Neko Rig | Setup and Fishing Techniques

The Neko rig is new to a lot of anglers, but a useful rig to become familiar with. It’s almost identical to the wacky rig, with one big difference. It includes a weight on one end of the soft plastic bait. The weight anchors one end of the bait to the bottom, while allowing the other end to float freely.

Neko Rig

The wacky rig offers a unique fluttering action as it descends to bottom. Often bass will take it before it ever touches down. But once on the bottom the wacky rig just sort of blends in. It has to be cast and retrieved over and over. And when fishing a wacky rig in deep water an angler could grow old just waiting for it to reach the bottom. That’s where the Neko rig comes in.

The Neko rig spirals and shimmies as it drops relatively quickly through the water column. On the bottom the weighted end rests while the free end sways above. With a little rod and reel movement the Neko can be given a lot of action that great for deeper water when bass are concentrated on the bottom. It’s by no means a replacement for the wacky rig, but has it’s place.

How to Set Up a Neko Rig

There are four basic components to a Neko rig—a plastic worm or stickbait, an o-ring, a hook, and a nail weight. There are just a few simple steps to setting up a Neko rig.

Step 1 – Tie on your hook

Tie a 1/0 or 2/0 EWG or circle hook to your fishing link using a palomar knot. 6-10 lb test mono, flouro or braid will work. Some anglers will use a 10-15 lb braid for their main line attached to a 5 to 6 foot 5-10 lb flourocarbon leader.

Step 2 – Select your bait

Select a 5 to 6 inch plastic worm. A Yamamota Senko is one of the more popular baits used for a Neko rig. Finesse worms and stickbaits are also popular bait options used for riggin a Neko rig.

Step 3 – Stick nail weight in nose

Insert a 1/32 to 3/32 oz nail weight in the head of your worm or stickbait. Leave a little bit of the nail sticking out. This will help you feel the bottom better. A lot of anglers will opt for a nail weight that has a weight at the end.

Step 4 – Slide your hook onto the bait

Slide an o-ring onto the middle of the bait. Run your hook under the o-ring with the hook point facing up towards the tail. Ensuring your hook point faces up will provide a better hook-up rate.

How to Fish the Neko Rig

The Neko rig descends through the water column a little faster than a wacky rig. It doesn’t take quite so long for a Neko rig to reach the bottom making it a nice rig for fishing deeper water. If desired, you can slow its rate of descent by simply adjusting the size of the nail weight. Using a lighter weight nail will slow its fall and produce an action more in line with that of a wacky rig.

One of the key differences between a Neko rig and wacky rig is how it sits on the bottom. Where the wacky rig exhibits a horizontal presentation and tends to blend in with the bottom, a Neko rig sits upright with its free (non-weighted) end flailing vertical in the water and attracting the attention of bottom locked fish.

On the bottom a Neko rig can be fished much like a shaky head rig, or you can employ a lift and drop technique like you might fish a wacky rig. Slowly dragging a Neko along the bottom giving it twitch now and then will stir up silt and cause the tail to dance seductively.

The Neko rig is a great presentation for fishing bedding bass around spring spawn. Drag it through through a bass nest with its nose down and tail up and you’ll get bass instinctively biting as they attempt to guard their territory from the unwanted intrusion.

Fish it with a weedless wacky hook and extra long straight tail worm and the Neko rig becomes a dynamite presentation for targeting fish in deep cover around ledges, fallen stumps, weed beds, docks, and the like.

Selecting a Nail Weight

What differentiates the Neko rig from a wacky rig is its nail weight. Insert a nail weight into the nose of a wacky rig bait and you now have a Neko rig which produces an entirely different action under the water.

There are a variety of nail weights sold for creating a Neko rig and most of them will work great. Test out a few different weights to see which produces the action you’re looking for. If you want to fish a smaller Neko rig, a tungsten nail weight is going be smaller for the same weight.

Several manufacturers now make nail weights with ball or bullet shaped heads that distribute weight closer to the end of the nose producing a unique action when fished along the bottom.

Neko Rig Hooks

There are three features Seth Feider, 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year and VMC Pro, looks for when selecting a Neko rig hook: sharpness, shank length, and strength.

Seth explains that because fishing a Neko rig is more of a finesse technique, powerful hooksets are rare. Hooksets are more of “lean into it” than a hard jerk of the rod. This requires a hook with an extremely sharp strong point to establish a solid hookset.

Once you establish a hookset the real fight begins—maintaining the hookset and reeling in your catch. The original wacky hooks used for wacky rigs and Neko rigs were short, round and lost a lot of fish. Using a hook with a longer shank not only helps establish but also maintain a hookset.

You really don’t want to use any larger of a hook than necessary when rigging any rig—let alone a Neko rig. At the same time you need a strong hook that can withstand a the fight of a monster bass. A premium stainless steel hook, or even better a vanadium steel hook, is ideal for Neko rigging.

Let’s not forget your weedless options. Fishing a weedless hook on a Neko rig really enhances its capabilities and usefulness—especially if you’re going to be working it across the bottom through structure where the possibility of a snag is high. A weedless hook with heavy duty dual guards is a great option when targeting larger bass in cover.

Neko Rod and Reel Combos

Neko rigging is a finesse technique that lends itself best to spinning tackle. Yes, you can fish a Neko rig using bait casting gear, but using spinning gear or a finesse setup is ideal. A medium action rod is perfect for fishing a Neko rig. A light action rod won’t stand up to larger bass and a heavy action rod is overkill for a small Neko rig—so medium action is really where you want to be.