Conquer the Free Rig: Bass Fishing Guide

by | Published on: Jul 18, 2023 | Rig Fishing

Are you searching for an exceptional, flexible rig to revolutionize your bass fishing experience? Something easy to rig and includes components you probably already have on hand? If you’re an avid bass angler like me, you’re always looking for new and different ways to catch bass, which is why you’ll love the Free Rig.

Like many bass fishing rigs and techniques, the Free Rig became popular in Japan before it entered the arsenal of US anglers. High fishing pressure is a pervasive issue in Japan. When the Free Rig was conceived, bass anglers desperately needed a distinctive presentation to stand out from the other rigs and displays, which bass had already grown accustomed to.

Beginner and veteran bass anglers can make good use of this rig in many situations; it’s well worth trying out Free Rig bass fishing if you haven’t already.

This comprehensive guide will delve into all the ins and outs of the Free Rig – why it’s effective, how to assemble it, and the essential gear you’ll need to optimize its use and ensure your fishing success.

What Is the Free Rig?

The Free Rig is a truly minimalist rig, consisting of only three core components. It involves a free-moving weight, an offset worm hook, and a soft plastic bait that can be selected based on your preference. The free-moving weight allows the lure to move and dart in many different directions, an alluring prospect for nearby bass.

Likewise, the assembly process for the Free Rig is straightforward. First, you thread the line through the loop of the weight. Next, you tie the line to the hook. Once you’ve attached your chosen soft plastic bait, your rig is ready for action.

The Free Rig gets its name because the weight and bait move freely and independently from one another. When a free sliding weight is placed on the line above the hook and bait, the weight drops straight down, with the bait following freely behind it.

The Drop Shot Rig, another simple yet effective rig hailing from Japan, is well worth exploring. Dive into our detailed guide for more!

A crucial component to consider when Free Rig bass fishing is the weight you attach to your rig. You’ll want to ensure you’re using a teardrop or cylindrical weight with a round loop that swivels. This will allow the weight to move up and down the line as freely as possible.

If you can find them, cylindrical weights like these specialized free rig sinkers are the best. Cylindrical weights encounter fewer snags when fishing around aquatic vegetation and rocks, but they can sometimes be hard to find. If you don’t have those, teardrop-shaped casting weights will work just fine.

Unable to move freely

Although drop shot weights may seem sufficient, avoid clip-style drop shot weights. The line will get cinched into the clip, and the weight will be unable to move freely.

Another essential characteristic of the Free Rig is the leader, or the lack of one. Using a leader with this rig will actually get in the way, as the knot will hinder the weight’s ability to move freely along the line. Simplicity is the Free Rig’s best friend; tie it directly to your mainline.

Benefits of the Free Rig

The most notable benefit of the Free Rig is its unique presentation, resulting from the inclusion of a free-moving weight. Once the rig hits the water, the weight drops vertically while the bait flutters slowly behind it. This permits the bait to move randomly in all directions – something plenty of US bass won’t have seen before.

Bass are intelligent. When they see the same baits and lures repeatedly presented in the same way, they stop being fooled by them. The Free Rig will help you offer something different that bass won’t be used to, improving your chances of success.

The Free Rig can land some mega-bass

Thanks to its adaptability, the Free Rig can effectively produce results in all water depths, from the shallows to the abyss, making it useful throughout the year. Its adaptability is further enhanced by the wide variety of soft plastic baits available, allowing you to convincingly mimic any potential bass prey and adjust your strategy according to the season. This makes the Free Rig a year-round contender in your bass fishing toolkit.

Bass will also hold on longer after biting, as the weight isn’t directly attached to the bait. When bass don’t sense resistance, they assume everything is normal, giving you more time for a strong hookset.

How Does It Differ From Texas and Carolina Rigs?

You may wonder how the Free Rig differs from the Texas or Carolina Rig. After all, they also include free-moving weights.

The biggest difference between the Free Rig and other popular options is the distinct behavior it exhibits upon water contact. With the Free Rig, there’s an immediate and vertical drop, and the weight promptly disengages from the lure. In contrast, with Texas and Carolina Rigs, the weight usually swings or “pendulums” away from the bait during descent, creating a distinctively different action.

Dive deeper into the iconic Texas Rig with our comprehensive guide!

The Free Rig is designed so that the weight descends directly vertically, allowing the bait to flutter down slowly, creating an alluring action

How to Tie It Up

You don’t have to be a master bass angler to tie this rig. It only takes a few minutes, making it a must-know rig for beginners.

Step 1

Take your mainline and thread it through the eye of a cylinder or casting weight. For baitcasting equipment, a 1/4 – 1/2 ounce weight can be used. For spinning gear, 1/32 – 1/8 ounce weights are ideal.

Step 2

Tie the line to a 3/0 EWG offset worm hook (or 1/0 for smaller baits). Use a strong fishing knot such as a Palomar or improved clinch knot.

Step 3

Bait the hook with your preferred soft plastic bait using a weedless rigging approach.

A completed Free Rig with a Berkley Powerbait Worm

Best Lures for a Free Rig

One of the many great things about the Free Rig is that you’re only limited by your imagination regarding baits. You can use just about any soft plastic bait you have on hand with this rig, but some work better than others.

My top three bait types for the Free Rig are:

  1. Creature baits – my favorite is the Strike King Rage Tail Bug
  2. Lizards – you can’t beat the YUM Finesse Lizard
  3. Ribbon tail worms – the Berkley Power Worm is a devasting choice on this rig

These baits provide the best action because of their different appendages and realistic look. They’re also an excellent place to start because they’ll sink at different rates.

Surprisingly, this is one of the few times Senko Worms or similar stickbaits aren’t that useful. Senko Worms lack appendages to generate additional action during the fall, and their sleek, uniform shape doesn’t facilitate erratic movements, which are core to the effectiveness of this rig.

If you plan to throw a Free Rig, save your Senko Worms for Wacky and Texas Rigs, and instead use a creature bait or lizard.

The YUM Finesse Lizard is an excellent soft plastic bait on a Free Rig, as demonstrated

Looking for more lure recommendations? We have you covered!

Free Rig Tackle

Regarding equipment for the Free Rig, you don’t need anything too technical. Odds are you’ll be able to use it with the gear you already own. The optimal setup for a Free Rig differs based on whether you intend to fish in areas with cover or not.

Cover

You’ll need a sturdier setup for fishing around cover such as weeds, wood, and other natural structures. Start with a 7′-7’4″ medium-heavy casting rod paired with a middle gear ratio baitcasting reel between 6:1 and 7:1.

When it comes to line, fluorocarbon is strongly recommended as it allows your weight to move smoothly up and down the line. For general purpose, I suggest using a 15 lb fluorocarbon line, but if you plan to fish around thicker cover, go with a 17–20 lb option.

Straight fluorocarbon line is key, as it allows the weight to move freely

Finesse

The second setup that excels with the Free Rig is geared more toward finesse fishing. Since the Free Rig excels at catching bass in pressured conditions, you may need to downsize your rig to make the most of it.

For a finesse setup, start with a 6’6”-7’ medium spinning rod combined with a 2000-2500 size spinning reel. For line, use 10–12 lb fluorocarbon.

Find out how the Ned Rig, another finesse rig, excels with this setup in our complete guide!

How to Fish a Free Rig

Generally speaking, the Free Rig is very easy to fish and incredibly useful for novice and veteran bass anglers alike. That said, there are a few essential things to remember.

As mentioned earlier, one of the main advantages of the Free Rig is its universal utility – it’s been proven useful across seasons. However, the best time to use this rig is during the spring and summer when bass congregate in shallow water and around structures.

As far as areas go, the Free Rig really shines around aquatic vegetation, such as the edges of weeds and lily pads. Rocky areas are also great spots to utilize a Free Rig, as are offshore brush piles.

Bass are most likely to strike

The most important element to master when free rig bass fishing is controlling the rig’s descent through the water column. Most of the action comes from the bait slowly sinking after the weight has fallen to the bottom. It’s critical to wait 20-30 seconds after casting the rig before imparting any action. This initial period is precisely when bass are most likely to strike.

A Free Rig ready to roll

Once the rig has reached the bottom, lift your rod tip up while reeling in the slack line and wait for the bait to fall again. Continue this process until the majority of your line has been reeled in, and you need to make a new cast. Generally, the Free Rig can be accurately cast into fish-abundant zones in close quarters, minimizing the need to re-work the rig at all.

The rate at which your bait descends through the water depends on the type of lure you’re using. Larger baits, such as craws and creature baits, will have more resistance and fall slowly. Conversely, smaller baits like lizards and worms will fall faster. Just remember to wait a suitable amount of time before doing anything, to ensure you get the full effect of the free fall.

Then set the hook

Lastly, it’s important to note that if you attempt to set the hook in the same manner as you would for jigs and Texas Rigs, you are likely to lose fish. Before setting the hook, it is crucial to reel down the line and eliminate any slack. Only then should you set the hook. Due to the separation between the weight and hook, there will be some extra slack line out. If you don’t reel down first, the fish will wiggle loose before you can set the hook.

Conclusion

The Free Rig is truly a unique, versatile, and user-friendly bass fishing rig. If you struggle catching fish in pressured waters or just want to throw something slightly different, the Free Rig is an excellent option. Remember, success with the Free Rig depends on using the appropriate components and equipment, coupled with the patience to let the bait freely fall after the weight. Stick to these principles, and you can succeed with this rig.

Whether you’re brand new to bass fishing or an experienced angler looking for some inspiration, tight lines!