Skip to main content

Bass Rig Tweaks of the Experts

Adaptations of classic soft-plastic rigs can unlock the bite when original versions fall short.

Bass Rig Tweaks of the Experts

Sometimes classic soft-plastic bass rigs can use a tune-up. Experimenting with a few tweaks helps make them more effective. (Photo by Bruce Ingram)


The Texas, Carolina, wacky and drop-shot rigs remain linchpins for all three major black bass species, But sometimes even these tried-and-true setups fail to fool fish. That’s when a few judicious tweaks can mean the difference between a poor day on the water and an epic one. Here’s how some of the East’s premier bass anglers revise their favorite rigs.

John Crews’ Wacky Drop-Shot Rig

Through his years as a B.A.S.S. pro, John Crews, of Salem, Va., has often had to alter his gameplan in order to stay in the hunt during a tournament. One of his moments of inspiration resulted in his wacky drop-shot rig.

“One of the huge advantages of a wacky rig is that it allows a worm to compress and un-compress as it falls,” he says. “That movement really gets a bass going. I would guess that over 90 percent of drop-shot anglers don’t ever consider using a wacky worm with that rig, though it’s true that the vast majority of standard drop-shot plastic baits aren’t conducive to my rig. That’s because they’re typically heavier on the front end than the back.

“I tie on [a Missile Baits] 4-inch Mini Magic Worm for the wacky drop-shot rig. The worm is proportional in weight front to back, so when I rig it with the standard hook in the middle, I get the compressing action that’s so awesome. I especially like this rig in open water and where bass have seen a lot of soft-plastic lures rigged in the standard ways like the Texas rig.”

Last year during a B.A.S.S. tournament on Michigan’s Lake St.Clair, the Virginia pro was struggling until he turned to the wacky drop-shot and ended up weighing in a limit. He shared his success with a friend who subsequently landed the biggest bass of the event’s third day. The successful pattern for Crews involved working the Mini Magic through 10 to 14 feet of water that featured scattered grass.

“I also like to pitch the wacky drop-shot around dock pilings,” says Crews. “There are always bass around those pilings, but everybody knows that, so those fish get a lot of pressure. Again, a little something different can get you bites and bass that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

Crews uses a 7-foot-4-inch Cashion Drop Shot Rod, a Daiwa Ballistic reel, 12-pound-test Sunline AMZ braid and 20 feet of Sunline 8- or 10-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. Crews says that the extremely long leader helps him cast farther, play bass closer to the boat and keep the knot from constantly going up and down through the line guides. Rounding out the rig is a 1/0 Gamakatsu G-Finesse Drop Shot Hook and a 3/8 to 1/2-ounce drop-shot weight placed 12 to 24 inches below the bait.

Richard Furman’s Carolina Bullet Rig

Some 35 years ago, Buchanan, Virginia’s Richard Furman showed me not just how to use soft-plastic baits, but how to maximize my use of them. One of his favorite gambits is to alter a Carolina Rig, which is known for its prowess on over-pressured fish in clear water.

“The Carolina bullet rig really works well in clear water for both lake and river bass that are acting spooky,” says Furman. “Specifically, it works best on flats composed of clay, shale or smaller rocks. The key to this rig is the quarter-ounce bullet slip sinker.”




Furman runs the bullet sinker 18 to 20 inches up the fluorocarbon line if he is on a river and maybe as much as 3 feet on impoundments. The reason for the difference is that it is much easier to use and cast a 7-foot, medium-action spinning rod (his preferred length and action for this rig) on a lake than it is while fishing a river from the confines of a canoe or kayak. In those situations, he opts for a 6-foot-8-inch spinning rod.

angler unhooking bass
The Carolina bullet rig works best when fishing for smallmouths. Rocks and boulders are where smallies hide, and this rig digs them out. (Photo by Bruce Ingram)

He secures the bullet by crimping a small split shot below it. The Virginian warns against pressing the split shot so tight that it nicks the line. Also, don’t use a removable split shot because it does more damage to fluorocarbon. Furman prefers a split shot over the standard C-rig bead because the former is “less obnoxious” and thus will be far less likely to alarm bass. Finally, an advantage of a bullet sinker over the standard C-rig weight is that it’s less likely to snag on the rocky bottoms typically found in the East’s rivers and lakes.

Furman’s favorite soft plastic for this setup is a 4- or 6-inch, straight-tailed Roboworm in red crawler, which is close to the hue of a nightcrawler. He prefers the 4-incher if he wants a more subtle presentation and the bass seem less inclined to hit. The 6-incher, which flexes more aggressively, gets the nod if bass seem more active. Start with the bigger bait, as it helps eliminate smaller fish. Rounding out the rig is 15-pound-test braid with 12 feet of 6- or 8-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.

Recommended


The Carolina bullet rig excels on lake points, according to Furman.

“Throw this rig across or down a point,” he says. “It’s especially effective on bluebird days when you know the fish are there but they won’t bite. Make sure the bullet weight stays in contact with the bottom because this rig is no good if the weight is riding up.

“On a river throw the rig across the current or slightly upstream as you drift downstream. I don’t start the retrieve until I feel the bullet sinker hit bottom. Also, when possible, look for places like eddies, deep-water ledges and large rocks and even boulders. Cast beyond those targets so the rig has dropped before you get to your target.”

John Lipetz’s Modified Texas Rig

John Lipetz, of Fairfax County, Va., operates Fish and Explore, whose mission is to enhance various outdoor experiences through guided education for both youths and adults. His go-to bass rig tweak is to modify the standard Texas rig with a pegged sinker.

“The classic Texas rig is known for being effective around cover,” he says. “But if the bass are feeding in open water on baitfish, for example, then I like to change up the rig. I’ll tie on a 3-inch Case Salty Sinking Minnow or a 5-inch Case Salty Shad, and rig it weightless Texas-style with either a 3/0 or 4/0 Owner J-hook.

Lipetz will add 1/8- or 1/16-ounce weights in the head and tail of the bait if he wants it to fall horizontally—the heavier weight for a swifter descent or if current or deeper water exists. If he wants his offerings to fall vertically (tail down), he will insert a nail weight in the tail or the heavier of the two weights in the hind end. For both scenarios, Lipetz will jig the minnow imitations up and down as they fall and afterwards to keep them off the substrate. Sometimes Lipetz goes through other weight combinations just to figure out what the fish want. The goal is to create the illusion that a struggling minnow is striving to rise upward.

The guide opts for a 6-foot-8-inch, medium-light spinning outfit with 10-pound braid as backing. He’ll go with a 7-foot-long, 8- to 12-pound-test mono leader depending on water clarity and season. This rig is most effective in clear, high-pressure water where baitfish are active.

angler and bass
A weedless jig Texas rig is more buoyant than the weighted rig most anglers are familiar with. It’s typically fished with a light jighead. (Photo by Bruce Ingram)

Tommy Cundiff’s Weedless Jig Texas Rig

Tommy Cundiff, of Bluefield, W.Va., operates River Monster Guide Service and offers his own version of the Texas rig.

“When fishing a Texas jig, I’m typically trying to decrease weight yet present a bait that performs well in moving water,” he says. “In doing that, I still want to make sure that I’m getting my bait to the target depth. In current that can be difficult, I’ll use a VMC Finesse Weedless jig in a 1/8 or 3/16-ounce weight (depending on current flow or the depth in a lake) and place a Berkeley Max Scent Hit Worm directly on the hook as you would a Ned rig.

“This is a buoyant bait, but paired with the weighted jig head, it has a slow, natural fall that bass can’t resist. If the bass are continuously pulling the worm down the hook after a catch, I’ll glue the bait to the head using just a drop of Avid Anglers Solution Glue. Typically, you want to match the color to the forage the bass are eating or whatever’s most prevalent in the water you are fishing.”

For this rig, Cundiff utilizes a 6-foot 9-inch, medium-fast St. Croix Legend Elite with a Shimano Vanford 3000 reel and 8-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon.

NEW SOFT PLASTICS

  • Give these offerings a try on your tweaked rigs this season.
bass lures
Yamamoto's Yama Craw (left) and (from right top to bottom) Case Plastic Floating LIL Pintail, Rapala Ned BL and Missile Baits Bomba 3.5.

Alex Watts, inventory specialist for Missile Baits, believes the company’s new Bomba 3.5 can be worked on a variety of rigs such as the shaky head, Ned, Carolina and Texas.

“The Bomba is in the category of baits designed like a crawfish without any pinchers or legs,” he says. “Basically, it performs like a cross between a Senko and a Ned rig-type bait. The Bomba falls slowly and it wanders and glides as it goes. Rig it on a 4/0 or 5/0 EWG hook.”

Rapala’s new CrushCity baits come in five categories of soft plastics. The Bronco Bug features several different rolling and rippling actions, especially when jigged. The Freeloader works best as a trailer for chatter baits and spinnerbaits. The Ned BLT floats high and displays excellent action, even in still water. Another entry is the Cleanup Craw with its upside-down legs and kicking action. Finally, the Mayor can be worked liked a swimming shad or baitfish.

Yamamoto’s 3-and 4-inch Yama Craw features the company’s “soft feel,” plus the claws rise upward when the bait hits bottom. The 4-inch version comes in 25 colors while the 3-incher is available in 19 hues.

Case Plastic’s Greg Cullen recommends his 4 1/2-inch Floating LIL Pintail.

“It floats and has a 3/4-inch whip tail, making it a great bait for a Ned or drop-shot rig or for vertical jigging,” he says. You’ll catch many species of fish—bass, walleyes and perch, to name a few.”


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Minnesota Double Down: First Visit to New Farm Goes Perfectly

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Fishing in the Wind

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

She Kills The Biggest Bird of the Year

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Unlock the Patterns Squarebill Crankbaits

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Tips for Cooking Over an Open Fire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Videos

How to Build the Perfect Campfire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

First Morning: Father/Son Iowa Turkey Double

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Shot the Same Bird! UP of Michigan Double Down

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

Work and Play: Merriam's Turkeys in Wyoming

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester Waterfowl Loads

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester .400 Legend

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now