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  • Writer's pictureMatt Kiefer

2021 The Year of the NED

Written by HKB Contributor, Matt Kiefer.


While planning out the 2021 season, Lake St. Clair was on my mind. There are certain baits that you must have in the boat when going to fish for big smallmouth on the northern lakes. The NED rig is one of those tried-and-true baits. While I've tried and caught fish on the NED, I just never really enjoyed it much. There are a couple of reasons for this which I will explain as we go along.

Everything you read or hear tells you to use the lightest weight possible but for me, it just didn't feel right. I couldn’t feel the bottom very well with a small lead head. I had purchased some bigger lead heads as well but still couldn’t feel the bottom. So, I started looking for heavier tungsten heads. I planned to get one that I could keep in contact with the bottom. After some research on, I settled on the Swagger Tackle Tungsten heads. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision because there are over 90 different styles of NED heads on the website! I liked the Swagger head because of the EZ-ID Feature, flathead, and strong hook! With a Christmas gift card in hand, I added some of the 1/6oz and 1/5oz NO CHIP Vader heads to my Tackle Warehouse order. I wasn’t sure which one I would like better, but I wouldn’t get the chance to find out until several months later.

The KBF St. Clair Trail was just something I needed to do. Catching a giant smallmouth on Lake St. Clair was on my bucket list. On Wednesday before the tournament, I headed north to Detroit, a city where I had previously lived and worked in 1997 and 1998. While I had lived close to the lake for a year and a half, I had never been on the lake. After practicing for 2 days, I felt ok with what I had found. I had a plan and a backup plan! Day 1 didn’t turn out as I would have hoped. The wind was brutal, I lost too many fish, and it took too long for me to head for Plan B. Luckily, I was able to make a few adjustments going into and during Day 2. Once again Plan A wasn’t going to work, so I quickly loaded up and headed for Plan B. For about 3 hours on Day 2 on spot 2, my St. Croix Victory Series VTS610MLXF rod had imaginary NBA JAM flames coming off of it! I took 4th in the KBF Trail II and managed to catch 98" of smallmouth bass while breaking my PB Smallmouth 3 times!


Returning home, I didn't think much about the NED rig. I typically don’t re-rig everything before heading out fishing, so the NED rig was still tied on as I loaded up to head out to my local lake. I know a few guys that have caught fish on the NED on this lake, but I didn’t have enough information to come up with a pattern. I started tossing it around when my typical power baits weren’t working. One day in the middle of June I grabbed the Victory rod and slung that NED off into the depths near a known hot spot. Dragging it slowly back to the boat, I felt something take the bait. Unfortunately, I learned a valuable lesson in checking your drag. The drag had loosened a bit and that big largemouth came out of the water just to spit the NED in my face! While I didn’t catch this big fish, it gave me some valuable knowledge and the confidence to keep throwing it. I didn’t hook another fish on it for a couple of weeks, but this time those fish came in the boat.

Those NED catches at the end of June just fueled the engine. I continued to refine the pattern over July. During August and September, I had the pattern figured out and had the confidence to stick with it. By the end of the season, I had put a total of 41 fish over 18” in the boat on the NED rig. 20 of those fish came in the final 3 months of the season. 40 out of 41 of these Big Bass, came on the Swagger Tackle Tungsten head. 18 out of these 40 fish were 20” or greater, including a 22.25” donkey that held on to be the King Angler Big Bass of the year during SIYAK competition. The prize was a custom-made King Angler CB763 rod made by Kyle King a local Indiana rod builder.

I pulled out the selection of NED heads that were in my box. On the upper left, you can see a selection of Z-Man NEDLOCKZ that I’ve tried. Certainly nothing wrong with them, but I couldn’t feel the bottom with them as much. On the bottom left is an Eagle Claw Trokar. I do like their keepers! On the bottom center is a weedless EWG style. I don’t remember the brand on this one. I wanted to like these, but I would miss a lot of bites because I would tuck the hook back into the plastic. On the bottom right is the Picasso Aaron Martens Weedless Rhino NED. I like the wire guards and the flat top, but they don’t make one in tungsten. Finally on the top right are the Swagger Tackle Tungsten heads. I have a selection of 1/8, 1/6, 1/5, and 5/16. I added the 1/8 to my box this winter so I could have a lighter presentation. The 5/16 I added last summer so I could test it out with the Z-Man Giant TRDs. I didn’t catch anything, but it was interesting throwing it on casting gear.

I’m hoping to use the information I have learned this past season to find and catch fish in the spring and once again during the summer. No, I’m not going to put down the Crush 100x or the Jackhammer because I had a really good year on the NED! But I won’t hesitate to pick up the NED Rig again in the right situation.


Well, What do you think? Let us know in the comments.



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