Brandon Palaniuk here and I'm going to give you a rundown of what a Ned Rig is, plus when and how you fish with it.
Let's start with the jighead. That's essentially what makes it a Ned Rig is the design of the jighead. Typically, it's a very small finesse-style jighead. The big thing that you want to look for when selecting one is that the weight of this jighead is mostly all forward. The weight forward is so important because it allows this jighead to stand up on its nose with the bait's tail up in the air. The jighead includes the hook, the hook shank, and the bait keeper. I like the cone-style bait keeper; it seems to hold the bait a lot better so you're going to go through a lot less baits with that style versus the barb-style one. It also has a flat back to it so you can push that bait up against it flush. It should have a 90-degree line tie (on the top of the head).
When it comes to bait selection, what you put on our jighead is very simple. You can do a lot of cross-style baits, adrenaline craw juniors, etc. Those have their time and place, but nine times out of ten I go with a very simple straight bait and my favorite one is the X Zone three-inch Ned Zone. I like the three-inch style. Every once in a while, I'll go up to a four-and-a-half-inch style; just a little bit longer one if those fish are feeding on bait a little bit bigger. But we're going to talk about the three-inch one for now and how to rig that.
The big key with this is making sure that the bait is very straight, and this Ned Zone has a little line that goes down the back or the front of it to help you line it up. You hook right in the top center of the bait, then slide that down as you follow the line guide on the bait. You want to make sure you stay in the center of the bait until you push the hook out so that you have a perfectly straight little Ned Rig. The reason that's important is so that this bait falls straight down. You don't want it spiraling on the way down or back up because it's going to create a lot of line twist and it doesn't look as natural when it's falling through the water.
The Ned Rig should fall straight down and then, as it sits around the bottom, the little bulbous tail will wag upward, provided that the jighead is sufficiently front-heavy.
When you're fishing this bait, youre going to cast it out there and let it sink all the way down to the bottom on a semi-slack line, with a little bit of a bow in your line but not too much. Watch your line and once your Ned Rig hits the bottom, click your bail over and start slowly pulling this bait. If you've got a lot of wind, keeping your rod tip down will help keep that line closer to the water and not want to drag your bait as much. You'll have a little bit better sensitivity. If it's calm, you can pull straight up, but if you have your rod tip down it's going to stay on the bottom a lot better.
As you pull that bait, it's going to be pulling along the bottom, and that tail is going to be shaking. Then you pause so it sits there and the tail kicks. Pull a little more, then pause again. If you feel it come up against a rock, you can shake your rod tip a little bit. That's going to cause that tail just to start dancing around a little bit underneath the water and those fish--they just can't stand it! It's something super-easy simple for them just to suck that bait in and start swimming off with it. When you feel that, give those fish a second and then just lean into them.
The next important part of this setup is your rod, reel, and line setup. I'm going to start with line since I mentioned watching your line as it's sinking. I'm using a Seaguar Smackdown Flash Green, 15-pound test. The reason I like braid is because it's a 15-pound test but it's the equivalent diameter of a 6-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament line. The other thing is that it virtually has zero stretch and zero memory because it's made out of different fibers. It's going to cast a lot better and manage a lot better on my spinning reel. It's not going to blow up off my reel when I open my bail. That's a big important key. It's just nice, smooth, that's not exploding up off of that reel like a floral or a mono would, so that's why I like that braid.
The Flash Green allows me to be able to see that line much better as it's sinking, and I can detect when it hits the bottom a lot better. It's also going to help with detecting bites if you're in really windy nasty stuff. Most of the time I'm going to throw an eighth ounce. Sometimes I'll go up to a 3/16 or a quarter, just depending on depth and current and conditions like that. The deeper you go, the more current or more wind you have, you should step that line weight up. Typically start with the eighth ounce.
The next thing is the reel. You want to select a reel that is not too big in size, but not too small. The reason for that is you want a big enough spool that's going to allow that line to come off nice and even and smooth. It's going to give you better casting distance with that bigger spool but if you go too big then it's going to start to get cumbersome and you're going to lose some of your balance and sensitivity. So, I like the 3000 size Daiwa Exist. That reel seems to balance out really well for me and give me the best of power casting distance and sensitivity. It's got an incredible drag; that's one thing you want to make sure is that you've got a really good, solid and smooth drag on your bait because you're throwing lighter line. Now as we come down into here, we've got an eight-pound fluorocarbon leader. So, we're not going braid straight to our bait because we don't want the fish to be able to see it. We want to be able to see our line, but we don't want the fish to be able to see that line. Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible. I start with eight-pound Seaguar Gold Label and then, if I'm around heavier cover, I may go all the way up to a 12-pound test and I may go all the way down to 6-pound test if I'm around really open, clean, sandy bottoms and I don't need that heavier pound test and the fish are a little line shy.
The next item to consider is your rod. I'm using a seven-foot medium action. I like that medium because it gives us a light enough tip to control that eighth ounce, be able to cast it and feel the bait on the bottom, but it still allows enough good, even backbone to draw those fish away from cover and have the power to land those bigger fish.
One big thing is key is that you want to pair your reel and your rod up together as best as you can. The reason for that is that you get the most sensitivity out of balance and what I mean by "balance" is depending on how you hold the reel. It's going to be different for everyone. I like one finger behind the reel seat, I like three in front. That gives me the most control of the rod, gives me the most power.
One thing you can do to determine balance is to balance the rod and reel on one finger. You want that forward most facing finger to be your balance point. That's going to allow the most sensitivity and the least fatigue on the water. Getting the balance right produces a better experience. So, hopefully that helps you out next time you're out there fishing around bluff ends, docks, weed lines, etc. It doesn't matter. You can fish a Ned Rig anywhere, give it a try.