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The Ned Rig vs. The Shaky Head: Your Questions Answered!

Written by: Pete D
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The main difference between the ned rig and the shaky head is that the ned rig is more compact, much lighter, and has an exposed hook. Ned rigs are going to catch more total numbers than shaky head rigs because of their small overall size. Shaky heads are going to penetrate the water column much more quickly, and they’ll stay put better, too. Shaky heads are better in and around weed beds, where the Ned rig is more likely to get hung up. Keep in mind, though, that weedless Ned heads are available and that both of these techniques depend on visibility - open, hard bottoms, riprap, and rocks are where they’re at their best.

One of the most common questions we get asked is to explain the differences between the Ned rig and the Shaky head.

Anglers want to know if they’re functionally identical, and if not, what the strengths and weaknesses of each of them are. a

Where is the Ned better than the shaky head?

When does the shaky head shine?

Want answers to these questions?

Keep reading!

Related: Best Fishing Rigs

The Ned Rig

We’ve discussed the Ned rig at length before, so if you want the full run down, check out this article:

Fishing the Ned Rig: A Subtle, Finesse Technique at Its Finest

The Ned rig is nothing more complicated than a half-round, light jig head with a three- to four-inch trailer.

Rigged with an exposed hook, the Ned is best when it’s as light as you can make it.

Ned fans like to start with something as small as a 1/10-ounce Ned head, reaching for “heavier” Ned heads only when the wind makes casting tough.

Ned heads as heavy as the ZMan Finesse Shroomz 0.1 ounce and ⅙-ounce can be used for this technique, but the 1/32-ounce Owner’s American 4151 Block Head is a better place to start.

Very light jig heads and small hooks make the Ned rig very compact.

Jigs this size have small hooks, and Ned rigs will typically be running a jig head equivalent to something in the neighborhood of a #6 to a #2 at the largest. Keep in mind that the Ned leaves the hook exposed, and you’ll run your trailer straight down the shank.

Similarly, diminutive trailers are the norm, with tiny ticklers, Rage Craws, and even short, stubby Senkos being common choices.

Ned rig trailers are typically in the 3- to 4-inch range.

The Ned rig is an ultra-light finesse technique, and you already know that spinning tackle is the only way to go when you’re casting a 1/10-ounce jig head with a soft plastic trailer the size of your pinky.

Fishing the Ned rig can be a little different than what you’re used to.

With very little weight in the head, the Ned won’t keep constant contact with the bottom most of the time but will instead tend to skip unless dragged very, very slowly.

But that can also work to your advantage: the Ned can be lifted, gliding slowly back to the bottom, or swum just over the bottom or other structure and cover.

What the Ned rig can’t do, however, is sink quickly. 

This is definitely a technique that’s better in shallow water than anywhere deep.

The Shaky Head

We’ve also covered the shaky head in-depth, so if you want a refresher, take a look at this article:

The Shaky Head: Perhaps the Best Finesse Technique for Pressured Bass

The shaky head is an asymmetrical jig head, often wearing a bait screw. It’s typically rigged weedless, with the point of the hook either just under the skin of the worm or lying flat along it.

Shaky heads are heavier than Ned heads, starting north of the ⅙-ounce maximum. Common shaky head weights are 3/16, ⅜, 1/8 , ¼, and ½ ounces, as you’ll see in the excellent Reaction Tackle Tungsten lineup.

The hook sizes on jig heads are roughly proportional to their weights, which puts the Shaky head hook somewhere in the vicinity of 2/0 to 4/0. 

That’s a much bigger hook than the Ned. Shaky head trailers are, too.

Soft plastics in the of 5, 6, 7, or more inches are common, with Zoom’s Shakey Head Worm, Shakey Tail, trick worms, and YUM’s ribbontails being popular.

Big ribbontail worms like the YUM are killer on a shaky head jig.

With a lot more weight involved, you can throw a shaky head rig with either spinning or casting tackle, depending on your preference and jig weight. And, of course, those heavier jogs and trailers mean that you'll hit bottom faster.

That makes the shaky head a much better deep water option than the Ned, hands down.

Fishing the shaky head is easy: the idea is to keep contact with the bottom but create erratic wriggle by twitching your rod tip.

Ned Rig vs. Shaky Head 

Right off the bat, several things are clear:

  • Ned rigs are more compact than shaky head rigs.
  • Ned rigs are much lighter than shaky head jigs.
  • Ned rigs have an exposed hook; shaky heads don’t.

Practically, that should tell you a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the Ned rig and shaky head:

  • Ned rigs are going to catch more total numbers than shaky head rigs because of their small overall size.
  • Shaky heads are going to penetrate the water column much more quickly, and they’ll stay put better, too.
  • Shaky heads are better in and around weed beds, where the Ned rig is more likely to get hung up. Keep in mind, though, that weedless Ned heads are available and that both of these techniques depend on visibility - open, hard bottoms, riprap, and rocks are where they’re at their best.

For me, that means tournaments might start with a shaky head, but if the bite turns off, the Ned is the way to go, and shallow is where you’ll find me as a result.

Deep water is dominated by the shaky head as it has the weight to get where I need it, fast. Ditto for situations with current.

I’m also more comfortable throwing the shaky head into cover like blowdowns and weeds, since it’s much less likely to get hung up.

But where the pressure has spooked bass - or on clear rivers where I’m hunting smallies - the Ned is nearly impossible to beat.

Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve learned something from this article, and whether you have another question or comment, we’re here to help!

Please leave a message below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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