Ned rig fishing has become one of the most popular finesse techniques and fishing rigs for catching bass all over the world. It’s a simple, do-nothing looking rig that has proven to have a wide appeal to largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass all across the country and beyond.
WHAT IS A NED RIG
Born out of the midwest finesse niche in bass fishing by none other than Ned Kehde, the ned rig is simply a small plastic, usually 2 to 3 inches long without much else to it rigged on a mushroom head jig. The original was basically half of a Yamamoto Senko threaded onto a mushroom head.
The Ned rig was named after Ned Kehde of Lawrence, Kan. Growing up in Sedalia, Mo., Kehde fished the Ozark region of the country. While he was a graduate student at the University of Missouri, Kehde guided at Carrington’s Two Waters Resort on the Gravois arm of Lake of the Ozarks.
There he met Guido Hibdon, who also worked at Carrington’s. Hibdon was an early practitioner of what is now known as the Ned rig. Along with Hibdon, Kehde met the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City, Mo., and the late Ray Frincke of Overland Park, Kan. Both of which, Kehde refers to as the founding fathers of this finesse rig.
It’s typically fished on light line and a spinning rod and reel. Various retrieves work at different times and that’s part of what makes it so versatile. The profile mimics so many things that are natural to a bass’s environment that it just looks natural and unobtrusive to fish. So they aren’t skeptical. They just see it as an easy snack. And usually bite.
I remember being at the Berkley testing lab up in Spirit Lake, Iowa years ago. On the wall, there was a weird board with tons of pieces of black plastic tubing nailed to it. The tubes were different lengths and widths. Some were real short and fat and some were real long and skinny and every combination in between or vice versa. And then one was set off to the side. It was about the width of a pinky and about 2 3/4 to 3 inches long. I was told that in their testing with all other variables the same (color, texture, scent, material), that was the profile the bass preferred more than any other.
And then you have the ned rig. Nearly a spitting image of that 3-inch tube of soft plastic. A nothing looking hunk of plastic. And that is just what the bass prefer. That test stuck with me more than a decade later in the wake of the new ned rig popularity.
Ned Rig Setup
Your ned rig setup can be as simple or as complicated as you would like to make it. You can simply cut your favorite stick bait in half and thread it on a jighead and call it done, or you can choose from the literally hundreds of small finesse options out there calling themselves ned rig baits. From mini stick baits to mini craws and mini baitfish, there are an unlimited amount of soft plastics to choose from and almost as many jigheads to put them on.
But for our purposes we’ll give the basic guidelines on what to look for. You want the whole package to be streamlined, easy to fish on lighter tackle and very natural to a bass.
I generally recommend a 1/16 to a 1/4-ounce jighead with a hook that matches the line you are fishing. By that I mean if you are fishing light line, you want a light wire in your jighead for better penetration. But if you are using heavier line you want a stronger hook so the hook doesn’t bend out on the increased pressure you can put on it with heavier line.
I tend to start with the lightest I can, and only go heavier if need be.
Then choose a 2-4 inch plastic you like or that matches the forage or colors in your waters you fish. Then thread it onto your jighead and make sure the keeper has a good hold on the plastic. Tie the rig to your leader or to your line.
I generally fish with 10-pound braid and a 6-pound leader. Although at times I have seen where straight fluorocarbon line is preferred.
I recommend a spinning rod, maybe medium or medium-light power with an extra fast action and a spinning reel that can hold the light braid and leader. That’s an efficient ned rig setup for most applications.
Ned Rig Fishing
Fishing a ned rig is fairly straightforward although you can do a lot more with it than you think. It skips awesome. It’s dynamite for fish you can see in clear water. It works drug, hopped, swam, crawled, snapped, pitched and more.
Most folks will simply cast it out and fish it back like a regular worm. Because it is so light, it will lift and drop a lot more than a normal worm. So often it’s better to pull it to the side or just steady slow wind with your reel to creep it along near the bottom.
A lot of folks like a slow and small lift and drop. And adding some shaking while it sits on the bottom is often deadly.
Ned Rig Fishing for Bass
Most of the ned rigs today are designed around bass fishing. They are equally effective on largemouth as they are on smallmouth bass. Spotted bass love them too. While you might fish them a little different depending on the species and the locations of the species, often it’s simply a choice between hops or lifts and drops and a steady crawl or swim.
I’ve found a lot of sneaky ways to be very effective with bass. For years I kept a trade secret on catching spotted bass under docks on fisheries like Table Rock and Beaver Lake. You could skip a ned rig under a dock and let it fall about 10 feet or so and then start reeling it out at a pretty good clip. I would often catch fish on the initial skip but I caught a slew of fish just winding it out from under a deep dock about 10 feet deep.
So there are a lots of ways to catch bass on it. But honestly what I like about a Ned Rig is the fact that while I’ve ned rig fished for bass, I have also caught walleye, crappie, sauger, bluegill, catfish, and even striper and whites on it. It’s a natural profile that looks real to fish. And the amount of fish that bite it proves that over and over again.
Ned Rig Jigheads
The original heads for ned rig fishing were just mushroom jigheads often used for walleye fishing. These jigheads feature a rounded head with a flat back that presses up against your plastic giving it more of a streamlined profile like a crawfish or a minnow. Nowadays with ned rig baits being made out of different materials, the jigheads have evolved into a lot more shapes and sizes, with heavier hooks, weedless rigs, and more.
I still keep my ned rig fishing really simple. With products like Z-Man Elaztech, I like to use a thinner wire head with a wire keeper. Big thick lead keepers don’t work as well with Elaztech material. I often go with the same heads most of the time. I like the original Z-Man Finesse Shroom heads, and I like the 5 Fish Lures Ultimate Ned Head for my weedless rigs and swimming a ned.
Ned Rig Baits
We talked about the general characteristics of a good ned rig fishing lure above, but there are hundreds of options on the market now. I will run through a few of our specific favorites here and link to some resources to help find others.
You want something that looks like a craw and/or a baitfish or bluegill with ned rig baits. So the small profiles in my opinion are the most optimal and a straight small profile can mimic both better than you think. A small crawfish when it jumps off the bottom gets very streamlined and straight. A baitfish and small bluegill is already streamlined and straight. So sticking to that profile is often optimal.
Some of our favorite soft plastic ned rig baits include the following:
- Z-Man Finesse TRD – Most durable, best floating
- Zoom Beatdown – Best dragging bait
- Missile Baits Ned Bomb – best swimming/hopping bait, best colors
- Strike King Ned Ocho – best skipping and thickness
- Yamamoto Ned Senko – best overall profile and formulation
For more options check out TackleWarehouse.com page of ned plastics or read Ned Kehde’s suggestions for overlooked ned rig baits.
Weedless Ned Rig
If you want to make your ned rig more weedless, there are optional jigheads that offer either a wire guard or an offset hook to protect the hook point. I prefer the double wire guard for fishing a ned rig around snags. The offset hook jighead works but you have to consider things like the material, thickness, etc. to make sure you get a good hook penetration. You will miss some fish with this type head if the material is too spongy or elastic or if it is too thick with such a small opening.
A weedless ned rig is good for skipping around docks, fishing around brush piles or stumps and on the edges of grass lines.
There are several good weedless heads on the market. Some that we like that you should checkout would include the following:
Ned Rig vs Texas Rig
Many anglers will think they can just rig up a small Texas rig and do the same thing. While that may catch some fish, a Texas Rig does not act the same as a small plastic on a jighead. The bait tends to glide more on a jighead. It has a more natural fall. It will spiral and dart and dance on a jighead more than it will with a streamlined bullet head. It will not swim as easily and steadily on a Texas rig.
While the small Texas rig might come through cover a little better, you will need a little beefier tackle to get good hook penetration where the beauty of a ned rig on light line and a jig head is you can literally just start reeling and hook the majority of fish. You don’t have to set a hook. You catch a lot of open water fish, fish on the fall and fish reacting to you hopping or lifting the bait up and dropping it much easier with a jighead than a Texas rig.
Ned Rig Rods
A good sensitive spinning rod for sure makes fishing a ned rig easier and more effective. A lot of the bites on a ned rig are just changes in pressure. Either your lure suddenly feels a little heavier or sometimes a little lighter if they pick it up and move towards you. So a sensitive rod that has a good fast action tip for throwing little lures and backbone to pressure set a hook on fish as they swim off with your bait.
You can spend anywhere from $99 for a good rod up to $600 for the tippy top of the line ned rig rod.
Here are a few of our favorite ned rig rods that we’ve messed around with.
Other Ned Rig Resources
We have a bunch of good ned rig articles and videos on wired2fish. Follow this link for additonal ned rig resources. There are some good tips and tricks on tweaking the baits, changing retrieves and applications you will find on various bodies of water. There are also some log books from Ned Kehde, lots of tackle talk and more.
A good rod, some 10-pound braid with a leader of fluorocarbon, or straight 8-pound fluorocarbon on a spinning rod will get the job done. Use a spinning reel that can feel small 1/16 ounce jigs when you turn the handle.
Check out this video with Walker Smith explaining about how he has converted into a ned rig believer and how he fishes it for bass.