Randall Tharp Explains How to Fish the Neko Rig

photo by James Overstreet / B.A.S.S

The Neko Rig is one of the hottest finesse fishing techniques right now for bass. Here, Bassmaster Elite Pro Randall Tharp explains this very cool technique, shares what the rig consists of and all you need to know about this versatile presentation.

What is a Neko Rig?

fishing shop bannerIn simple terms, a Neko Rig is a wacky-rigged, nail-weighted worm. The combination of a weighted worm and a midsection hook position gives the rig a unique action that Tharp says gets fish to react when nothing else will.
“It allows that worm to be presented in a manner that you cannot possibly do with any other rigging set up, like a Texas-rig, or a shaky head, or any type of jig head,” Tharp said. “What that Neko Rig does is it allows that worm to have a totally different action and that I believe is what separates it from all the other finesse techniques I would say are in that same category.”

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Tharp fishes the Neko Rig on a 7’ fast action, medium spinning rod with 10-pound, white braid tied zoom finess worms150to a 6- to 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.

3 Simple Steps to Tharp’s Neko Rig

An example of Tharp’s secret wepon, the Neko Rig set-up is as follows:

1. He slides an "O"ring on to the midsection of a Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm, Finesse Worm, Swamp Crawler, Magnum Trick Worm, or Trick Worm. The ring helps the hook and bait stay connected, reducing lost soft-plastics.

neko rig 1
#2. VMC Neko Fishing Weight has conical ribs, which secures the weight without damaging a plastic worm

Next, a VMC Neko Fishing Weight is inserted into the head of the worm. This must be as straight as possible as kinking the worm’s head can cause it to spiral.

3. Finally, the worm is skin hooked under the "O"ring with a size 1 or 1/0 VMC Neko Fishing Hook. It’s positioned so that the hook shank runs inline with the worm’s body, not sideways like a wacky rigged worm.

“I always thread the hook from the head of the worm to the top of the worm, so you’re hook point is basically facing up,” Tharp said. “I find it to be a lot more weedless that way. I also find your hook-up percentage is better that way.”

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Tharp selects weight based on several factors, including: depth, calm versus windy conditions, and worm size, to name a few. The VMC Neko Fishing WeightVMC Neko Fishing Weight comes in 1/32, 1/16, 3/32 and 1/8 ounce sizes. 

neko rig hook weight250
 #Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm Be sure the hook shank is inline with the worm’s body when Neko Rigging.


Neko Hook Position

Where the hook is positioned along a worm impacts the Neko Rig’s action. Tharp prefers it near the worm’s midsection. “I want it to be in the center of the worm where the worm has the most resistance when you twitch it,” Tharp said.

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Look for a new VMC Weedless Neko Hook to be available following its official release at ICAST this July. 


Fishing the Neko Rig

The Neko Rig is versatile. Tharp fishes it around cover and structure ranging from two to 30 feet of water. Here’s his simple three step process.

1. Following a cast, the Neko Rig is allowed to sink on slack line. This is essential for the rig to fall straight down. Tip: watch the line as strikes often occur on the fall.

2. On bottom the worm rests head first the tail floating up, which in an of itself is an allure sight to bass. Then, Tharp raises the rig a foot or two using two or three short pops of the rod tip. Then lets it fall on slack line. This causes the worm to glide backwards as it sinks, an action that bass can’t resist biting.

neko worm in water2a3. “Sometimes I will drag that bait along the bottom and then do it again,” Tharp said. “Say I’m trying to work an area that’s 10 yards long, or under a dock.… But more or less, you’re trying to catch a fish off a specific spot. So, I’ll let that bait go down and I’ll twitch it a couple times and if that fish doesn’t get it, then I’ll reel it in and make another cast.”

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: While covering water isn’t in the Neko Rig’s DNA, it has the power to attract fish from a distance in water with good visibility.


Tharp’s Knot Tip

In 10 feet of water or less, Tharp matches his fluorocarbon leader length to the depth he’s fishing, such as tying a six foot leader when plying six feet of water. Tharp uses a uni-to-uni knot to join white-colored braid to his fluoro leader with the Neko Rig. He uses 10 pound Lew's APT Braid with a 6 to 10 pound Lew's fluorocarbon leader. The goal is for white fishing braid’s connection knot to be visible on the water surface.

“That knot is almost like watching a bobber,” Tharp said. “As I pitch the bait to its target and it hits and it’s falling, I can watch that knot move away from me and then as soon as that knot stops moving, you know your bait is on the bottom.… and obviously when you get a strike, you know it instantly.”

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Don’t count on the the Neko Rig in stained and muddy water.“It’s a visual technique,” Tharp said. “The fish have to be able to see it or they’re not going to bite it.”

uni uni knot2

1 arrow pointExtra Tip: Using the Uni-Knot to Join Two Fishing Lines


1 arrow pointExtra Tip: For using 10 to 20 pound test line, use upwards of 8 to 10 wraps to tie the uni-to-uni knot


If you haven’t tried the Neko Rig yet, you owe it to yourself to fish it. It’s put a lot of big fish in Bassmaster Elite Pro Randall Tharp’s boat and it can do the same for you.