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Chalk Talk: Fukae explains the free rig

Chalk Talk: Fukae explains the free rig

(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)

Many of the greatest developments in finesse fishing – including the dropshot and the Tokyo rig – have been popularized in Japan before crossing over to U.S. waters. Often that transfer comes when Japanese tour pros like Shin Fukae exploit them in U.S. tournaments and they then get discovered by information-hungry American anglers.

For the latest trend, though, Fukae points to Korea as the source of the innovation, and he’s finally giving up the goods. The dropshot, he explained, has a leader, while the Tokyo Rig is sort of a “leaderless” version of the same thing. The new free rig, though, fits a niche of its own.

“This one right here is a little different compared to a Tokyo rig, a punch shot and a Jika rig,” he said. It utilizes a specialized weight with a swiveling line-tie, but unlike a Carolina rig or dropshot, the weight isn’t fixed. It can go up and down the line. It is, as the name suggests, free.

That meaningful difference allows him to make more vertical and more natural presentations. A Texas rig and a Carolina rig hit the water and then pendulum back to the angler, but with the free rig, “the bait always goes straight down.” He casts it out, gives it slack on the fall, and effectively has a “weightless” presentation as the sinker goes down and the soft plastic subtly glides down behind it. There’s no pendulum, so if you pitch it close to a dock piling or a brush pile, it’s likelier to stay close to the cover.

It’s not limited to the finesse realm. On Japan’s record-producing Lake Biwa, it’s a popular flipping presentation. You can also cast it on light line around sparse cover or nothing-looking banks. Everything from the lightest fluorocarbon to the heaviest braid can be used effectively at one time or another with this presentation.

One of his favorite lures to use on this setup is the Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits D Shad, the same lure that Brent Erhler pitched effectively on a Texas rig at the 2017 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe. It may look like a fluke-style bait optimized for weightless presentations, but it’s exceptionally versatile, and its inherent darting action works like a charm when used in this manner. He also likes to employ a Yamamoto Swim Senko, often on a Gamakatsu G Finesse Hybrid Worm Hook. Realistically, the technique isn’t limited to any one lure, or a single style of lure. You can switch out your soft plastic and match the hook and line to it that optimize its performance.

Like the dropshot, this technique will continue to be effective because of its unique characteristics, but it pays to get on the bandwagon early before many fish on your local lake have seen it.

If you want to learn some of the other keys to Fukae's utilization of the free rig technique, along with some of the unique characteristics that make his new SPRO Wameku Shad so effective, check out his full video filmed live from the Knoxville Convention Center at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.

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