The Tokyo Rig burst onto the bass fishing scene a few years ago and quickly etched out a place for itself. Sort of like a mix between a dropshot and a Texas rig, this new rig offered a unique alternative to several different presentations. With a short, stiff wire serving as a drop leader of sorts between the hook and the weight, anglers quickly experimented with all sorts of soft plastics on a Tokyo Rig.
But it wasn’t until recently that I spotted an angler using a Tokyo Rig to fish a new soft plastic category that I hadn’t yet seen sampled on this setup. In the recent Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Pickwick Lake, Brandon Palaniuk introduced many of us to the idea of fishing a swimbait this way. And who could argue with its effectiveness, Palaniuk using it in part to finish 7th that week.
Why Fish a Swimbait on a Tokyo Rig?
The obvious question right out of the gate is, why bother? If a paddle tail swimbait is working well rigged on a regular jighead, then what’s the point in fishing it this way? Well, there are a few benefits to fishing a swimbait on a Tokyo Rig, but that’s not to say fishing it this way completely rules out the need for ever rigging one on a jighead again. They both have their place.
Fishing a paddle tail swimbait on a jighead still works better than fishing one on a Tokyo Rig when targeting suspended fish in open water, from just under the surface to several feet up off the bottom. But if you want to fish a swimbait right along the bottom, the Tokyo Rig gives you an awesome new approach. You can maintain bottom contact with the weight, while the swimbait is still able to drift and move around just a few inches up above.
This creates an entirely different look compared to a traditional swimbait on a jighead where the tail kicks and the body rocks side to side a bit. While that’s still a good look up in the water column, it’s hard to get your bait to do that right along the bottom when rigged on a jighead.
There’s also the hazard of hanging up when using a traditional jighead rigged swimbait with an exposed hook, both on the bottom and on cover. A Tokyo Rig helps alleviate a lot of this stress, since it allows the angler to rig a swimbait weedless. This helps the bait come along jagged terrain and through brush piles much more efficiently, leading to less hangups and lost baits.
How to Set it Up
You’ll want to use a Tokyo Rig with an EWG (Extra Wide Gap) hook. This hook style works best with a swimbait and is the same type of hook you’d want to use if you were rigging a weightless swimbait weedless to fish along the surface. There’s a good bit of plastic in the belly of many soft swimbaits, so the large gap of an EWG hook really accommodates this style of bait well.
It’s okay to use a simple bullet style weight at the bottom of your Tokyo Rig, and this is probably even the preferred weight to use if you expect to be coming through a lot of cover. But if you’re fishing the bait on an open, fairly clean bottom, it’s a good idea to go with a weight that has more surface area to it, like an egg weight for instance.
The more of the surface of the weight you have making contact with the bottom the better, since this will increase the overall presentation’s sensitivity. You’ll want to maintain bottom contact to ensure you’re keeping the bait close to the bottom as you reel it along. This is primarily important when the fish you are targeting are holding close to the bottom, as the bait will need to stay in that narrow strikezone and fishing it this way will kick up a little mud and silt, which will help draw attention the bait as well.
A Tokyo rigged swimbait offers a great alternative to a traditional jighead rigged swimbait, especially when wanting to fish a swimbait right along the bottom or through cover. Being sure to pick a Tokyo Rig with an EWG hook is critical, as many other hooks won’t have as good of a hookup ratio with a chunky bait like a swimbait.
Remember this is something you’ll only want to do when the fish are relating close to the bottom or hovering close to brush and other submerged cover. If the fish are suspended up in the water column, the jighead is still the way to go. But when the jighead is more likely to get hung, that’s when you want to go with the Tokyo Rig. Take these tips and apply them this summer and let us know how you do!