After watching his friend and fellow competitor on the Bassmaster Elite trail, Brett Hite, nearly win the 2015 Bassmaster Classic by strategically nail-weighting soft plastic baits, Kevin VanDam realized he had some homework to do.
While he’s always been known for his preference to fish fast and efficiently, once KVD delved into this technique, he realized it was right in his wheelhouse.
VanDam’s success fishing belly-weighted hooks on stick worms and Strike King Caffeine Shad are well documented. Today, he insists that the action achieved by inserting a weight strategically into the bait can make a huge difference. He’s discovered that spreading the weight over the span of the body—or in a specific section of the bait—allows soft-plastics to fall and swim better than any rigging set up out there.
Tip the Scales with Tungsten
VanDam’s used penny nails and lead insert weights in the past, but the game changed when he delved into those made of tungsten.
“The real eye opener for me is having the option to use tungsten weights—where you can get a heavy weight in a compact package and you can get them to fit without hindering the bait,” VanDam explained.
They may cost a little more, but by adding a dab of glue before he inserts the tungsten nail weight into the bait, he ensures it’ll never come out—not even on the hardest cast.
Tungsten weights allow Kevin to fish typically unweighted baits much faster and more efficiently than ever before. “It’s almost taken the place of a slip sinker but added to the attributes of the plastic that you are using,” he reasoned.
Clear Things Up
VanDam favors clear water for this rig, as the visual appeal of this presentation is often what triggers fish to bite. “It’s a different application than the Texas-rig or the shaky head, it adds a lot of visual attraction to it,” VanDam said.
There’s no point throwing this rig in 2 feet of water around a dock because the added weight isn’t needed. “It’s more of a power-finesse technique. It allows me to throw a finesse application in a lot deeper water,” VanDam explained.
Fix the Fall
Experimenting is key. VanDam advises that it is important to keep an open mind and try this rig with different baits and different weight placements. Whether inserting a weight into the head, mid-section, or tail of the bait, each facilitates a truly unique action.
The key with any nail-weight rig is letting the bait fall as much as possible. “You let it fall on that initial sink to the bottom and then every time you hop it up letting it fall again,” VanDam explained. “Try to make it fall as much as you can.”
“If I’m going to Texas-rig it, I’m fishing it around a lot of cover like grass, brush or wood. I found that if I stuck a 1/32 Bass Pro Shops tungsten nail weight into the tail of the bait, it falls backwards,” VanDam started. “When you pull the bait with the hook rigged in the front, it comes towards you every time. Yet, when you let it fall, it falls backwards away from you. It has an incredibly unique action.”
Thus far, his favorite bait to nail weight is a Strike King Fat Baby Finesse Worm that he’ll wacky-rig on a Mustad Double Wide dropshot #2 hook with a 3/32 sinker inserted into the head of the bait.
He prefers the short shank and extra-wide gap of the hook as they work really well for thicker baits. While the Fat Baby Finesse worm is soft, it does have some bulk to it. He’ll fish natural colors like green pumpkin and watermelon, but he’s found his best success with morning dawn.
He’ll throw the rig on a 7’4” medium action Quantum Tour KVD Spinning Rod paired with a Quantum Tour KVD Spinning Reel spooled with either 8-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon or braided line. If he’s running braid, he’ll most run 8-pound XPS as a leader.
When it comes to setting the hook, don’t overthink it. Unlike other techniques, you won’t feel the bite or see your line jump. Lift your rod and if you feel weight, cross their eyes.