I HAVE avoided discussing the wacky rig in my soft plastic articles in QFM because the wacky, and its offspring the wackyshot, at first appeared to fit into the ‘hardly serious’ category.
This all changed on a recent American tournament trip when an angler fishing a wacky rigged plastic was outclassing me. Fortunately my boater was kind enough to let me have a few Senkos and passed on a few vital tips. Armed with this information I finished high up the leader board and thanked my boater for all his help.
My decision to take the gamble in that tournament came down to two fishing sessions I’d had with Australian Mike Connelly. In one session in South Africa he and I brained the smallmouth on Senkos, and then in another trip with Mike the dropshot rig gave a good account for itself on Australian bass. I reasoned that I’d done well when experimenting with the lure on previous trips, so I bit the bullet.
The wacky rig has been around for a couple of decades and there’s a story that its discovery was made by a novice angler. So the fable goes, the newchum bought a packet of soft plastic worms and didn’t know how to put them on a hook – so he simply tied a hook to the end of his line and impaled a lure onto the hook by passing the hook once through the side of the worm.
I guess he must have caught some fish before anyone told him that he was doing the wrong thing!
The wacky rig lived on for years as an option for using with slowly sinking worms. Simply tie on an unweighted hook, pin on a long skinny-bodied worm and cast it out beside fish-holding structure. A Texas bullet weight can also be added to the line above the hook.
The wackyshot (it is seldom called this but I suggest that it is the most explanatory term) is also called wacky rigging on a dropshot. The wackyshot is the result of the marriage of the dropshot rig with the wacky rig. You place the lure on the hook just like a wacky rig and tie up the hook and sinker layout just like a dropshot rig [see diagram].
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The dropshot is a versatile rig that can be fished in many scenarios, such as deeper water found off steep cliffs, backs of coves amongst isolated weed clumps and breaklines that can be seen on the sounder or others that can be seen in the clear water. The wackyshot rig works in similar locations, when casting or when presenting the rig vertically.
The wackyshot is good for stained/murky water because the plastics used give a bigger bait profile for fish to locate. Senkos are the main lure used and have so much salt in them that they're quite heavy, giving a little extra weight for casting and helping to attract fish to the bait.
The bite and setting the hook is the same with the wackyshot-rigged worm as when nose hooked on a dropshot rig. The one major difference is that you can shake more aggressively when wackyshotting. This gives the lure more action and, by the textbook, reinforces its viability in dirty water.
After months of trial and error in the States and Australia, these are the pieces of tackle I find indispensable when wackyshotting.
I use the Mustad Black Nickel size 4 dropshot hook or the ‘Next One’ brand Strange hook, even with some of the bigger baits, like the Senko.
I used up to 4 1/2” plastics for smallmouth bass but some anglers use 6" versions. The American smallmouth has a mouth about the same size as our Australian bass, so I suggest starting at around the 4” size.
There is some discussion about what is best – a floating or sinking worm. There actually is no ‘best’ worm – you need all types and need to know how to choose the one that suits how you want to fish a certain situation. My bag contains sinking plastics (e.g. heavily-salted plastics like the Yamamoto range), floating plastics (such as the Berkley surface worm), slow sinking plastics, scented and unscented, salted and unsalted, and even some that alter their buoyancy as the impregnated salt dissolves. The more variety you have the better your chances are of winning over some Australian bass.
For spin tackle I use either 4lb Fireline in smoke colouration or green 4lb Platypus Super Braid, both with a 6lb Berkley Vanish leader.
The G.Loomis 822 Dropshot rod and the Shimano Stella are my pick and form the basis of a really effective tackle set up.
I always use tungsten weights for their sensitivity and weight-to-size ratio. You can feel everything, from rocks on the bottom, weeds and even the most subtle of takes. It’s the perfect combination.
In the Columbia River we often had to deal with strong currents. Having your sinker go with the water flow led to snags, so we used heavier tungsten weights to cope with the current. In windy conditions or fast flowing currents, if you lose feel or can't get to the bottom try a heavier weight, such as a 3/8oz or 1/2oz. I found the teardrop tungsten weights ideal. Some say that lead snags up more than tungsten for some reason and I soon learned to prefer the teardrops for the same reason.
Dropshotting and wackyshotting can be practised with baitcasting tackle and heavier lines. Interestingly, the dropshot and wackyshot rigs are being adapted to suit different fisheries. Anglers using 30lb braid and heavy fluorocarbon leader are targeting bigger fish in heavy cover – a far cry from the original concept of finesse! This application seems to fit perfectly with applications in Australia such as tropical creek fishing for jacks, fingermark and barramundi or targeting impoundment heavyweights such as Murray cod, barramundi and sooty grunter along rock walls and in heavy cover.
1) Steep banks are a great place to fish the wacky rig.
2) The smallmouth bass has a mouth about the same size as an Aussie bass. This smallmouth was taken by wackyshotting with a Senko.Reads: 1949