Winter fishing is tough. Once the water temperature dips below that 50°mark it is officially time to break out the winter bass fishing techniques. While there are many good ones out there, even quite a few on this site, there is one that I use when it seems that nothing else works. That is the Ned Rig, but, there is a special way to fish it in the winter time.
When the water is cold and the bass fishing is tough, the best way to fish a Ned Rig is a method called “deadsticking.” Leaving the bait sit, motionless, is a good way to trick those finicky and sluggish bass to inhale it.
Let’s jump right into the details of this highly effective winter fishing method.
The Ned Rig has really come into its own the last several years. I find that interesting since it has been around for several decades. Some old timers may call it the Midwest Finesse Rig. Modern trends demand that we use the name of a well-known outdoor writer that most believe is responsible for the popularity of this lure and technique. His name is Ned Kehde.
To shorten the story, Ned took a traditional stick bait that was in the 5” range. He broke it in half and a fishing legend was born.
At first glance, it appears that the lure is nothing and would do nothing. That is its magic. The Ned Rig is the ultimate finesse bait and presentation.
For winter time bass fishing, I always use natural colors for my Ned Rig setup. The water in many lakes and reservoirs this time of year is as clear as it will ever be. To start, I like to use something in a light green or silver. If bites are scarce, I will keep altering colors until I find one that makes the fish commit. However, everything I use in the winter will be natural enough to look like something that may be rummaging around on the bottom of the lake.
The Equipment for Ned Rigging
To fish the ultimate finesse setup, I stick with a spinning rod and reel. I like a medium action rod with a softer tip. In other words, I like a little more give in the rod this time of year and less backbone. The bites are very subtle, so I want the rod to bend enough on the initial hookset that I don’t yank the lure right out of the mouth of the fish.
I prefer to use 6lb fluorocarbon on this setup. You can also use braid as a mainline and then tie on a fluoro leader. The use of fluorocarbon keeps the line less visible to the bass and also aids in the lure sinking in the cold water.
The Best Location for Winter Ned Rigging
If you haven’t read my article on the three places that winter bass go, then follow this link.
I always prefer to start in the absolute center of a pond, cove, creek arm, or channel. The majority of winter bass pull off of the shoreline and sit with their bellies down on bottom.
If you are not sure about this, think about the very last place you caught fish in the late fall. Remember, late fall, not early fall. If you caught bass there as the temperature was starting to really drop, odds are they are close.
Some other key winter locations include the following: rocks, sea walls, and on any cover on the north bank that may retain heat from the sunshine.
Cast the Ned Rig out and let it sink. Be sure to let the lure fall on a slack line. This will allow the bait to drop straight down.
Once the Ned Rig hits bottom, leave it sit. And sit. And sit. And sit some more. The goal is to impart no action at all. This technique is called deadsticking and it is quite effective in coaxing finicky fish to bite.
There will be enough natural movement in the water column to give the lure a lifelike appearance. If you do feel the need to impart some action on your own, just twitch it once or twice.
The longer you can leave the lure “soak” the better.
I know, this can be a mind numbing way to fish, but you must have confidence that those bass are down there looking at it.
The Bite and Hookset
I cannot emphasize enough how light the bite is going to be. This is where a quality rod makes a huge difference.
Some traditional winter bites include the tiniest of thumps or some extra weight on the line. If something feels odd, set the hook.
Remember, the fish are sluggish. The hookset needs to match the activity of the fish. There is no need for the hammer-it-home swings that we often do in the summer. To hook these winter bass, just reel down and maintain pressure. A slight side sweep of the rod during this process will be enough the sink the hook.
Ned Rig jigheads have very lightwire hooks. These small hooks easily penetrate the fish’s lip.
Keep pressure on the fish all the way back to the boat.
Pay Attention to the Details
Be aware of every tiny aspect of the fish catching process. What did the bite feel like? How long did the bait sit? What color did you have on?
The more details you can hone in on means the more apt you are to refine and repeat the process with greater success.
Even though this method may sound boring, it is the best way that I know of to catch bass when the winter bite is at its worst. This rig and technique can also produce numbers of fish. You may catch twenty before the one you have been waiting for grabs hold, but when it comes to fishing in the winter, I am more than happy to get bit by dozens of two-pounders.
The winter time can be challenging, but it is nice to avoid all the other anglers that are pounding the shores like they do all summer.
Good luck out there, be safe, and drop comments below of those nice winter bass you catch.