The Neko rig was invented in Japan, where it originated as Shin Fukai’s unorthodox response to ultra-pressured bass in glass-clear water.
Essentially a weighted variation of a wacky rig, the Neko keeps your worm head-down on the bottom, allowing you to entice bass to strike through a series of short hops and bumps along the bottom.
This finesse technique is at its best where vegetation is minimal, however, as the exposed hok is a snag magnet.
For pros like Cody Meyer, it’s the go-to technique to mop up finicky bass, as long as visibility is acceptable. “It works great in clear water and stained water, but when the water is muddy there are better ways to catch them.”
Want to know more about the Neko rig?
Table of Contents (clickable)
What is the Neko rig?
The Neko rig is a modified wacky rig created with an O-ring and a weight. This forces a head-down position for your soft plastic, leaving its tail floating high, allowing subtle action that draws in spooked bass.
At its best when other techniques just don’t deliver, the Neko is a secret weapon pros use once the bite has turned off.
Most anglers prefer to throw the Neko over hard bottoms, as the exposed hook is just asking for trouble. And while a weedless hook can be added to your rig, the Neko depends on visibility, so burying it in thick cover isn’t going to do it any favors.
Instead, it’s killer around rock piles, boulders, humps, points, and other structures and can be a great option for working the sides of a weedbed or other bass-holding areas.
For my Neko rigs, I like a long-shank hook to help guard the point. A #2 VMC IKE-Approved Neko Hook is pretty much perfect.
I like to weight my soft plastics with a Reaction Tackle Nail Weight, starting with a 1/16- to 1/32-ounce option.
I like to use Wacky Rings as they seem to hold up better than the alternatives, but any good O-ring will get the job done.
Now, to get those O-rings into place, you’re going to want a wacky rigging tool like the one from Bass Pro. This makes the process really, really easy.
How To Set Up a Neko Rig
To assemble a Neko Rig, follow these steps:
- Attach a length of fluorocarbon leader to your braided main line using the 5-Turn Surgeon’s Knot.
- Slip an O-ring over your soft plastic, placing it about 1/3rd of the way from the head to the tail. If you’re out of O-rings, you can always hook the soft plastic directly as you would in a standard wacky set-up.
- Press your nail weight into the head of your bait.
- Using an Improved Palomar Knot, attach your hook and slide it under the O-ring from the head end. This will improve hooksets and help you avoid snags.
Tackle For Neko Rigging
Rod, reel, and line
Finesse techniques rely on light terminal tackle, and that means spinning gear reigns supreme.
For my finesse fishing, I prefer a 6 ½- to 7-foot rod in medium light to medium power, like the St. Croix Premier. I’m looking for a fast action to provide extra sensitivity, and of course, that rod will be wearing a high-quality spinning reel like a Shimano Ultegra or Pflueger President.
That combo is going to provide the best feel for finesse fishing while still allowing great abrasion resistance if a bass decides to tie me up around a stump or downed tree. And that InvizX is going to be very, very hard to see for any spooky bass.
Braid to fluorocarbon connections can be tricky, as neither of them accepts a knot as well as mono.
We’ve covered this topic at length before, and if you want the complete run down, take a look at this article:
For my terminal connection, I usually run an Improved Palomar.
Once you’ve got the right rod, reel, and line, and once you’ve picked the right hook, weight, and O-ring for you, it’s time to think about soft plastics.
The Neko rig really lets Senkos shine, and those bubble-grabbing ridges will get that soft plastic writhing with a subtle jiggle that bass find irresistible.
It should come as no surprise that I like the Gary Yamamoto 5” Senko, as there’s no bass angler on the water who doesn’t!
Another popular choice is the Reins 4” Bubbling Shaker. This strange-looking worm has a tiny, dancing tail section that attracts bluegill and other small baitfish. As they pick at this worm, big bass get the same idea, coming in for a hard strike.
While worms once dominated nail-weight rigs like the Neko, creature baits have proven themselves just as effective.
And any time you start talking about creature baits, Strike King’s Rage Tail Craw is going to come up - and for good reason!
I’m also a big fan of Zoom’s 5” Lizard, as the legs and tail on this soft plastic shimmy just right on a Neo rig.
How to Fish the Neko Rig
The Neko’s gentle flutter often triggers strikes on the initial fall, so be ready as soon as your rig hits the water.
Pros like Charlie Evans “pitch it around docks, riprap, and brush and let it fall to the bottom and watch my line for a bite. Once on the bottom, the worm will stand straight up and they will often swim over and get it while it is sitting still,” he says.
If that doesn’t happen, start working your Neko with a tight line, dragging it gently over the bottom with your rod tip shaking every once in a while. You want to maintain contact with the bottom and keep your rod at about 10 o’clock.
The Neko rig is one of my personal favorites, especially if I’m fishing a pressured lake or pond.
I find that I can come behind another angler and pick up fish he missed with the Neko, especially if I see that they’ve been throwing a Texas rig on a hard bottom - a mistake you’ll see more often than you might realize.
We hope this article has taught you something new, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.
Don't forget to check out our guide on the Best Fishing Rigs!
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