Ned Rig vs. Shaky Head: Key Differences & Tips
Both the ned rig and the shaky head are arguably the most prolific fish catchers out there in bass fishing and both form part of the finesse fishing family. These techniques continue to grow in popularity as our waters become more pressured, as they are quieter and more subtle presentations.
For this piece, we’ll look to outline the key differences in these presentations, while indicating the best ways to fish them in terms of zones, tackle, and technique.
What is ‘Finesse Fishing’?
Before we get into these techniques specifically, let’s quickly talk about finesse fishing as a whole within the bass fishing realm.
Finesse fishing refers to lighter, smaller, and more subtle applications. Most finesse techniques involve weightless or very lightly weighted baits that are quiet and less imposing. These types of presentations are often the most attractive to bass, especially when they see hundreds of loud reaction baits every day.
The lighter line application also plays a huge role when finesse fishing. Lighter, thinner line means less resistance in the water column and this gives your bait more freedom to move in a natural, lifelike manner.
Both the ned rig and the shaky head fall within the finesse category. They’re not weightless, but they have very little weight added to them and this weight plays a key role in their profile as well as getting down to the bottom.
We’ve written a full piece on finesse fishing and why it's beginning to dominate bass fishing.
What's the Difference Between a Ned Rig and a Shaky Head?
To put it simply, there are two key differences between the ned rig and the shaky head:
Firstly, the head design of each jighead is different. The ned rig jighead has a broader head shape, which fits the stubby profile of popular ned rig baits, but is also designed to deflect off hard cover better. The shaky head jighead is smaller, and fits the profile of finesse worms.
Secondly, the way the baits are rigged is different. The ned rig has the soft plastic rigged with the hook point exposed, while the shaky head is rigged Texas-style, hiding the hook point within the soft plastic. This ultimately means that the ned rig is better for more open-water scenarios, while the shaky head has protection when fished around vegetation and other cover.
Let’s dive into these powerful finesse applications.
The Ned Rig
Designed by Ned Kehde, the ned rig involves two elements: a mushroom-style jighead hook and a shorter stickbait-style plastic worm.
The ned rig has a pretty motionless action and it still confuses us as to why it gets so many bites. However, the fact is it gets loads of fish in the boat - and it’s a technique you should own.
This technique is becoming especially prevalent when it comes to catching smallmouth bass. As we know, smallies love rocky cover and you'll often find them further offshore hugging deep boulders or other harder surfaces - a place where ned rigs and drop shot truly shine.
The ned rig is becoming one of the most prolific ways to get bites in bass fishing.
Why does the Neg Rig work?
- It’s an excellent craw imitator: The shorter stature of the ned rig sits nicely at the bottom and has the figure of the craw, no matter what bait you’re using. The chances are, a bass will assume it’s a craw of some sort and there’s only one way to find out…
- Smaller profile: Most ned rig baits are 3 inches or less, giving this technique one of the smallest profiles. When you’re fishing a pressured system, it’s often the smaller bodies that’ll get bit
- Can cover a lot of offshore water: Ned rigs are best when fishing offshore and there are many ways to retrieve it. Other finesse techniques are made to be more stationary, while a ned rig is pretty flexible when it comes to cadence
- Profile like no other: There simply is no presentation like the ned rig, making this is a suitable option when nothing else is working. This unique presentation will often bring about curiosity in bass, leading to a bite
The Shaky Head
This is another technique that involves only two elements: a shaky head jig hook and a finesse worm of your choice.
The shaky head rig definitely has more movement and a more lifelike action on the drop and it’s an incredibly versatile technique. There aren’t many bad places to throw a shaky head and it’ll often be the technique I turn to if I’m not getting bit on a Texas rig. The slightly more subtle action will often get bass to eat, especially if they're finicky.
Shaky head fishing is one of the most satisfying ways to catch fish when it comes to finesse angling as it gives you access to slightly heavier cover, making it suitable for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Why is the Shaky Head so Effective?
- It’s weedless: The way a finesse worm is rigged on a shaky head jig head ensures that the hook point is hidden, meaning you can throw your bait into heavier cover where bass love to hang out
- It covers water quickly: The added weight on a shaky head means one can cover water reasonably fast compared to weightless presentations. The slightly increased fall rate helps get the bait to the bottom faster
- Incredibly versatile: One can throw a shaky in almost any situation. It’ll get down to offshore cover, it’s perfect for brush piles, and man it’s good for dock fishing
- It thrives in pressured waters: In a competition setting, bass will often get extremely pressured come the last day of an event. Throwing jigs, Texas rigs, and other power baits will often become less effective in these situations. A shaky head has that subtlety and delicate action with a less imposing profile and lighter line that’ll do the job when bass are a bit more fussy
When to Fish a Ned Rig
The ned rig is definitely a less versatile technique when it comes to finding areas to throw it. This presentation is incredibly vulnerable to getting snagged due to its exposed hook point, so one needs to take this into account when looking for zones to throw it.
Offshore cover is your best bet with a ned rig, as there’s less threat of getting snagged on vegetation or other threatening structure.
Finding rocky bottoms or boulders are key indicators for a good time to throw a ned rig and you can cover plenty of water by fishing these zones.
Bass will often hug these rocky regions for warmth or as ambush points.
Another key parameter to take into consideration is the clarity of the water in the system that you’re fishing. Because the ned rig is a smaller, quieter presentation than just about anything out there, you’ll need to be fishing it in a system where it’ll be visible - so clearer water is better.
When to Fish a Shaky Head Worm
A shaky head rig is more suited to vegetation such as brush piles or submerged logs. As we all know, bass love hugging these types of areas - and all bass fishermen love throwing a bait under a bush.
Below are some other fantastic zones to throw a shaky head:
- Rip rap
- Bluegill beds
- Isolated cover
Because the hook point of a shaky head rig is hidden, you have a bit of leeway when fishing heavier cover. This makes the shaky head a suitable option when a Texas rig isn’t getting its usual attention.
The shaky head is a superb option if you’re fishing a system that sees plenty of boats and thousands of anglers on a weekly basis. The usual power baits become less attractive to feeding bass and they’ll often eat something that is slower and smaller.
The shaky head however is still an awesome technique to use in deeper water. It is considered a world-class summer presentation, where bass have moved deeper again to cooler and my oxygenated water. The slower, more delicate action will likely catch the eye of a bass that is acting lethargic.
Best Rod for the Ned Rig
The ned rig is generally always used on a spinning setup. This enables more comfortable casting as this is generally a very light bait.
7 foot is an ideal length for a ned rig. This helps with the necessary casting distance, as well as giving enough leverage to take up line and get a solid hookset.
A medium-power is the ideal weight for the bait you’ll be throwing and a faster action will help with getting a direct hookset.
Best Rod for the Shaky Head
Like other finesse techniques, a shaky head rig is generally thrown on a spinning rod. This is a lighter bait so you’ll be able to cast more comfortably on a spinning rod.
For a shaky head, you'll want a rod that had a bit more backbone with a faster action. This is important because the hookpoint sits within the soft plastic, so you'll want a faster action to get a stronger hookset when that fish bites.
Again, 7 foot or slightly more will suit a shaky head best.
A medium or medium-heavy rod will match the weight of your shaky head. If you’re looking to throw a slightly heavier shaky head, such as a 1/4oz, you may want to look at a medium-heavy.
A faster action is critical for this technique. The hidden hook point will be tougher to set in a fish’s mouth, so you’ll want a fast tip with a backbone nearby.
Overall, these are two very different presentations. Each technique certain different zones better and it's important that one understands where each method specializes.
One nice thing about these techniques, is that you can easily fish both on the same rod and line setup. This makes it very easy to switch things up, especially if you're moving around a system.