The Total Guide: How to Fish a Ned Rig for Bass
Once we arrive at our favorite body of water, we are confronted with a very important question; what should we tie on first? For me, it’s hard to beat the fun and excitement provided by a finesse rig. While there are plenty of options in the realm of finesse rigs, there is one tried and true method that proves itself time and time again – the Ned Rig.
Here we dive into everything you need to know about how to fish a Ned Rig for bass.
What Is the Ned Rig?
The Ned is an exceptionally simple rig. The whole thing is made up of a mushroom-shaped lead jig head and a hook, paired with a soft plastic bait. Since the hook is fused to the jig head, stocking up on tackle for bass fishing with the Ned Rig technique is simple. Grab your desired weight heads and a package of soft plastics, and you are ready to fish.
Whatever lure you use, it needs to have buoyancy. Standing the mushroom-shaped lead head straight off the bottom is practically required to trigger bites. Unlike traditional jig heads, the eye on Ned heads is positioned further back, allowing the rig to fall through the water, settle vertically, and stand on the bottom.
The Ned Rig can be put together in a weedless fashion or with an exposed hook. A weedless presentation is achieved by including a wire guard or an EWG (extra wide gap) hook in your setup.
Why Is This Rig So Successful?
When bass are hunting for an unsuspecting high-protein meal, they want to exert as little effort in exchange for the most calories. By presenting a bulky profile with minimal appendages, the Ned Rig pretends to be precisely this.
In addition, with hundreds of lure color options, it is easy to match the natural forage. A Ned Rig can resemble a crawdad, shad, bluegill, hellgrammite, sculpin, and much more.
How to Rig It Up
When it comes to Ned Rig bass fishing, there are two primary styles: open hooked and weedless. Both have their pros and cons and will perform better under certain conditions.
To rig a standard or “open hooked” Ned Rig, simply place the hook point into the center or base of the bait.
Thread the bait onto the hook and exit through the side. Ensure that you thread enough of the bait onto the hook to precisely match the length of the hook’s shank. Threading too much or too little of the bait onto the hook shank will create an unnatural presentation.
The idea is always to be straight and centered. When using a traditional Ned Worm, the hook can exit through any side. However, when using a creature bait, the hook should protrude out through the top or back. This positioning allows the lure to flutter as intended.
When rigging a Ned Rig with a wire guard, follow the same process as with the open hook method. You will need to navigate around the wire.
When using an EWG hook, the process will be a little different. Start with the hook point in the center of the head, and thread it on about 1/4 of an inch.
Then poke the hook out of the side, rotate the worm, and go back through the body.
The barb should be just barely exposed. This takes practice but soon will become second nature. It sounds complicated, but in practice is relatively easy. It is basically a Texas Rigging method on a Ned Head.
Once again, straight and centered is best.
Ned Rig Tackle
Next, let’s discuss which kind of rod, reel, and line work best with this finesse rig.
The sensitivity provided by a spinning rod makes it the most appropriate choice for finesse fishing. Being able to transmit small, subtle movements to the lure effectively is a real benefit, and spinning rods are far better at it than baitcasters and other rod types. Go for a light-medium or medium spinning rod with a fast action tip.
If you already have a finesse rod, it will probably work well for a session of Ned Rig bass fishing. If you don’t have one, it’s essential to understand that while the Ned Rig is small, it still includes a sizable jig head. This means ultralight rods are not recommended, as they simply do not have the backbone needed to pop a Ned Rig off the bottom and impart the necessary action to fish it optimally.
Regarding length, go for a rod in the 6.5 – 7’ range. These rods will cast your Ned a respectable distance and aren’t too cumbersome when fishing in cover. I recommend the Lews Mach Ned Rig spinning rod, which is purpose-built for Ned Rig bass fishing.
The reel you use is primarily there to pick up slack line and reel in fish. A moderately-priced reel from a reputable brand will generally be sufficient. As far as size is concerned, a 2000 or 2500 is preferable.
When fishing a Ned Rig, the gear ratio on your reel doesn’t need to be incredibly fast or slow; something around 6.0:1 is perfect. This will allow you to slowly retrieve the rig while giving enough speed to fight a fish quickly.
The KastKing Valiant is a reel with a slightly higher ratio at 6.2:1, but it’s a reliable budget-friendly option that pairs well with braided line.
When it comes to finesse fishing, selecting the right line is crucial. Fluorocarbon is the best choice for your mainline as it disappears underwater and sinks, meaning you can use a lighter jig head. I will go as light as 4 lb, but 8-10 lb is appropriate in most situations. Fluorocarbon is an expensive option, plus it has the same diameter as monofilament, so it’s understandable why some anglers shy away from using it.If your setup needs more capacity, go with a braided line. Alternatively, a compromising and budget-friendly option is to use a braided mainline combined with a fluorocarbon leader. I recommend going with 10-20 lb braid as your mainline and attaching a 4-6 foot fluorocarbon leader. Connect the mainline to your leader using an Alberto knot.
Be aware that braided line does float, which will call for a slightly heavier Ned than if you were using fluorocarbon. If you plan to use a fluorocarbon leader, I recommend Beyond Fluorocarbon Leader Fishing Line.
My preferred option for use as a leader
How to Fish a Ned Rig for Bass
Time of Year
A significant advantage of mastering the Ned Rig is its versatility – it’s an approach that is proven to catch fish throughout the entire year.
While the Ned Rig has indeed emerged as a top performer in recent years when fishing for pressured summertime bass, it truly shines during the winter season. As water temperatures drop, bass become sluggish and won’t chase baits with the same speed and tenacity as they will in summer. Lethargic fish looking for an easy meal will inhale a juicy-looking morsel as it bumps along the bottom… Enter the Ned rig!
Effective Lure Styles
This rig can work with many different lures, but the traditional choice is a stumpy straight-tail worm that resembles a stickbait cut in half (which is how the technique originated). The most popular Ned Worm is the Z-Man TRD.As mentioned, the key advantage offered by the Ned Rig is versatility. Anglers can “match the hatch” by selecting styles of baits that resemble forage in the area at that time. Many dedicated Ned lures are made from Elaztech. Elasztech is a super buoyant material, and lures made from it will stand upright on the bottom, even when the jig head is stationary.
A standard Ned Worm or TRD worm is an excellent choice. However, bugs, crawdads, tubes, and shad patterns can be incorporated into your Ned arsenal. Experienced anglers, familiar with the specific water bodies they are fishing in, can use these other lure styles to match the natural forage more appropriately.
A Z-Man TRD Worm Ned Rigged and ready to go
Using the Ned Rig: Bass Fishing Technique One – Bottom Fishing
Bottom fishing with a Ned Rig involves dragging it across the bottom and occasionally hopping it up as you retrieve. It disturbs the bottom composition and crashes into solid objects like rocks or logs, drawing attention from hungry bass.
Bottom Fishing: Best Areas
This approach works best in areas with rock and wood. Hard surfaces function as a platform for the rig to stand on. Avoid areas with lots of vegetation, as the dense growth prevents the fish from getting a good look at the Ned’s subtle moments.
Bottom Fishing: How to Do It
Cast out your Ned Rig and allow it to drop through the water. Once the bait has settled on the bottom, work it back to the boat with a series of short snaps, subtle shakes, and intermittent pauses.Keep the rig on the bottom as much as possible; if you’re unsure where the rig is, pause your retrieve and drop the rod tip an inch or two. If slack line is present, then you know your lure is on the bottom. Never leave the rig in one place for any significant length of time. The minor movements draw in fish while helping the Ned cover a large area.
A standard TRD worm or Ned Worm is the preferred bait when bottom fishing like this.
Bottom Fishing: Setting the Hook
Bites when fishing a Ned, especially in cold water, are seldom aggressive and usually present as a mushy feel. Once a strike is detected, a steady sweep and reel hookset will hook the fish. Hard snap hooksets are not great for finesse fishing.
Between the light line and lethargic fish, a hard hookset is more likely to part the line than hook the fish properly. Consistent and maintained solid pressure will sink the hook into the fish and avoid any gear failures.
Using the Ned Rig: Bass Fishing Technique Two – Lift and Drop
When learning how to fish a Ned Rig for bass, you should also be aware of the lift and drop approach. Unlike bottom fishing, where you want to draw in fish, the lift and drop method targets fish on and around structures. The objective is to put the Ned in a fish’s face.
Lift and Drop: Best Areas
Lift and drop fishing is best performed in areas where fish are highly concentrated. Brush piles, boulder fields, and docks are choice areas since this technique keeps the lure in front of the fish.
While this technique is most commonly used by boat-based anglers, shore fishermen on docks or dam outflows can also utilize it.
This outflow pipe makes an excellent structure for Ned fishing
Lift and Drop: How to Do It
Instead of casting the Ned, swing your rig with an underarm motion towards the structure and open the bail.
Close the bail when the Ned hits the bottom (assuming you didn’t get a bite while the rig fell through the water) – reel in, taking up any slack line. Continue reeling until there is some tension on the line, and the rod tip is positioned at a downward angle.
With the Ned still on the bottom and the rod tip down, simply lift the rod upwards until the angle is directly overhead. Then, immediately drop the rod, allowing the bait to fall through the water on slack line.
This technique will draw attention and trigger strikes on the lift or the fall. Depending on the depth you’re fishing, a more subtle lift may be needed. Lifting the rod tip a few inches in shallow water may be enough to clear the cover.
Lift and Drop: Recommended Lures
I still prefer a standard TRD worm when using this method; however, a craw or shad profile is sometimes the ticket.
Lift and Drop: Setting the Hook
Once again, a reel set is preferable. Since most lift and drop fishing is done over cover, putting more force into the initial hookset may be necessary to pull fish from cover. Keeping the rod tip high will help control the fish.
Using the Ned Rig: Bass Fishing Technique Three – Suspended Fish
Sometimes, bass will suspend in the middle of the water column. These are some of the most challenging fish to catch, but the Ned Rig can still be used to target these tricky customers.
Suspended Fish: Best Areas
Suspended bass are most often encountered in open water but can also be found on or near bluff walls, standing timber, bridge pilings, docks, and other structures. Boat anglers on large bodies of water, such as lakes and wide rivers, typically target these fish. The nature of fishing from the shore prevents anglers from effectively targeting suspended fish.
Bass suspended in the middle of the water column and out in open water are usually found below schools of baitfish. Using a fish finder or observing ripples on the water’s surface are the most effective methods for identifying and locating these baitfish schools.
Suspended Fish: How to Do It
There are two ways to target suspended bass with a Ned Rig, and they are the complete opposite of each other.
The first is to use an extremely lightweight Ned with a slow fall. A 1/16 oz Ned paired with a buoyant soft plastic will sink very slowly and is perfect for this approach. This approach is effective because a slow freefall gives the schooled bass plenty of time to notice and strike at the bait as it flutters past.
Creature baits and tubes work best for this technique, as they create plenty of movement. If there is no take on the fall, working your Ned back to the boat with a jigging motion offers the fish one more chance. Pop the rod tip and give two or three turns of the reel. In colder water, a slower retrieve may be the ticket.
Suspended Fish: Alternative Approach
The alternative option for suspended fish is a very heavy Ned Rig. By plunging the Ned through submerged structures and baitfish schools at pace, bass are prevented from getting a good look at the bait, forcing them to instinctively bite out of reaction.
A ¼ ounce head paired with a slender/streamlined bait will drop through the water like a brick. When fished over actively feeding schools of bass, let the Ned sit on the bottom for a minute, as larger bass sit lower in the school, ready to snatch up any injured baitfish that sink to the bottom.
One crucial aspect must be incorporated with all three fishing techniques mentioned above – dead-sticking.
Dead-sticking is the act of leaving the bait still for a sustained period, not just a brief pause. Personally, I don’t have the patience for a painfully long soak, but a 10, 20, or 30-second pause seems like a long time when implementing this tactic.
If you’re fishing in an area with a current, such as near a creek mouth or in a river, a dead-sticked bait still has plenty of movement, even when left alone.
Why It Works
There are two reasons why dead-sticking is so deadly. Firstly, contrary to what you might believe, any bass in the vicinity will indeed be aware of the bait’s presence. The longer it sits there, the more antagonistic it becomes. Secondly, this is normal behavior demonstrated by prey animals when they believe a predator has detected them. Often, prey will freeze and remain motionless, hoping the predator will lose interest.
The Ned Rig is a setup that deserves serious attention from anglers of all abilities. From beginners to advanced tournament pros, the Ned has been proven to catch fish consistently. From cold water fishing to a summer’s day spent finesse fishing, the Ned Rig should be a staple in every American angler’s tackle box.