By Ricky Shabazz
The nail weight rig is a technique that has taken on many names and uses over the years. The main concept involves placing a nail weight inside of a soft plastic bait which allows the lure to be presented in a more natural appearance. Most often the rig consists of inserting a lead or tungsten nail weight into the head or the egg sack of your favorite soft plastic worm. The idea behind the nail weight rig is to allow a bait to have an unrestricted natural fall. The nail weight rig first appeared on the tournament scene nearly seven plus years ago when co-anglers Izzy Byrd and Hideki Maeda brought the technique over from Japan. It did not take long for other Western pros and co-anglers to take notice that rigging their favorite soft plastic baits with a nail weight would prove to be a deadly finesse tactic for catching highly pressured bass. The end result has been a host of names to describe this technique, which range from the Hideki rig, the Izzy rig, but others have come to commonly refer to using a nail weight inside of a soft plastic worm as the rig.
Anglers will notice that the nail rig is a perfect alternative to drop shotting or split shotting. The rig lures unsuspecting bass looking for an easy meal because the nail weight allows a bait to drift naturally through the water column. Anglers such as Angler’s Marine pro Joe Uribe Jr. uses a range of finesse worms and Senko type baits to trigger hits from suspended or inactive fish. “The most common baits that I use are a Zoom Trick Worm, the Flirt worm by Reaction Innovation, and of course a Senko,” says Uribe Jr. “I like the Zoom Trick Worm and the Flirt worm because they are smaller diameter worms compared to hand poured worms.” Many anglers prefer injected worms over hand poured because the injected baits are a lot bulkier and the nails stay in a lot easier. In most cases the rig is a do-nothing technique that allows anglers to get a lot of action out of thinner diameter worms. “Those worms hold the weights a lot better,” says Uribe Jr. “The same goes for the Senko.” When selecting colors, Uribe Jr. elects to use natural colors for clear water and darker colors for stained water. “I keep it pretty simple,” Uribe Jr. says. “I use watermelon, watermelon copper on the Trick Worm and the Flirt worms have better color selections with colors like Oxblood and the Spring Break. The one thing that Uribe Jr. stressed is that the rig is not about the color. Rather, the magic of the rig is about the action of the lure and fall. Uribe Jr. describes the rig as a real basic technique that is more about the way that you present the bait.
The rig entails placing a nail weight inside of a worm or other plastic bait. This allows an angler to balance the lure to achieve a specific erratic fall. It also affects the action of the worm once it hits the bottom. The most common way to fish the rig is to use light line and employ a slight shake pause action when retrieving a bait back in during a cast. “I like to make a long cast and deadstick the bait before I start my retrieve,” says Mercury Pro Team angler Tony Lain. “Many of the strikes occur on the fall, so I like to let the bait sit before I start my retrieve.” While many anglers like to use a Senko rig, Lain opts to use a Jackall Flick Shake worm rigged with a nail weight in the egg sack.
The nail weight rig has many uses.One of the most effective ways to fish the rig is to use some type of wacky style finesse worm or Senko style bait in deep or shallow water. Many pros have learned that the rig will work on most any body of water and the rig has been proven to catch fish in both clear and dirty water situations. One angler that has made a lot of money by putting in a lot of work with the rig is FLW co-angler Roy Desmangles Jr. “I started using the rig when I saw it being done at a Bassmasters at Lake Shasta,” says Desmangles. “The first time that I heard about the rig was from Izzy Byrd when Izzy was winning a lot of money from the back of the boat.” According to Desmangles, Izzy Byrd showed him a Senko that he proceeded to put a nail weight in the head. The added benefit to using an internal sinker is that it creates a smaller profile and increases the chances that a bass will swallow the bait on the fall. “I like the rig because it is simple and the fish respond to it,” says Desmangles.” I think that the rig stands out when the bite gets tough and it catches big fish also.” The entire system consists of using as light of weight as necessary to merely get a bait on the bottom.“I primarily like using 6 or 8 pound test,” says Desmangles. “I’ll adjust my line and weight size to the conditions that I am fishing.”
Using the rig is very different than using a drop shot, a shakeyhead, brass-n-glass, or other weights because the weights are designed not pull out of soft plastic baits. The other difference is that the rig is designed to be fished wacky style. The rig consists of a drop shot type hook positioned towards the middle of the bait. In most cases, baits are rigged with a small #2, #1, or 1/0 dropshot hook. Most anglers fish the rig on medium action spinning gear. The main concept is to allow baits to be worked with the same level of action and natural appeal as the dropshot, only bites usually occur during the fall or once the bait first rests on the bottom. “There are basically two ways that I like to fish the rig,” says Desmangles. “I like to shake it vertically because it offers a different look to the fish over a drop shot and the second way is to throw the rig on the bank and walk it down the water column like stair steps.” The rig has evolved to be an effective approach to weighting down soft plastics. “Most of the strikes come on the fall,” says Desmangles. “But I like to shake it vertically on slack line once I begin my retrieve back to the boat.” Nail weights are perfect for adding a little bit of weight to soft plastics because anglers can easily trimmed or add the exact amount of weight that is needed to present a bait in the optimal water column. The nail weights can used in the tail, nose, or both to control the rate in which worm fails.
In a quest to take the rig to the next level, anglers such as Joe Uribe Jr. customize the rig. “My dad and I wanted to create a system that allowed us to get more noise out of the rig,” says Uribe. “So we started pouring our own twist style weights in our garage.” Uribe Jr. teamed up with his father (Joe Uribe Sr.) and came up with an improved rig concept that involves using a lead twist style nail weight that does not have to be shoved into the belly of a worm. “We found that it was a lot easier to chop the head off of a bait to make it flat like a head of the Senko,” says Uribe Jr. “We designed a cone shape led weight that could be twisted into our worms because we wanted the lead to be exposed when we were working the bait so that it makes a tick sound and allows us to have a little different look and sound over the original rig or a skakeyhead. According to Uribe Jr., this customized approach improved the bottom contact and made it easier to rig baits during tournaments. The father and son team worked with Boss Weights to mass produce their invention, which is called the Boss Twist Weight. “My rig setup usually consists of a green pumpkin or watermelon Zoom Trick worm, which I hook with a 1/0 Gamakatsu Dropshot hook in the tapered egg sack of the worm,” says Uribe Jr. “I cut about 1/8 off of the head of the worm so that I have a flat surface to take a 1/8 ounce to 1/16 ounce Boss Twist Weight. Uribe Jr. likes the rig to fall like a pencil to suspended fish. He tends to use as light of weight that will allow him to the best rate of fall as well as the best bottom contact. However, he will go heavier for fishing deeper water. “I want a slow presentation and the bait will fall quick on 6 pound fluorocarbon,” Uribe Jr. says. “The lead transitioning to the bait gives you more sensitivity.” The goal is to have better feel and contact with the bottom.
Uribe Jr. takes things to the next level by using shrink tubing to wacky rig his baits. The shrink tubing appears to be a better option over Senko rings because it reduces the chances of having the hook rotate back into the plastic during hooksets. The shrink tubing is a flat surface that does not role over as much as the Senko rings do. “Most of time I am on a point or on a hump and I make a cast to where I mark fish on my electronics,” says Uribe Jr. “I let my bait fall on slack line because a lot of the bites occur on the fall.” Many anglers elected to use a braid-floro combo where 20 pound braid is connected to 6 pound test via a uni-knot or a slim beauty knot. It is important to use at least a 10 foot leader of fluorocarbon as to allow the bait to fall naturally. Most anglers fish the rig on medium action rods. Uribe Jr. opts for a custom dropshot rod made by Performance Tackle. “I like the DSR70s, which is a seven foot spinning rod made by Performance Tackle,” says Uribe Jr. “The guides are titanium and very high end.” Using a high end rod is important because you do not have a lot of weight in the rig and fish usually strike the bait on the fall. A highly sensitive medium action rod is a must because you have to be able to feel a fish strike while the bait is falling.
There is no doubt that the nail rig has become a standard part of many anglers arsenal. The rig is a technique that many anglers have on their decks when money is on the line and fish are not responding to other presentations. The rig can be a deadly technique for catching highly pressured bass that are suspended and ignoring a dropshot or split-shot. The next time you are having a hard time catching suspended bass, stuff a nail weight into your favorite drop shot bait and give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised for what the nail rig produces when all else fails.