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FISHERMEN ARE AMONG the world’s greatest story tellers. They also can be pretty shrewd when it comes to figuring out cool ways to rig or modify baits to fool more fish.
Bass fishermen are particularly crafty, especially with their plastics. Changing hook position or adding a little weight here and there can mean subtle or drastic changes in the action, fall rate and overall performance of a soft plastic lure like a worm, stick bait or creature. At times, may add up to more bites.
Mississippi bass pro Paul Elias gave soft swim bait fishing a new twist way back in October 2011 when he rigged five paddle tail swimmers on homemade jig heads and attached them to a weird-looking fishin’ apparatus not many in the bass fishing community had ever seen before — now known as The Alabama Rig.
Elias gave the A-rig a coming out party on Lake Guntersville in Alabama, site of the FLW Tour Open bass tournament. He found the fish suspended in the water column over deep water and exploited them to the tune of 102 pounds, 8 ounces on 20 bass over four days — a whopping 17-pound margin over second place. Elias pocketed $100,000.
While matching a five-inch swim bait with a jig head was nothing new at the time, throwing them five at a time on a rig with as many spread wires and swivels connected to a single head was a tactic not many bass anglers had tried, or heard of.
Elias changed all of that. The A-rig has since proven so deadly it is now banned in some tournaments and considered an IGFA records rule violation if equipped with more than one live hook. However, it is perfectly legal for recreational use on Texas waters. It’ll work year-round, but anglers have found it to be most effective at times when bass are herding shad over deep, open water. The belief is the cluster of swim baits simulates a pod of fleeing shad that invokes a violent predatory response in bass.
There are several other ways to rig soft plastics that break the conventional molds of Texas and Carolina rigging, several of them intended for finesse or high pressure situations when the bass are wanting something a little bit different. Here are a few worth trying:
The worm is hooked through the middle of the body, usually through the egg sac. This causes the worm to dangle freely at both ends and creates a peculiar action.
Cast it out, let it sink a few seconds and move it towards the boat using subtle twitches with the rod tip, pausing occasionally to let the bait sink in the water column. The center-punched worm pulsates at both ends when twitched and sinks horizontally with a slow, fluttering action when paused. Most strikes come on the fall.
It’s a modified version of the wacky rig. A small exposed or weedless hook is cross hooked through the body cavity or parallel with the body, usually just below the bait’s egg sack or mid-section. Some anglers prefer to slip a rubber O-ring around the body and use it to hold the hook in place when cross hooking. The idea is it prevents tearing up soft baits prematurely.
A light weight with a sharp end or screw insert is center punched in the head. Several manufacturers like Z-Man, Big Bite Baits, Mustad, Damki and VMC offer weights specifically for Neko rigging. You can also use a small finishing nail.
The bait pulsates when twitched; keep slight tension on the line to keep the bait standing upright, head down, as it moves through the water.
A modified version of the Neko rig intended for weedless applications. The hook is Texas rigged along the body cavity rather than leaving the point exposed. This makes the Neko rig virtually weedless so it can be fished through grass and other cover with less worry of hanging up. VMC’s Finesse Neko hook works great for chicken rigging.
Easy to build and simple to fish, the drop shot is a light-line tactic where the hook is tied to the main line leaving a lengthy leader (a foot long or more) for attaching a special drop shot weight that hangs directly below. Be sure to run the leader tag back through the top eye of the hook before attaching the weight. This keeps the hook facing upright.
The mechanics of the set up keep the bait elevated off the bottom and away from the weight. This gives the bait a natural action and limits resistance when a fish eats it. Small finesse worms hooked through the nose rule in drop shot arenas. Several companies make specialty drop shot weights that are cylinder or ball-shaped with a clip for securing to the line quickly.
Hardly a secret among tournament pros, the drop shot is a popular tactic when fishing vertically for schools of fish relating to bottom or suspended in deep water. It also can be effective when cast and dragged across the bottom like a Carolina rig on gravel banks or around docks and other structures.
The rigging is basically the same as the drop shot, except it calls for heavier tackle, line, an EWG style hook and a 3/4-ounce cylinder weight to go after fish buried up in thick vegetation using a vertical presentation. It’s a good idea to add a sturdy barrel swivel on the main line, ahead of the hook, to reduce line twist.
The mini model is built similar to the standard Carolina rig, except the slip sinker is significantly smaller, 1/8 to 1/4 ounce. Secure the weight between two bobber stops, or using a rubber Peg-It strip that slides between the slip sinker hole and the line.
This allows for sliding the weight up or down to adjust leader length without damaging the line. Ideal in shallow water situations around grass and other cover when other tactics aren’t cutting it.
—story by MATT WILLIAMS