By: Shaye Baker
A few years ago, Midwest angler Ned Kehde introduced a little do-nothing looking bait to bass anglers and finesse fishing changed forever. The Ned rig, aptly named after its inventor, took centerstage of the finesse fishing world and hasn’t really relinquished that spot yet, cementing itself among some of the other staples of the genre like the shaky head, dropshot and wacky rig.
A very simplistic bait and presentation at its core, the Ned rig is the most nothing-looking deal I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the most effective fish catchers I’ve ever seen as well. When I first saw the bait and heard all the hype, I was skeptical and shrugged it off as the new shaky head. ‘Sure, it catches fish,’ I thought. ‘But it's for novice anglers, not someone like me who has been fishing for a long time. What would I need a bait like that for?’
Well, my pride likely got in the way of a lot of potential bass catches because, inevitably when the buzz didn’t die down and I started to see hard core anglers using a Ned rig in tournaments, I finally caved and gave it a shot. What I found surprised me to say the least. In a head-to-head matchup with a shaky head, the Ned rig outperformed its competition around three bites to one.
What is a Ned rig?
The central component of a Ned rig is the jig head, or Ned head. A Ned head has a flat surface to it so that the bait will stand up when dragged across the bottom. The line tie is always at a 90-degree angle to the hook shaft, again to help the bait standup as you drag it along the bottom. From there you now have dozens of choices as to which soft plastic you want to use to pair with the Ned head, but it wasn’t always that way.
In the early days of the Ned rig, the most common thing to do was to take a regular size soft plastic stick bait, like the Strike King Ocho, and cut it in half, using the tail end to complete the Ned rig. Again, this doesn’t look like much, but I found quickly that it’s an extremely effective little bait at getting bit. The beauty of it not looking like much, means it looks a little like everything. And the size of it is really what makes it so effective. It’s not an intimidating bait to bass, rather an easy little morsel to scoop up off the bottom.
When and where to throw a Ned rig?
A Ned rig is extremely versatile and can be fished throughout the year. It’s effective at catching all species of black bass across many different types of fisheries. There are two key things to look for though when deciding when and where to throw a Ned rig though. You want to make sure fish are relating to the bottom and that the bottom is fairly clean, though neither of these are a complete deal breaker, rather good general rules of thumb.
The basic Ned rig has an open hook, which means it's the exact opposite of weedless. Surprisingly however, the bait still does a great job coming through rocks and other small cover. The primary reasons for that comes back to the design of the head of the bait and the orientation of the hook being up and away from the cover. But if you do want to get off in the cover a little more, many companies now offer Ned heads with weed guards, and these weedless versions allow you to fish more and denser cover.
What gear do I need to fish a Ned rig?
Spinning gear is the best option for a Ned rig. Not to say you can’t throw one on a baitcaster, especially some of the larger versions out there now. But I’d venture to say 99% of the best anglers with a Ned rig would suggest spinning gear, and that 1% outlier is probably being generous.
I personally use the same rod for a Ned rig that I use for a dropshot, a 6- foot, 9- inch medium action Fitzgerald Vursa Series Spinning Rod. Some anglers prefer a little longer and stiffer rod, but this one does great in my opinion. If I were going to try to make a lot of really long casts or fish the bait really deep though, I might step up a little in length and/or power to ensure a firm hookset.
A good spinning reel is essential for a Ned rig. I love the Shimano Stradic Ci4+. It’s a strong, smooth casting, long lasting reel. The Stradic also has a very good drag system, which is key when fishing with light wire hooks and light line. I like to have my drag set a little tight for the hookset to ensure I can drive the hook in, and then I’ll back off on the drag as the fish nears the boat. Knowing you have a reliable, predictable and easy to adjust drag system makes those battles near the boat a little easier to stomach.
As for line, a braided main line to a fluorocarbon leader would again be the choice of 99% of anglers. The braid allows you to cast farther and ensures a better hookset. And the low visibility of the fluoro leader near the bait generates more bites. I personally prefer a 15-pound Sufix 832 Braid mainline with around 8- feet of Seaguar InivizX 8- or 10- pound fluoro for the leader. Depending on the cover, clarity and size fish around you though, you may want to move up or even down a little.
A Ned rig is one of the easiest baits out there to throw, generating bites by simply being dragged along the bottom. This makes it a great bait for beginners. But its effectiveness also makes it essential for tournament anglers and other seasoned vets of bass fishing. With the number of boats on the water these days, a good bite getter like this is useful in the hands of all anglers.
Selecting the right gear is key. A good spinning setup paired with a braid to fluorocarbon leader and you’ve got most of what you need. Select an open hook or weedless Ned head for your particular conditions, and then pic your plastic. You can go old school and just make something work by cutting a chunk off a regular size bait. Or you can dabble in the dozens of soft plastics out there now specifically made for a Ned rig. The options are near limitless, but one thing’s for sure. If you’re throwing a Ned rig, get ready to get bit.