Is it just my observation, or is the Texas rig going the way of flip phones and road maps? Sure, people still use those things, but mainly because they haven’t been introduced to something better.
Texas rigs have especially fallen out of favor in finesse fishing circles. The time was, not too long ago, that I could go out on my favorite lake with a bag of 4-inch worms, 1/0 hooks and 1/16-ounce slip sinkers and get bites pretty much all day. That is so 20th Century.
Today, it’s all about drop shots, Neko rigs, shaky heads and wacky jigs. If you’re not familiar with these setups, be sure to read the articles in our finesse section beginning on page 36.
Drop shotting burst onto the national fishing scene at the end of the last millennium, as Aaron Martens and other West Coasters began winning tournaments with them. Using a drop shot rig in waters off Lake Michigan, Mark Rizk came within a pound of unseating Woo Daves for the 2000 Bassmaster Classic crown.
I had been introduced to the technique earlier that summer, when Tom Bedell, owner of Berkley and Co. at the time, invited me to fish with the grand master of drop shotting, Katsutaka Imae of Japan. Imae and I were to meet at the ramp on West Okoboji Lake at Spirit Lake, Iowa, but when I arrived, Imae was already out on the water.
A Berkley staffer had a couple of nice “picture fish” in his livewell for a photo session, but Imae would have none of that. “I don’t pose with someone else’s fish,” his interpreter said he said. Within 30 minutes, on a lake he had never fished before, Imae returned to the dock with a 5-pound smallmouth.
What he called the “Good Luck Rig” paid off again.
Today, if you’re fishing Northern waters for smallmouth without a drop shot on at least one of your outfits, you’re not trying.
The Neko rig is the next big thing in bass fishing. Elite Series anglers Brett Hite and Randall Tharp, among others, have quietly been sweetening their bankrolls with the rig, which is essentially a nose-weighted wacky worm.
I tried that one out six or seven years ago when B.A.S.S. and I lived in Florida, and I was immediately impressed. Why I went right back to my standard Texas rigs I can’t say. I should have stuck with the Neko.
That technique — it’s much more than just a way of hooking a worm — is on fire right now. VMC has introduced a line of Neko weights and special hooks designed for the rig and can’t keep them in stock. I know, I tried to buy some after Bassmaster editor James Hall whipped my shaky head with a Neko rig 6 to 1 the other day.
Hall is a good fisherman, but I’ve held my own against him in the past. Let’s just say that if he can beat me that badly while I’m front-ending him, it must be the bait.
All these techniques were designed to work against highly pressured bass in Japan and in the Western United States, and they have proved their worth wherever bass swim. What is more, they’re becoming presentations of choice for bigger, bolder baits.
Neko rigs with full-size worms are earning paychecks on Kentucky Lake ledges, and drop shots weighing up to 1/2 ounce, paired with 4/0 hooks and creature baits, are fooling monster bass, especially in bedding season. Shaky heads, too, have grown up.
Last year about this time, I shared an Angler’s Inn boat on Lake El Salto, Mexico, with Adam Adkisson, marketing vice president for Triton Boats. I don’t think he packed a single slip sinker. He fished 10-inch Power Worms and 8-inch Ochos on 3/8-ounce standup jigheads and did exceedingly well.
It’s all about attitude, he explained. The attitude of a worm resting or moving nose-down along the bottom, its tail undulating above it, changes the mood of the bass.
I won’t go on a road trip without bullet weights and worm hooks — which I still think are superior for fishing in and around wood — but neither will I fail to pack some standup jigheads for open-water situations.
Just don’t mention anything about this to James Hall. I need an advantage next time we fish together.