Until recently, one tackle company has also stood out for years as the only major supplier of all things Ned — Z-Man Fishing Products.
Already well-known for its ChatterBait lures well before taking on the Ned Rig merchandise, Z-Man created the TRD stick baits that are a staple of the Ned Rig setup and soon cornered the market on the Midwest Finesse style, even earning a nod from Kehde himself. The buoyant, nearly indestructible baits are made of a special technology called ElaZtech — a tear-resistant plastic that causes baits to stand straight up on flat mushroom jigheads and attract bass, crappie and other game fish.
In recent years, smaller tackle companies in the Midwest have seen firsthand as the popularity of Z-Man’s Ned Rig and the finesse style of fishing rose in the region and, eventually, nationwide. Some even looked to improve upon the Ned Rig’s design.
One such mom-and-pop company is Carlyle, Ill.-based B&P Jighead, which markets itself as the home of the Tru Set Weedless Midwest Finesse Jigs. Owner Ben Louer sought to improve the jighead itself, as the Ned Rig’s biggest flaw is its exposed hook that can get snagged easily in weedy areas or against structure. Louer created a mushroom jighead with a sickle hook that can be stuck back through the bait like a Texas Rig, allowing the lures to run through even the toughest cover without getting hung up.
“Everybody likes using it,” Louer said of the Ned Rig. “It’s a real good jig, but we needed something that was weedless. I just tried to improve what that man created.”
After finding success with the weedless Ned Rig jighead, he then expanded his offerings to include Tru Set weedless shakyhead jigs with a 4/0 hook for larger plastics, as well as 3/0 ballhead jigs and #2-sized crappie jigheads so that anglers could throw their baits into thick brushpiles without getting tangled up or snagged.
With the buoyancy of the baits, they also work great with a Wacky-rigged presentation, a traditional Texas Rig, a Neko Rig or just about any other way you can think of to hook them up.
The company recently unveiled two new plastic baits for sale on its website at http://www.bpjighead.com, a 3.5-inch swimbait called “The Ripper” and a 3-inch “Fat Baby Senko” that is ideal for Ned Rig applications.
Patrons can purchase his baits online at http://www.bpjighead.com
Another Kansas-based company called TTG Lures produces a variety of plastics covered in salt for extra buoyancy that work well on finesse presentations. The company is owned by 17-year-old Ryan Murphy, a student at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Wichita.
“I have always had a love for fishing and the outdoors, and started really getting into fishing after our school added a bass-fishing team,” Murphy said. “I originally started making fishing lures with a $50 lure-making kit.”
After some trial and error, Murphy finally got the art of lure-making mastered and eventually began manufacturing some higher-quality baits that were producing big results for his clients.
The Ned Worm, a TRD-like stick bait that comes in a variety of colors, is the perfect little bite-sized stick bait for Midwestern bass fishing. Color offerings include specialized shades such as Galaxy Black, Pearl Shad, Poison Berry, Hot Pink, Purple Mist and Ocean Blue, as well as the traditional offerings such as Watermelon Red, Green Pumpkin and Junebug.
Perhaps most enticing is the price point. The Ned Worm runs $2.99 for a pack of eight. By comparison, a pack of eight TRDs is typically in the $4.50 to $5 range retail and the 3-inch Baby Senko from B&P runs $5 for 10.
The five-inch “Broke Back Minnow” is a segmented swim bait similar to Z-Man’s Razor ShadZ, except they run $4.69 per pack of eight compared to Z-Man’s $4.99 for four. Of course, the ElaZtech plastic takes the cake on bait toughness and durability and is well worth the cost for that alone, but both the TTG and B&P plastics hold up well on their end and can easily be used all day to catch fish without needing to switch out baits.
TTG’s 4-inch structure bug and 3.25-inch crawdad, both perfect trailers for a bass jig that can also work well on a Texas Rig, run $4.49 and $4.29 per pack of eight, respectively.
“This company is something I look forward to working on and improving every day,” Murphy said. “It is very encouraging and gratifying to be a part of so many anglers’ successes and help bring them so many good memories in the outdoors.
“I have sold lures to over half of the United States and have doubled my sales from last year in just five months this year. I am now a company that many other companies message for advice on lure manufacturing, and I receive hundreds of messages a month about my lures and what they should throw in upcoming tournaments, et cetera.”
Murphy’s TTG lures can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/y9s2bazl
Another Midwestern outfit, Top Secret Jig Company in Topeka, offers a variety of plastics that work well when fished finesse style with the B&P or as a crappie jig on Oklahoma-based ProBuilt Jigheads.
Top Secret, which is starting to make a name for itself on the Crappie Masters All-American Tournament Trail as a big slab magnet, has a variety of larger tube jigs called Toad Tamers. There also are some paddle-tailed jigs called Reapers and Flapjacks that are ideal for crappie but work equally well stalking bass in the shallows on hot, sunny days.
They come in just about every color imaginable, and owner Brandon Manis will even do custom jobs when ordered through the website at https://tinyurl.com/ybtp7w4n.
“My baits work for all techniques,” Manis said. “Primarily here we have brush fishing, slowtrolling rocks or tree fishing. So the baits I make work excellent for all. I make the twisters for the guys down south, where spider rigging and pulling are the main techniques. I mostly focused on size — big baits catch bigger fish. They catch the small ones, as well, but the bigger fish like a big bait. Almost every local (crappie) tournament has been won on them this year, as well as two at Truman Reservoir in Missouri.”
Finally, for the ultra-finesse fishermen, Fle-Fly Fishing Tackle out of Grove, Okla., is the place to look. The company offers a variety of ultra-light options, ranging from bendable minnows that allow you to customize the sinking speed of the lure to their patented curly-tailed GoGo Minnows all the way down to their 1/64th-ounce, lead-free feather jigs that work great on everything from bass and trout all the way down to panfish, especially during the cold winter months or in the spring under a bobber tipped with a waxworm.
Their Crappie Kicker lures also are a great option for spawning crappie, as its flickering tail simply can’t be held still and floats up above the body when submerged. A squirt of Fle-Fly’s Bubble Gum lure flavor also will help bring in the big slabs, even in murky water where visibility is low. Despite its name, this little bait works well on bass, trout and all sorts of gamefish thanks to its tail action.
The Tricky Tail lures also are fantastic finesse baits and work great for deadsticking, twitching, drop-shotting or slow crawling.
For those interested in Fle Fly’s products, visit their website at https://www.flefly.com/.