Be A Cold-Crankin’, Ned Riggin’, A-Rig Fool

by Chris McCotter

Before the warm days of late spring arrive and fish are easy to catch in the region’s ponds, lakes and rivers you have to have a few tricks up your sleeve if fishing is tough. Cold fronts, wind, fishing pressure, you name it, they can all add up to a frustrating day on the water. If want to have a three-pronged approach to catching bass this spring proven to work, consider becoming a cold crankin’, Ned riggin’, A-riggin’ fool. These are three very adaptable tactics that will help you catch more bass from Anna to Moomaw, Back Bay to Buggs.

Cold Crankin’

Cold crankin’ is a term coined to describe using a crankbait in the chilly waters of prespawn. Many anglers have incorporated the use of suspending jerkbaits, themselves a type of crankbait, but did you know many anglers are quietly using more traditional crankbaits to catch big bags of bass before the spawn?

Plugs like the new Berkley Frittside crankbait, the Berkley Bad Shad, the Profound Outdoors Claud Hopper, Jr., 6th Sense Crush 75 Flat, Evergreen Flat Force and Tifa Lure Co. Norio Tanabe Shot crankbaits are all on the spectrum of pre-spawn winners.

Crankbait guru and Bassmaster Elite Series angler David Fritts says in cold water, 10’ or shallower is where you want to use a crankbait. Flat sided wooden crankbaits with coffin lips are what he used for years coming up in the ranks and now he teamed up with Berkley to make a bait more durable, more castable and with better colors than wooden versions. The Frittside 5, 7 and 9 series in Honey Shad and Tennessee Blue are so popular Berkley is having trouble keeping up with demand.

Casting light finesse crankbaits like the Bad Shad, Claud Hopper, Jr. and Tanabe Shots is best accomplished using 7’ spinning rods with light monofilament of fluorocarbon line. The Frittsides and other larger cold water crankbaits are fine to cast on 7’ baitcasting rods. Don’t use any of them on super high rate of retrieve reels.

Cold crankin’ is different from deer cranking structure in the summer. Often you’ll be targeting bass suspending in the middle of a spawning cove near wood or rocks. The hot zone will depend on the water clarity, and the clearer the water the deeper it is, but most cold crankin’ fish are hooked in 7-10’ with five foot of visibility and shallower with less.

You are targeting fish eating before they move to docks and other shallow structure to choose a spawning site. Many bass begin to eat bluegills that are also beginning to move shallow in March and April and that is why a crankbait is effective.

Ned Riggin’

If you haven’t heard about this technique yet you really need to start paying more attention to national bass fishing trends. If you haven’t started fishing it yet, we’re not sure what you are waiting for.

Ned riggin’ is a modification of techniques pioneered by angling icons like Chuck Woods, Guido Hibdon and Charlie Brewer. It was conceived and brought to mainstream attention by Ned Kehde, an avid angler and veteran fishing industry writer from Kansas.

Kehde’s small jighead and plastic combo may look unassuming on the surface, but its slow fall and darting action are astonishing, almost always eliciting strikes in even the toughest conditions.

Using four to eight-pound braided line with a fluorocarbon leader is preferred by many anglers for Ned riggin’. A light action 7’ spinning rod and reel combo is the optimal gear pairing.

You can fish at Ned rig by swimming it slowly along the bottom, dragging and dead sticking it as well as using a hopping retrieve so the fish can eat it when the bait is falling. Skipping a Ned rig under docks is also popular and effective during the prespawn period.

Z-Man kinda started it all and their Finesse ShroomZ Ned rig heads are a standard. They have a welded wire keeper that keeps soft plastic Ned baits in place and aspirin type head .

Their line of TRD (The Real Deal) stick baits are very popular among Ned riggin’ fools. The Hula Stik is another popular Ned riggin’ option. The Elastech material these baits are made from permits an angler to use one bait to catch dozens of fish and the material is buoyant so the rate of fall is slow and the baits stand up on the bottom.

Other good Ned rig bait options include the Strike King Baby Rage Bug, Roboworm offerings the Missile Baits Bomb Shot and new Quiver and the ZOOM Beatdown Worm.

A-Rig Foolin’

A-rigs have evolved and been fine tuned in recent years. Yes, anglers are still fishing the five-ounce TV antenna type multi-arm rigs, but there has been a trend to downsize and refine a-rig offerings for more finesse presentations.

Many of these new a-rigs include a small, three-arm offering with an intricately detailed head (with inset line tie). These are especially productive when you want mimic a pod of baitfish.

The Picasso BFL Legal version is popular. The Hog Farmer is another a-rig that has added tiny willow-leave blades. The Captain Mack’s Mini Mack is a guide-tested and US made smaller a-rig originating on Georgia’s Lake Lanier. Clear water guide Mack Farr is offering these on his website. YUM Flash Mob is a national brand you’ll find in the big box stores.

Anglers looking to up the odds on late winter, pre-spawn bass still hanging around schools of baitfish would do well to cover a lot of water with a-rigs. Most area fishermen will throw them on a 7’6” baitcasting rod spooled with 10-12-pound monofilament like Berkley Trilene or Big Game. You don’t need super heavy line as you aren’t usually fishing these things around heavy cover. A long distance cast is key as you want to avoid spooking fish and give them plenty of reaction and chase time.

You’ll want to fish the a-rigs on points near spawning coves or anywhere else you see baitfish or birds on baitfish because schooled bass aren’t far away.

Tip you a-rigs with swimbaits close to the size of the baitfish bass are eating. Don’t use a five-inch swimbait if you see bass swirling on three-inch threadfin shad. The Missile Baits 3.5 Shockwave is a good, all-around a-rig option as are the Berkley Ripple Shad baits. Super tough plastic baits might seem like a good idea, but they can be difficult to thread onto a-rig jig heads.

Speaking of jigheads, you’ll want to use banana-shaped heads with a wire keeper on them. World Wide Sportsman make a good version that will keep you baits in place after repeated casting and bites.

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