Finesse's Wacky tips

The wacky rig has come a long way, baby. Here are rigging styles and tactics that make this technique one of the hottest trends on the pro circuit

Breaking out finesse gear when the fishing is tough is so 2009. Anglers today are sticking with light line and egg-beater reels even when the bite is good … for good reason.

A quick look at a lot of the innovations in baits today reveals that most are finesse-related: Aaron Martens' Scrounger jig, myriad shaky heads and most notably, the ever-growing selection of wacky jigheads, worms and hooks. What's more, most of the influx of Japanese tactics are finesse. The reason? Finesse techniques, especially wacky rigs, catch fish — and lots of them. 


Bassmaster Elite Series pro Clark Reehm has thrown a wacky rig his whole life. His father was stationed at an Army base near Toledo Bend, La., which is where he was introduced to the technique. He started throwing a grape Creme worm on a gold Aberdeen crappie hook in high school. But he, like the wacky market, has advanced light years.

"Wacky rigs catch lots of fish, plain and simple. I'd rather go through and catch 20 or 30 fish and have to weed up to the size fish you're going to catch on something else," the 30-year-old Arkansas pro says. "Wacky rigs let me do that the fastest and easiest. It's the law of averages or numbers at that point."

A wacky rig is one of several hook and worm combinations. In its simplest form, it is a straight-tail worm hooked through the middle either weightless or with a light (1/8-ounce or less) weight atop the hook. It is then fished slowly around visible cover. Tailor-made pieces — jigheads, weights, hooks and worms — can be had from plenty of manufacturers, each slightly different.

When Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kotaro Kiriyama needs to put fish in the boat, he reaches for a wacky jighead — specifically, Jackall's Flick Shake. It has earned him thousands of dollars in tournament trails across the U.S. and Japan. He uses it in nearly every contest he enters.

"The wacky rig is very simple to use and it catches lots of fish," he explains. "In the beginning, people were using it as a search bait and doing well with it, but more and more it is a finesse bait used only when fishing is tough. It can be used for much more than that, though."

Kiriyama has been throwing a wacky rig since the early 1990s. He says the naturally slow presentation is one of the keys to the rig's success.

"When you're fishing clear water or tough conditions, you don't want the bait to go too fast because the fish are used to that. When it came out, the wacky rig was something different and new and had a very natural fall," Kiriyama says. "I think that is what makes the difference. It is so easy to use, too. You simply cast it, let it fall, and the jighead does the rest."

The rig does demand somewhat clear water, as it is entirely based on sight. In clear water, fish may swim 20 or 30 feet to investigate the peculiar-looking worm writhing as it falls.

"It looks like a baitfish dying slowly, which makes for an easy meal," Reehm says.

Wacky rigs take their share of lunkers, too. In a 2006 Bassmaster Southern Tour event on Lake Okeechobee, Reehm landed a 9-12 on a wacky worm. It was the biggest fish of the tournament. During practice for the 2007 Elite Series event on Clear Lake, Kiriyama landed a 9-plus-pounder. 


Reehm says the wacky rig isn't necessarily better than other finesse presentations. It is, however, better suited to a wider variety of conditions.

"It can go through suspended fish and can be swung in a pendulum action once in the middle of them. If I know the fish are suspended at a certain point, I can stop the action and twitch it," he explains. "If I'm shallower, a smaller jighead makes for the ideal slow-speed presentation."

While fish fall for this rig year-round, prespawn and cold front situations are when Reehm says this rig really shines. He concentrates on the inside edges of shallow grasslines where the fish are susceptible to being spooked by big, aggressive baits. He also throws it in cold front conditions.

Kiriyama prefers a wacky rig from prespawn to postspawn. He also likes it when fishing behind other anglers, which makes it a must for co-anglers. Before and after the spawn are when bass move shallow and become spooky. He tosses it to boat docks, secondary points in flats and around grass. For docks and small points, he prefers Jackall's 3/32-ounce head with a 4.8-inch Flick Shake worm. For heavier wacky worming, he uses a 1/8-ounce head and 6.8-inch worm.

To Kiriyama, the most important part of the presentation is immediately after the cast. Once the bait hits the water, you must not do anything.

"With a Flick Shake, if you move the rod at all, you're going to destroy the action and spook fish," he warns. "You must let the jighead make the worm wobble naturally for best results."

Kiriyama warns about a jarring hook set with wacky worms

"The hook wire is very light, so you don't want to jerk it hard, just a reel-retrieving hook set," he says.


The wacky rig market has gone just that — wacky. There are more varieties now than ever before, with every major terminal tackle manufacturer sporting either jigheads or hooks specifically designed for the presentation. Soft plastic companies offer a plethora of technique-specific worms. The variety of jighead styles allows anglers to effectively fish a wacky rig in almost any scenario a lake presents.

When Reehm is fishing deeper water (10 to 30 feet) he prefers a Tru-Tungsten Flea Flicker head, available in weights up to 1/4 ounce. For shallow rigging, he opts for a lighter (3/32- or 1/16-ounce) Zappu Inchi Wacky Head. It features a weedguard and a compact tungsten head.

"The Tru-Tungsten version lets me cover a whole water column of fish quickly with a natural presentation," he explains. "The Zappu head has a smaller weight that gives me the same action, but a lot slower. This is better for shallow water."

If there's more grass than a delicate weedguard can handle, he reaches for Kicker Fish's Texas Weedless Wacky Worm on a 1/0 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot hook. He tops the hook with a 1/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight for a wacky rig that is as weedless as a Texas rig and forgoes the need for specialized tackle.

"This combo is ideal for skipping under docks, fishing bushes or casting to seawalls and grass edges," Reehm says. "It looks like an actual creature falling to its death coming off a bluff. You can even Carolina rig it around deep brushpiles and still get that wacky 'U' action."

Reehm keeps two rod-and-reel combos dedicated to wacky rigging on his deck. The first is a traditional spinning outfit composed of a 7-foot medium-light Dobyns 702 rod and Daiwa Exceler reel. He spools the reel with 8- to 10-pound-test red Power Pro braid with a 3- to 4-foot Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon leader. The red line acts as a strike indicator as the bait falls.

"With wacky rigs, you don't usually feel a tap when they bite; the fish takes it and swims off," he explains. "When you see the red line moving, reel down quickly to set the hook. Don't yank it or you'll break off. The braid allows for a reel set while the fluorocarbon acts as a shock leader."

When fishing around grass, he throws a Dobyns model 702 casting rod with a Shimano Curado reel spooled with 12-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon.

Kiriyama exclusively uses Jackall's Flick Shake jighead and Jackall's technique-specific worms. He describes the Flick Shake as different than wacky rigging but essentially the same.

"The Jackall has a short-shank hook, which creates a very strange vibrating action when it falls," he says. "The hardest part of wacky rigging a regular worm is getting that kind of action, but the Flick Shake has solved that problem by building it into the jighead."

Jackall has matched its jigheads and worms for the desired action. The Flick Shake was developed several years ago to combat Japan's famously high-pressured waters. They have since made a seamless transition to the U.S.

Like Reehm, Kiriyama uses both spinning and casting gear for wacky rigging. When throwing lighter rigs, he opts for a 6-8 or 6-10 light action Shimano rod mated to a Shimano Stella reel and 4- to 7-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon. He says you can get away with a light action rod because the Jackall jigheads have a very fine, sharp hook.

Getting wacky requires a minimal investment for most anglers. You probably have a suitable rod and worms (floating worms are popular), and after that all you need is less than $10 in hooks or jigheads.  


To give your rig a different look in the water, try weighting the worms. When fishing a wacky worm weightless, put a lead nail into one or both ends.

"When you put a nail in one side of the worm, it will spiral as it falls," Clark Reehm says. "The slightly different look may be the difference between getting bit and not."

Reehm stresses the importance of using real lead nails.

"It's real easy to go to the hardware store and get some finishing or roofing nails, but they weigh almost nothing," he explains. "You have to put the whole nail in to get any weight, but by that time the worm looks weird. You also need to cut them at home unless you have some snips on your boat. Lead nails are easy to break into small pieces, and getting them at a tackle store supports the fishing industry."  


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Jackall Flick Shake

Zappu Inchi


Wacky Head

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Pepper Jigs KO Innovator

Tru-Tungsten Flea Flicker