Like many of you, I guess I have a group of fellow fishermen that I keep in touch with regarding fish harvesting activities. Such communication, often by SMS, provides interesting information and inspires the mind when one cannot be on the water. Lately I’ve noticed that my outgoing posts on recent bass forays all seem to share the phrase “Ned Fest”.
A Ned Fest, as I use it, refers to a good number of fish caught on the popular Ned Rig, a finesse presentation that uses a 2.5 to 3 inch piece of plastic worm with a lightweight jig to lead head. The setup has been around for years and enjoys regional popularity, particularly in the Midwest. I remember In-Fisherman magazine articles in the 1980s describing the use of a jig-worm – a mushroom-headed jig coupled with a plastic worm of finesse – for finicky bass holding along the lines of weeds.
The thin jig-worm became the Ned Rig when its use was popularized on a large scale by In-Fisherman blogger Ned Kehde, hence the nickname “Ned Rig”. Although the Ned Rig craze entered the scene several years ago, unlike many flash-in-the-pan phenomena, he continues to produce fish.
Unsurprisingly, almost all manufacturers of flexible plastics produce baits (or baits) intended for the Ned Rig market. Probably the most popular is Z-Man Fishing’s TRD, which stands for “The Real Deal”, a 2.75-inch soft stickbait. Z-Man’s line of Ned Rig-inspired products has expanded to include a host of fish-catching profiles, all made from Elaztech, a stretchable material quite different from standard soft plastics.
Over the past few years, I have used a variety of Z-Man Elaztech baits including the TRD, Finesse TRD Tubez, Hula Stickz, and Ticklerz. All are some form of worm or tube bait. Several other profiles also exist.
If you haven’t fished a Ned Rig type lure, here are some tips. As mentioned earlier, Elaztech baits are significantly different from standard plastic baits. They are very stretchy and extremely durable. There is a good chance that you will lose the bait to a snag long before it wears out from catching fish. But it doesn’t work well with other plastics. Do not store it with standard plastics or the chemical reaction will result in a molten mess. In fact, it’s best to keep Elaztech baits in their original packaging. For example, if you transfer the Finesse TRDs to a utility box, they will eventually curl up, making them useless. Leave them in the bag they came in.
Standard bait guard barbs molded into the heads of lead head jigs are not very effective in holding the bait in place. The bait gum resists penetration by barbs. Jig heads designed specifically for such baits, like Z-Man’s Shroomz, feature a sharp wire soldered to the hook shank to secure the bait. It probably works fine, but I have to say I have reservations about this particular jig head. While the issue has likely been resolved, early versions of this jig head had a rather fragile hook. I made them break by picking up fish or pulling them from snags. And I’m not a fan of the odd sizes of the product, such as 1/20, 1/10, and 1/5 ounce.
Instead, I use a mushroom head jig head, specifically a jig head called a “worm nose” made by Killer Jigs. Typically, I use 1/8 or 3/16 ounces. The back of the jig head is flat, providing a nice surface against which the TRD can nest. A drop of Locktite super glue gel holds the bait in place, fish after fish.
Even though many anglers catch them, the Ned Rigs continue to fish for game fish such as bass, possibly because they offer a vulnerable appearance that the fish are not conditioned to.