you're set. This will give you enough weight for shallow Neko fishing. I would say 12ft or less.
I use an exposed nose weight when fishing hard bottom or rock areas. This transmits better bottom feel to me through the weight.
You can look at this in two ways. You can use a nail weight without burying the nail into the worm. By leaving a little bit of the nail exposed, it will have direct contact with the bottom, which will transmit some feel as you're fishing.
My primary choice for fishing hard bottom areas is to use an exposed weight. I get a better feel with the exposed weight. The simple reason behind this, it has a larger area contacting the bottom, transmitting a better feel.
I stock weights in 1/16oz to 1/4oz. You move out of the finesse category when you get past the 1/4oz. I have fished my Neko in 25ft of water with a 1/8oz to 3/16oz weight.
First, start by putting your O-Ring or collar on your worm. I'll place the collar between a ¼ to ½ up from the nose of the worm. Next, add your weight to the nose of your bait. The last step is the hook. This is where some fishermen are making a rigging mistake.
You want the hook point on the tail side of your worm. If you rig it with the hook point towards the head, especially when fishing in weeds, you'll be pulling your hook point into the weeds. You will soon get frustrated with getting fouled all the time. You need to rig your hook point to be on the tail side of your worm. The hook's shank will act as a weed guard as you work your Neko through the cover. It will also position your hook at the top of the mouth.
Looking at equipment, I fish my Neko rigs on a 6’ 10” medium-light to a 7’ medium action Denali Lithium spinning setup. Team this with a 2000 size spinning reel filled with 12lb Sunline XPlasma braid. I'll use an 8lb fluorocarbon leader to keep line visibility to a minimum. If I'm faced with fishing in thicker weeds, I may go up to a 10lb–12lb fluorocarbon leader to help get bass out of the weeds.
Let’s talk a little about fishing your Neko rig. Make your cast and let the Neko settle to the bottom. There are two ways to fish a Neko: fish it on the bottom or keep it up when working it back to the boat.
Fishing Off Bottom
First, work the bait off the bottom. I'll generally rig my Neko with a 1/16oz nail weight. Make your cast and let the bait go to the bottom. As you're working the Neko back to the boat with the 1/16oz weight, there is a good chance the bait won't stay on the bottom. It will be up to about a foot. As you pull the bait forward, it's pulsing as it moves but will fall back to the bottom on the pause. This is an excellent presentation to use when fishing active bass in the area.
Fishing On Bottom
With a weight change according to the depth you're fishing, you'll be able to walk your Neko along the bottom. Make your cast and let the bait go to the bottom. Once you feel the Neko hit bottom, your line will go slack. Use your rod to walk the bait. You will work your Neko along the bottom if you have the appropriate weight. If you get to an area with more rock, slow down and feel your way back to the boat.
If you're losing contact with the bottom, either slow down or upsize your weight. Many times, if you slow down, you'll be able to keep better bottom contact.
If there is one thing that fishermen are doing wrong when fishing a Neko rig, it's not using more baits other than a worm. Many are just using a 6” finesse worm. I used it as the go-to bait when explaining everything, but I did that on purpose. My advice for Neko rigging is to open your plastics box and use different bait shapes for your Neko fishing.
I use a 6” finesse worm, but I'll also use a 5” Senko bait and a craw (refer to picture) as other baits. If most fishermen use 6” finesse worms, you can set yourself apart by using a different bait shape when fishing your Neko. You will again give the bass a different look than what other fishermen are using, many times generating more strikes along the way.
I hope this has given you a new finesse tactic or an idea of adjusting what you're doing to put more odds in your favor helping you catch a few more bass with a Neko rig. Finesse options are starting to play a more significant part in getting bass to bite in tough conditions. It used to keep fishing a jig and power your way through to get bites. Times have changed. Finesse tactics are vital when you need to trigger bites. Use a Neko rig to be part of your finesse offerings to do just that. A Neko will help you get bites when tough conditions call for it.
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