The Neko Rig

Masahiro Yanase of Nagoya,Japan, and Nashville,Tennessee, is an ace at wielding finesse tackle, such as a wacky jig, shaky-head jigworm, drop-shot rig and wacky-worm rig.

His wacky-worm rig is a unique one, indeed, and very few American bass anglers and their quarry have seen it in action. Several winters ago, when he was inLawrence,Kansas, visiting Vu "Ted" Nguyen, Yanase showed us how to employ it.

Back then  he used it on a Fenwick ELT 68S LPJ Power Plus spinning rod and Daiwa KIX 2506 spinning reel that was spooled with five-pound-test Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon. To the line, he used a uni-knot to attach a size 2 Nogales Mosquito hook with a heavy stealth guard that was affixed to a six-inch Keitech Live Impact Worm. The hook was fastened to the middle of the worm. But before he attached the worm to the hook, Yanase inserted an Active MS Tournament nail into the head of the worm. The size of his nails ranged from 1/16 of an ounce to 1/96 of an ounce.  Normally Yanase employed a 1/16-ounce nail, but he used a lighter one when the bass exhibit a preference for a worm that falls slowly and he plied shallow-water lairs.

The nail allows the worm to fall head first, and when it reaches the bottom, the head of the worm rests of the bottom while the worm's body is perpendicular to the bottom and the tail undulates in a tantalizing manner four inches off the bottom. As it moves across the bottom, it paws the sediment, causing small plums of the sediment to erupt and attract a bass' eye.

According to Yanase, it is an ideal lure to employ around docks — especially docks that are perched on pilings.  When he plied the dock pilings as a co-angler atLake Norman,North Carolina, during  the Wal-Mart FLW Tour National Guard Open tournament in April 26-27, 2007, he would either cast his wacky-worm rig so that it would skip under the docks and land adjacent to an interior piling or he would delicately pitch it to an exterior piling.  As the rig entered the water next to a piling, Yanase held his rod motionless at a 45-degree angle, kept the bail of his reel open, and placed his finger on the reel's line spool. He allowed the wacky worm to plummet in a straight line to the bottom, following the edge of the piling, by using his finger to allow the line to slowly peel off the reel. Occasionally an aggressive bass would engulf Yanase's wacky worm on its descent towards the bottom, but most of the time the pro angler in the front of the boat would catch the aggressive bass. Once the worm touched the bottom, he allowed it to either sit there in a dead-stick fashion or he executed as many as 10 shakes with the rod, causing the worm to seductively dance in place.

Yanase shook the worm by creating a little bit of slack in the line that stretched between the rod tip and spot where the line entered the water, and by subtly shaking his rod, he generated a series of S-curves along the line.   If one of those presentations failed to elicit a strike, Yanase quickly retrieved the wacky worm, and he executed another pitch or skipping cast to another piling.

Yanase described it as a very seductive lure and presentation for tentative bass, which is the quarry that most co-anglers have to deal with on the FLW circuit.

Japanese anglers call it the neko rig.  Neko is the word for cat in Japanese.  In the eyes of Japanese anglers,  the neko rig traverses the bottom of a lake the way a cat often uses its paw to scratch the ground or a litter box.

Shinichi Fukae ofPalestine,Texas, andOsaka,Japan, says it has been a popular lure with recreational anglers for decades, but it was shunned by the professional Japanese bass anglers.  But as the bass fishing inJapanhas become increasingly arduous, the professional anglers have found it to be a piscatorial elixir.

Nowadays, Fukae even employs it on the FLW circuits on those days that bass are reluctant to strike his other finesse tactics. Fukae works the neko rig on spinning equipment similar to the outfit that Yanase uses. Fukae, however, prefers to use the Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits that are available only in Japan.

One of the Yamamoto soft-plastic baits that Fukae uses has a narrow head, and he uses a large diameter needle to create a hole in the head of the worm before he inserts the nail. If  he doesn't use the needle, the head of the worm is mutilated and won't keep the nail properly affixed inside the head of the worm.

In Fukae's eyes, one of the significant advantages of the neko rig is that it falls faster than a wacky jig, which allows him to fish it quickly.  A significant disadvantage, however,  is that it takes more time to rig than a wacky jig, and the time factor is a critical one for a tournament angler of Fukae's stature.

For a spell in the 1980s and occasionally thereafter, a few U.S.  anglers inserted finishing nails into plastic worms and fished them wacky style, but it never caught the fancy of the bass angling community, which was enchanted with power-fishing tactics.  Nowadays, however, Yanase and Fukae suspect that neko rig has the potential of becoming a significant tool in the repertoire of the ardent American finesse anglers.

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