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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 12, 2012
In reality black bass anglers have been wacky rigging soft plastic baits i.e. hooking their worms in non traditional places, typically directly amidships for decades, but the technique didn’t start getting widespread recognition until the Gary Yamamoto’s Senko hit the angling scene. It didn’t take long for the word to spread that a wacky rigged Senko pitched near bass holding cover gets gobbled up as quickly as a jelly donut at a Weight Watchers meeting!
I’ll admit that for the first couple years I fished wacky rigged worms, I didn’t want to be seen doing it. A worm with a completely exposed hook pinned in the center of the body, its ends flapping to and fro just doesn’t look right. When you are working a Spook you look like a pro, but when someone sees a wacky rig at the end of the line they could easily assume you’ve never fished before just by the appearance of the bait…
But alas you can’t swim against the current. As silly as I think a wacky rigged worm looks, the bass think it looks fine, actually better then fine since they have a very tough time laying off them.
For a long time wacky fishing was a weightless shallow water approach employed when the bass played hard to get. Typically it was seen as a light line spinning rod technique. A lot of this remains true, but bass anglers being what they are, namely guys with way too much time on their hands, have done a lot of experimenting with wacky style riggings over the past several years and the approach has been expanded significantly.
These days a wide spectrum of tackle is used for fishing water that ranges from super shallow to super deep, cover choked water to water with no cover at all and a range of baits are employed. Heck there are even companies out there creating baits specifically intended to be rigged and fished wacky style.
Last year I really became immersed in fishing wacky rigs and I caught more bass than I ever had. If it ain’t broke you don’t need to break out the tool chest and as a result I’m anticipating using wacky rigs even more this year than I did last year. In the balance of this article I’m going to share the wacky approaches I used last year and talk about some new wacky angles that I plan on using this year.
I spend most of my bass fishing time plying reservoirs. Last year my go to rig was a 4 or 5 inch amber or green colored Senko wacky rigged on a small mosquito style hook. I rig the bait using a method dubbed the Pag Rig (see the accompanying photo) shown to me by pro guide Don Paganelli. It is a variation of the exposed hook wacky rigging that makes the bait weedless and also makes it more prone to sliding up the line when you fight a fish, rather than being torn off the hook and lost. This is an important consideration when you consider how expensive Senkos have become.
I fished my Senkos on traditional tackle, a 7 foot medium fast action spinning rod armed with 8 pound test fluorocarbon line. With this rig I would cast the Senko into a likely looking area and allow it to sink on a semi-tight line. If it made the bottom without being picked off, I would hop it up off the bottom and allow it to fall back down a few times, before retrieving it and casting again.
When I wasn’t deadsticking Senkos I spent a fair amount of time drop shotting using a two hook, two bait rig. On my upper hook, I typically went with a 3 or 4 inch baitfish colored worm wacky hooked and on the lower hook I nearly always relied on a 6 inch Witches T colored Robo Worm also pinned wacky style.
When dead sticking a Senko less is more in terms of manipulating the bait. The same is true for drop shotting wacky rigged worms. I would pitch the rig up into shallower water, draw the line tight and shake the rod tip a bit. If no strikes occurred I’d pulling the rig deeper, tighten and shake. That was the whole approach. At some point I’d feel a tap or two, reel set the hook and I’d have a fish on…Once I had two fish on!
Some of the variations to the wacky approach that are currently being used are heavy tackle experiments employing huge worms and creature baits rigged directly to heavy braid for use in thick cover. Such heavy tackle riggings seem well tailored for the Delta and Clear Lake. I don’t black bass fish in such water very often, so I’m more interested in approaches that allow you to fish a wacky rig deeper. This is where we enter the domain of the wacky jig head.
If there is no wind you can fly line a weightless wacky Senko down 30 or 40 feet with no problem using spinning gear, but even without wind it takes nerves of steel to fish that deep simply because it takes so long for your lure to get into the strike zone.
Some anglers employ nail weights inserted into the ends of their Senkos and worms and heavier hooks to get their baits down more quickly. While these approaches work, they seem makeshift at best. Last year I did some experimenting, rigging Senkos and other baits wacky style on jig heads ranging from 1/8 to 3/8 of an ounce and I’ve got to say that I’m intrigued with the results. This winter I’ve spent some time reading about wacky style jig/soft plastic fishing and it is a technique that I’ll make more use of this season.
A Senko or Robo Worm wacky rigged on a Zappu head is excellent for dropping on suspended fish. They hit it on the drop and they hit it if you close your bail and shake it suspended in open water. Since you are using a jig head the weight of the rig helps you fish more efficiently when the breeze kicks in.
The wacky Zappu marriage also works when working steep shorelines such as those found at Shasta, Bullards Bar and Lake Oroville. In this situation you can use Senkos, worms OR creature baits. I’m going to experiment a lot with creature style baits for two reasons. One I hope to show the bass something they don’t see everyday…a wacky rigged creature and two we spend a lot of time trying to mimic and injured baitfish, why not try to mimic a crawfish in distress?
Anyhow when working a steep back shoot the rig up shallow, allow it to sink and then shake it on the bottom. After you’ve shaken it for a while without results hop the rig up and out and then allow it to fall. It’s going to drop for several feet before coming to rest. At that point shake, wait and repeat. This is a really quick and efficient way of determining how deep the bass are holding on any given day.
In addition, to using jig heads there is one other variation on the wacky rig I’ll be playing with. I absolutely love fishing with flukes and I catch a fair amount of fish on them using the traditional rip and deadstick approach. When fishing steep banks, near vertical walls or in areas that seem to hold suspended fish I want to wacky rig flukes and fish them vertically. To accomplish this I’m going to try wacky hooking them and then applying a split shot or two on the line 18 inches from the bait to get them down, but I’ll also try using jig heads of various weights.
I’m not going to apply any action to the baits. I’m just going to pitch them out and allow them to fall on a semi-slack line. Water pressure will cause the bait to vibrate and hopefully the bass will jump all over it the same way they would a dying shad.
Those are my wacky plans for 2011. If you haven’t gotten into wacky style fishing yet, give it a shot, more likely than not you’ll end up like me with a severe case of wacky fever!
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