How to Use a Ned Rig to Catch Fish

If you are an aficionado of bass fishing then the Ned rig might not be something new to you. In a relatively short period of time, this seemingly simple rig took the fishing world by storm and has become an indispensable staple for all bass anglers. If the Ned rig is new to you then you are in for a surprise. It is a rig that looks and sounds so basic that it shouldn’t work, but it does. You can catch smallmouth, largemouth, or even panfish and crappie on this setup. 

The Ned rig is sometimes referred to as the “Midwest finesse” since it is said to originate from there. The fishing writer Ned Khede thought of the idea fishing near Kansas City and then another writer, Steve Quinn, put a name to it. Just like that, a very simple yet effective idea was born. As you may very well know the world of fishing can sometimes be overly full of complicated new ideas on how to do something best. The Ned rig stands apart from that.      

What is the Ned rig? 

The Ned rig is just a small piece of soft plastic stick bait threaded onto a 1/16 to 1/4 ounce jighead. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. If you are starting with a 5” stick bait just cut it in half, thread it on the hook, and you are good to go. Usually, you don’t need more than 3” of bait on the hook. If you are new to the Ned rig you might easily think that it is just too lightweight and low profile to work. Trust us, it’s not. 

It’s actually exactly these features that make it so effective with all bass. The small profile and subtle action actually mimic many bass food sources so they jump at it immediately. The small jig head allows for a sort of slow gliding motion in the water that completes the look of prey while the stick bait is situated in a way that allows the end of the bait enough freedom to move in an organic way. 

The soft plastic stick baits are also perfect because they cause the fish to really bite down into the hook. Really, without too much work on your part, a fish will basically hook itself with this rig. This is why the Ned rig has gained so much popularity. It is very easy to make, very easy to cast, and very effective overall. Just as with any fishing technique, there is always more room for mastery though. Once you have played with the Ned rig basics a little you can start to expand from there and really perfect the tool. 

Variations of the Ned rig 

The two things that vary most in a Ned rig are the style of jighead you use and the type of stick bait you use. The most common jig head styles for a Ned rig are the standard mushroom, the weedless, and the skirted. The standard mushroom is the most popular because the mushroom-shaped head of the jighead is more likely to roll off rocks and debris and is less likely to get snagged on things.   

A weedless Ned rig is also pretty good at eliminating snags if you go for the type with the offset hook. The skirted Ned rig introduces a little more bulk which is usually something you don’t want with this assembly. In this case, it can come in handy if you are trying to catch a bulkier fish. Other than these common jighead varieties the Ned rig varies wildly in terms of the type of stick baits that are used. 

There is a lot to choose from but experienced anglers will tell you that you need a buoyant bait. This is part of how the Ned rig works and it presents better if the bait floats up a little as it sinks. Also, if the water you are fishing is clear you should use more neutral and natural-colored baits. If the water is murkier then switch it up and go for the more visible colorful baits.         

Fishing with the Ned Rig 

You can fish the Ned rig just about anywhere you might find bass. Pretty much any hardcover situation calls for a Ned rig, you just want to make sure you fish it on a slackline. The technical aspects of the Ned rig come into play with the retrieve and the hookset. While making the rig and casting it are about as simple as it gets, attracting the fish and reeling it in leaves room for mastery. 

Also, if you want to fish the rig the same way its namesake Ned Khede does, you should use a 6-foot medium spinning rod paired with a reel with a smooth drag. Then match that with 6-, 8-, or 10-pound braided line paired with a 4- to 5-foot fluorocarbon leader between 6 to 12 pounds. What you use exactly depends on your situation and preferences but apparently that is how the man himself fishes the rig he made. 

Top ways to retrieve the Ned rig

If you wanted you could just cast the Ned rig, then slowly reel it back in without much attention to technique. A simple cast and retrieval will still net you some nice catches. The Ned rig is just that good. However, if you want to take it from good to great then there are some tried and proven techniques to do so. Through careful fishing experimentation, there are a few methods that you can use with the Ned rig to help it emulate prey a little more closely. 

The first is called the swim, glide and shake. It might sound like more of a dance move than anything but it is very effective. Start with your rod at a two or five o’clock position to prevent wind from bowing the line. Next, cast and shake the bait as you let it sink to about a foot off the bottom. Turn the reel a couple of times, pause, shake the bait, and repeat. Doing this will make the Ned rig, swim, glide, and shake per the name.  

The next method you can try is called the drag and dead-stick. Start with the rod at three or four o’clock and then cast. Then begin to drag the jig along the bottom while intermittently stopping, or dead-sticking, for a few seconds. This technique varies if you are in a moving boat but the general idea is that the Ned rig should drag along the bottom, then stop, drag along the bottom, then stop, and so on. 

You might also try the drag and shake method. Holding the rod at five o’clock you use the reel to slowly move the jig along the bottom and shake it as you do so. This one is pretty self-explanatory but also useful. Possibly the simplest variation is the straight swim. Just keep the rod still and turn the reel so the jig continues to swim along at whatever height you need. 

The last couple of methods are the hop and bounce and the stroll. For the hop and bounce, you will cast then drop the tip of the rod towards the water until almost touching. Shake the lure as it falls to the bottom, hop it with two cranks of the reel, wait, shake until the lure hits the bottom and then repeat. For the stroll just cast behind your boat and let the jig hit the bottom. Use the trolling motor to move along as slowly as possible, or let the wind take you, and shake the lure occasionally as you move. 

Fishing with the Ned rig is about fishing with finesse. 

When a fish bites

With the Ned rig, you might have a fish on the hook before you even realize it.  It is often said with this rig that the fish basically hook themselves. This means that you don’t need to do much to keep them there either. If you do feel the bite don’t pull too hard to try to set it. Instead, you just need to start reeling and let the Ned rig work its magic. If you are uncomfortable with that or are finding difficulty you can also try another option. 

For some anglers, it seems to help if you do a sideways sweeping motion to set the hook. This is something like what you might do with a circle hook to catch a catfish. Either way, because the hooks are generally fairly small and lightweight it’s best not to go too crazy with the hookset. The Ned rig will work if you let it. 

Making the most of the Ned rig 

The Ned rig has been mainstream for a few years now so it has been put through the paces quite a few times. All this use has highlighted the mistakes to be avoided while also refining what the best version of the Ned rig looks like. Because the rig is so simple there isn’t actually a lot of room for modification. Usually, the mistakes that people make with this rig involve trying to add extra features or modify the core idea. You’ll find that the beauty of the Ned rig is its simplicity. Here we will cover some of the best ways to optimize your use of it while avoiding the common mistakes of others. 

Optimizing your kit

One of the first things that less experienced anglers try to do with the Ned rig is to use a bigger hook. Keep in mind that Ned Khede, the creator of the rig, uses size 6 hooks in his fishing. Anything too big will immediately inhibit the effectiveness of the Ned rig. As mentioned previously, it is the subtle action and slim profile of the Ned rig that help it to emulate the prey of bass. The lighter weight allows you to deadstick the lure or make it hop along the bottom. Once the rig becomes too heavy and bulky it loses much of its functionality. 

There is a reason the Ned rig is also called the ‘Midwest finesse’. These were Ned Khede’s original words when he first described the setup because using it is a matter of finesse. Strong, heavy, jerky movements are not part of the Ned rig and neither is a lot of extra tackle and equipment. However, this is the exact mistake some people make. They use tackle that is too heavy for the Ned rig and it inhibits how effective it is. 

With the Ned rig, you definitely need a spinning tackle. You generally want light or medium-light power rods with a fast action and soft tip. 1000 size spinning reels with 10 lb. test braided line or less fitted with a light fluorocarbon leader is ideal. Also, check your drag settings. Bass fishermen are accustomed to setting this a little bit higher than you really want for a Ned rig. Go lighter than you think and see how it works. The whole idea is to lighten your tackle and aim for that ‘Midwest finesse’. 

This also means you want your jighead to be as light as possible too. Keep in mind that a majority of the bites a Ned rig gets happen as it is slowly sinking to the bottom. This descent is the sweet spot where you want to keep the lure as long as possible. If you make it too heavy the rig will just quickly fall past all the fish that want to bite it. Basically, the shallower the water you are fishing in the lighter you want your jighead to be. Deeper waters might call for a 1/6 ounce jig head while other locations are better for a 1/20 ounce jighead. A lighter jig head also makes it less likely for the lure to get hung up on rocks, grass, and debris. It just makes sense. 

A note on your baits 

If you are new to the Ned rig you will notice that after a few catches the soft plastic stick bait begins to look like it was put through the wringer. It has been snagged, beaten, bitten and generally just abused. That’s perfect. Do not change it or throw it away at this point. A Ned rig actually gets better with use and time. 

All this abuse makes the plastic stick bait softer, chewier, saltier and overall just more appetizing for a fish. If you buy stick baits that are optimized for Ned rigs this effect is amplified even more so. There are some little tricks you can do to help the process along. First, you can save your worn out old stick baits and glue or tie them onto the jighead. Be careful with this though because you can easily interrupt the natural fish like movement of a single plastic stick bait. 

You could also take one of your new stick baits and beat it up a little beforehand. Stretch it out, soak it in saltwater, do what you must to emulate a few casts. It is always a good idea to do this anyway so you aren’t casting with a less appetizing bait each time you start with a new one. To make this easier you can buy a pack of 5” soft plastic stick baits and cut them all in half. Then take some time to stretch each one out and let it soak in a salt bath. That way you’ll have a collection of baits ready to go. 

Remember the finesse

Not to sound like a broken record here but finesse is important with everything. The way you fish the Ned rig is with a lighter touch. Fishing too fast or setting the hook too hard will just set you up for failure. If you go back to the Ned rig fishing techniques we covered you’ll notice they require a bit of patience. You have to wait for the lure to sink, pop it along the bottom, deadstick it for a bit. It isn’t just a fishing grab and go. You need to take your time.

The same goes for once the fish is on the hook. As we have discussed if you try to set the hook too hard it can just dislodge the hook from the fish’s mouth. Instead, it is better to just reel the fish in and the Ned rig will properly set itself. From the light kit you use to the way you fish the Ned rig it is all about the finesse. The more you practice the better you get. 

The Ned rig is a very simple yet effective way of landing all sorts of fish. This includes the coveted smallmouth and largemouth bass that many anglers aim for. The small size, lightweight, and subtle action of the Ned rig help it stand out for the fish. To make it better, the more you use it the more the fish like it. 

When you properly put the Ned rig to use you can be catching fish left and right. 

Final Verdict:

Using lighter hooks and minimal tackle on the right line and rod sets you up for success. You can do great just running the Ned rig as is but it is even better to work on technique. Shaking, dragging, deadsticking, bouncing and more all play a part in how you can maneuver the lure to attract the fish you want.  It just becomes a matter of maintaining that “midwest finesse’ while you fish.  

Bonus tip: Go underwater to see how these 9 unique Ned rig baits perform!


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