UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

How to Finesse Weed line Largemouths

How to Finesse Weed line Largemouths

When it comes to finesse baits that put fish in the boat, the Ned rig has certainly earned a spot as a go-to for bass anglers across the country. While it catches pretty much everything that swims, most of the attention gets put on catching northern smallmouths or Ozarks-region largemouths and spotted bass with it.  

For many, weed lines would be one of the last places to throw a Ned rig, but growing up in central Minnesota, FLW Tour pro Joel Willert learned early on that late-summer weed lines, largemouths and Ned rigs can be a deadly, yet often overlooked combination.

Here’s a rundown of how Willert utilizes the finesse tactic for big northern largemouths.

 

Why the Ned?

It’s no secret to the angling community that the Ned rig catches fish, but when it comes to targeting big largemouths, many shy away from the Ned in favor of bigger baits. For Willert, though, it’s a no-brainer.

“The Ned rig is a big smallmouth bait, which is probably why nobody thinks that a 2 3/4-inch bait can catch big largemouths,” Willert says. “But I’ve had so much success over the years that it’s just a bait that I constantly have tied on now no matter where I go. A lot of my success as a co-angler came from the Ned, and it’s honestly the reason I have my truck and boat now.

“As far as throwing a Ned for largemouths near weeds goes, I’ve caught more 5-pounders in club tournaments on that bait than anything else. It’s just not something they see much of, and it definitely doesn’t discriminate size.”

 

What to look for

 While Willert admits you can catch a bass on a Ned basically year-round, one of his favorite times to throw it is late in the summer.

“Growing up fishing the lakes around my house, I noticed that the summer-to-fall transition is when this bite starts to get good,” says Willert, who calls Prior Lake, Minn., home. “The fish have been pressured all summer, and now the weeds are starting to brown and die off, and when that happens, the fish will get on the nearest rock.”

On many natural lakes across the north – and even in the south for that matter – you can find sand and rubble or rock patches scattered along weed lines. On small lakes, there may only be one or two places like it, but on larger bodies of water, there may be dozens. This is where using your electronics can save you loads of time.

“If you can find a little bit of rock or slight difference in bottom structure with some good weeds nearby, there’s going to be fish on it,” Willert adds. “You don’t want to throw the Ned in really thick grass – though you can catch some doing that – you’re really looking for rock or harder bottom adjacent to the weeds. I like to throw it along the weed edges on that hard bottom transition, that way you can fish cleaner and more precise. I’ll get bit a lot of times on the fall because I think those fish are just sitting inside the weed line waiting to ambush something that comes by.”

Willert notes that this technique will work in both clear and dirty water. Late in the year, when the weeds start to die off, lakes will get a stain to the water, but don’t let that stop you from throwing a Ned. Even just a foot of visibility is more than enough for a bass to home in on the tiny rig.

 

The Ned setup

It doesn’t take being a Tour professional to figure out how to throw a Ned rig. Small bait, light jig head and light line is the basic principle. Willert follows that same train of thought, though his years of throwing a Ned have led him to what he believes is the ultimate Ned combo.

“I’m a firm believer in using a bait that is made of ElaZtech, because it floats,” he says. “I really think that it makes a difference, and, from my experience, once that bait hits the bottom and you drag it along real slow, when you stop it or kill it, the bait pops up right in front of that fish’s face, and I think that triggers a lot of bites. I’ve tested the bait a lot with smallmouths and largemouths on a bed, and that ElaZtech floating up hitting the fish in the nose is a lot of times what gets that bite or makes them want to eat it. I have to image it’s the same thing when you’re dragging the bait along the bottom and they follow it.”

The obvious choice for a bait would be a Z-Man Finesse TRD, but a cut-down Strike King Zero will do the trick as well. There are several other Ned baits on the market made of plastic that float (at least to a degree), but Willert favors ElaZtech for both the buoyancy and the durability. Despite water color, green pumpkin is his top choice, day in and day out.

Willert is also picky about the jig head he chooses.

“I like the Swagger Tungsten Flanders Ned Head, because it’s got a good hook, good keeper, but the best part is that it’s tungsten, so that helps with feeling the bottom,” he explains. “I fish the bait really slow. When you’re trying to fish smaller rock patches, it is a bid deal to know when you’re in the strike zone or not.

“I like to throw the smallest jig head I can get away with depending on the conditions. I think a lighter weight helps get more bites, because it’s subtle, but you’re also not going to get hung up as much when you’re fishing rocks. I usually stick with a 1/6-ounce, but if I can throw a 1/10-ounce I will – or on the other side, I’ll go to 1/5-ounce if it’s pretty windy.”

From there, Willert wields a G. Loomis NRX 872S rod matched with a Shimano Stradic Ci4+. He spools up 10-pound PowerPro Super8Slick V2 and ties on either an 8- or 10-pound fluorocarbon leader depending on how big the rocks are or if zebra mussels are present.

 

Slow and steady

Once Willert establishes a spot to fish and has his Ned ready to cast, one of the most important parts of the whole system is to make sure to fish slowly.

“Some people reel in their Ned, some people hop it, but I like to drag it real slow and then at the end of my drag I just kind of shake my rod tip just a little on slack line,” he says. “If the bait is laying on a rock funny or rolled on its side, shaking my rod tip helps the bait to roll upright and help that ElaZtech to float.”

Throwing a small jig with a small piece of plastic on it may not be the first, second or even 10th choice for anglers looking to load up on late-summer largemouths, but Willert is just fine with that. That leaves more fish for him. If the fishing is getting tough or you’re looking to try something new, grab some Ned supplies and see what happens. You’ll likely be in for a big surprise. 

Tags: weed-line  -rocks  -ned-rig  kyle-wood  tips-and-techniques 

Au Best in the West

Au Best in the West

While 2020 has been a year to forget for many people, Tai Au will cherish it forever. Though Au has dabbled in Toyota Series competition over the span of nearly a decade, this was the first year he went all-in to fish the entire division. In doing so, he won the season opener on Lake Havasu, banked a top 10 on the California Delta and closed it out with another win on Clear Lake to handily win the Western Division Strike King Angler of the Year title. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from the Potomac

Top 10 Baits from the Potomac

Some of the top 10 pros chose a power approach to cover vast stretches of grass, while others slowed down with some of the finesse tactics that always seem to play on the Potomac. READ MORE »

Maupin Takes Potomac Title

Maupin Takes Potomac Title

The dock talk all week at the Potomac River for the Toyota Series Eastern Division event was that fishing was tough. That rang true again today as the wind help stall the tide making things tough for most of the top 10. James Maupin, however, kept his streak of consistency alive as he weighed his third 13-pound-plus limit of the week to move from second to first with 40 pounds, 11 ounces overall. For the win, Maupin earns his first FLW trophy and over $24,000.  READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 3

Potomac Midday Update – Day 3

Clouds have lingered throughout the morning, which most of the top 10 were thankful for as the bite has been better than it was during practice when conditions were calm and sunny. READ MORE »

Roten Best from the Back on the Potomac

Roten Best from the Back on the Potomac

James Roten has had a phenomenal year as a co-angler on the Toyota Series. He started it off with a top 10 in the Central Division event on Lake Chickamauga back in February. Then, weeks later he finished second on Hartwell to kick off the Eastern Division. Now, the 53-year-old mechanic claimed the top prize in just his fourth Toyota Series event ever. READ MORE »

Vaughan Cruising at the Potomac

Vaughan Cruising at the Potomac

The leaderboard definitely saw some shuffling on day two of the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River, but Wayne Vaughan managed to keep the top spot thanks to another solid day. Weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces today, Vaughan’s total now stands at 31-10 and gives him a nearly 5-pound lead over second place. If he can put it together for one more day, Vaughan will take home his second Toyota Series title in just as many years. READ MORE »

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Saturday’s final round will feature drastically different weather with sunshine in the forecast and with it being a weekend there will be plenty of people out enjoying the resource. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 2

Potomac Midday Update – Day 2

Clouds once again greeted the field for day two of the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River and the fish were biting this morning. With low tide this morning around 8:40 a.m. ET – about an hour and a half later than yesterday – more anglers had time to capitalize on the strong bite revolving around that window today. READ MORE »

Vaughan Out Front on the Potomac

Vaughan Out Front on the Potomac

Taking the lead after day one with 17 pounds, Wayne Vaughan separated himself from the rest of the tightly-packed top 10 thanks in large part to his 6-5 kicker. Vaughan’s past experience on the river is playing a role this week, but a bite like that helps the cause almost anywhere in the country. READ MORE »

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

September is a tough time to fish almost any body of water and while the Potomac River may not be showing its true colors for the second stop of the Toyota Series Eastern Division the top pros are making do. Wayne Vaughan dropped 17 pounds on the scale to take the lead thanks in large part to his 6-5 kicker. Behind him, however, is a pack of hungry pros – some locals, some not – separated by just a few pounds with their sights set on fishing in the championship round. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 1

Potomac Midday Update – Day 1

It was a gloomy start to the first day of competition for the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River, and though it seems like a fishy day, so far the fish don’t seem to think so. READ MORE »

Top 10 Locked for Championship Round

Top 10 Locked for Championship Round

The Knockout Round of the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota was a good one, with plenty of fish caught by most everyone, especially the anglers in the top 10. Winning the round, Spencer Shuffield caught 25 bass for 86 pounds, 10 ounces. Behind him, Joey Cifuentes tallied over 77 pounds, and Grae Buck, Bradford Beavers, Casey Scanlon and Rusty Salewske all banked over 60 pounds. READ MORE »

Mitchell’s First Look at Sturgeon Bay

Mitchell’s First Look at Sturgeon Bay

Having fished as a pro on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit for five years now, Kurt Mitchell started coming into his own during the 2019 season. That year he qualified for the FLW Cup – for the first time in his career – by finishing 24th in the points. This year, Mitchell kept rolling along cashing checks in five of the six Pro Circuit tournaments to settle at 31st in the points and now finds himself in his second straight championship. READ MORE »

Hall Secures ROY

Hall Secures ROY

Kyle Hall entered the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season with 28 other rookies looking to set the tone for their future in professional bass fishing. While Hall wasn’t necessarily keen on trying to win the Polaris Rookie of the Year title, making four straight day-three (or better) cuts to end the season helped earn the Granbury, Texas rookie the top honor, along with a Polaris Ranger 1000. Not a bad tone to set for a 23-year-old.  READ MORE »

Day Three on Erie with Gelles

Day Three on Erie with Gelles

Hailing from Pingree, Idaho, Kyle Gelles is about to wrap up his first season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. Currently, he sits 56th in the Angler of the Year standings, and with a solid finish this week could punch his ticket to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit TITLE presented by Toyota on Sturgeon Bay in a few weeks. READ MORE »

Cruising Erie with Wall

Cruising Erie with Wall

In his second year as a professional on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, Jacob Wall finds himself in a position he never thought possible with one event left in the regular season. This week, Wall will not only have a chance to win the final Pro Circuit Super Tournament of the year on Lake Erie, but he’ll also be competing for one of the most coveted titles in the sport as he sits second in the Pro Circuit points race – Angler of the Year. READ MORE »

TITLE Bubble Watch

TITLE Bubble Watch

There’s a lot at stake in the final Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Erie. Aside from someone taking home the $125,000 top prize, Angler of the Year and Polaris Rookie of the Year will be crowned. But there is another important thing to be settled on Erie: finalizing the field for the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota on Sturgeon Bay. The top 50 anglers in the points will qualify, and while some are already just about locked in, others will need to fish down to the wire. READ MORE »

Summertime Shootout on Tap at Wheeler

Summertime Shootout on Tap at Wheeler

Summertime on the Tennessee River may not be the prime time to hit the water, but the second stop of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division on Wheeler Lake will certainly showcase how diverse of a fishery it can be when the tournament takes place July 30 - Aug. 1. READ MORE »

Looking Ahead to the Mississippi River 

Looking Ahead to the Mississippi River 

With just two events left in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season, it’s time to turn attention to the northern part of the country. Presented by OPTIMA Batteries, the Pro Circuit Super Tournament on the Mississippi River out of Stoddard, Wis., will not only crown a winner with a $125,000 payday but also shape the Angler of the Year race. READ MORE »

Review: Favorite Soleus XCS

Review: Favorite Soleus XCS

Favorite Fishing stormed the rod market a few years back and has held its own against even the most established brands. Now, the company is diving into the reel market with the launch of their new baitcasting lineup this past fall – with the Favorite Soleus XCS leading the charge. READ MORE »