The Neko rig is a relatively new phenomenon in the bass fishing community. Whether you’re a pro angler or a weekend warrior, you can rely on this piece of gear to reliably secure you a catch. This guide gives you more info on the Neko rig and how to best tap into its potential.
Best Conditions for the Neko Rig
In general, soft plastic baits are best used in shallower water. This is because they have a slow rate of fall, not being very heavy. The Neko rig changes the game, however.
Like a wacky rig, a Neko rig is unique thanks to the weight you can insert at one end of the soft plastic bait. This allows the bait to do a direct dive down to the bottom of the water and to stand straight once it hits ground.
Developed in Japan, the Neko rig is designed for use in even deeper waters. You can use the rig when fishing off structures with deep drop-off points, including:
- Bluff walls
When you’re fishing with the Neko rig, it’s advisable to match the fluorocarbon leader length to your fishing depth. For example, if you’re working in five feet of water, tie a five-foot leader. This lets you be confident that your bait is securely on the bottom, where the bass are.
When fishing with the Neko rig, the usual rules for bass fishing apply. You want to take to the water on days when the weather has been stable. Whether sun or clouds, a bass like consistency. These fish have genetically dictated behaviors, and you’ll probably find the most luck after two or three days of weather with little variation.
Also, don’t bother trying to put your Neko rig to use after a cold front has come through. Cold fronts cause a rise in barometric pressure, with the air’s weight literally pushing down on the water (because cold air weighs more than warm air).
This heavy pressure influences the bass’ swim bladder, causing lethargy — meaning the fish will be less active and feeding less. Less feeding equals fewer bites equals less action for you! These are far from ideal conditions to try to test out your new Neko rig.
How to Tie a Neko Rig
Having the right conditions and the right gear is only half of the battle. As any fisherman knows, you’ve also got to know how to handle your equipment.
So how do you tie a Neko rig? There are a few different techniques.
Here’s one way to do it.
- Load your spinning reel with a braided line. Choose the lightest weight your fishing condition permits. The lack of stretch enhances sensitivity, so you’ll quickly feel any bites. Since you don’t have a lot of weight, you want to make sure you notice when the line moves.
- Don’t tie the braid directly to the Neko rig hook. First, add a seven to an eight-foot leader in between. This means you can retie the hook multiple times, and you won’t have to replace the entire leader. It also ensures that your knot doesn’t get caught in the spool, which can decrease casting distance and damage your equipment.
- Use your favorite knot to connect the two lines.
- Double over the thicker leader.
- Then run the braid through the loop that you’ve created.
- Make seven loops down the leader loop, working towards the tag end.
- Make seven wraps up the leader loop, this time going towards the braid running line.
- Run the tag braid line back through the leader loop, going in the same direction as the first time.
- Last but not least, wet the knot and pull it tight.
You can also use a uni-to-uni knot to join a white braid to your fluorocarbon leader. Here’s how to tie a uni-to-uni knot:
- First, run the line through the hook eye.
- Double back, so the line is in parallel.
- Make a loop, laying the tag end over the doubled line.
- Make six turns so that you’re working the tag around the double line.
- Run the tag end through the loop.
- Moisten the lines.
- Pull the tag end to snug up the turns.
- Slide the knot down to the eye (or, if you prefer, leave a small loop).
Types of Rubber Worms to Use
The good news about fishing with Neko rigs is that basically, any soft plastic bait will work in your favor. Soft stick baits and straight worms are popular because they’re well suited for the vertical fall that the weighted rig allows. That said, you can use the Neko rig with a swamp crawler, trick worm, magnum trick worm, zoom magnum finesse worm, or finesse worm.
Specific Types to Try
Here are some concrete examples of how the Neko rig adapts to different lures:
- Yamamoto Senko: This is ideal because both ends are thick enough to hold a nail weight. You can thus fish the worm head or tail down. Tail weight is excellent for fishing suspended bass while head weight is better for bottom fishing.
- Catch Co. Waggle Warm: If you want to snag a bigger bass, try this. You can drag it along the bottom to attract the fish’s attention. Alternatively, try shaking it in brush piles with a weedless hook.
- Plasma Tail: If you’re fishing near boat docks, this is a great pick. Shake the lure along ledges or under the pier. To get more action when shaking the bait, add an o-ring close to the tail and add a weedless hook.
For maximum versatility, either a Senko or five to six-inch straight tail worm will do. This will serve you well in various conditions, whether you’re out on the boat or fishing on the dock.
Colors to Use
Color is also a consideration when choosing bass lures. This depends in part on the conditions.
If the water is clear and the fish have an easy view of the bait, go with more natural hues. If water clarity is low, however, you may want something eye-catching. Try a spinnerbait in chartreuse and yellow.
Multi-colored crankbaits are another option. In general, bright tails offer added visibility. They’re great for dirty, dark water but can scare the fish off on a clear day.
A Neko rig brings together the benefits of a weighted worm and a midsection hook position. This makes for a unique action in the water that often gets bass biting even when nothing else will. Of course, the type of hook you use makes all the difference.
As companies have recognized the growing popularity, more Neko-specific gear has come onto the market. Here are a few options worth considering.
VMC Neko Resin Sealed Wacky Hooks
This VMC hook looks similar to an Aberdeen, but it’s actually an excellent fit for a Neko rig. One of the most significant benefits is the resin, which makes it very difficult for the line to get caught.
The only drawback with this hook is the fact that it doesn’t come with a weed guard. Because of this, you shouldn’t look to this hook if you’re fishing under near cover or in densely covered areas. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having to take grass off every time you cast a hook.
Mustad Ultrapoint TitanX Neko Hooks
As the name makes clear, these are intended for the Neko rig — they were literally made for it. This hook is reliable and will cover pretty much all your bases in terms of wacky hook performance. It allows for faster and more aggressive action, thanks to the weight at one end.
On top of it all, Mustad is a reliable, top-quality brand that you can depend on. It’s finely balanced and works well with pretty much any stick bait you put on. The sharp Mustad point is combined with a right weed guard that offers some bend with use.
Hook Placement with a Neko Rig
Regardless of what type of hook you use, placement is essential. When using live bait, most anglers will place the hook at the worm’s center. If you put it higher on the worm, it will help keep the bait straight even as you drag it across the bottom.
If you place it lower, the worm will be harder to keep upright — but the tail will wiggle more. In this case, your best bet when hooking a worm for the Neko rig is to place it perpendicular to the worm’s body and away from the weighted end. This guides the line away from the bait so that fish can’t spy it.
What takes the Neko rig to the next level is the fact that you can insert a weight into one end of the plastic worm. This is what makes the Neko rig so effective.
Although all feature some nail-like shape with small barbs or ridges, weights come in different shapes and sizes. This helps the weight stay stuck in the Neko rig plastic. You can add a drop of superglue if you want added security (and to save money because lost weights add up)!
To keep the worm vertical, you should insert the weight only on one side. A simple nail or screw from your local hardware store will actually do the trick nicely.
Of course, you can get more technical than that. When considering weight styles, you might try a trick worm, a fluke stick, or a magnum trick. Each one offers different actions based on size.
Here’s a primer to a couple of weights and their behaviors:
VMC Half-moon Whacky Weight
With this option, the bait will fall quicker and end up in a more vertical position at the bottom. The bulk of the weight will be centered at the bottom, pulling the worm straight through the water in a column.
VMC Skirted Weight
Another option is a skirted weight insert from VMC. The Neko weight’s barbs will help it stay inserted. The skirt adds some extra eye-catching flash to attract picky bass better.
This will give you more of a gliding or spiraling action. The weight is disbursed more evenly, resulting in a wandering and drifting effect that effectively mimics real live bait movements.
A Big Bite nail weighted between 1/32 and 1/8 ounces adds enough bulk to make the Neko rig work at a range of depths. Putting a heavier weight on will save you time as it will get to the bottom faster. If you go lighter, however, you will be able to finesse the rig more.
How to Fish the Neko Rig
With all your gear set, it’s finally time to answer the question: How do you fish your Neko rig? It fishes well year round even when other bass fishing styles aren’t doing great.
If you’re fishing in stained water, consider using sonar to improve your targeting. The Neko rig’s unique one-sided weight helps to present the bait in a way that can even catch suspended fish.
Adding weight with a skirt also lets you churn up some bottom sediment, improving the odds of a strike. In most cases, you’ll find the bite occurs on the drop with a Neko rig. Make sure to let it hit bottom before you give the line any action.
Power finesse is essential to success with a Neko rig. When you feel a hit, all you have to do is give the rod a small twitch. This helps to get the worm “dancing” along the bottom. You can pick it up about a foot or try bouncing it along the bottom.
The Final Word
When fishing with a Neko rig, the aim is always to keep the weighted end down so that the bait maintains its wiggling appearance. If you aren’t doing this, you aren’t taking advantage of the full Neko rig potential. Follow the above guidelines, however, and you will be able to get the bass biting.