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Neko Know-How

Kevin VanDam has founded his monumental career on consistency, a principle requiring diverse skill sets that allow him to perform anywhere he fishes.

Kevin VanDam has founded his monumental career on consistency, a principle requiring diverse skill sets that allow him to perform anywhere he fishes. Exemplifying this truth, VanDam has embraced a rig combining elements of two common presentations — the wacky and Texas rig.

We’re talking, of course, about the neko rig.

In simplest terms, a neko rig evolves the wacky rig by moving the hook from a centered perpendicular placement to a parallel orientation with the point facing up. Inserting a nail weight into the bait’s nose increases sink rate and casting distance/accuracy.

“The power of the neko is the way it falls,” VanDam said. “When you wacky rig a worm, it will have a slow fall, and every time you shake it, the worm will have action in the middle.

“When you add weight, it makes the bait fall faster. That’s one of the things I like about the Neko rig — I can put a sizable weight in it and fish it almost at the speed of a Texas rig with the action of a wacky rig. You kinda get the best of both worlds with some increased efficiency.”

KVD NEKO2

Where to Throw It

VanDam favors the neko rig for casting to visible targets such as boat docks, bushes, and laydowns. Along with this line-of-sight targeting, live sonar technology expands the potential — particularly with finicky bass.

“Offshore, when you can see fish with your electronics, fish that won’t bite a crankbait, you can still catch them with that neko setup,” VanDam said.”

Wherever he’s fishing a neko rig, VanDam’s thinking precision.

“For me, it’s a target bait or a proximity bait,” he said. “You want to throw it around areas where you think a fish is sitting, whether it’s something you see with your eyes or something you see on your electronics. The tip of an underwater grass point, a rock pile, or the fish you see on HUMMINBIRD MEGA Live.”

NEKO bait

Bait Up

Considering the neko’s dynamics, VanDam chooses worms that complement the rig. His favorites are the Strike King Ocho (stick worm), a 5-inch Strike King Fat Baby Finesse Worm, or a 6.5-inch Strike King Finesse Worm. With each, the seductive fall sells the ruse.

“With the Ocho, you get that quiver on the fall, and when you nail weight it, you get that gliding, head-first fall,” VanDam said. “With the Finesse worms, it’s more of a straight fall, but when you shake it, the worm is softer, and it has a more pronounced wiggle to it.”

Noting that both styles have their place in his neko rig game, VanDam said he chooses the Ocho when he’s searching a broader target area because the bait’s gliding motion creates a more attention-getting profile. When he pitches his neko-rigged stick worm around standing timber or a grass line, VanDam does so with the confidence that his rig can draw fish from a distance.

“When I’m focused on a precise spot where I know they’re sitting — say, it’s a bridge piling, and I can see them on my electronics — it’s hard to beat the finesse worm,” VanDam said. “It has a slower fall and a little more action, so when a fish is right there, it’s pretty easy to talk them into biting it.”

With either worm, VanDam neko rigs his bait with a Mustad Alpha Point Apex Dropshot Hook . Because he’s often fishing around cover, he typically opts for the weedless version, which features a fluorocarbon weed guard that rests behind the hook’s barb.

“It takes no pressure to get the hook into a fish’s mouth, but the design makes it very weedless for fishing around wood, brush piles, or grass,” VanDam said. “I love this rig for boat docks. You skip it around dock cables, cross members, and things you can hang up on. That’s where that weed guard comes in.”

Mustad1

Tackle & Technique

Unless he’s fishing tight to cover, VanDam presents his neko rig on a 7-4 to 7-6 spinning outfit with braided mainline and fluorocarbon leader. The longer rod, he said, helps him quickly take up line to get a solid hook set.

“The biggest thing I do is never jerk,” VanDam said of his hook set. “I reel into the fish and pull into them. Don’t get into a hurry. Just let the rod load.

“They don’t drop these things; they bite it, and they got it. It’s really simple and super efficient. That’s why the neko rig has become a big part of my finesse fishing.”

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