The Ned rig has seen a huge boost in popularity in the past year. It's catching fish all over the country in every condition imaginable and the word has officially gotten out. What used to be back-pocket ace for many anglers has now been thrust into the limelight. I've chronicled my experience learning the Ned rig and coming from someone who doesn't particularly enjoy finesse fishing, it has opened my eyes to an entirely different dimension of bass fishing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I cannot believe how many fish this rig catches.
One of the sticking points for those new to the Ned rig game is the difficulty of finding the right jighead. There are a lot of 'em out there, but many of them tend to bend and flex when fished with heavier tackle. It has happened to me several times as well.
But Z-Man has just released the new NedlockZ HD Jighead. It's a stouter version of their original Finesse ShroomZ Jighead with some additional design tweaks that combine to make it a serious weapon in anyone's Ned rig arsenal. I've been testing it for several weeks and I'll discuss what I've learned about it.
Go ahead - beef up your tackle
Before I say anything else, I need to make something clear: The Ned rig technique simply isn't meant for oversized flipping sticks and 25-pound fluorocarbon. The appeal of this rig revolves around its subtleness and if you try to rig it on your favorite jig rod, you'll probably be disappointed. So when I talk about beefing up your tackle, it's more of a relative term, so don't get too carried away with it.
The Z-Man NedlockZ HD Jighead is designed with a stout Mustad Ultra Point Hook that can handle big fish and abrupt hooksets quite easily. A lot of similar jigheads will hook a big bass, but they'll get demolished when a 5 or 6-pounder makes a hard boat-side run. So in my mind, this new design is all about holding power.
I have fished this new jighead both on traditional Ned rig tackle (6 or 8-pound fluorocarbon and a medium-action spinning rod) and heavier tackle (12 to 14-pound fluorocarbon with a medium-heavy casting rod) with outstanding results. Having the ability to upsize my tackle has added some new options in regards to how and where I fish my Ned rig.
I can fish docks and denser vegetation lines now with a lot more confidence and power. You'll break off some fish when you're skipping a small Ned rig on spinning tackle, but switching to casting gear gives you a much better chance of getting big fish away from cover. I've also caught some nice fish probing deep brush piles with this new jighead and I'm fairly confident that I would not have caught those fish with 6 or 8-pound line.
Very little flex
The larger diameter of this new hook has very little flex, whether it's on the hookset or during the fight. It's a Ned rig, so of course I've caught a lot of fish with it, but not once have I unhooked a bass to find a bent or warped hook. Again, I'm setting the hook fairly aggressively on 12 and 14-pound fluorocarbon and the Z-Man NedlockZ HD Jighead has really stood up to the test.
They're sharp as a tack
The hook on this jighead is noticeably sharper than others I have tested this year. It's sharp enough that if you hook yourself with one, there's a darn good possibility of it going past the barb. But that's a good thing when you're hooking a bass, of course.
When the bite gets weird, such as during seasonal transitions and weather fronts, it seems like you'll get a lot of abrupt bites at the most inopportune times. They've been biting funny in my area throughout testing and lots of my bites are coming right before I drop my rod to retrieve my slack. I'm totally out of position when this happens.
I've found that the Z-Man NedlockZ HD Jighead allows me to execute some really ugly, awkward-looking hooksets without many misses. I can reel-set or simply lean back and catch the large majority of my bites.
I really like the keeper they put on this jighead. It holds both ElaZtech and traditional soft plastic baits in place after hundreds of repeated casts, bites and skips. I rarely, if ever, have needed to readjust my plastic between casts or fish catches. Even if you're around small bluegill that constantly jackhammer your bait, it'll stay tightly fastened to the shank of the hook.
Thankfully, I have not had this keeper slide down the shank of the hook yet. Lots of companies have tried several different variations of bait keepers and only a few have found a way to keep 'em in place after extended use. You can now add Z-Man to the list that has figured it out.
The eyes are clean
The Z-Man NedlockZ HD Jigheads come in some very small sizes, with 1/15-ounce being the smallest. When you're using jigheads this small, you'll often run into eyes clogged with paint. This makes it super difficult to thread your line into an already-diminutive opening. I've had my fair share of frustration with this issue since I started fishing the Ned rig.
These jigheads, however, come with clean eyes straight from the package. As silly as it may sound, it's one of the first things I inspected when I started testing them. I've piled through all of my packs in every size and have not found a gunked-up eye yet.
Available at Tackle Warehouse
These are now my go-to jigheads for Ned rig applications. You might want to stick with a spinning rod for the 1/15 and 1/10-ounce sizes simply due to castability, but you'll have no problem hooking and landing plenty of fish on casting gear in the 1/6 and 1/5-ounce sizes. If you've been looking for a suitable Ned rig jighead, here it is.