The Ned Rig: A Brief History and Bass Fishing Buyer’s Guide
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you’ve probably heard about the Ned rig, a Midwest light line finesse technique that is jaw droppingly effective on a whole host of species, from bass to trout to catfish. But what exactly is the Ned rig?
Like many things in fishing, the exact definition of this rig varies slightly from angler to angler. If you were to ask Ned Kehde or Drew Reese, the technique’s respective inventor and primary evangelizer, the Ned rig explicitly refers to a small ElaZtech soft plastic bait rigged on a light wire finesse mushroom head jig. But generally speaking, the Ned rig consists of any small 2 to 4 inch soft plastic (either ElaZtech or traditional plastisol soft baits) rigged on a small mushroom or ball head jig. The bait is almost exclusively thrown on spinning gear and is typically cast out, allowed to fall to the bottom, and then slowly hopped along bottom on the retrieve.
Where did it begin?
Tracking down the exact origins of any fishing technique is always a tricky task, but it becomes a lot easier when the technique is named after the inventor himself: Most agree that Ned rigging as we know it today was started by Ned Kehde, an avid Midwestern angler whose been actively fishing and in touch with the midwest finesse fishing scene since the late ‘50s. He was first put onto the idea of a light, mushroom shaped jig head by Ron Lindner (of Lindner’s Angling Edge fame) on a trip to Minnesota in the early ‘80s. Kehde loved the mushroom head because “you can drag [it] over rock terrain and rarely get hung up” and jigs such as the Gopher Mushroom Head quickly became synonymous with midwest finesse fishing.
Surprisingly, the second major aspect of the modern Ned rig didn’t come along for another 20 years when another angling luminary, the one and only Kevin VanDam, introduced Kehde to some of Z-Man’s early ElaZtech bait prototypes. Kehde was almost immediately infatuated with the novel bait material and its extreme durability and buoyancy. Specifically, he appreciated its ability to lift the tail end of a soft bait off the bottom to help it mimic a bottom feeding baitfish or craw and impart additional action to the plastic.
Originally, Kehde would cut Z-Man’s 5 inch ZinkerZ worms in half and rig them on a mushroom head jig. That was until Drew Reese, a friend of Kehde’s with connections at Z-Man got them wise to what Kehde was doing and convinced them to start producing a small stickworm specifically designed for the technique, and thus “The Real Deal,” the Z-Man Finesse TRD, was born. Since then, several variations to this original Ned rig soft plastic have been developed, including the larger Finesse Big TRD, TRD TubeZ tube variation, and the TRD HogZ and CrawZ creature and craw bait variations.
Where should you begin?
If you’re new to the Ned rig for bass fishing, the best place to start is with the Z-Man Finesse TRDs (colloquially and lovingly referred to as “turds”) or Z-Man TRD CrawZ rigged on a Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ jighead. Start with a 1/6 or 1/10 ounce jighead (go heavier if you’re fishing deeper water with current and lighter if you’re fishing shallower, still water) and unless fishing extremely stained water, try sticking with Green Pumpkin or natural shad and craw imitating colors to “match-the-hatch” of local forage. Throw the rig on a light spinning set-up (we recommend a Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 2500 paired with a 7 foot 3 inch, medium-light Zodias Spinning Rod) spooled up with 10 to 12 pound braid and 6 pound fluoro leader.
Bored of the basics?
If you’re already familiar with the Ned rig and the basic Z-Man Ned rig offerings and are looking to try something new, there’s no reason to worry; in addition to Z-Man plenty of other companies have hopped aboard the Ned rig train and produced their own take on this style of finesse fishing. Similarly, resourceful anglers have discovered some long time favorite soft baits are right at home on a Ned rig. In the terminal tackle category, you’ve got Owner’s Block Head Jigheads, VMC’s Half Moon Finesse Jigheads, Hayabusa’s Brush Easy Round Ned Rig Head, and Gamakatsu’s Finesse Ned Rig Jigheads. All of which feature slightly different hook wire gauges, bait keeper and weed guard styles, and head color options.
On the soft plastic side of things, try mixing things up by cutting up your favorite soft stickbait, such as the Yamamoto Senko or YUM Dinger, and rigging it like a Finesse TRD. Other anglers have reported great success in rigging Keitech Shad Impacts, Yamamoto Shad Shaped Worms, and Zoom Tiny Flukes on a Ned rig to better mimic bottom-feeding baitfish like goby and sculpin. Similarly, craws and creature’s like Yamamoto’s Psycho Dad and Keitech’s Little Spider are great alternatives for craw-mimicking baits.
All in all, the Ned rig is finesse fishing at its finest. Time and time again this technique has kept lines tight, put fish in the boat, and saved many-an-angler from going home skunked. Whether it’s Z-Man’s original Finesse TRD stickbaits and Finesse ShroomZ jigheads or the cadre of Ned heads and baits they have inspired, Discount Tackle has a wide selection of Ned rig tackle to keep your rod bent.