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Rigging Options
A Quick Review of Fundamental Rigging Options

By Russ Bassdozer

You know what I am thinking? Maybe this is a good time to review a number of basic rigging options, starting from the lightest to the heaviest. Do you think so? I think an article here is a good way to put various rigging options into context.

Let's start with the smallest, lightest bait rigs and incrementally step up from there, okay? Nothing fancy, just bass rigs you basically make with a bait, a weight and a hook. So here goes.

Flatlining finesse baits. Let's just say that a weightless bait is the purest form of rigging. I call this "flatlining". You use only the weight of the bait/hook to propel it on the cast and to sink it to bottom. First let's focus on weightless finesse. Things you might rig weightless include a 3" Fin-S-Fish, 3" Reaper or thin 4" weenie worm for instance. There are also bigger 4" to 6" weightless soft jerkbaits too, and we will talk about them later in this article. But for right now, we're talking finesse baits, which usually means size #1 or #2 hooks for rigging finesse, possibly a slightly heavier #1/0 for weightless finesse baits. You never really want to bulk up too much on the hook as a means to add weight to these diminutive baits. You will kill their floating/gliding action if you do that.

Always remember that a modern thin wire hook is the key to all forms of finesse fishing. Today's modern hooks - Gamakatsu, Owner, VMC - are composed of high strength steel which allows the wire to be strong but thin. The thinness allows many finesse fish to practically hook themselves on 8-10 lb. test or lighter spinning gear. So, do not go to a thick hook as a means to add weight to a bait. A thick hook will only make it hard if not impossible to set the hook. Instead, you can insert little snips of "nail weights" or lead solder wire into the bait for more weight, but just like hooks that are too heavy, insert weights can also deaden the action of small finesse baits.

Split shot rigs. Rather than stick snips of solder or nail weights into a bait, you can better preserve the unweighted action of the bait with a split shot. Simply tie a hook on the end of your line, bait up and pinch a split shot 18" to 24" above the hook. I always start with several of the smallest size of shots, adding and removing them to zero in on the "ideal" weight - which depends on depth, drift and FALL RATE, which is the speed at which bass want the bait to fall down to them. Even in running water, your bait should ideally fall down to them as it drifts. More than half of the bass you catch will pick up your bait on the fall, and it is so important that you zero in on the fall rate which bass want at any given moment. If you do not get bit on the fall, then most of the other half of the bites you get will be within the first 20 to 30 seconds that you just let the bait lie motionless wherever it falls - but remember, it was the FALL RATE which attracted these delayed biters over to your bait in the first place! So, I use small shots to precisely tune into the fall rate, after which I prefer to use one single larger split shot after I have discovered the proper weight that falls best.

There are two models of shots. EARED shots are easiest to add/remove when you are trying to calibrate the weight. Some anglers claim that eared shot snag on bottom more easily than ROUND shot, and that eared shot spin and twist the line worse than round shot when you get impatient and reel line in too quickly in order to make a new cast.

There are two kinds of "lead" too - soft and hard. Hard shots include some tin or other additive metal. Some anglers claim a hard shot will stay where you pinched it on the line whereas soft shot are prone to slip down or fall off the line when you drag them through snags. This is true, but I would rather have a soft shot fall off the line rather than have a hard shot bite into it too sharply.

Personally, I prefer Water Gremlin soft lead shots. Water Gremlin's are manufactured with a molded-in hinge area, flattened "jaws", smoother edges and better overall quality than most other split shots. If I get frustrated with the shot sliding down the line, then I simply superglue the shot in place.

Mojo rigs. The Mojo weights are a heavier step up from split shots. In it's pure form, the Mojo Rig is yet another California-born finesse tactic for 8-10 lb. test spinning gear and small "finesse" plastics. The Mojos come in a variety of sizes from 1/16 through 1/4 oz. The weight is shaped as a thin pencil lead. It is used on bottoms where there are weeds and other occasional snags. Some anglers say the thin Mojo sinker will slink through weeds and slip through snags better than a split shot or bullet weight. Also, some anglers are concerned that splitshots pinch and nick their lines, and leave them vulnerable to losing big bass that break their weakened lines. Therefore, they like Mojos, because a Mojo weight is part of a complete system which includes rubber strands to cushion the line from potential damage.

How you rig a Mojo is that first you slide your weight on the line. Then use a threader tool to pull rubber strands in one end and out the other end of the weight. Tie an offset shank hook to the line and slide the weight about 18" up the line. The rubber strands hold the Mojo securely in place so it will not easily slip down the line when it comes through snags.

Needle Nose weights. The next "step up" the rigging ladder is a Water Gremlin Needle Nose weight.  Picture a golf tee with a hole running through it. That's what a Water Gremlin Needle Nose weight looks like! The nose is thinner than a Mojo's nose, but the butt flares out. It is a quality made weight with smooth hole edges. It comes in comparable light weights like a Mojo (1/16, 3/16, 1/8, 1/4, etc.) plus the Needle Nose comes heavier too. Also just like a Mojo, the Needle Nose snakes through grass and snags. I simply thread the line through it. Break a toothpick off in its butt. Make sure you break it off by bending it AWAY from your line. If you want to slide it around as you fish, the wood will swell with water in a few minutes...and you can usually slide it down closer towards the bait without causing the toothpick to loosen up too badly. If you want to lock it in place, use a drop of Zap-A-Gap. Unlike other superglues, you do not have to wait a few seconds with Zap-a-Gap which still continues to harden even under water and with wet parts!

Our next step up practically takes us beyond the range of finesse fishing with 8-10-12 lb. test gear....except if we are plummeting down deeper beyond 30' in clear water. In deep clear water, we may keep the tiny finesse baits and 8-10 lb. test gear. Otherwise, this next level deals with 12 lb. test tackle, using light Carolina and Texas rigs to prospect for bass where we may encounter light to medium weed and wood cover. In these areas, we are probably going to use "average" size as opposed to "finesse" baits. Examples of average size baits are 4" Gitzits, 4" grubs, worms like Yamamoto 7 Series cut tail or 6 Series ribbon tails.

Mini Carolina rigs on 12 lb. test use 1/4 to 1/2 oz. weights are the practical delivery method. At this weight and in the slightly snaggy places we intend to use them, a swivel and leader trace almost becomes required equipment. Simply thread a bullet or egg weight onto your main line, often followed by a glass bead which makes a click. Then tie on a swivel which serves as a "stop" to prevent the constant friction from cover contact that would otherwise slowly but surely slide any other kind of "pegged" or "pinched" weight down the line towards the bait. The leader length is 18" to 24" most of the time.

Rubber core sinkers. If there is a smoother bottom without constant friction, an easier alternative is a Water Gremlin Rubbercore weight. You do not have to tie it on because it has rubber ears to simply twist it onto the line. As mentioned above about eared split shot, a rubber core can also make a great tool to allow you to initially calibrate the weight as well as the leader length. Once you get the weight/length figured out, then you can use the traditional swivels, beads, leader traces and egg weights to make a proper Carolina rig. As you may have noticed by now, I am making a distinction between Water Gremlin and other weights. Due to the production quality and smoother edges, Water Gremlin products damage your line less than some others.

Unpegged mini Texas rigs typically range under 1/4 oz. Wherever possible with a mini Texas rig, leave the bullet weight unpegged to slide up and down the line, thereby providing more unpredictable action to the bait. For "shaking" or "doodling" a bait, an unpegged brass weight and glass bead may be used to create an attractive clicking noise.

Pegged mini Texas rigs. When faced with thick weeds or snags, the Texas rig must be made more weedless/snagless with a toothpick broken off in its butt to peg the bullet weight right against the head of the bait.

Flatlining soft jerk baits. Around this 12 to 15 lb. test line range, we can also talk about rigging "standard" sizes of weightless soft plastic jerkbaits. We are talking about 4" Venom Skip Shads, 4" Zoom Flukes, 5" Super Flukes, 5" Bass Assassins, 6" Slug-gos, several sizes of 4" to 6" Yamamoto Senkos. In fact, practically every manufacturer makes one or more big jerks - and most of them work! It is often recommended that you use a leader trace about 18" and a free-turning swivel to help eliminate some of the inevitable line twist as your weightless baits rolls when it is twitched too sharply or retrieved too quickly. Like we talked about earlier, you can insert little snips of "nail weights" or lead solder wire into the bait for more weight.

If we step up and over this line, we will find ourselves in heavy cover where we need more power than finesse. We've stepped across to 15 to 20 lb. test line, heavier gear and medium to large baits and hooks. Weights can range from 3/8 up to 1 oz. We will either Texas rig with pegged bullet weights, Florida rig with screw-in weights, or Carolina rig with egg-shaped weights.

This concludes our quick tour of basic rigging options. We've covered them all, and you should learn and use them well. Please use your back arrow button to exit.

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