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Wacky Rigging: The Ultimate Finesse Worm Technique Unpacked

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Finesse techniques for worms are among the most productive options for largemouth bass. 

The precise reasons that a long plastic worm triggers a strike aren’t well-understood, but the simple fact that it does--and often!--has everyone from weekend anglers to tournament pros throwing them.

And while there are many ways to run a soft plastic worm, perhaps none is as effective as the wacky rig.

Let’s get into the details and cover your options.

Related: Bass Fishing With Live & Artificial Worms

Wacky Rig Basics

The wacky rig is a simple idea: by attaching a hook to the middle of a worm with an O-ring, you impart dramatic, crazy action to both ends of the soft plastic.

wacky rig

When it’s wriggling from a gentle jigging motion, a wacky-rigged worm will send vibrations racing through the water to the lateral line of a largemouth bass, and something about that crazy action really catches their eye.

Why?

Again, we’re not sure. But it’s a universally recognized fact that wacky-rigged worms draw hungry bass.

Take a look at four wacky options underwater:

Types of Wacky Rigs

Even when leaving aside your choice of soft plastics and hooks, the wacky rig offers unparalleled versatility.

It can be rigged with an O-ring, leaving a naked hook. It can be run weedless. It can be hooked with a jig head. It can be suspended from a drop shot. 

It can...well, you get the idea!

Let’s dissect some of the best of these options to give you a better sense of what might be right for you in your pursuit of trophy bass.

The Classic Wacky Rig

The classic wacky rig is as simple as it is deadly. By connecting the worm to the hook via an O-ring (or two), you set the soft plastic free to do its thing as you pop and lift it.

The advantage of this method is that the absence of a hook in the worm allows it the greatest possible freedom to move, and this is further amplified by the placement of the O-ring at the center.

That leaves the whole soft plastic free to wobble and flutter, allowing both ends to flutter as it moves through the water.

That naked hook is just waiting for a bass to hit, and there’s nothing in the way of its business end and a monster largemouth’s jaw.

That’s also its greatest weakness, though, as that bare hook will snag and catch on everything.

Of course, a rubber band works just as well as an O-ring, but this specialty item is readily available from brands like Wacky Rings. While not quite as inexpensive as rubber bands, they can hardly be accused of breaking the bank.

Wacky Rings - O-Rings Wacky Rigging Senko Worms (100 orings 4&5' Senkos - Wacky Rig Bass Fishing)

To rig a classic wacky worm, follow these steps:

  1. Slide your O-ring over the worm, finding the center point (roughly).
  2. Slip your hook through the O-ring.

It’s that easy!

A pro tip: You can use two O-rings, overlap them to form an X, and run your hook through perpendicular to the worm. That will improve hookset and lockup more often than not.

The Weedless Wacky

Big bass stick to nasty cover because that’s where the food is. Throwing a bare hook into marsh grass, floating lilies, or brush piles will catch little more than a headache. 

But it’s easy to run a wacky rig weedlessly:

  1. Find the center of your worm and pass the hook completely through.
  2. Pull the hook down to near the eye. I like to use a 1/0 wide gap.
  3. Rotate the point, turn the hook, and bury the point just as you would with a Texas rig. The idea is to leave the point just shy of the worm’s outer layer, ready to strike but not exposed to snag.

The Nail Weight Wacky or the Neko Rig

The Neko rig uses an offset weight like the VMC Neko Weight placed in one end of the worm to alter the action and create a lot of wriggle on the undoctored side.

VMC, Neko Weights, 1/16 oz, Natural, Package of 10

Undeniably effective, it’s easy to put together:

  1. Push a weight or nail into the head-end of your worm, getting the top of the weight/nail as flush as you can.
  2. Slide an O-ring (or two) over the worm, finding the rough center.
  3. Slip the hook through the O-ring.

A Neko weight like this one from VMC is ideal, but even a simple nail from your hardware store will work.

The Jig Head Wacky

Adding some weight to your wacky rig can help you penetrate deep water quickly or buck a strong current.

jig head wacky

I like a jig head designed for wacky fishing, but there’s no reason you can’t use any jig head in your tackle box. 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.

Reaction Tackle Wacky Jig Heads- 1/16 - GP

Reaction Tackle Wacky Jig Heads- 1/16 - GP-wdless

Dead simple to rig, just follow these steps:

  1. Find the rough center of your worm.
  2. Pass the point of your hook through the worm, leaving the business end exposed.

The Drop Shot Wacky

One of my favorite ways to rig a wacky worm, the drop shot rig is a staple of finesse techniques for bass.

Typically rigged with a pencil weight to reduce the odds of a snag, a drop shot rig lets you work a precise distance from the bottom.

It’s fairly easy to rig and tie. Just follow these steps:

  1. Attach your hook to your fluorocarbon or monofilament leader with a Palomar knot, intentionally producing a very long tag end.
    If you’re not sure how to tie this knot, start at 1:24:
  2. When you finish your Palomar, you’ll end up with a tag end that’s running back along your main line. I’ve tied a #1 Gamakatsu circle hook with 6-pound Trilene here.
    Drop Shot Wacky 1
  3. Run that long tag end back through the eye of the hook to redirect it.Drop Shot Wacky 2As you pull the tag-end through the eye, you’ll end up with something like this:
    Drop Shot Wacky 2As you can see, the tag end is now running past the hook, just waiting for a cylinder weight!
  4. Finally, tie or attach your weight to the end of the tag end, adjusting the length to suit your needs.

Now, follow the usual steps to finish the wacky rig:

      5. Slide your O-ring over the worm, finding the center point (roughly).
      6. Slip your hook through the O-ring.

Tackle for Wacky Rigging

Finesse tackle for wacky rigging typically means a longish spinning rod in medium light to light power. A fast tip is preferred by some anglers to help them detect strikes, but others like a slower rod.

A 2500-size spinning reel will provide you plenty of line, drag, and power for any largemouth you tie into.

If you prefer a faster rod, it’s very hard to beat St. Croix’s Avid series. For wacky rigs, I like the 6’8” medium power rod with a fast tip. From the well-contoured cork handle to the Fuji Concept guides, its quality is evident on every inch.

There’s enough backbone in this rod for good hooksets and control during a fight.

Pair it with a good Shimano, Pflueger, Cadence, or Penn reel of the appropriate size, and you really can’t go wrong.

Hooks for Wacky Rigging

Wide gap and circle (or octopus) hooks are the best choice for wacky rigging, and sizes 1/0, 2/0, and 3/0 are the most popular, with some anglers even stepping up to a 4/0.

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.

Owner 5172-116 1/0 Bass Hook, 4-Pack, Weedless Wacky Camouflage Green

Line for Wacky Rigging

Braid is always a good choice for finesse techniques as it provides greater sensitivity than any other option. Some of my go-to braids include Sufix 832 and PowerPro. Neither of these options will let you down.

Sufix 832 Braid 20 lb Low-Vis Green 300 yards

Power Pro 21100650100E Spectra Braided Fishing Line 65lb 100yd

I typically run 10 to 15 pound braid, which a spinning reel handles superbly thanks to the ultra-low diameter of this line. But keep in mind that braid is very hard to dye and isn’t available in clear colors.

For that reason, I always use a fluorocarbon or mono leader, and typically the latter, as we’ve discussed at length before: Best Fishing Line: Mono vs Braid vs Fluoro.

Quality mono like Stren Original is just as abrasion resistant as expensive fluorocarbon, equally invisible underwater, and much easier to tie a secure knot in. An arm’s length of mono leader, attached with a Double Uni to your braided main line, isn’t going to disappoint!

Stren Original Clear, 330 Yd, Pound Test 6

I prefer good mono for my leaders.

Worm Options for Wacky Rigging

Yamamoto Senko

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

Amazon 

Easily the most popular option for wacky rigging, Gary Yamamamoto’s Senkos are pretty much perfect for this technique.

I use these myself, and I’m always astonished by how well they move and work.

Those tiny ridges catch air bubbles that cause a slight erratic shimmy on the way down, and the stiff “arms” of a wacky rigged Senko flutter enticingly on the lift.

Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm

Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm-Pack of 10 (Watermelon Red, 5-Inch)

Amazon 

Zoom’s Finesse Worms are also an excellent choice, though they definitely impart a different action than the senkos.

In my experience, they wobble a lot more on the fall and lift, which can be a good thing when visibility is low and largemouth bass are relying on vibration to locate prey.

Color Choice

Pros like Walker Smith recommend that you keep it simple. In fact, he works just three colors of worms on his wacky rigs:

  • I use watermelon red when I’m fishing clear or lightly stained water under sunny skies. Sunfish have a little bit of red on ‘em and the added flake puts off some extra flash when the sun’s out.
  • I use green pumpkin when I’m fishing clear or lightly stained water under cloudy skies. I think it puts off a more noticeable silhouette, which gives the bass a better bead on it.
  • I use junebug or some type of black/blue (whatever I grab first, really) whenever I’m fishing in dirty water. I might opt for a little flake when it’s sunny.

How To Fish a Wacky Rig

Wacky rigs are a finesse option, and overworking your worm isn’t the way to go.

Instead, let the worm settle to the bottom after you cast, pause a second or two, and give it a lift. Leave your line a bit slack, and then let it fall and settle again.

Whatever you do--don’t overwork your wacky rig! The worm is wriggling on its own, by design, and you don’t need to jig with it to get a bass’s attention.

This lift--fall-settle--lift cadence can be varied, but I find slower is almost always best.

Often, bass will strike on the fall as the worm flutters, so be ready!

One tip I can recommend is to keep your finger on the line: you won’t always see a hit on the tip of your rod, but you’ll feel the bump in the line.

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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