Understanding the ins and out of the Neko rig will help you fine-tune this lure to be your go-to almost any time of year. Using just a straight worm, nail weight, and hook, you can make one in less than two minutes with items already in your tackle box. It’s so successful because it imitates a worm or small fish bouncing along the pond or lake floor looking for grub.
I’ve created plenty of my own Neko rigs over my fishing career, but I’ve also gathered info on some favorite setups from the pros, tips and tricks to make them, and the science between how they work so well. Let’s dive in.
Where to Fish Neko Rig
The Neko rig is one of the most versatile lures around. It can fish both shallow and deep water, in clear spots or dense vegetation and rocky ledges. But, most anglers keep it in the clear water as it is not a flashy lure. While it is extremely popular when bass fishing in Japan, it is commonly used by professional anglers and weekend warriors worldwide in all kinds of lakes and ponds.
Most commonly, this rig is worth trying when nothing else is working. They are also known for catching pressured fish, like during the eleventh hour of a fishing competition.
Many Neko rigs are nibbled on the fall, so try using it anywhere you’d use a drop shot. Places like points, ledges, drop-offs, bluff walls, or deep docks are excellent choices to sink it. Make sure there is some slack in the line when you throw it so that it sinks right down to the bottom.
Many anglers find more bites if they place it around brush, wood, or rocky spots to lure fish out of hiding.
How to Create a Neko Rig
Even with a rig as simple as this, there is still great variation in how people make them. Let’s walk through the basic steps first, and then I’ll dive into the different changes you can make to this wacky version of your favorite soft plastic stick bait.
- Find any straight worm lure between 5 and 10 inches – this will be the main portion of your lure.
- Weight your worm using a nail weight or screw.
- Reinforce the center of the worm with an O-ring, straw, or heat wrap.
- Place the hook perpendicular to the worm, around halfway up, around the reinforcement.
- Bam! You’re ready to fish.
Required Gear for Neko Fishing Rig
Anytime you want to fish this lure, you’ll need four items, at a minimum. These are:
- Spinning Gear
Rod & Reel
While most use a spinning rod for this, it can be fished by a baitcasting reel as well. The most important thing is to make sure you have slack in your line to let it sink to the bottom. A heavier rod will help you hold the worm well when the bottom-fish start biting.
Choosing Your Line
Finesse is key here, as this rig relies significantly on your ability to feel it on the bottom of the lake or pond.
Especially when starting out, choose a lightweight line between two and five pounds to fish. This will give you the most control and feel of the line as you’re learning. As you understand how the rig moves and works, you can bump up the weight if you need to.
In shallow water, use a fluorocarbon leader line cut to the depth of the water. This will work similar to a bobber and help you know when you get a bite.
Spinning gear is preferred as it is easier to cast and feel the Neko, but you can use whatever you have on hand. A spinning rod and reel will give you better control of the rig as it drops back down to the floor.
An average-sized spinning rod and reel works well for the rig. Somewhere around a seven-foot rod and 2500-size reel is best.
Neko Rig Hook Position
The best way to hook a worm for this rig is to place it perpendicular to the worm body with the hook facing away from the weighted end. This gives it the best chance to snag the bass who might be interested. It also guides the line away from the worm, so the fish don’t spot it.
Most anglers place the hook in the center of the worm, although some move it up or down a bit. If it is higher on the worm, it helps keep the bait straight up and down when moving across the bottom. If you place the hook lower, the worm tail will move a bit more, but be harder to keep upright.
A good rule of thumb is to start a bit higher as you’re learning and move lower as you perfect your finesse.
The Neko is a subtle lure, so power finesse is vital to success with it. Once you feel it hit, you can twitch your rod to help the worm dance along the bottom. Some pick it up about a foot at a time while others try to have it bounce along the floor.
The goal is to have the weighted end stay on the bottom and move side to side while the top of the worm wiggles, making the worm appear to be swimming and digging for food. Make sure to keep the line tight so that the worm stands up straight, rather than flopping over.
This technique is useful for ledge fishing too. You can let the worm dance and fall near the ledge, looking for the bass who are tucked into the cool shade.
As Neko rigging continues to gain popularity and traction, many terminal tackle options have come about. While you can grab Neko-specific weight, worms, and hooks, most can be made with non-Neko specific tackle.
Brandon Palaniuk got his biggest fish at the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series with a Neko Rig made up of a 3/16 ounce half-moon wacky weight and a 5-inch finesse worm. His first fish, an 8-pound 4-ounce largemouth bass, was just the boost he needed to use the Neko quite a bit while out on one of Texas’ best bass lakes.
Neko Rig Setup for Bass Fishing
There are many different things you can change in your bass fishing rig setup. For this lure, you can vary the worm and hook to using other types of reinforcement, you’ll be able to make one of these worm fishing rigs out of things you already have.
Choosing Your Worm
Essentially any old worm you have in your tackle box should work as long as it is straight. Most worms used in this rig tend to be in the 5 to 10-inch range, although Bryan Thrift, the FLW Tour Angler of the Year, rigs an 11-inch Damiki Mega Miki worm. But, he also throws a ⅜ ounce, which is much heavier than usual.
The best worms for a Neko rig are:
- Missile Baits Fuse 4.4
- Reins Swamp Movers
- 5″ Yamamoto Senko
- 7″ Kut Tail
- Zoom Ole Monster
- Zoom Trick Worm
- Big Bite finesse worms or stick worms
While it is not common, you can also rig up a craw worm for this lure.
Weighting Your Rig
What separates a Neko from any old wacky worm setup is the weight. By adding weight to the head of the worm, it sinks straight down. Once it hits bottom, one end is solidly on the lake floor while the other end dances in the water for fish to spot.
You don’t want your worm to fall too fast or too slow; you want it just right. The most common nail weights for fishing this lure are 1/16 ounce and 3/32 ounce, although many people go down to a 1/32 ounce or even up to a ⅛ ounce.
Any Tungsten nail sinker should work, and feel free to grab a few weights as you learn what works best in different situations. These weights can add up fast, especially if your worms keep getting stolen, which is not uncommon with this rig.
So, many people opt for drywall screws or finishing nails between ½ and 1 ½ inch that they can insert directly into the worm. These are equivalent to around a 1/16 ounce Neko rig weight.
When inserting the weight, make sure it is placed straight down the worm to keep it balanced, preventing any wiggling as it sinks. If the worm has a pointy head, feel free to snip it off so you can insert the weight into a bulkier spot.
Lastly, you can choose from mushroom weights or normal, straight weights. The mushroom weight is a bit more centralized, assuring a straight fall and pointed placement, but both work well for this rig.
Reinforcing the Worm
You may find that these worm rigs are stolen quite a bit, or the hook works its way out quickly of the worm. For this reason, people put O-rings, or something similar, on the center of the worm to insert the hook into. While most will use an O-ring from the local hardware store or tackle stop, there are other options.
You can use a straw piece, cut to 1/16 inch, as long as your worm fits. You can use a simple plastic straw from McDonald’s or Costco or buy a nicer silicone straw for an even stronger hold.
Long, skinny balloons also work. Cut them a bit wider, around ¼ inch because they are a little weaker. You can always make them wider for more strength. Zip ties also fit around a worm and are almost assured to stay in place.
Small ponytail holders or rubber bands for braces can also work on slightly fatter worms. Other anglers use heat shrink wrap, but just about anything small and circular should work.
Getting the O-ring or o-ring substitute on can be quite tricky. A wacky-rig tool is a device where you insert the worm into the hollow end and roll the rubber band or o-ring onto the other. The tapered build of the tool allows you then to roll the o-ring onto the center of the worm. There are also plier-like tools that can hold an o-ring and slide it on.
Not everyone puts reinforcement on the worm, but I highly recommended it if you don’t want to keep buying new worms every day.
If you’re looking for one of the best weedless rigs for bass, you can make the Neko into one. Simply put on a weedless hook or cover and you’re good to go. While most hooks will get the job done, people like to use sizes 1 or 2.
A longer hook shaft will get your knot tie further from the worm but may catch a bit more. Opt for a shorter shaft if you’re in a highly weeded area.
Some common neko rig hooks used are the VMC Neko hook or the Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Hook.
Tips For Neko Rig
These rigs are fairly simple, but the pros have truly shown off their advantages in recent years. Here are a few tips to keep the fish biting:
- Keep steady pressure on the line to ensure the worm is standing up, not just flopped along the bottom.
- Choose thick-plastic, durable neko baits to ensure the fish don’t steal the lures off your hook.
- Once the fish has sunk the hook and begun to shake, make sure to lead it away from the brush.
- Make sure your nail weight is inserted straight into the head of the worm and isn’t too heavy or too light for a proper drop speed.
- Fish the Neko in deep water. This lure is great for bringing in those fish who lurk at the bottom who are not going for other bait.
What has been your go-to Neko rig setup? I’d love to hear what you use, tips you have, and where you like to drop it for the best catch.