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Of all the finesse presentations that have emerged over the last decade, the neko rig is the unsung hero. It isn’t the prettiest or flashiest, and it’s not even the best producer of big bites. But, in the right situation, it is an extremely effective rig for catching bass—and one anglers should have in their tackle box.

When bass are lethargic and in a finicky mood, this bottom-dwelling finesse presentation can be used to unlock the jaws of almost any largemouth or smallmouth. At first glance, it’s hard not to think of a wacky rig when looking at the neko rig. But upon closer inspection, you’ll start to see subtle differences between these two baits that entirely change how each is used to target bass. 

Below is a step-by-step guide to putting together a neko rig, plus tips and tactics on how, when, and where to fish this finesse rig.

Table of Contents

  • What is a Neko Rig? 
  • How to Rig a Neko Rig, Step by Step 
  • Where and When to Use Ia Neko Rig 
  • How to Fish a Neko Rig
The author holds up a largemouth caught on a neko rig. Shaye Baker

What is a Neko Rig?

A neko rig consists of three main components: a hook, a weight, and a soft plastic bait. More specifically, neko rigs are usually assembled using a neko hook, a nail weight, and a soft plastic trick worm. Most experts would also recommend using an o-ring to cut down on the number of baits you go through. Although you can technically fish a neko rig without an o-ring. 

Once these elements are combined to create a neko rig, you have a finesse presentation that can be used to target finicky bass that are on or near the bottom. For those familiar with a wacky rig, the neko rig looks very similar. The key differences are the addition of the nail weight and the orientation of the hook. Here’s a step-by-step look at how to rig this setup.

How to Rig: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Start by gathering your components. There are standard neko hooks and weedless neko hooks. Unless you’re fishing in thick cover, a standard neko hook like the VMC neko Hook is sufficient. There are serval types and sizes of neko weights as well, but for now, let’s focus on the thin, cylindrical nail weight. Once you have your weight and hook picked out, grab your favorite trick work and wacky rigging tool, and you’re ready to rig your bait.

All the components of a neko rig. Shaye Baker

Step 2: Tie your hook onto your line using your preferred knot.

Step 3: Insert one end of your trick worm into the wacky rigging tool and then roll an o-ring onto the worm. You’ll want to position the o-ring aboutwo-thirdsds of the watowardds the nose (thicker end) of the bait.

Use a wacky rigging tool to put an o-ring onto your trick worm. Shaye Baker

Step 4: Slip the nail weight into the nose of the worm. It may help to wet the weight first so it slips in more easily. Leaving the tip of the weight sticking out of the worm slightly will help you feel the bottom a little better.

Make sure to leave the nail weight slightly sticking out of the bait. Shaye Baker

Step 5: Now, it’s time to insert the hook and complete the neko rig. The orientation of your hook is very important. With the nail weight in the nose of the worm, the worm will naturally stand on the bottom with the tail up. You want to skin hook your worm while simultaneously going through the o-ring, with the hook pointed towards the tail of the bait. This will make the rig more weedless and ensure a better hook-up ratio.

A completed Neko rig with a weedless hook. Shaye Baker

Where and When to Use a Neko Rig

Anytime bass are finicky and hanging near the bottom, a neko rig is a great selection—especially in fairly shallow water. You can fish a neko rig in deeper water effectively out to about 20 feet. But the real appeal to a neko rig is its subtleness. With just a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce nail weight, you can drag a neko rig along the bottom in 5 to 10 feet of water. 

If you want to fish deeper than that, stepping up to a heavier weight will help you do so. It is also a good idea to use a different style of weight, opting for something like a VMC Half Moon Wacky Weight. This style of weight has a heavier, rounded head that will not only help the bait get down deeper, but also help you feel the bottom better. 

Because of their finesse appeal, neko rigs are particularly effective around the spawn and immediate post spawn when fish are shallow but often in finicky moods. This presentation also works well when post spawn bass make their way out into brush piles and standing timber. Dragging a neko rig slowly through submerged cover is a great remedy for slow days when fish are in a post spawn funk.

How to Fish a Neko Rig

We’ve already hinted at the most common way to fish a neko rig—by slowly dragging it along a fairly clean bottom. Dragging the bait with intermittent pauses will impart quite a bit of action without having to really work the bait at all. The tail of the soft plastic trick worm will wiggle and wash around with ease on the bottom, all on its own. So, this is really one of those rare presentations where you can impart too much action if you’re not careful. 

The occasional pop of the rod tip will spring the bait up of the bottom and then let it fall back to the lake bed. This can sometimes trigger a strike. Bass will often eat it on the initial fall, especially when fishing along vertical cover, in clear water, or when skipping under docks. 

Due to the lightness of this presentation, a neko rig works best on spinning gear. A good setup consists of a 12- to 15-pound test braided mainline with a 6- to 10-pound test fluorocarbon leader, depending on the cover you’re fishing around and the clarity of the water. A medium light spinning rod in the 7-foot range is ideal, paired with a 2500 or 3000-size spinning reel.

This finesse presentation is fairly simple to rig and fish. The hardest part of this whole technique is having patience. It’s a slow bait to fish, especially when using it to target finicky fish—a task for which it is again one of the best baits. As long as you keep your cool and patiently allow the bait to fall to the bottom, then slowly drag it along to maintain bottom contact, you’ll find that bass really like a neko rig, no matter their mood.