by Jeff Gustafson
One of the benefits to travelling all over North America to compete in bass tournaments is that I am exposed to a wide variety of both unique lures and different ways to catch bass. Some of these techniques come home with me and occasionally they work so well they are effective for tournament use in Canada or for catching other species like walleye, crappie, musky, even lake trout.
The following are some of my favourite techniques that I have picked up in my travels and work great for catching fish around my home area in Northwest Ontario. Ned rigs are a finesse presentation used for catching pressured bass in clear water situations but the "do nothing" soft plastic worms rigged on a jig head are excellent walleye, lake trout and crappie baits as well.
Large soft plastic swimbaits are used frequently on southern waters for bass where large shad are the primary forage. These oversized six to ten-inch baits are excellent options for pike, musky and lake trout in our part of the world.
Finally, are you using hair jigs? The secret has been out for years on marabou jigs and their effectiveness for bass but marabou adorned jigs are excellent crappie baits as well. Craft hair, bucktail hair and larger feathers can be used to craft jigs that catch all species of fish in our lakes.
My friend Drew Reese has only missed coming to the Lake of the Woods two summers in the past fifty-plus years. He travels north every year between May and September from Kansas and enjoys the excellent smallmouth fishing found in the Sioux Narrows area. Years ago, Drew saw the effectiveness of a simple "do-nothing" worm for catching bass, then the durability of the Z-Man Elaztech plastic. Elaztech, the super-stretchy soft plastic also has properties that make it float so when it's rigged on a jig head, it stands up off the bottom, attracting the attention of nearby fish.
Drew is an accomplished bass angler who fished in the first Bassmaster Classic back in 1972. He is also a finesse fishing aficionado who is still competitive in our local tournaments, including earning a second-place finish at the 2018 Bassin' For Bucks tournament on Lake of the Woods.
My introduction to the "Ned Rig" came in 2016 at Table Rock Lake in Missouri. I was preparing for a tournament the following week at nearby Beaver Lake, Arkansas and Drew drove four hours to meet me because he wanted to show me how to fish the Ned Rig.
We went out on Table Rock on an awful windy day and the fishing was not that great but I saw how much confidence Drew had in that little worm rigged on a 1/6-ounce Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ Jighead. The following week at Beaver Lake I used that jig along with a Hula StickZ bait to take an 11th place finish at an FLW Tour event. From that point on I don't think I have ever been out fishing without having a "Ned Righ" tied on a rod in my boat.
Because the Z-Man plastic floats and stand up in the water, it makes a great crayfish imitation and I believe that is part of what makes these baits so effective. I seldom vary from using a 1/6-ounce jig, which is fairly heavy but will go lighter if the bottom is really snaggy. I want the jig to get to the bottom and do its thing. I most often use a Z-Man Hula StickZ cut down about a half-inch but Z-Man also makes the TRD CrawZ and the Finesse TRD, which is the original "Ned" bait.
Reese has caught over 100 bass on one bait before, the durability of this plastic is incredible, especially when you consider all of the toothy pike and walleye in our lakes. I like to fish these small jigs on a 7' medium action G. Loomis spinning rod, a 2500 sized Shimano reel, eight-pound Power Pro braided line with an eight-pound fluorocarbon leader attached. Cast near shallow rocks or boulders and bounce the jig along the bottom. These baits can also be used for fishing deeper water by dropping it under the boat to fish you spot on your electronics. Last summer on Lake of the Woods, the Hula StickZ was also one of the top walleye producers in my boat.
Reprinted with permission.