As seen in the Spring 2020 edition of Just Fishing
One of the hottest finesse bass fishing presentations recently has been a Ned Rig! This rig was developed in the Midwest by several finesse fishing pioneers whose goal was to catch as many bass a day as possible. Ned Kehde, hailing originally from St. Louis, MO, is widely considered as one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing and is whom the Ned Rig is named after. He has been using finesse techniques to catch bass since the early 1960’s along with other well-known names in the fishing industry. Among these names were Chuck Woods who developed the original Beetle and Beetle Spin, Charlie Brewer of Slider Fishing System fame and Drew Reese who competed in the first ever Bassmaster Classic in 1971 on Lake Mead. Drew managed a 7th place finish at the inaugural Bassmaster Classic, catching most of his fish on a jigworm and a Beetle Spin.
Where did the Ned Rig come from
Today’s modern Ned Rig was born out of 2 critical moments in Ned’s life. In 2006 Ned shared a boat with Japanese pro bass angler, Shinichi Fukae on Beaver Lake. Shin’s finesse presentations impressed upon Ned the similarities to the finesse tactics he had learned, pioneered and used back in Kansas. Later on, that same year, while covering an event for In-Fisherman magazine, Kevin VanDam gave him a pack of Strike King Zeros which was a stickbait made out of a material called ElaZtech. These were made for Strike King by a company from South Carolina called Z-Man. ElaZtech products were created by Z-Man’s proprietary formula and were advertised as “10X Tough”. They are extremely soft & pliable while extremely resistant to nicks, cut and tearing. Another unique property of the ElaZtech material is its natural buoyancy which is one of the keys to the Ned Rig’s effectiveness.
Kehde eventually cut a 5” Zero in half and threaded it on a 1/16 oz. Gopher jighead and learned really quickly how effective it was at catching not only numbers of bass but size as well. He found out that it was also extremely durable, literally often catching over one hundred on the same bait. Eventually with the assistance of Drew Reese, they convinced Z-Man Fishing to come out with the Hula StickZ and the Finesse T.R.D. (The Real Deal) and the Ned Rig era began.
What is the Ned Rig
A Ned Rig setup consists of a mushroom shaped jighead with some type of ElaZtech bait from Z-Man. Although to a Ned Rig neophyte, a Ned Rig may look like just a half of a Senko on a jig head, this is simply not the case. The buoyancy of the ElaZtech material and the mushroom shaped head are both keys to this presentation. When combined together, the ElaZtech bait stands the mushroom jighead up off the bottom. When stopped, the ElaZtech bait slowly quivers while standing off the bottom, an action which almost no bass can resist. Originally, Z-Man offered mushroom shaped jigheads like the Finesse ShroomZ and Power Finesse ShroomZ, available in open hook and weedless models. These were great on light spinning outfits and in the shallower waters for which that type of finesse presentation was developed.
Ned would fish this rig anywhere from 3 feet to 12-15 feet, but as the use of the Ned Rig spread across the country and into Canada, anglers started using them to catch Smallmouth Bass in deeper waters. So, Z-Man introduced the TT Lures NedLockZ HD jighead and this year the Pro ShroomZ jighead which both feature stouter hooks and heavier weights to handle those hard fighting Smallies and the depths that they may live in. Using jigheads with heavier gauge wire hooks is definitely recommended when targeting Smallmouth Bass as they can easily open up fine wire hooks. There is always a balance that must be maintained because if the hook is too heavy it will counteract the buoyant property of the ElaZtech bait!
The Terminal Tackle
Other quality manufacturers quickly got on board with the Ned Rig craze. Owner introduced their Block Head jighead which is available in weights from 1/16 oz. to 3/16 oz. and they just added a Block Head jighead with an offset hook in order to rig your bait weedless. In the upcoming year, Ultra Tungsten will be introducing a tungsten Ned Rig jighead in an open hook and weedless models. For finesse purposes Ned Rig jigheads are usually black or green-pumpkin but some are painted chartreuse, white, red or left unpainted. These other coloured heads are useful for those who are starting to use Ned Rig to target Walleye and other species of fish, although red is the colour of Ned’s favorite jighead.
The Z-Man Connection
The current line-up of Z-Man T.R.D. products are currently very extensive and they seem to add new models every year. Starting with the 2.75” Finesse T.R.D., there is also the larger 4” Big T.R.D., the Hula StickZ, Finesse WormZ, T.R.D. HogZ, T.R.D. MinnowZ, T.R.D. CrawZ, T.R.D. TicklerZ and T.R.D. BugZ. These are all extremely effective and offer different shapes & colours, some have appendages so there are lots of choices to pick from. There is always a huge buzz each year since the Ned Rig was introduced, surrounding the Z-Man Fishing booth at i-Cast as everyone tries to get a look at the next latest T.R.D. product that they’re going to debut.
At the 2019 i-Cast show, Z-Man expanded the Ned Rig out of the finesse fishing realm and introduced the 6” Giant T.R.D. and the Mag ShroomZ Jighead with a 6/0 hook in 1/8 oz. to 3/8 oz. sizes. There is a weedless version of the Mag ShroomZ jighead as well. This substantial sized rig should quickly become a favorite in the southern big bass states such as Florida, Texas and California. Of course, this rig would probably best be fished on a baitcasting outfit. The new Daiwa Tatula SV TW103 spooled up with 12 lbs. test Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon on a Tatula Brent Ehrler signature series TAEL701MMHXB-AGS rod would be the perfect combo for this rig.
How to Rig The Ned Rig
For finesse fishing with a Ned Rig, a spinning combination like a Daiwa Ballistic LT BLSLT2500D-XH spooled up with 6/8 lbs. test Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon line on a Daiwa Kage KAG701MLFS rod would be ideal. A silky-smooth drag like the one found on the Daiwa Ballistic LT reel is very important when targeting bass with light lines. The medium-light power of the Kage rod offers a fast action for casting the lighter Ned Rigs and a slightly parabolic bend to help fight trophy fish on lighter lines.
Fluorocarbon line is also a key component of this finesse presentation because of its invisibility and abrasion resistance factors. But also, many Ned Rigging retrieves are often fished on a slack line and fluorocarbon line is actually more sensitive than braided lines when using a slack line presentation. It is fluorocarbon line’s stiffness and memory properties that gives it that sensitivity. When using fluorocarbon as a main line it is important to treat it with a line treatment like Kevin VanDam’s Line & Lure Conditioner or ReelSnot. This treatment removes some of the fluorocarbon’s memory and makes the line more supple and more manageable, especially on spinning reels.
Fluorocarbon line’s unmatched abrasion resistance property is extremely important as a Ned Rig is often dragged along or very close to the bottom, but it is always wise to constantly check your line for any nicks or damage. If you really prefer a braided mainline then don’t go any heavier than a 10-15 lbs. test braid and use a fluorocarbon leader.
A Ned Rig is most effective in clear to slightly stained waters. It can be fished as shallow as 2-3 feet but with the heavier jigheads now available it can also be used in waters as deep as 25-30 feet. Ned Rigs should be fished with relatively short casts and many of the various retrieves are no-feel retrieves. Here are some of the retrieves that you can try with your Ned Rig. Experiment with them and see which one works best for you!
Swim – Glide – Shake
This is probably the most commonly used retrieve for a Ned Rig. You can make a relatively short cast 30 feet or so and let your Ned Rig drop on a slack line. Keep your rod tip in a downward position and shake your rod tip as your lure falls to the bottom. Start reeling your Ned Rig about 6” off the bottom for about 3 rotations of your reel handle then pause allowing the bait to glide back to the bottom for a couple of seconds. During that pause, shake your rod tip then perform another 3 turns of your reel handle. Repeat until your lure is back at the boat. Of course, if you feel anything strange while retrieving your Ned Rig set the hook with a solid steady sweep set! You can vary how hard you shake your rod tip until you find what the fish want.
Drag & Shake/Deadstick
This is a great presentation while fishing out of the back of the boat. Cast out perpendicular to the boat or out the back of the boat and shake your tip again as your bait falls to the bottom. Once your Ned Rig hits the bottom you can drag it along the bottom by reeling slowly or letting the forward motion of the boat do the work while shaking your rod tip. Occasionally you can pause, feed out some line and dead stick your lure for up to a count of 5 then drag and shake your bait again until it’s back at the boat or you get that next bite!
According to Ned, this presentation was developed by Charlie Brewer. In this “do nothing” retrieve, you would cast out your Ned Rig and allow it to either drop to the bottom or count it down to the depth that you feel the bass are at. If you are fishing in 12 feet of water and feel that the fish are a couple of feet off the bottom, then you would cast out and count to 10, then start slowly and steadily retrieving your lure.
Hop & Bounce
Make your cast again shaking while it drops to the bottom, then make 2 quick rotations of your reel handle. Stop and watch your line as your bait falls back down to the bottom. Once your line goes slack as it hits the bottom then make 2 more rotations. Again, repeat this retrieve until your Ned Rig is back at the boat. The Z-Man T.R.D. CrawZ is a great bait to use with this presentation as the fish which fall for it are usually feeding on crayfish along the bottom.
If you happen to be fishing as a co-angler and draw someone like Doug Brownridge who is going to keep the boat moving at a fair clip, you can just cast your Ned Rig out the boat of the boat. Then you just let the boat movement help you stroll/drag your bait along, shaking it occasionally to impart a little action to it.
All of these retrieves can be very effective and you can modify them to suit your needs. A great deal of the effectiveness of a Ned Rig occurs as you lose feel of your bait. It is important to be an avid line watcher in order to help you detect those subtle bites. Select your mushroom jighead weight based on the depth of the water you’re fishing and experiment with different types of Z-Man T.R.D. baits. If the water is clear then start with more natural colours and switch to brighter colours if the water becomes more stained. Get on the Ned Rig train and it will help you catch those finicky or pressured fish. Until we see you on the water FISH HARD! DREAM BIG!