BASS Elite Series pro angler Patrick Walters is a believer in the wacky rig. “It’s one of those versatile techniques I use anywhere in the country,” he says. “I always have one tied on and on deck.”
Walters says no matter where he goes, the wacky rig is an easy way to find aggressive fish. “The Zoom Zlinky 5-inch stick bait is my starting point,” he says. “During practice, I fish it without a hook. I fish it slowly, but when the bass are aggressive I go Neko style with a VMC nail weight. I can fish it a lot faster.”
Lake Santee Cooper is Walters’ home water. He fishes cypress trees in just 1 to 3 feet. When the spawn is on during a calm day, Walters says the fish get too spooky for the Texas rig. That’s where the wacky rig comes in.
“I stay back 10 to 15 yards and make a subtle presentation,” he says. “I’ve caught more 7 pounders on Santee Cooper on the wacky rig than any other technique.”
Let’s take a closer look at the setups used for both the wacky and Neko rigs.
Walters’ favorite wacky / Neko rod is the 7-foot Daiwa Kage spinner in medium-heavy, rated for 6- to 14-pound line. “The Kage is not too long and has a great tip to it,” he says. “Its X45 bias construction keeps the blank from twisting, and is very strong and sensitive.”
The Kage has full cork handles — Walters loves cork grips — and the blank features SVF high modulus construction. This blank material is dense, doesn’t weigh much yet is strong. “You can fish the whole day and you don’t feel like you’ve been bowling,” Walters quips.
You can’t buy the Kage rod series just anywhere. Distribution is limited to independent brick and mortar tackle stores. “You have to get it at a mom and pop shop,” he says. “It’s a great thing Daiwa is doing to help the local places. That’s the best thing about the Kage series.”
Daiwa’s Tatula LT 3000D CXH is an ideal match for the Kage spinning rod, Walters says. It has a 6.2:1 gear ratio and dishes out a full 22 pounds of drag. “It’s a great, affordable reel with 7 corrosion resistant bearings,” he says. “It picks up line fast. I like the 3000 for its larger spool. It casts farther and takes up more line per turn.”
Walters prefers Sufix NanoBraid and fishes 10-pound most of the time. When he’s fishing thick cover he switches to Sufix 832 15-pound. He likes high visibility line colors so he can see his line hop on the water, and always tips either line test with 8- or 10-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon.
The length of the leader depends on the depth he’s fishing. “When I’m fishing deeper I use a 6- to 8-foot leader, but if I’m fishing close quarters and skipping, I use just a 2- to 3-foot leader so the knot doesn’t get caught in the guides,” he explains.
The Neko rig
There’s one major difference between the wacky and Neko rigs, and that’s the weighted head on the Neko. In both, baits — and there are many effective ones — are hooked at their middles.
When fishing the Neko, Walters uses No. 1 and 2 VMC Neko hooks. “They are designed to peg ‘em (the baits) and keep ‘em on,” he says. He chooses the Neko rig when he wants to fish faster or work hard to reach spots. “I can skip it in there, under docks, and cover water faster because the nail weight gets it to the bottom.” It’s especially worthy when the bass are feeding on the bottom and not looking up.
Walters says the Neko can take the place of a jig or shaky head. It draws great reaction strikes, and triggers strikes even when the fish don’t want to eat. “It can trigger a bite at all times,” he says. “You can power fish and finesse fish at the same time. Fish it fast to find fish, and when you have slow down and catch every bass by picking the area apart.”
How well the Neko rig fishes is up to you. “If you’re not skinning bark you’re not catching fish,” Walters says. “Put the bait into hard to reach places, way up under a dock. Get your bait where people aren’t getting theirs. Keep tying new ones up, cover a lot of water, put it where other people can’t, and you’ll have a great day on the water. It works for pond fishing, up north, and in the Bassmaster Elite Series. It’s a technique everyone can have fun catching fish.”
The monthly Rigs series examines the technique-specific gear high-level Daiwa bass pros rely on.