Free Rig for Bass Fishing: A New Secret Weapon
The Free Rig has made some serious waves in the bass fishing scene and has become recognized as an effective way to catch pressured bass. The technique originated in Korea and was then adopted by Japanese anglers, who used it with much success to catch pressured bass. Now, it is beginning to turn some heads in the USA. So that begs the question, what is the free rig, how does one fish it and why has it seen such rapid rise in popularity.
What is the Free Rig
At first glance, a free rig seems very similar in form and function to an unpegged Texas Rig but with one key difference. Instead of using a bullet weight, a free rig makes use of a dropshot weight or a dipsy weight, the important characteristic here being the wide open line tie which is key to the Free Rig action. Also note the rubber bead in the image below. This is important as it protects the knot from being damaged due to the free movement of the sinker.
Tackle included above:
Hook - Gamakatsu Offset EWG Worm Hook
Bait - Gary Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm
Sinker - Decoy Drop Shot Stick Sinker
Rubber Bead - Jethro Baits Bump-Itz
What Makes it so Effective?
In comparison to a standard bullet weight, a weight with a wide open line tie slides down the line much faster. It is this sliding down the line, especially during the baits initial fall that gives the Free Rig its real X-factor. Because the weight slides down the line at such a rapid rate, a large gap is created between bait and sinker on the fall. Once the sinker hits the bottom, the bait still has a significant distance to fall and this will result in natural, subtle flutter for the rest of its descent. Major League Fishing pro, Shinichi Fukae says that this effectively gives the angler the ability to achieve a weightless action with the added bonus of being able to fish a lot faster and cover water thanks to the free-moving weight.
While an unpegged Texas Rig is similar to the Free Rig, it does not create nearly as much separation between sinker and bait on the fall. This is because sliding through the thin ring of a dropshot weight is a lot easier than sliding through the length of a bullet weight. With an unpegged Texas Rig, your bait will of course go down, but it will angle towards you on the fall pulling the bait away from your target. A Free Rig in contrast, thanks to greater separation between bait and sinker will fall pretty much straight down, similar to what you would expect from a dropshot. This is especially powerful when bass are hugging really tight to structure/cover.
I have included a striking realistic visual illustration of a Free Rig fall path vs an Unpegged Texas Rig fall path below:
How to Set it Up
Setting up the Free Rig is incredibly simple and requires very little terminal tackle. All you need is a soft plastic (practically any soft plastic can be used effectively on a free rig), an EWG hook, a rubber stopper and a dropshot sinker with a wide open line tie. Something like this Decoy Drop Shot Stick Sinker is perfect.
Once you have your terminal tackle ready, simply thread your rubber stopper and sinker onto your line and tie on your hook with your knot of choice. And put your bait on the hook of course! That is literally all it takes to set up the free rig, simple and easy.
Rod, Reel and Line for the Free Rig
The beauty of the Free Rig lies in its massive versatility. Depending on what bait you use and what size sinker and hook you use, the Free Rig can be a power or finesse technique and this means that just about any combination of tackle is suitable depending on the situation. I provide setups for two possible use cases below. It is important to keep in mind that these are only two possible use cases, you could fish the free rig on the lightest or heaviest setups you can imagine if you want to.
For Finesse Fishing
If you are downsizing for finnicky fish you will want to use lighter line, a lighter sinker and lighter wire hooks. My finesse free rig setup usually consists of the following (links go to reviews):
Line - Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon 8lb
Reel - Shimano Stradic FL
Rod - Shimano SLX Spinning 6'9" Medium Extra Fast
For Power Fishing
If you are using the Free Rig to pitch and hit target cover, you will want a heavier line, a heavier sinker and bigger hook. When using the Free Rig for power fishing, my setup usually consists of the following:
Line - Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon 14lb
Reel - Shimano Curado K
Rod - Shimano Curado Casting 7' Medium Heavy Extra Fast
For an affordable alternative to Seaguar InvizX check out Seaguar BasiX. It offers really impressive performance at a fraction of the price.
Where to Fish The Free Rig
The Free Rig can be fished in just about any situation. It is great for pitching/casting at isolated cover thanks to its vertical fall. At the same time, it is equally effective in more open water situations where you want to drag your bait across a big area and can be a solid alternative to the Carolina Rig. Lifting the rod and then lowering it again will recreate the deadly weightless action the bait has on the initial fall so repeating this process back to the boat is definitely a good option if you are trying to cover water.
I have always loved fishing weightless Flukes and Senkos. One problem I have always had however is not being able to cover enough water because of the long fall times, especially in more than 5-6 feet of water. The Free Rig is a great way to achieve the weightless action in deeper water by fast tracking the initial part of the fall while still ensuring the bait is weightless for the last few feet of its descent.
What Baits to Use for the Free Rig
The Free Rig doesn’t lock you into any soft plastic type at all. Worms, soft plastic jerkbaits, craws and creatures of all sizes are all effective for this presentation. I did some digging and found some noteworthy anglers favorite baits for the Free Rig to give you some inspiration:
Pro angler, Shinichi Fukae is one of the guys who really put the Free Rig on the map in the USA. His favorite soft plastic for this presentation is the Yamamoto D-Shad. The D-Shad has an incredible shimmying motion on the fall. Shinichi says that this action is enhanced when fished on the Free Rig making it a deadly option.
Berkley/Abu Garcia pro-staffer, Daniel Elias uses a Berkely Powerbait Jester on the Free Rig.
Angler Waki, a Japanese angler and youtuber make use of Yamamoto Kut Tail Worms on the Free Rig. He says that this is a seriously underutilized bait that can be incredibly effective. I recommend checking out his full video on fishing the Free Rig below. He has plenty of experience and some invaluable advice!
The Free Rig sits in a unique position in the bass rig matrix, somewhere between the Texas Rig and the Carolina Rig would probably be the best way to describe it. If you are like me and like “do-it-all” baits that can be thrown in just about any situation, you should give the Free Rig a go. An added bonus is that unlike many of the new, complex and difficult to set up rigs coming out these days, the Free Rig can be set up just as easily as an unpegged Texas Rig. A big plus in my book.