knapp 10-26-21

The Ned Rig is adept at catching smallmouth bass such as this one taken by Joe Bright.

Like many of you, I suspect, I have a group of fellow anglers that I stay connected with regarding fish-catching activity. Such communication, often via texting, provides interesting information and inspires the spirit when one cannot be on the water. Lately, I’ve noticed, my outgoing messages about recent bass forays all seem to share the expression “Ned Fest.”

A Ned Fest, as I use it, refers to good numbers of fish being caught on the popular Ned Rig, a finesse presentation that employs a 2.5- to 3-inch piece of do-nothing plastic worm with a light leadhead jig. The setup has been around for years, enjoying regional popularity, particularly in the Midwest. I recall In-Fisherman magazine articles in the 1980s describing the use of a jig-worm — a mushroom-head jig coupled with a finesse plastic worm — for finicky bass holding along weedlines.

The finesse jig-worm became the Ned Rig when its use was popularized on a large scale by In-Fisherman blogger Ned Kehde, hence the moniker “Ned Rig.” Though the Ned Rig craze came on the scene several years ago, unlike many flash-in-the-pan phenoms, it continues to produce fish.

Not surprisingly, nearly all makers of soft plastics produce some bait (or baits) aimed at the Ned Rig market. Likely the most popular is Z-Man Fishing’s TRD, which stands for “The Real Deal,” a 2.75-inch soft stickbait. The Z-Man line of Ned Rig-inspired products has expanded to include a host of fish-catching profiles, all made from Elaztech, a stretchy material quite different from standard soft plastics.

Over the past few years, I’ve used a variety of Z-Man Elaztech baits, including the TRD, Finesse TRD Tubez, Hula Stickz, and Ticklerz. All are some form of either a finesse-sized worm or tube bait. Several other profiles also exist.

If you haven’t fished a Ned Rig-style bait, here are a few tips. As mentioned earlier, Elaztech baits are noticeably different that standard plastic baits. They are very stretchy and extremely durable. Chances are you will lose the bait to a snag long before it wears out from fish catches. But it doesn’t play well with other plastics. Don’t store it with standard plastics or the chemical reaction will result in a melted mess. In fact, it’s best to store Elaztech baits in their original packaging. For instance, if you transfer Finesse TRDs to a utility box they will eventually curl up rendering them useless. Leave them in the bag they came in.

Standard bait keeper barbs that are molded into the head of leadhead jigs aren’t overly effective at holding the bait in place. The gumminess of the bait resist penetration from the barbs. Jigheads designed specifically for such baits, like Z-Man’s Shroomz, feature a sharp wire welded to the hook shank to secure the bait. It probably works well, but I must say I have reservations regarding this particular jighead. Though the issue has probably been resolved, early versions of this jighead had a rather brittle hook. I’ve had them break when unhooking fish or pulling loose from snags. And I’m not a fan of the odd sizing the product comes in such as 1/20-, 1/10- and 1/5-ounce.

Instead, I use a mushroom head jighead, more specifically one termed “worm nose” jighead made by Killer Jigs. Typically, I use either 1/8- or 3/16-ounce. The back side of the jighead is flat, providing a nice surface for the TRD to nest against. A drop of Locktite super glue gel holds the bait in place, fish after fish.

Even though lots of anglers fish them, Ned Rigs continue to catch gamefish such as bass likely because they provide a vulnerable look that fish do not become conditioned to.