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A Ned rig is a near-nothing looking bait, composed of small soft plastic lure rigged on a jig head. And yet if you had to coax a bite from a bass anytime, anywhere, a Ned rig might very well be your best bet. Ned rig fishing is a slow, bottom-oriented presentation, and the reason it’s so effective is simply because the bait gets to where a large portion of the bass population is always on the prowl looking for crawfish, baitfish, and other forage. When a bass stumbles onto a Ned rig, the simple and non-threatening bait looks like an easy meal. And that’s when you set the hook.
No matter what your skill or experience level is as a bass angler, you have to have Ned rig fishing in your bag of tricks. So, to that end, here’s everything you need to know, including step-by-step rigging instructions, an overview video, and plenty of advice on how to work and catch fish on a Ned rig.
What is a Ned Rig?
First off, the “Ned” in “Ned rig” refers to outdoor writer Ned Kehde, who created the rig and helped popularize it on the Midwestern finesse-fishing scene. At it’s simplest, a Ned red is a just a 2- to 3-inch long stoft-plastic stick bait (probably just half a Senko at first) threaded on flat or mushroom jig head, with an exposed hook. The lure doesn’t look like anything exactly but can pass for a whole lot of little things that crawl and swim along the bottom of fisheries across the country and around the world. Designed to be dragged along the bottom while standing upright, this bait comes across as a perfect little snack for spotted bass, smallmouths, and largemouth alike.
How to Rig a Ned Rig, Step By Step
Before you can start catching bass on a Ned rig, you need to know how to put one together. It’s simple enough, but you need to get it right for the best results. So, watch the video above and follow the step-by-step instructions below.
Step 1: Select either a weedless Ned head or one with an exposed hook. Ned rigs are surprisingly snag resistant around rocky cover, even with exposed hooks. That said, the weedless versions do work better in and around vegetation and wood.
Step 2: Select a soft plastic lure. There are hundreds of options now—including craws, bugs, grubs, leeches, minnows, and more—but the classic Ned bait that looks like the tail end of a normal soft plastic stick bait still works really well.
Step 3: Place the soft-plastic bait beside the hook to gauge where the point should come out. You want the bait to stand up straight, with the hook bend and point exposed.
Step 4: Run the hook point through the center of the nose of the soft-plastic. Then slide the bait up onto the hook until you’ve reached the predetermined extrusion spot in the midsection.
Step 5: Push the hook point back out of the bait. Then push the head of the bait up onto the bait keeper.
Step 6: Finally, ensure that the bait is rigged straight on the hook with the hook bend and point exposed. If it’s not, start over by removing the bait and repeating steps 4 and 5.
Where and When to Use It
One of the reason Ned rig fishing has become so popular is because it works well year-round, across much of the country. It’s primarily meant to be fished in more than 10 feet of water, but it also work especially well for targeting spotted and smallmouth bass in shallower water during their spawning seasons. It can also work well for finessing summer bass that have retreated to deer haunts. But a Ned rig is at its very best in the winter months, fished in deep, cold, clear water for lethargic bass.
Druing this time frame, fish will often be hanging close to a hard bottom and reluctant to hit more aggressive presentations. Rocky points, humps, and bluffs are all great areas to target winter bass with a Ned rig. As you move into the prespawn, start shifting your focus to 45-degree transition banks and seawalls. A weedless Ned rig works well in and around brush, docks, and submerged vegetation during the pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn periods, too.
How to Fish a Ned Rig
Ned rigs are among the easiest of all baits to use, making them a great choice for beginners. But this rig’s effectiveness at getting bit also makes it a fantastic tool for avid tournament anglers looking to fill their limits, or for targeting big bass in those colder-water situations.
Tie a Ned rig on, throw it out, let it stink, and then drag it slowly across the bottom. Keep your rod tip up at about the 2 o’clock position. This will help the bait stand up and make the rig as weedless as possible, minimizing the chances of the head wedging into cover or the hook point rolling to the side and hanging up.
This is a finesse tactic, so it works best with spinning gear. A braided mainline with a fluorocarbon leader in the 6- to 10-foot range is ideal. The braid provides extra sensitivity and allows for longer casts, and the fluoro is less likely to spook fish in high visibility situations.
The bite is often subtle, as a bass simply sucks in this lure. So pay close attention, and if you start to drag the bait along and don’t feel the bottom, you likely have a bite. With the exposed hook point, a reel set is effective when you do get bit. Don’t drop and pop them like you would with a jig, simply begin to reel your bait in while pulling back on your rod as it loads up.
Since a Ned rig has a small hook, you’ll want to fight the fish carefully. Feel free to loosen your drag a bit as a bass nears the boat, especially if it’s a big one. This way the fish can make a last-minute run without pulling free form the hook or breaking your line.
If you’re eager to start fishing a Ned rig, there’s a good chance that wherever you are and wherever you’re reading this, you can head out to the nearest bass water, rig one up, and get bit on it the same day. It’s that effective. And remember, this is a finesse tactic, so it’s a slow go on light gear. Patience is key both for getting bit and for getting that bass into the boat.