By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
(Editor’s note: This is part 2 of an occasional 3-part series on how pros employ nail weights to improve their finesse fishing. To read part 1, click here.)
As Japanese anglers began infiltrating bass tournaments along the West Coast, like the U.S. Open, Bassmaster Elite Series angler (and California native) Brent Ehrler remembers the early rumblings of new ultra-finesse techniques being used that domestic anglers had not seen before.
First, it was the dropshot rig, an unorthodox presentation that Japanese anglers used as co-anglers to coax bites while paired with pros. As more Japanese anglers came to California, the more apt Western anglers were to adopt some of their techniques.
Ehrler remembers some anglers also fishing a wacky-rigged worm, but he noticed that some fell much quicker than others. Eventually, Hideki Maeda clued him in on the secrets of the Neko (pronounced Nay-ko) rig, which required a small nail or similar-sized weight be inserted into one end of a wacky-rigged soft-plastic. He quickly realized how effective it can be when other finesse presentations weren’t producing.
Some anglers, though, have only recently incorporated nail-weighting soft plastics into their arsenals. For instance, Elite Series pro Seth Feider, a Minnesota native, utilized the technique to score a top-10 finish at the 2016 Smith Lake Bassmaster Southern Open.
Keys to Success
Ehrler says it’s fairly easy to discern whether the bass are willing to bite a Neko rig or not.
“When they are not on it, they are really not on it,” he said.
He’ll fish it around docks, rocks and deeper structure spots. He especially likes the technique when throwing to a specific piece of isolated cover. Once his Senko hits bottom, he’ll gently shake it to draw strikes. The technique works for smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass.
“You can keep the bait in the strike zone for a long time,” he noted. “I think it is more effective when casting to a target.”
Ehrler fishes a Neko rig with a Reins Tungsten nail weight since it comes in both large and small sizes. He’ll use a 1/0 Gamakatsu B10S Stinger hook, which is part of Gamakatsu's fly hook catalog, and will hook either a 5-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Senko or Slim Senko through the egg sack. He’s found that the 4-inch version doesn’t have quite the same action.
When Ehrler won the 2010 Lake Ouachita FLW Tour Chevy Open, he fished a nail-weighted worm the first couple of days before finishing off the event with a topwater.
He fishes the rig on his signature series 7-foot medium-heavy action Daiwa Tatula Elite dropshot rod paired with a Daiwa Exist spinning reel spooled with 12-pound Sunline Tx1 braided line tied to a leader of 8-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon.
For Seth Feider, a nail rig is an effective way to catch largemouth, even around grass.
Feider’s Finesse Find
Unlike Ehrler, Feider was somewhat late to the nail-weighting party and while he’d heard of it, it took some cajoling from fishing buddies at home to give it a try.
At Smith Lake two years ago, he picked off fish in 20 to 40 feet of water with it to finish 6th. Feider sees a nail-weighted bait as a cross between a shaky-head and a wacky worm.
“It’s a bottom-contact bait is what it is, and I think it catches fish that no other baits will,” he said. “It’s a way to fish a wacky worm really deep. You can get it to fall backwards like a Flying Lure depending on how you weight it or where you put your hook.”
See Them, Catch Them
Feider sees the rig as a viable tool when targeting visible fish. When a Texas-rig or dropshot aren’t working, a nail-weighted bait always bats clean-up.
“A lot of fish will eat it on the initial fall,” he said. “If not, I’ll try to pitch it a couple feet past them and let it fall into them.”
The technique also excels during the summer when largemouth are grouped up.
“Any community holes or stuff where there are big groups of fish in the summer that other guys have stuck a hundred times,” Feider added.
While he has caught some smallmouth on the nail rig, most of his success has come with largemouth.
“It’s surprisingly weedless for what it is,” he said. “The weight keeps your worm straight up and keeps your hook in line so that your line is almost your weed guard.”
How He Rigs It
Feider rigs it the same way every time.
“I put a nail weight in the head, but I angle my nail weight when I put it in there towards the bottom of the worm,” he said. “The tip of my weight is facing the front of my worm.”
Feider is unique in that he prefers a lead weight over tungsten. The VMC Neko weight that he uses has ribs that hold onto the plastic and Feider finds tungsten to be too short. When fishing deep water, he’ll use a 1/16-ounce weight to get to the bottom quickly and a 1/32-ounce when fishing shallow.
“To get that bait to fall backwards you need that longer weight,” he said.
Feiders’ plastic bait of choice is a 6 1/2-inch Biospawn Plasma Tail that has a fatter body, but a thinner tail that imparts plenty of action.
He’ll rig a No. 36 O-ring about one-third of the way down the worm right near the bottom of the lead weight before slipping a No. 2 VMC Neko hook beneath it. He finds the O-rings at his local hardware store as it is size-specific to the diameter of the Plasma Tail. Green-pumpkin, junebug, and green-pumpkin plasma are his favorite colors.
He’ll fish the rig on a 7-foot, 6-inch medium-light Daiwa Tatula Elite spinning rod paired with a Daiwa Luvias Air ABS shallow-spool spinning reel. He uses 10-pound Sufix 832 superline tied to an 8-pound Sufix fluorocarbon leader.
The exception would be when he is fishing especially deep because the fluorocarbon allows the bait to fall with the line instead of pulling off the surface when using braided line.