Outdoors columnist for The Herald-Palladium

Ned rig.jpg

The Ned rig works well with highly visible braided line and a fluorocarbon leader.

If you’ve read this column over the last four years or so, you’ve seen frequent mentions of the “Ned rig.”

Heck, if you have read anything about bass fishing during the same time frame, you’ve probably seen mentions of this downsized presentation that might be the fish-catchingest lure of all time.

This column will cover what it is and the equipment that seems to work the best for deploying this little bait. Most folks who gain proficiency with it have found it capable of catching lots of bass as well as all sorts of other species.

Yours truly has caught large channel cats, bluegills, northern pike, white bass, freshwater drum, crappies, perch, carp, suckers, a musky and a herring species called a skipjack that looks like a big alewife.

After I wrote about the Ned rig for a magazine, a reader got hold of me and pointed out that this combo really should be called the Ned “jig” instead of the Ned “rig,” since there really is no rigging to it other than impaling a small soft plastic lure on a jighead.

I agree, but no reason to go against the accepted nomenclature.

The original Ned rig was put together by Ned Kehde, an outdoor writer and retired archivist for the University of Kansas.

Kehde got a pack of Strike King Zeros, which are 5-inch, straight worms in the mold of Yamamoto Senkos. The big difference is Zeros are made of a super-tough, yet extremely supple soft plastic called ElaZtech. It doesn’t get ripped like traditional soft plastics.

Kehde and his cronies had started an informal school of adherents to Midwest Finesse techniques, which mainly call for small, open-hook jigs either adorned with hair or marabou or a soft plastic bait of 2 1/2-4 inches long.

When Kehde got the Zeros (bass superstar Kevin Van Dam gave him a couple packs at an October, 2006 press junket in Missouri), he quickly realized that half of one would be perfect for the Midwest Finesse techniques.

Not only was it buoyant, which made it perfect for gliding the jig back to him while he reeled, but its toughness meant he could spend more time fishing and less time replacing chewed up baits.

He rigged the half-Zero on a 1/16-ounce mushroom-shaped jig head, and on an October trip to a small reservoir near Lawrence, Kan., he and a friend caught 109 largemouth bass, two wipers, one walleye and one channel catfish in four hours.

It wasn’t called the Ned rig until 2010 after Kehde wrote a short article for “In-Fisherman Magazine” about the lure and then-editor Steve Quinn coined the “Ned rig” term.

The name stuck, and in 2014, Z-Man, which had been making the Zeros for Strike King, developed a 2 3/4-inch lure they called a TRD. The name stands for “The Real Deal,” but the truth is Z-Man personnel had called it a “turd” while developing it. In the darker colors, it does resemble goose poop.

Now a whole bunch of different manufacturers make a small, soft plastic bait intended for a Ned rig.

Almost any spinning combo you use for bass fishing works okay with a Ned. Some anglers prefer 5-foot ultralight rods; others use 7 1/2-foot medium-heavy action rods.

When I fished with Kehde in 2016, he used 6-foot rods he’d bought for $10 apiece. Ned preaches thriftiness to his disciples – in his 16-foot aluminum, tiller-powered boat he still had one of the packs of Zeros that Van Dam had given him 10 years prior.

For a rod, I prefer a 7-footer, mainly because I usually fish from a kayak and need the length to clear the bow with the line if a fish runs around the front of my little plastic boat. I’ve settled on a Shimano Convergence, medium-light action, designed to cast lures as small as 1/16-ounce. At about $60, it’s relatively inexpensive. I pair it with a Shimano Sedona 2500 spinning reel, also a good value at $70.

While lots of different rods work, I think a big key to success with a Ned is the choice of line.

I started with 10-pound test Power Pro braided line, but last year started using 15-pound test with either a 6- or 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Seaguar AbrazX has worked well for me. The heavier braided line doesn’t cut into the fluorocarbon at the knot.

While Kehde uses leaders about 4 feet long, most of the waters he fishes have a lot of color, and I’ve started using 10- to 20-foot leaders in our clear lakes.

Since I use highly visible, bright yellow Power Pro Super 8 Slick braid, the longer leader seems avoid spooking fish with the line. The high-vis line also helps me see strikes while I reel and slightly jiggle the rod tip.

That’s a quick history and an overview of tackle. Gear up with some 1/16-ounce jig heads and Z-Man TRDs (Green Pumpkin or the black color called Yoga Pants are both reliable fish-catchers).

Other people might see you catching so many fish that you’ll have to remind them about social distancing when they run over to see what you’re using.

Outdoors columnist Dave Mull lives in Paw Paw. Write to him at dave.sportfish.mull@gmail.com.