September 27, 2023
It’s a familiar look with a different form; an innovative take on a proven fish-getter that accomplishes the same objectives, but with greater versatility.
It’s called the hover rig and if it reminds you of the Damiki rig (aka Moping), that’s the idea. Both presentations allow anglers to engage suspended fish with the enticing image of a vulnerable baitfish, and while Western pro Luke Johns fishes both, he appreciates the greater control his hover rig affords.
An effective deal-closer during the extremes of winter and summer, the hover rig also delivers anytime the fish are heavily pressured.
“When the fish are active and chasing, this is not the first rig I’m going to pick up,” Johns said. “But when it’s a tougher bite and the fish don’t want to chase anything, the hover rig can be very effective.
“Typically, bass fishermen like to cover water; we like moving baits, but with this rig you can just hang a bait in front of the fish’s face and keep it in the strike zone a lot longer than (most baits). It takes very little effort for them to actually eat it.”
Here’s the skinny.
Rig It Right
For comparison, we’ll start with the traditional deal. When he’s vertically dropping to difficult fish holding in the water column, Johns likes a Picasso Speed Drop jig. The key feature—a 90-degree line tie.
“When you’re dropping it straight down, your bait is hanging horizontally, whereas, if you have a line tie that’s too far forward on the jig head, your bait will be hanging at an angle,” he said.
While this typically heavier Damiki style rig gets down quickly to the fish, Johns finds it harder to maintain that perfectly horizontal posture on a long cast. When he’s making anything more than short pitches, Johns goes with the hover rig.
For this modified version, he uses a 1/0 to 3/0 Owner jig hook, also with a 90-degree line tie. Inserting the point into the bait’s back, about a 1/4- to 1/2-inch from the head, he’ll thread the hook through the bait and bring it out, so the line tie ends up flush with the bait.
Placing the hook behind the bait’s head allows room for a nail weight. He prefers tungsten, as he can achieve the desired weighting with a smaller form.
“Depending on water depth and how fast you’re trying to get your bait down, you can tweak that nail weight size,” he said. “I typically go with a 1/16-ounce.”
The hover rig setup works with a variety of minnow and fluke style baits, but Johns prefers the Yamamoto 5-inch Shad Shape Floater. Some like to present a hover rig near the bottom, but he typically uses this deal when he’s fishing higher in the water column.
“No matter what soft plastic you throw, you want it to be a floating formula,” he said. “You don’t want a heavy salt formula, or it will sink away at an angle.
“You want the bait as natural as possible, because baitfish won’t be sitting at a 45 degree angle. They’re going to be sitting horizontally and you want to match that.”<?p>
As for bait colors, Johns is all about matching the hatch. If he’s using the hover rig, it’s because fish are in the negative mood, so authenticity is the way to go.
Benefits & Considerations
While various companies are making specialized jig heads for this hover rig technique—some with weighted shanks—he prefers the nail weight option for its immediate diversity.
“The thing about Damiki rigging with the jighead is you’re stuck with certain sizes and you have a fixed hook, so you can’t (vary) where you’re rigging your bait,” he said. “When you’re using that jig hook, you can pick where you position in in your bait, and you can pick where you position the nail weight independently.
“Also, you can tweak your nail weight sizes a lot faster and easier, rather than cutting off a jighead and retying with another size. You can basically tweak your bait on the fly a lot more effectively with the hover rig.”
Another benefit he points to is the long-cast performance. When he’s launching his bait toward spooky fish, he finds his hover rig will more consistently maintain that ideal horizontal posture.
“When you twitch your rod tip, the hover rig has a back-and-forth shimmy and it almost hunts around on a longer cast,” he said. “With a Damiki rig, that traditional jighead doesn’t allow the freedom of movement through the water column.
“With the hover rig, you can make a long cast and work it effectively all the way back to the boat.”
He suggests experimenting with hook placement and nail weight size and positioning to create different actions. Just don’t overdo it, he said.
“When you start to move that hook around too much, you start to lose that horizontal presentation.”
Johns fishes his hover rig on a 7-foot medium to medium-light spinning rod with a 2500 reel and a braid-to-leader setup. An 8- to 10-pound main line will handle whatever he hooks, but it’s the terminal section that typically proves crucial.
“You want very finesse leader because this bait is hanging there for a long time, so the fish have plenty of opportunity to analyze it,” Johns said. “Leader size depends on water clarity and how active the fish are, so if they’re really pressured, I’ll use 6-pound fluorocarbon, but if I can get away with 8-pound, I’ll throw that.
“You’re using a light wire hook, so you don’t want too much pressure or you’ll straighten the hook. This is an easy rig with which to hook the fish. It’s similar to a dropshot or wacky rig; you don’t do a hookset, you just do a reel set.”
And that leads to Johns’ final piece of advice—line watching.
“Having a brightly colored braid helps a lot since you fish the bait on a semi-slack line,” he said. “This is helpful because it allows you to see the strikes that you can’t feel.”