If you’ve been paying attention for the past month or so, one fishing setup keeps popping up in a lot of the columns and stories I’ve been writing: the Ned Rig.
I recently purchased a new Shakespeare spinning crappie rod, and with its light action and only a 2-pound Stren line spooled, I figured now would be the time to try it out. I didn’t go with the complete, recommended setup that I’ve heard from everybody I’ve talked to about the rig. Most people I’ve talked to or listened to on YouTube have recommended using an 8- to 10-pound fluorocarbon line, either fully spooled or as a stringer coming off braided line. This is supposed to help the bait fall more seductively in the water and to increase sensitivity so you can feel the incredibly light bites of the fish.
And when I say they’re light, I mean it. You can barely feel them, if at all, unless there’s something pretty big on the other end.
I went out to my favorite spot to try out new baits and lures and immediately realized this wouldn’t be the same as throwing other jigs or crankbaits. Despite catching a bass on my first cast, it was more luck than anything I did right at that point. This lure has a learning curve, and you’ll have to figure out how to use it. As soon as you cast the bait, you have to be ready to set the hook, because fish love to hit it on the fall. I was using a 2.75-inch Z-Man Finesse TRD in California Craw on a black, 1/20th-ounce Z-man Shroom Z mushroom jig head.
The more I experimented, the more I figured out how to use my sense of sight to detect a bite. When I’m fishing with worms or other live baits, I love to use a bobber because I can notice little movements to detect when a fish is playing with the hook. Though I didn’t have a bobber on, I used a similar technique in watching where the line entered the water from my pole. If you pretend that point is where your bobber would be, then when you see it start to take off you usually have a bite. In calm water, it’s pretty easy to see, as during daylight you’ll see a V shape where the movement of the line is creating a small wake. When the sun sets or when the wind picks up, however, this technique isn’t as reliable.
Afterward, I talked to Hayden angler Thomas Heinen, who fishes competitively using the Ned Rig, and he approved of the technique I was using in calm water.
“Yep! That is a good bite indicator,” Heinen told me. “Also, when it’s windy, watch the bow in your line and when in straightens out, it’s usually a bite."
After that first small bass, I caught another small one before hooking a pair of nice crappies hiding under the pond scum near the shore. Small, aggressive bass will blow up on this lure all day — it’s like throwing them a piece of candy — but it also can catch some pretty nice fish. I hit on another pounder in the same spot as the crappie and then turned to the left and fished a big, floating glob of scum sitting in the middle of the pond. I was surprised at how far the bait would cast despite being so small. Part of that is having a light-action rod that will bend during the cast. I hit on another, but the bass fell off right at the shore as I attempted to get him through the scum in front of me. That was one thing I noticed about fishing with the Ned Rig — you have to keep pressure on the fish at all times or it is likely they’ll fall off. Still, I’ll count it.
I caught a second bass from the same spot and noticed that it was covered in spawn, meaning that floating gunk was probably protecting some bass eggs. I turned left and put a cast along the shoreline, where I found a sweet spot amid the scum and weeds. A nice hybrid bluegill attacked the TRD, marking the second cast in a row where I caught a fish. The very next cast, and in the same area, I connected with a nice black crappie as soon as the lure hit the water, and it may have been the biggest fish of the day. I cast again and let out a laugh of disbelief as I again hooked into a fish, the fourth cast in a row, and reeled the small bass to shore. On each of those casts, I barely had to wait at all, as the moment it started to sink the line lurched forward in the water and I set the hook. With the crappie, I don’t think it even had time to fall.
The bite slowed a bit but I was still pulling in fish at a pretty decent clip, with the next six fish I caught being average-sized bass. I hit on two more excellent hybrids and a bass, then finally decided to move from the only spot I had fished. You read that right. With all 19 of those fish I had just caught, I hadn’t moved a foot.
As the sunlight began to dim, I expected the bite to slow to a crawl, but I was still getting hits on it. I was plopping the TRD down in holes in the moss with relative ease. It didn’t get hung up too bad at all and would typically just go right over it like a plastic frog. I caught two more small bass fishing in the shallows, and then at 8:40 p.m. when the sun had all but set I hit on another hybrid. I laughed and tossed the small hybrid back, and then two minutes later I hooked into the biggest bass of the day — about 2 pounds, which is decent for that pond. That made 23 fish in the roughly 3.5 hours I’d been fishing, which is pretty comparable to fishing live worms on a good, hot summer day. I was mostly just deadsticking the bait, which is where you just cast it out and let it sit for a while. There aren’t many artificial lures I’ve used that you can do that with. With the buoyancy of the lures, which are made out of a tough type of plastic called ElaZtec, the rig basically sits straight up once it hits the bottom, no matter where you throw it — making it a super-enticing bait choice.
It made me a believer, but I’m still going to have to fish with it a lot before I get used to the total lack of feel. I definitely need to re-line my pole with braided line and a fluorocarbon leader to see if that makes a difference in the sensitivity. The cool thing about the Ned Rig, though, is that if you use it correctly, the fish will basically hook themselves, so you really don’t even have to work that hard to set the hook. That will be the next mental hurdle for me to jump.
Heinen said it best, however, when I was talking to him about the Z-man lures and Midwest Finesse fishing: “This is one of those baits where you just have to have confidence in it.”