What is a Tokyo Rig and How to Fish it

What is a Tokyo Rig and How to Fish it

Last Updated on April 23, 2021 by Dave Ferguson

Bass anglers are avid inventors when it comes to new lures, techniques, and strategies to catch big bass. The VMC Tokyo Rig is one of the most recent inventions from Japan that has taken the bass fishing world by storm, mainly due to its almost endless versatility with soft plastic bait options.  We’ll discuss what the Tokyo Rig actually is, how you can use it to catch more bass, and why it just might deserve a spot on your fishing wishlist and in your terminal tackle box from now on.

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What is a Tokyo Rig Exactly?

Combine all the best features of a Texas Rig, Drop Shot Rig, a swimbait and a Flipping Rig, and you get the VMC Tokyo Rig. The rig itself uses a stainless steel solid ring, and not a weaker split ring, as a central hub.  To this ring a black nickel heavy duty wide gap hook is attached, as well as a wire dropper arm for attaching your favorite weight, and a swivel for attaching your fishing line.  

The dropper arm weight system allows the angler to customize the Tokyo Rig with any size weights they choose by simply sliding a tungsten bullet weight or tungsten egg sinker of desired weight onto the wire and then using pliers to bend the bottom of the wire into a loop, holding the weight onto the wire during fishing.

Once the weight is attached to the Tokyo Rig, the angler can add any soft plastic worm, craw, or creature bait they choose to the heavy duty wide gap hook to complete the presentation.  The finished Tokyo Rig allows the weight to drag along the bottom while the soft plastic on the EWG hook follows along directly above it, with the swivel allowing for maximum movement of the entire rig.

The angler simply chooses which hook size of the VMC Tokyo Rig to purchase and which sizes of tungsten weights that might be needed for their specific situations.

Why the Tokyo Rig is Just Better

VMC Tokyo Rig

The beauty of the VMC Tokyo Rig is how it presents the soft plastic bait to the bass in a completely new way.  By suspending the bait slightly above the bottom and inside the strike zone by a few inches, even in deep water, the Tokyo Rig is now presenting a lure along the bottom while also allowing the bass to sense the soft plastic lure attached to the rig much easier than a Texas Rig or Drop Shot Rig.  

Plus, there are no limitations to what kind of tackle you can use with this rig. You can use it with spinning reels and baitcasting reels

Another main feature of the Tokyo Rig is its versatility.  An angler can quickly and easily change the amount and size of the tungsten weights attached to the dropper arm wire to adapt the Tokyo Rig to the different conditions and depths of any given fishing trip.  Below, we describe the versatility of the Tokyo Rig compared to more traditional bass fishing bait rigs. 

Tokyo Rig vs Drop Shot 

tokyo rig vs dropshot rig

The Tokyo Rig works great as a short drop shot rig for finesse bass fishing that is capable of being fished in and around cover.  This is due to the weedless soft plastic setup provided by the extra wide gap hook on the Tokyo Rig.  Anglers have been using short Drop Shot Rigs with weedless baits and tungsten weights, sometimes known as a “Flip Shot”, for years.  

The Tokyo Rig simply performs better than a standard Drop Shot Rig due to the addition of a swivel and the direct link between the soft plastic rig itself and the dropper arm weight system, which gives the angler more control of the action of the entire rig.

Tokyo Rig vs Flippin/Punch Rig

The Tokyo Rig is a perfect rig for punching heavy vegetation like hydrilla.  The dropper arm and tungsten weight system allows the rig to slide into and through heavy vegetation similarly to a traditional Punch Rig where the heavy weight is fixed on the fishing line against the nose of the soft bait.  

The advantage that the Tokyo Rig has over the traditional Punch Rig is the action the angler can achieve with the soft plastic bait once the lure is through the heavy vegetation and positioned on the bottom of the lake or river.  

Once the Tokyo Rig has reached the bottom, the swivel connection allows the angler to use quick, short twitches of the fishing rod to make the soft plastic lure hop and shake around the vegetation without pulling it up and away from the bass, something the traditional Punch Rig could never achieve.

Tokyo Rig vs Swimbait Rigs

Paddle tail swimbaits like the Keitech Swing Impact Fat are a mainstay in bass anglers’ tackle boxes these days due to their dependability in clear to stained water situations.  Most are fished on either a jighead or a belly-weighted extra wide gap hook.  The VMC Tokyo Rig shines as an alternative rigging option for these swimmers.

Rigging a paddle-tail swimbait on a Tokyo Rig allows the bait to not only be fished weedless over any type of cover or bottom, but also allows the bait to be depth controlled easily by adding different tungsten weight sizes to the drop wire rigging system.  The weight also acts like an attractant for the swimbait rig by ticking along the bottom structure, much like deep diving crankbaits, while the swimbait kicks freely just inches above, creating an entirely new presentation.

Best Tokyo Rig Setups for Bass Fishing

Ok, so you are going to try out the Tokyo Rig the next time you go bass fishing.  Where should you start?  We discuss several options down to the nitty-gritty below for hooking more bass when you are just getting your feet wet with the new VMC Tokyo Rig in your waters.

Tokyo Rig Dropshot

Depending on your water depth and specific cover you are targeting, a 3/16 ounce to 3/8 ounce tungsten bullet weight is the best choice for the drop wire weight system with this technique.  Any straight-tail soft plastic worm will worm great, but a favorite bait for this method of fishing the Tokyo Rig would have to be a Missle Baits Quiver Worm in green pumpkin color.  The flat flapping tail of the Quiver is brought to life with the Tokyo Rig setup when hopping and shaking the rig around docks, grass, and rocks.

A medium to medium heavy rod setup will work great for this Tokyo Rig technique.  The angler should use at least a 12 pound fluorocarbon line tied to the swivel, while increasing the line strength based on the thickness of the cover being fished.  Fish the rig much like a bass jig with short hops and drags to keep the squirming worm near the bottom while the tungsten weight system clacks along the bottom, drawing in the bass.

Tokyo Rig Punch Setup

Like most punching rigs, we’re going to be using a lot of weight for this version of the Tokyo Rig.  Add two separate 1/2 ounce tungsten bullet weights to the drop wire weight system, sliding the weights on so the two flat ends of the weights will clack together.  

Make sure your soft plastic bait is slender enough to penetrate through the heavy vegetation you are fishing, but also has some appendages to create an action to call the bass to it.  The Strike King Rage Menace Grub in black/blue is a favorite of mine due to its compact shape and shorter flapping legs.    

A heavy action rod is a necessity for this technique.  Braided line in the 50-65 pound range tied to the swivel would do best here to horse the bass out of the thick vegetation once hooked up.  Pitch the heavy Tokyo Rig into the mat or thick cover and let it fall to the bottom.  Shake the rod tip to jig the bait up and down near the bottom, then slowly lift the rod to bring the bait to the roof of the vegetation column.  If the bass hasn’t struck the rig, drop the bait back to the bottom and repeat. 

Tokyo Rig Swimbaits

Tokyo Rig Swimbaits

A popular new way to fish swimbaits, this Tokyo Rig technique can vary in design based on the anglers desired target depth.  Weights all the way from 1/8 ounce to 3/4 ounce can be utilized with the Tokyo Rig swimbait setup to achieve maximum depth versatility.  As mentioned above, the Keitech Swing Impact Fat in 3.8 and 4.3 sizes in natural baitfish colors shine best for swimming a Tokyo Rig.  

A medium to medium heavy rod setup will do the trick here.  Line size can vary from 10 to 15 pound fluorocarbon based on the weight of the rig and the size of the fish you are targeting.  Cast the rig out, let it sink to your desired depth, and retrieve with a smooth turn of the reel handle, covering the water column you so desire.  Set your drag slightly loose so you can load into the fish with a long sweep of the rod instead of a snap-back type of hookset to ensure better hookups.  

The Tokyo Rig is Here to Stay

There’s no doubt that the VMC Tokyo Rig has filled a niche in the bass fisherman’s arsenal between the typical worm jig, the Drop Shot Rig, and the swimbait with its versatility and innovative design.  Next time you are out on the water and want to try something new, give the VMC Tokyo Rig a shot with your favorite plastic worm, craw, or swimbait.  

You just might find a new secret weapon that the largemouth, smallmouth, or spotted bass in your area aren’t adjusted to quite yet, giving you an unfair advantage over the bass and other anglers on your body of water.

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