What is a Neko Rig?
A neko rig is a finesse technique (light line) with a very similar profile to the wacky rig. A hook runs through the middle of the bait (or through an O-ring), splitting each half of the bait to sit horizontally in the water column.
The only difference with the neko rig is that there is added weight to the head of the soft bait and this weight comes in the form of a nail. This added weight alters the action of the presentation and gives a slightly faster fall rate.
The neko rig presents the bait in a relatively similar way as that of a shaky head, with one half of the bait standing up while the other half sticks to the bottom.
The beauty of the neko rig is that it keeps the epic little shimmy that the wacky rig created, while giving the ability to cover water at a faster rate and have a slightly different presentation on the bottom.
Bass anglers love the neko rig as a method to target pressured fish while having the ability to cover different water columns at a faster rate.
Neko rig fishing has become one of the go-to techniques for many anglers when it comes to catching bass that aren't really interested in anything else that they're presenting to them.
How to Fish a Neko Rig
The process of fishing a neko rig is pretty similar to the way you’d fish a wacky rig. It’s a technique that thrives when fishing shore-based cover, and some may consider it as a shallow water application. However, the added weight does give us the ability to access deeper columns.
Let us run through the process of fishing the neko rig:
- The Cast
My favorite time to fish a neko rig is when fishing around shore-based cover such as vegetation, docks, brush piles, log, or anything that just looks fishy.
Traditionally, the neko rig has an exposed hook point. This makes us more susceptible to getting snagged in thick cover. There are now however weedless neko hook options that can give us access to thicker vegetation.
I’ll do my best to cast my bait right up close to any sort of cover. The way I see it, the more in the bush cover I am - the better.
- The Fall
The fall of my neko rig is the time when I’m anticipating the most action. This rig, along with the wacky rig, gets absolutely nailed on the fall because of that unique shimmy action.
After my bait lands, I’ll immediately try to keep a semi-slack line. This helps create the most natural and lifelike falling action. Having any sort of tension on the bait may pull it away from a strike zone while having a detrimental effect on the presentation and falling motion.
It’s absolutely vital that one keeps an eye on their line on the fall. Remember, you may not feel every bite on a semi-slack line, so you’ll have to try to notice any foreign line movement.
- On the Bottom
Once your bait hits the bottom, leave it there for a few seconds. With the nail in the head of the bait, it will create a unique ‘stand up’ action on the bottom which will often bring about curiosity in bass.
After the short wait, retrieve any slack gently and give your bait a few twitches. If no bite is felt, retrieve and focus on your next cast. Once again, cast into fishy-looking spots!
When Should I Throw a Neko Rig?
A neko rig will catch bass in several types of cover and conditions. It's considered a relatively versatile technique and there aren't many situations where it would be a bad time to throw one.
Many anglers love throwing a neko rig for smallmouth in and around offshore cover, such as rocky bottoms or boulders. The added weight ensures the neko gets down to get the bottom and into a smallies strike zone. The neko rig is a proven weapon for smallmouth.
Personally, I prefer a neko rig around shallow, shore-based cover when targeting largemouth. I'm able to cover to water faster and present that irresistible horizontal shimmy to a cover-hugging largemouth pretty efficiently.
Look to throw into 'fishy' looking areas, such as brush piles, wood, grass, or anything that looks like it might hold bass.
In terms of conditions, the neko rig without a doubt is an all-season technique. As with most finesse techniques, it'll catch fish in the toughest of conditions.
Neko Rig Setup
The neko rig is generally thrown on spinning gear as it is considered a light line technique. Throwing lighter presentations on a spinning setup is always going to be a lot more pleasant as your accuracy will benefit majorly.
Neko Rig Rod
A spinning rod that is between 6'6"-7' in length has a medium power is ideal for the neko rig.
A medium-power will match the weight of your presentation accordingly.
A fast action with a soft tip will help with sensitivity and getting a clean hook set.
Fishing Line for the Neko Rig
Like the wacky rig, I like to go with straight fluorocarbon. The main reason for this is because of the thinner diameter that gives my bait the most free-flowing action, while also being less visible.
In terms of line strength, it all really depends on the water depth and type of cover you're fishing. If you're fishing shallower with heavier cover, you may want to go heavier for added protection, such as 10-12lb.
If you're fishing deep water with less vegetation, such as rocky drop-offs, one can go lighter to get a more natural presentation. 8lb is arguably the lightest you should go with neko rig fishing, but many anglers will even go to 6lb.
Neko Rig Hooks and Weights
Neko rigging requires pretty much the same components as a wacky rig, but just with the added nail weight which goes into the head of the bait.
Nail weights provide the weight for the neko rig. They are literally in the shape of a nail and vary in size. One should select nail weights based on the water depth they're looking to fish, as well as how quickly they're looking to cover water.
O-Rings for the Neko Rig
One important item for both the neko rig and the wacky rig, is an o-ring. The o-ring is what connects your bait to your neko rig hook, and ensures greater longevity of your bait after catching fish.
The first step with the o-ring is to slide the ring around the bait, followed by sliding the o-ring onto the hook. Here is a basic demonstration of setting up the neko rig:
Soft Plastic Bait for the Neko Rig
The neko rig isn't the most versatile when it comes to bait selection. Straight tail plastic worms are generally your safest bet, and they provide the most attractive action when wacky-rigged.
Straight worms, as well as round worms should be your go-to when setting up your neko rig. Here are some great starting points:
Neko Rig vs. Wacky Rig
The way you fish a neko rig is pretty much exactly the same as a wacky rig. The only difference with a neko rig is that you can cover water faster because of the added weight.
The neko rig will also have a slightly different stature on the bottom. The nail weight will keep the head sticking to the surface, while the other half may stand up.
When it comes to conditions, you’ll generally fish a neko rig in more ideal water temperatures and when fish are a bit less pressured. The faster fall rate may not be the most appealing for a finicky bass, so this is where a wacky rig may be a better option.
For highly pressured bass, you may want the slower, more subtle fall of a wacky rig.
The bottom line is that these techniques are pretty similar. You’ll fish them in similar zones and the presentation is almost identical. These rigs simply work.
Which Technique Suits You?
It’s absolutely key to understanding the fundamentals of both the neko rig and the wacky rig if you’re into finesse fishing. They are both very similar in presentation, but slight alterations make these rigs pretty different in operation.
When you’re fishing next, start taking factors such as water temperature and fishing pressure into account. This will help determine which technique may suit you best on the day. Remember, each day on the water is very different and having versatility will help us with consistently getting fish on the boat.