Perhaps the hottest way to set up your lure today is the Tokyo Rig. The Tokyo Rig is a deceptively simple set up that allows you to fish at a ll levels of the water, from a boat or from shore with minimal equipment.
At its most basic, the Tokyo Rig is a hook attached to a short weighted wire, with a swivel. It is similar to a drop shot, but with a much shorter line on the bottom. The wire weight can be changed based on what type of bait you are attaching, and the swivel gives the rig excellent movement.
In practice, the Tokyo Rig is much more complex than its simple construction would imply. The fairly large hook allows you to attach a wide array of baits, from swimming minnows to large rubber crawfish. The variable weight allows you to fish at pretty much any depth, while the position of the weight means that your hook is clear of asnags even when skipping along rocky bottoms.
The Tokyo Rig combines elements of the drop shot (except it has a much shorter drop wire) and the Texas rig, except with the weight below the hook to give it much more movement and action.
There are a myriad of ways to fish with the Tokyo Rig. Let’s go through some of the ways this rig is extremely effective.
Pitching and Flipping
If you normally use a Texas rig to pitch and flip you have probably seen its limitations. While it is pretty effective, you can still end up with snags when you try to shake it down into the cover on the bottom, and the hook wants to rest flat.
This means that in order to keep your lure attractive, you have to yo-yo or wiggle it. This pulls it up out of the area where the fish really live and slows down the number of bites you get. It also makes the probability of a snag go up astronomically.
By placing the weight below the hook, the Tokyo rig elevates the bait, letting it float a few inches off the bottom, creating a much more realistic lure. This means you can shake it down into cover and let it be, slowly drawing it through cover instead of worrying about elevation. This lets the hook get down into the cover where bass and their prey like to hide.
Swimming baits need to be able to carry current and look like they are swimming. With a lot of setups, like with a Texas rig, the swimmie needs a very specific set of conditions to maintain that illusion long enough for a bass to strike.
By running a Tokyo Rig with a long swimming bait, you can cover large amounts of distance on a hard bottom.
To do this technique, cast far away with a baitcaster and braided line. Let the bait sink. The wire drop on the weight will keep the bait free and floating in the current, and you can walk the lure back toward you slowly. This gives a solid illusion of a fish or large worm swimming along the bottom and can pull out strikes at depth.
Traditionally dominated by the Texas rig, dropping a hook in the middle of a visible school works beautifully with a Tokyo Rig. The weight carries the bait straight down to the bottom where they are schooling, and the relatively compact set up allows for fairly precise casting.
Aim straight for the center of the grouping, cast and drop your shot. Reel slowly toward you, repeat until you strike.
Gear to Pair with the Tokyo Rig
The simplicity of its setup and versatility of its function means that most rod and reel combos will work fairly well with a Tokyo Rig. That being said, there are some options that will definitely get you better results than others.
For most scenarios where a Tokyo Rig would be helpful, a standard 7-foot baitcasting pole is appropriate. Because this is primarily a deepwater rig, a baitcaster reel with a high gear ratio will help you to get your hook set and bring your catch up quickly.
Avoid monofilament for most of these rigs since the stretch and bounce can interfere with the rig’s ability to be as accurate as it needs. Go with a braided line in at least a 30-pound test. That will allow you to cut through bottom grasses more efficiently and will help with setting your hook at long lengths to the bottom.
Another benefit of the Tokyo Rig is the flexibility of the rigging. By virtue of its simplicity, you can make huge changes by switching a few things up. The simple wire on the bottom allows you to put as much or as little weight as you need. The hook is also removable, meaning you can go as big or as small as you need for what you have biting.
The hook of the Tokyo Rig can take pretty much any soft bait meaning you can use anything from large crawfish to swimming fish baits to long worms. This means that the Tokyo Rig can be as effective fishing a pond where the fish go nuts over a soft-bodied frog or a river bottom where you have better luck with a big brown crawfish.
The Tokyo Rig can also be used as a midwater rig. By utilizing floats and baits with more buoyancy than the weights, you can get the rig to float at midwater. This can be extremely effective with swimming baits on summer middays when the topwater is too hot.
The bass dive to escape the heat of topwater, and they tend to be sluggish from the heat. A comfortably floating bait drifting slowly at midwater height can be especially appealing for that time of day.
The weight positioning of the Tokyo helps the bait to remain vertical while drifting at midwater. Keeping the fish upright and swimming downstream makes it a much more appealing target.
What Sets It Apart
All of these comparisons to the drop shot and Texas rig might make you ask “Why would I need a whole new rig when I could just use the drop shot and Texas rig I’m already used to?” That is a valid question in many ways.
While the Tokyo Rig is similar in form and function in some way to both of these existing rigs, it has some key differences that set it apart.
When compared to the Drop shot, the Tokyo rig is more flexible. The rig is hooked up on a swivel wire, allowing for a lot more play when in the water. The drop wire is substantially smaller, meaning that the rig floats closer to the bottom, while still maintaining that float.
Comparing the Tokyo to the Texas rig, the Tokyo has a lot more versatility. It is small enough to get into the places that the Texas Rig is really good for and also has an additional benefit of a swivel and bottom weight that allows it to float freely rather than just sitting on the bottom.
The Tokyo Rig takes the best attributes of two very popular fishing rigs and makes something that in many ways is more effective than either of its predecessors.
There are some limitations to the rig. It is not quite as compact as a Texas rig. Many people can cast on a dime with a Texas Rig, putting the hook where they want it down to the half inch. Because it has a slightly more awkward form factor, the Tokyo rig will never cast quite as accurately as the Texas rig can.
The smaller size limits the amount of weight that can be added when compared to the drop shot. That smaller weight on the bottom can occasionally hang up and snag slightly. This snagging is much less severe than a hook stuck on the vegetation, but in some ways, it can be more disruptive.
The rig is so sensitive when rigged with braided line that it is possible for bumps on the bottom of the lake or stream to mimic getting a nibble. Nothing is worse than thinking you have just set a hook, only to find out that you just pulled a little seaweed loose. The design of this rig makes that type of confusion more possible.
All in all, the Tokyo rig is a Japanese import that every angler should be excited about. This simple rig opens up many ways to fish that would have required two or three different rigs in the past while taking up almost no space in your tackle box.
Make room for the Tokyo rig in your kit today, and you’ll be catching more bass tomorrow.