I’m leaning hard on the Neko rig

We’re four events into the Elite Series season – five if you count the Bassmaster Classic — and I have to say I’m surprised at what I’ve been throwing. Honestly, I’ve been throwing a Neko rig more than I ever have, and I caught most of my fish on it at Winyah Bay and Lake Lanier.

I build my Neko rig with a wacky-rigged Yum Dinger with a Swagger 1/32-ounce tungsten nail-weight in the head. I use an O-ring to attach a No. 2 Gamakatsu G Finesse hook, and I pretty much only fish green-pumpkin.

It’s really good in spring, especially around the spawn. That’s because you can go down a bank looking for sight-fish, and you can keep throwing the Neko rig ahead of the boat and swinging it around as you move. You don’t need to pay attention to it – you just reel it up after you pass, and a lot of times you pick up fish as you’re looking for spawning fish.

Dinger droppin’

Sinking stickbaits like the Dinger have always been a favorite for blind-fishing bedding areas. But I feel the Neko rig is an improvement to the straight Texas-rig Dinger for spawning areas, because it changes the action.

The 1/32-ounce nail weight isn’t a lot of weight, but it’s enough. The Dinger by itself falls horizontally, which sometimes is what you want. But the tiny nail weight makes it fall straight, so it cuts through the water and falls much faster. When you’re casting around spawning areas, you need to be on bottom, and the faster drop is so much more efficient.

You don’t have to wait for the Neko rig to sink and hit bottom – it goes straight there, so you can concentrate on looking for bedfish. I’ve really leaned hard on it this spring.

When I do see a bed, then I usually throw something else, like a Yum Crispy Craw, because I can use a heavier hook and flip it on 20-pound line. I’ve actually started using white for bed fishing. I was never a big fan of the color, but for some reason the conditions this spring have made it tough to see. There are two schools of thought on bed fishing colors, and I’ve always preferred naturals. But I’ve found this spring that white is much more efficient in deeper or dingier water.

Topwater transition coming

For everyone out there fishing right now, the next month or so should still be really good for the Neko rig. And if things start to change to where you’re getting fry-guarders, the Neko rig is still a big player for those fish. Pretty quickly, though, things transition and topwater becomes a bigger deal for those fish still up shallow. And from there, depending on the lake, the bass will start bunching up and moving out to deeper water. That’s when the crankbait starts working.

But if you like to fish shallow water, the Neko rig is a great choice anytime – especially in clearer water.

Season summary

I’ve had a lot of questions about the season and how I feel about my finishes so far. The answer is that I feel fine about my performances. Over the four events so far I’ve finished 29th, 19th, 46th and 42nd. I’m 10th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race, and I’m glad to be in a position where I don’t have to dig myself out of a hole.

Normally I’m behind the 8-ball in the points and always needing a good finish, but now I think I’m a little more in the driver’s seat this year than in years past. I do feel I should have done better at Winyah Bay. I’d located a really good section of the Cooper River, but I didn’t want to make the run all the way there on Day 1. So I fished close, where I thought I could catch 9 pounds. I only caught 7. The next day I made the run and caught 9 1/2 and barely missed the cut. If I’d made the run the first day, I probably would have made it.