A wacky rig is perhaps the most subtle, natural, and non-invasive presentation we have at our disposal as anglers. One of the best to ever employ a wacky rig is Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chris Zaldain. We sat down with Zaldain and had him give us an in-depth look at his wacky rig setup and how he fishes it throughout the year.
Wacky Rig: Focusing on the Technique
The wacky rig works particularly well in clear water. It’s a very finesse, slow presentation. It’s not your typical cast and reel presentation like a spinnerbait or crankbait. They’ll bite a wacky rig when the bite is wide open and they’re biting everything. Now, when the bite is tough, they’ll still bite a weightless wacky rig. That’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t matter what mood the fish are in.
If they’re in a negative feeding mood or a positive feeding mood, you can always get bites on a wacky rig.
Five-inch stick baits like a Senko work the best because they are heavily salted. I find these baits more effective when weightless wacky rigging than any other worm. The heavily salted baits have a nice shimmy when they fall and it takes less time for the bait to hit the bottom which is important in tournament situations.
I use 15-pound Seaguar Smackdown Flash Green for my main line and a 4 to 6-foot, 8-pound test Seaguar Tatsu leader. I tie those together with an FG knot with about 25 wraps. One thing that I will do when throwing a wacky rig is I’ll leave about a 1/4-inch tag on my braided line when I tie that FG knot. Then I’ll twist that tag end until I make a fuzzy little ball out of it.
For the guys that fly fish, that’s called a strike indicator.
When I skip that wacky rig under a dock or a shady tree or just up on the bank, that hi-vis green line with that shorter leader and that fuzzy little ball helps me detect those subtle bites. A lot of times when a wacky rig is falling, a fish just inhales it or grabs it real slow and then starts to swim off with it or swim towards you. With that little strike indicator I can detect those bites because it sticks out in the water like a sore thumb. Most of those bites on a wacky rig you won’t even feel, so bite indication is key for landing those fish.
A reel set is also important when setting the hook. We’re dealing with small, sharp hooks with a small diameter. So you don’t need a lot of power to set that hook. I just like to reel into the fish when I get a bite and let the rod load up. The rod is important too. I like a short rod with a short butt for skipping the bait and maneuvering the fish out of cover. That short butt doesn’t get hung up on your clothes or hit your arm when you’re fighting the fish. I use a Megabass F4 6’ 8” Ronin Orochi XX. That rod loads up really well too on the reel set.
I almost always use a Trokar Neko Hook with the pro v bend in size 2 with an o-ring or collar on the worm. That v in the hook holds the worm in place really well. If I’m fishing really heavy cover like timber or a lot of grass under the water that I can’t see, that’s when I’ll go with the weedless version. But 80% of the time I’m just going to throw the non-weedless version. That works really well.
How to Fish a Wacky Rig During the Pre-Spawn
You can catch bass on a wacky rig all year. But there’s one special time where nothing else will get bit. There’s a short window where fish go from a pre-spawn feeding frenzy to actually going on the bed where a wacky rig really shines. The fish are done eating the big swimbaits and the big jerkbaits. They’re done eating, they’re just up there shallow looking and waiting. Waiting for the moon phase or the water or weather to get just right so they can actually start spawning. And when those fish are shallow in that cruising mood, they don’t bite. You can see them, big ones everywhere. But they just won’t bite. That’s when I pick up a wacky rig.
How to Fish a Wacky Rig During the Spawn
A lot of times you’ll see a pattern during the spawn where you’re going down a bank and you start to see clearings. Not necessarily sight-fishing where you can see the fish. You’re just going down the bank and you’re seeing clearings. I’ll see a dark spot mixed with a light spot in a clearing and I know that’s where a bed is.
I won’t see the fish, but I’ll blind cast that wacky rig to that clearing and I know there’s a bass within 10-feet or so.
When they’re spawning, the key isn’t the cover, but those clearings. That’s when that weightless wacky rig is really going to payoff. When you’re working against ‘the book of bass fishing’. The book of bass fishing tells you to fish all the heaviest cover you can find. But in that spawn mode, you want to fish the voids. The areas that are clear.
How to Fish a Wacky Rig During the Post-Spawn
In the post-spawn, bass are very lethargic. They’re recovering from the spawn and they don’t have the energy to go out and chase things around. In the post-spawn, you have a lot of fry guarders too and if you switch from a salted stick bait to something more like a trick worm or a floating worm, that works really well around fry guarders.