Using the Deadly Ned Rig

The Ned Rig has become a staple bass-fishing presentation for its versatility and finesse qualities.

Ned Rig Origins

October 12, 2006 was a fateful day for Kansas outdoor writer, Ned Kehde. He cut a 5-inch Strike King Zero stickbait in half and rigged it on a 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom Head Jig with a size 4 hook. He gave the other half of the bait to his fishing partner, and the two of them proceeded to catch 109 largemouth bass, 2 wipers (a white-bass-striper hybrid), 1 walleye, and 1 channel catfish within four hours. With that, the Ned rig was born. “From that day on, the 2½-inch Strike King Zero and now the 2½-inch Z-Man ZinkerZ have become an integral part of Midwest finesse,” Kehde said. While created more than a decade ago, the Ned rig is one currently of the hottest baits in bass fishing.

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The Ned Rig has become a useful tool for competitive bass fishermen when finesse tactics are crucial to success.

It’s part of the history of Midwest finesse presentations that goes all the way back to the 1950s and bass finesse forefather, Chuck Woods of Kansas City, who created baits like the Creme worm, Beetle, and Puddle Jumper. What’s exciting is how effective the Ned rig is at catching all types of bass from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

The rig also fools more than just bass; I’ve hooked dozens of quality black crappie during bass-focused outings on Z-Man’s 2.75-inch Finesse TRD, another plastic specifically designed for the Ned rig. I must say that over the last several seasons, no other bait holds a candle to the fun and steady action my friends, family, and I have had fishing the Ned rig. If you haven’t fished it, you’ve got to start this season.

Z-Man Finesse TRD

The Ned rig performs best in shallow water, but it can be effective in mid-depth spots in certain scenarios. As Kehde typically fishes shallow, he frequently uses 1/32-, 1/16-, and 3/32-ounce Gopher Tackle jigs. I’ve had good success with Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig and VMC’s Finesse Half Moon jig.

Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ jigs (top) and VMC Finesse Half Moon jigs (bottom) are flat headed to create a stand-up presentation that imitates crawfish, worms and more.

Kehde uses a 6-foot medium spinning rod for shallow finesse tactics, although he’s also fond of a 5-foot, 6-inch rod. A short rod moves the Ned rig less than a longer rod, which is something to keep in mind for those preferring rods in the 6-foot, 6-inch to 7-foot range. Whatever rod you select, pair it with a reel with a smooth drag. Kehde uses 6-, 8-, and 10-pound braided line paired with a 4- to 5-foot fluorocarbon leader between 6 to 12 pounds. “The size of the line depends on water clarity, whether I want the bait to glide rather than fall quickly, the wind, casting distance, etc.,” Kehde said.

Where and How to Fish the Ned Rig

The Ned rig catches bass from shorelines, points, grass beds, and docks, along with shallow reefs and flats beyond the bank. There are many ways to fish the rig, but before getting there, it’s important to understand that Midwest finesse tactics often involve a no-feel presentation. As an outdoor journalist, Kehde has written thousands of words describing six different Midwest finesse retrieves. “We don’t want to feel what that bait’s doing,” Kehde said. “After we use it a lot, we kind of intuitively know what the bait’s doing, but we can’t really prove it… I imagine that more than 75 percent of our strikes we don’t feel. These fish are catching us rather than us catching them.”

Six Proven Ned Rig Retrieves

1: Swim Glide & Shake

Rod at two-o’clock position, or at five-o’clock to prevent wind from bowing line. Cast and shake bait while counting it down to desired depth, with the aim to fish six to 12 inches off bottom. Make two revolutions of the reel, pause for one to two seconds (more if working a steep slope), and shake. Repeat.

2: Drag & Dead-Stick

Typically used by angler in back of the boat. Rod at three- or four-o’clock. Drag jig along bottom, combined with dead-sticking it for up to five seconds. Open reel bail to feed line as needed to pause bait when boat’s moving.

3: Drag & Shake

Cast at an angle slightly behind the boat. Hold rod at five-o’clock as jig sinks. Use reel to slowly move bait along the bottom. Shake.

4: Straight Swim

A do-nothing technique. Keep rod still and slowly turn reel to swim jig along bottom – or higher for suspended fish.

5: Hop & Bounce

Cast bait and drop rod until near or touching the water. Shake lure while it falls to bottom. Hop bait with two cranks of reel. Pause. Shake until bait touches floor. Repeat.

6: Stroll

Similar to drag and shake. Cast behind the boat. Let jig reach bottom. Use trolling motor, wind, and drift sock to achieve a slow pace as the jig drags bottom. Shake as desired.

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3 on “Using the Deadly Ned Rig

  1. Jon

    The ned rig is awesome! My favorite application is when bass are cruising shallow in the early Spring, flat calm, you can see them but they won’t hit anything else….they’ll eat the ned rig. 1 important point that the article missed is all the lead jigheads mentioned in the sizes mentioned are illegal to use in Mass & NH. Google “lead free bass jigs” to find some great lead-free ned rig heads with owner hooks that are legal to use in Mass & NH.

  2. Joseph Gabay

    Great info. I believe the best application, and one not mentioned 1( is the ” do nothing” just cast it our and leave a slight bend in the line but don’t move it. Let stand still. If you don’t get a bite then give it a hop and repeat. They love that technique.

  3. Eric

    My experience is that the Ned rig can be successfully worked faster and replicate almost any type of faster moving lure. In particular I have great success working it as a jerkbait and a topwater spook type lure. I am a south Florida urban fisherman. I can crush lmb, peacocks, snakehead, and Mayan cichlids with a Ned rig and nothing else. I’m not saying all the time of course, it’s still fishing. But I also am not using the word “crush” lightly. It is just mind boggling how many fish I catch working the Ned rig fast. I do change depths and speeds looking for the bite on any given day, but again, it’s fishing.

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