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3 Wacky Rig Variations for Spring Bass

The traditional wacky rig, neko rig and flick shake rig are similar in ways, but each is distinctive. Learn when to choose each and how to use all to catch more bass.

You know the wacky rig, and you’ve likely at least heard talk about the neko rig and flick shake rig. You may not know that neko and flick shake rigs are variations of a wacky rig, each with different applications but with definite similarities.

Seeking a better understanding of these three highly effective rigs and when to use each for early spring bass fishing, we went straight to Frank Scalish, best known in the bass fishing world as Uncle Frank. The popular host of Day 4 on Bass Talk Live and former Bassmaster Elite Series pro uses all three rigs at times, with the depth of the water he is working being the largest determinant of which one he picks up.

For all three rigs, Scalish’s primary bait is a 5-inch YUM Dinger. However, he also makes use for YUM Finesse Worms and 4-inch Dingers for various wacky rig applications.

He fishes all three rigs on a 7-foot, 4-inch medium to medium-heavy spinning rod with 10-pound-test braided line and a 7- to 8-foot fluorocarbon leader.

Wacky Rig

wacky rig and flick shake rigwacky rig and flick shake rig

An original wacky rig is simply a plastic worm or stickbait, hooked right in the middle, with no weight added to the worm or the line. Scalish uses a 2/0 finesse hook.

Scalish chooses the Wacky rig for fishing water that is less than 4 feet deep, with primary spring applications being pre-spawn and post spawn bass fishing. With this rig it’s all about the bait’s slow, undulating fall through the water column.

Scalish pointed toward shallow boat docks and grass flats as excellent areas for working a wacky rig. He’ll cast to a key spot, which could be a dock support, a hole in a grass flat or some other distinctive spot, and let the bait fall, sometimes shaking it as it drops. If it hits bottom, he’ll lift the rod tip so the bait can fall again. Most fish hit as the bait is falling, whether on the initial drop of after he lifts it and lets it fall again.

Sometimes the fish will grab the bait and run off, making a strike obvious. Often, though, the only indication of a bite will be the bait stopping its fall before it reaches the bottom. Therefore, it’s critical to pay attention to how long it takes the bait to reach bottom, according to the depth, and recognizing the difference when it stops before it hits the bottom.

Flick Shake Rig

The key difference between a standard wacky rig and a flick shake rig is the latter is done with a special weighted hook, speeding up the fall slightly and altering the falling action. Scalish usually uses 3/32 ounce, but if it’s windy, he’ll occasionally upsize to 1/8 ounce of weight.

Depth-wise, the flick shake begins where the wacky rig ends for Scalish, with water that is 4 feet or deeper. Of these three rigs, it is the one he uses the most frequently.

Scalish likes a flick shake for working deeper boat docks that have around 15 feet of water around the outside posts. He’ll skip his bait under the dock to get it up in the shallow end and then work it down the slope under the dock.

He likes the flick shake for working grass edges and even for working down into the top of the vegetation. Because of the way the hook is weighted, this rig falls with the hook facing up, which reduces the likelihood of snagging grass as the bait falls.

The shake in the name flick shake refers to subtle twitches of the rod tip as the bait is sinking that break up the falling action and at times are the key to triggering strikes.

Neko Rig

angler catching bassangler catching bass

For the neko rig, Scalish hooks his worm about 1/3 of the way from the bait’s nose with the same hook he uses for traditional wacky rigging, and he inserts a nail weight into the nose of the bait, varying the length of the nail weight based on the depth and speed he wants his offing to fall.

A neko rig falls headfirst, because of the weighting, and spirals as it drops. Scalish generally uses a neko rig in five or more feet of water, especially in situations where he wants to work his lure close to the bottom.

That said, Scalish warned against getting too bottom focused when you’re fishing a neko rig. Bass sometimes will hit a bait rigged this way as soon as it begins falling or somewhere in-between, so if you’re mindset is working the bottom and you’re not watching the line during the initial fall, you’re apt to miss opportunities to catch fish.

Added Fish Catching Notes

For any of these techniques, paying attention to what triggers strikes is the key to fishing efficiently and catching the most fish possible. If Scalish notices that all the fish are hitting his bait before it ever finds bottom, he doesn’t want to waste time lifting and dropping the bait several times. However, if most bites are coming as he works it near the bottom, that’s where he keeps his bait for as long as possible with every cast.

Finally, it’s worth noting that a couple of the rigs or even all three sometimes work well in the same day and even in the same area. Because of differences in bank slopes, even within the same creek arm or pocket, specific spots vary a lot in character. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have rods rigged with the same bait but different rigs on the deck of the boat, making it easy to fish any depth effectively. And, because there is some overlap in effective depths, that also helps you pattern the bass more effectively any given day.

flick shake rig in waterflick shake rig in water