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Neko Rig vs Wacky Rig: Which Finesse Rig is Right for Your Situation?

Written by: Pete D
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The main difference between the neko rig and the wacky rig is that the wacky rig is perfect where the bottom is relatively flat and vegetation is parse, and most effective when fished in the water column and kept off the bottom. The Neko rig forces your Senko into a head-down position, it's worked along the bottom in short hops or bounces, or shaken like a shaky head, and its fantastic where structure is steep.

Finesse presentations like the wacky and Neko rigs can save the day when the bass aren’t in the mood for a meal, and as legions of anglers have learned, they’ll draw strikes when nothing else can.

Only one thing differentiates the two: the Neko’s nail weight.

But that seemingly small change results in dramatic differences in action and presentation, and knowing the ins and outs of the Neko and wacky rig will result in catching more fish, heavier stringers, and better placement in tournaments.

Want to know more about how the wacky and Neko rigs stack up?

Keep reading!

The Wacky Rig

classic wacky rig with senko worm

The wacky rig relies on an exposed hook placed mid-worm, and whether you arm it with a jig head, a 1/0 circle hook, use an O-ring or sleeve, or just run that hook through your Senko, the goal is to create a fluttering action at both ends.

The wacky rig is fished in the water column, using gentle pumps of the rod tip to “flap” the Senko and create the illusion that it’s flying underwater. Mimicry isn’t the goal here - you’re not trying to make the Senko look like anything the bass recognizes. Instead, it’s just shape and motion, that is, just shape and motion that drive bass wild!

Big fans of the wacky rig ourselves, we’ve discussed it in depth before. If you need a detailed guide to rigging or working it, check out these articles:

Wacky Rigging: The Ultimate Finesse Worm Technique Unpacked

How to Rig and Fish a Senko: Top 5 Techniques

The wacky rig is strongest with relatively small hooks, and most anglers select a 1/0 to 2/0. Three of the most popular options are Gamakatsu’s Finesse Wide Gap Hooks, their Inline Circle Hooks, and Owner’s 5172, a weedless wide gap hook.

For a dedicated wacky jig head, look no further than Reaction Tackle’s Tungsten line, available in ⅛-, 1/16-, and 3/16-ounce sizes as well as with or without a weed guard.

5-inch Senkos are the trailer of choice for legions of bass fishermen, but everything from Bass Pro Shops’ 5-3/8'' Stik-O Worm to Zoom’s Finesse Worm works well.

Yamamoto 9-10-301 Senko, 5-Inch, 10-Pack, Green Pum-Packin W/Lg Green & Pur

Amazon 

One thing to keep in mind about the wacky rig is that it’s hard on worms. That centrally placed hook will tear a soft Senko, and losing worms to a hard strike or bad fight is unfortunately common.

Wacky rigging is a finesse presentation, and it comes as no surprise that an unweighted Senko is best when worked from spinning tackle.

I like a 6 ½- to 7-foot rod in medium light to medium power, like the St. Croix Premier. That lets me cast an unweighted Senko or small jig head rigged wacky style with no trouble, and the increased sensitivity of the rod is perfect for feeling the gentle suck of a bass taking my Senko.

I pair this rod with a Shimano Ultegra or Pflueger President and I’m good to go.

20-pound braid will typically be my line of choice, with a 6- to 10-pound fluorocarbon or mono leader. On my finesse rod and reel combo, you’ll find Sufix 832 tied to a Seaguar InvizX leader.

A wacky rig isn’t worked on the bottom but instead allowed to flutter and fall in the water column. Worked over a weed bed, near the bottom, over riprap or brush piles, and over spawning beds, it’s a great shallow water option.

That exposed hook makes it susceptible to snags in heavy cover, so it’s not my first choice for working through weeds or in brush piles and blow downs.

But where there’s a large flat area with few sudden changes in depth, the wacky rig will elicit strikes like nothing else.

The Neko Rig

neko rig

The Neko rig is a wacky rig with a nail weight added to the head.

It’s that simple.

We’ve covered the Neko in full detail before, and if you want a quick refresher, please take a look at this article:

Neko Rig: The Ideal Technique for Wary Bass

In every respect, the Neko is identical to the wacky rig. From hook selection to the rigging technique to the tackle and line. 

But what makes the Neko is the addition of a nail weight like the one offered by Reaction Tackle. They start small, as you’d guess with a finesse presentation, with a 1/16- and 1/32-ounce option. 

Reaction Tackle New Tungsten Nail Weights - 1/16 oz 25 pk

Amazon 

Pushing one of these nail weights into your Senko creates a radical change.

A Neko-rigged Senko now glides almost like a Texas rig, sliding horizontally rather than fluttering vertically like the wacky. 

It also forces the Senko into a head-down, tail-up orientation, allowing you to work your soft plastic across the bottom in tiny bumps and leaps followed by gliding descents.

That’s a tremendously effective presentation on a hard bottom, and it’s ideal for working vertical structure like a steep drop-off or point. Where the bottom is anything but flat, the Neko outshines the wacky rig, hands down.

Neko vs. Wacky: Know the Bottom

Let’s summarize what we’ve covered so far:

  • The wacky rig is perfect where the bottom is relatively flat and vegetation is sparse
  • Its fluttering action is deadly when fished in the water column and kept off the bottom
  • The Neko rig forces your Senko into a head-down position
  • It’s worked along the bottom in short hops or bounces, or shaken like a shaky head
  • The Neko rig is fantastic where the structure is steep

Both the wacky rig and the Neko are finesse techniques that lure bass into striking even when they’ve turned off. Lethal weapons in every bass angler’s arsenal, these techniques can be game-changing when the bite is finicky and time is of the essence.

But despite their obvious similarities, the addition of a nail weight to the wacky rig - the essence of the Neko - changes the rig’s behavior tremendously. And as long as you know the topography of the bottom, you can make the best choice for your situation.

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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