What's New with Ned?: Exploring New Ned Rig Soft Plastics & Jigheads
By Owen Gartner
The Ned rig has become seemingly unstoppable in its dominance of the light line finesse fishing soft bait category. What started as a niche Midwest freshwater finesse technique for smallmouth bass has exploded into its own soft plastic sub-category and become a staple presentation not only for all types of bass anglers, but anglers who target walleye, perch, drum, bay bass, redfish and more as well. Z-Man even makes a Ned rig themed hat because anglers are so in love with this hyper-effective fishing rig. In previous blogs we’ve covered the history of the Ned rig and our basic recommendations for bass anglers, so instead here we’ll cover the latest and greatest in Ned rigging and help you make sense of the myriad of Ned rigging soft plastics and jigheads on the market.
The Z-Man Finesse TRD was the first purpose-built Ned rig stickworm to hit the market, but since its launch, nearly every other soft plastics manufacturer has released their own take on this style of bait. Z-Man has even developed a few different size variations on this original design as well, first with the 4 inch Finesse Big TRD and later with the even further up-sized 6 inch Giant TRD.
Roboworm and Gary Yamamoto were some of the first soft plastic manufacturers to jump on this trend, coming up with designs that merged traits of their flagship soft stickbaits, the Straight Tail Worm and Senko, respectively, with that of the Z-Man Finesse TRD. For example, Gary Yamamoto's Ned stickworm offering, the 3 inch Fat Senko, retains the subtle ribbing found on standard Senkos, while Roboworm's aptly named Ned Worm is manufactured with same proprietary "hand-poured by robot" technique that creates the incredibly detailed and unique colorways in their Straight Tail Worms.
Later variations on this stickworm design have arguably been more unique and creative. Strike King's Ned Ocho uses the Strike King Ocho's unique 8-sided design and intricate ribbing patterns to create a life-like quivering action and tantalizing bubble trail on the retrieve. The Strike King Ned Cut-R offers even more action in a similarly sized small stickworm profile by adding the Rage Tail Flange cut-tail found on Strike King's Rage Cut-R Worms.
Missile Bait's Ned Bomb is another unique offering in the Ned worm category, similar to the Ned Cut-R in that is has a short worm profile with a single tail appendage, the Ned Bomb offers a more subtle approach thanks to a super-thin spade tail that exhibits an extremely life-like undulating movement with even the slightest bit of motion.
Lunkerhunt's Ned offering, the 3 inch Finesse Worm is pretty typical in its design. Instead, Lunkerhunt sets themselves apart from the rest of the crowd by offering their Ned baits both on their own and pre-rigged on their Weedless Mushroom Jighead. These pre-rigged versions are probably a little boring for hardcore Ned nerds to take interest, but are an excellent choice for novice anglers who want to fish the Ned rig.
Recent newcomers to the soft plastic scene, Googan Baits, the soft plastic brand developed by YouTube fishing superstars the Googan Squad, have also thrown their proverbial hat in the Ned rig game ring, and done so in an incredibly creative manner too. The Googan Baits Rattlin' Ned has a short 2 1/2 inch profile, roughly the same size as many other Ned stick worms, but unlike any other Ned worm, the Rattlin' Ned has internal glass rattles and a heavily textured exterior ribbing. These rattles and ribs work together to give the Rattlin' Ned a loud, water-displacing presentation that is perfect for drawing bites from tight-lipped fish in stained water.
Ned Creatures & Craws
A few years after the Z-Man Finesse TRD came out, Z-Man further expanded on the Ned soft plastic concept by manufacturing purpose-built Ned rig creatures and craws. First there was the TRD HogZ, and then later the TRD CrawZ, which have both been widely accepted in the Ned rig community.
Since the release of these products, both Z-Man and others have developed other variations on these sorts of Ned rig creature bait and craw designs. In 2019, Z-Man released their TRD BugZ, which takes the "Beaver creature" design from their Palmetto BugZ and downsizes it into a 2 3/4 inch offering. Strike King also offers a similar concept with their Rage Ned Bug, which downsizes their classic Rage Tail Structure Bug into a Ned-friendly 2 1/2 inch profile.
YUM Ned Craw in Dark Brown/Red Brown
YUM has also come out with their own line-up of soft plastic Ned baits, including the YUM Ned Craw, which is both incredibly affordable and easily one of the most realistic Ned rig craw baits on the market.
On the other end of the realism spectrum are the TRD TicklerZ from Z-Man. Essentially a super-small version of their Hula StickZ bait, TRD TicklerZ don't really look like any specific type of forage, rather, similar to a soft plastic tube or bucktail jig, they look a little bit like a lot of different types of forage, including craws, shrimp, small baitfish, and aquatic insects. This makes them a great choice when you're fishing new waters and aren't sure what type of forage fish are keyed in on.
Z-Man TRD TicklerZ in Laguna Shrimp
TRD TickerZ are also one of the first Z-Man Ned baits that come in a color designed to appeal specifically to West Coast inshore saltwater anglers, Laguna Shrimp (that said it's bright pink color also makes it a killer smallmouth bed fishing color too).
Ned Jig Heads
There have been just as many new Ned rig jigheads to hit the market in recent years as new soft plastics. Although it's much harder to innovate on the Ned rig jighead design without creating a whole new rig, that hasn't stopped lure makers from trying.
Z-Man Mag ShroomZ in Black
At ICAST 2019, Z-Man released the Pro ShroomZ and Mag ShroomZ jigheads to complement their existing line-up. The Pro ShroomZ feature a 2/0 hook, which is smaller than the Power Finesse ShroomZ 3/0 hook, but larger than the size 2 hook found on the original Finesse ShroomZ. The hook on the Pro ShroomZ is also made from a thicker gauge wire than the Finesse ShroomZ and is available in heavier weight options.
The Z-Man Mag ShroomZ are designed to be a magnum-sized Ned rig head for rigging larger soft plastics, like the Giant TRD, Ned style. They feature a strong 6/0 hook and come in weights as heavy as 3/8 ounce to accommodate these larger baits. Both the Pro ShroomZ and Mag ShroomZ come in weedless variants as well with a wire weedguard that resists snagging.
Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Pro-V Finesse Jighead in Green Pumpkin Red Flake
Other new, notable Ned rig jigheads include offerings from legendary terminal tackle and hook manufacturer Eagle Claw and their Lazer Sharp and Lazer TroKar premium sub-brands. The Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Pro-V Finesse Jighead features Eagle Claw's proprietary Pro-V bend hooks, which help keep fish pinned after the hook is set, and a dual-barb baitkeeper that securely holds soft plastics.
The Lazer Trokar Tungsten Pro-V Finesse Jighead also features the Pro-V bend hook and dual-barb baitkeeper, instead, it is unique in that its head is made of tungsten, rather than lead, which is much denser and allows greater sensitivity and a slimmer profile for getting in and out of tight spaces without snagging.
Lifted Jigs Ned EWG in Hi-Vis
Surprisingly enough, one of the hottest and most innovative Ned rig jigheads on the market isn't from Z-Man or a legacy tackle maker like Eagle Claw. Instead, Lifted Jigs, a small but quickly growing jig manufacturing operation from Michigan, has been gaining tons of attention thanks to their Ned EWG jighead. The Ned EWG has a mushroom-shaped head similar to many other Ned heads, but instead of being built with a straight shank jig hook, the Ned EWG has a VMC brand EWG jig hook with an extra-wide gap. This wide gap style hook allows anglers to bury the hook point back into their plastic bait, similar to a Texas rig, and throw their Ned rigs weedless. Rigging soft plastics on this style of jighead also makes them much more reliably weedless than wire weedguards found a traditional "weedless" Ned rig jigheads like the Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ Weedless Jigheads.
All-in-all, the Ned rig continues to grow as one of the most popular and widely respected soft plastic presentations in all of fishing. A wide range of manufacturers now make Ned rig soft plastics and terminal tackle for anglers of all skill levels. And this growth is unlikely to stop anytime soon; a number of major manufacturers, including Z-Man, have already either announced or begun teasing the arrival of new Ned rig soft plastics and jigheads for the 2020/2021 season.
Here at Discount Tackle we pride ourselves on carrying a wide range of high-quality Ned rig soft plastics and jigheads and always making sure we have the newest gear in stock. Check back often to find out what's new in the world of Ned rigging!