Spring time is soft plastics time to me. When the fish get shallow, start getting preoccupied with pairing up and nesting, mating and roaming the shallows, they also get skittish, off-putting and sometimes seemingly lock-jawed. Two rigs that have seem to do the best in recent years for getting those preoccupied bass to bite your subtle plastic offerings are wacky rigs vs Neko rigs.
You can follow up on our in-depth pieces on both the wacky rig and the Neko rig to learn how to rig each one, how to fish them and even some recommendations on what baits are best on them. But then comes the question we get a lot: which one is better? And, of course, better is subjective, and most folks will tell you, like everything in fishing, it depends.
But there are some subtle nuances to each bait that will help you decide when and where they are best and overall which one is best.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WACKY RIGS AND NEKO RIGS
The simplest way I can explain the difference is a Neko rig is simply nose weighted wacky rig. Both rigs can be weighted and obviously there is a little more but you take a wacky rig, stick a nail weight in it’s nose and you got a Neko rig. So to me a Neko rig fishes vertically through the water column while a wacky rig fishes horizontally.
Well why does that matter?
Let’s say I’m fishing shallow and the bass are foraging on crawfish. Are they rooting down in the rocks looking for something that is rooting around on the bottom. If so, then a Neko rig might work better. As you pull it and twitch it. The nose is digging the bottom, kicking up silt and sand and making a commotion on the bottom.
Now a wacky rig, as I was told when I was first learning to fish it from some accomplished Japanese anglers, is a perfect crawfish imitator. At first I was like, “man it’s a straight stick worm. It looks nothing like a crawfish.”
But then they explained it to me. To a fish, it looks like a crawfish. Throw a crawfish into a fish tank. It lightly, weightlessly, flutters and floats to the bottom. Then when it is startled, it leaps up off the bottom and the claws fold back behind it just like each side of a stick worm folds and the tips go behind it as you pull the middle section.
Then as soon as the crawfish stops scooting up off the bottom, it opens itself up, flares and floats weightlessly back to the bottom. Exactly like a wacky rig does. After that I was like “Ah-Ha!” This is why the bass like a wacky rig so much.
A weightless Yamamoto Senko is awesome on the initial cast and sink. But then what do you do with it. If you pull it along it doesn’t look like much or do much. You can raise it up but it doesn’t really look natural until it starts falling again. However if you put the hook in the middle, it scoots up off the bottom like prey fleeing and then flares and flutters naturally back to the bottom.
WHEN TO FISH EACH RIG
So when I’m deciding wacky rig vs neko rig, I think about two things. Do I want to fish up in the water column or down in the water column. And do I want to fish shallow or deep. While you can weight a wacky rig with a weighted hook like a flick shake head. I think it’s best without a weight in shallower water. However, a Neko Rig has been extremely successful for me on deep docks and even out on ledges out to 25 feet of water.
So when I’m fishing a lot of shallow docks and I want to fish more horizontally and fast, I will grab a wacky rig.
When I come up on deep water and want to fish down in the water column more, I will reach for my Neko rig. I might have the same worm on both, but usually I pick my plastics based on the season and mood or type of fish. Like for largemouth shallow that are coming up roaming looking for a place to spawn, a Yamamoto Senko on a Wacky rig is hard to beat.
Last year, however, I found when Florida strains are spawning, I can use the Neko Hack and rig a Bellows Gill on a Neko Rig and those Florida strain hate that thing because it looks like a nest robbing bluegill rigged like that. Then when the fish get post spawn and start moving out to deep water, only the power fishing isn’t really working with crankbaits and big swimbaits. A Neko rigged 7- to 10-inch straight tail worm is deadly on those deep ledges at that time.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
Neko Rigs are great out deep and fishing down in the water column. Wacky rigs are great shallow and fishing horizontally through the water column. That’s not to say there haven’t been times when I fished a wacky rig on some deep structure like a standing pier or standing timber and it was dynamite. And I certainly have caught some shallow bass on a Neko rig as well. But again we’re simply talking about being most effective and not second guessing your rig choice on the water. So with wacky rigs vs neko rigs, pick the one that fits the application and what you have determined the fish are doing and go with it.