Nedding on the Niagara
You never know what is going to work for fishing on any given day. Sometimes it does not matter how you cast, the way you retrieve or where you throw your bait. Ultimately, it is up to the fish to grab your offering.
We met at the launch ramp at the foot of Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda with the intention of a mini-Ned rig educational session. When the phone rang notifying us that the photographer was running a bit late, Capt. Ryan Shea of Tonawanda looked at me and said “let’s go get a few casts in.”
We hopped into his Lund 1975 Pro-V boat and motored over to the head of Grand Island in short order, pushed by his 200 horsepower Mercury outboard.
The rods were already rigged. His personal preference are Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) rods from Texas that are 6-foot, 10-inch medium-light action rods with a super-fast tip. The reels are Daiwa Fuego or Shimano Sahara spinning reels that are light and small.
The main fishing line was a 10-pound test braid with 8-pound fluorocarbon attached as a leader, adding more to the sensitivity because of the lack to stretch with braided lines. The final piece to the angling arsenal was the Ned rig.
The “Ned” is simply a mushroom-style jig head and a size No. 4 or 6 hook with a rubber bait that is 2 to 4 inches long (Shea’s preference is 2-3/4 or 3 inches) and comes in a wide variety of colors. The Z-man Finesse TRD plastics are the Cadillac of this style of fishing.
Developed by Ned Kehde of Kansas, it is as durable as it is versatile. Using the same bait repeatedly is not uncommon. Losing one to a river bottom snag is more likely.
“The Ned rig has a certain low profile, size and sensitivity that really works in the Niagara River,” says Shea, operator of the Brookdog Fishing Company. “It’s not just a rig, it’s part of a larger system designed for the utmost in sensitivity while you are able to keep your bait in the strike zone 100 percent of the time.”
As he positioned his boat in the current and put his bow mount trolling motor in the water, he picked up a rod. “I’ll slow my boat down slightly with the trolling motor from the current and cast at about a 45-degree angle upstream. It will give my bait a little bit of a swing.”
“Wait for the bait to hit bottom and give it 2 or 3 jigs among the rocks and then crank your reel. When it hits bottom, repeat the process. Envision that your bait is skipping across the tops of the rocks, looking like a baitfish that is trying to escape.”
Almost as if it were on cue, Shea set the hook on a bite and started a battle with a 3-pound river smallmouth bass. It was that easy. At least it seemed that way. After a couple quick photos, the feisty bass was bolting back down among the river rocks. The bait and presentation seemed both simple and efficient.
Timing is everything and the phone rang to inform us that the photographer had arrived. We drove back to the launch ramp.
We motored back to the spot at the head of Grand Island and repeated our tactics from earlier in the morning. It was not long before we had smallmouth bass up to 5 pounds, offering plenty of photo opportunities for the photographer. It was time to move.
We pointed the bow of the boat toward the head of the river and set down near the round house, a familiar landmark for local fishermen. Casting at an angle to get the swing, we hit fish almost immediately. While we were looking for big bass, freshwater drum would not leave the Ned rig alone.
Another key factor with Ned rigging is location. Locate steep gradient drops with rocks. Cast out and work your Ned along the bottom. Experiment with different kinds of retrieves. You will catch fish.
“This technique is great for beginners,” insists Shea, who was celebrating his 44th birthday the day we were on the water. “Some people new to the sport may be too aggressive. Every tick on a rock is not a fish and a false hookset will pull the bait 4 to 5 feet away from the fish. You need a very minimal, deliberate motion.” This way of fishing tends to be very forgiving for novice anglers.
Before the morning trip was over, even the cameraman picked up a rod. In a short amount of time he managed to reel in smallmouth bass up to 5 pounds and sheepshead up to 8 pounds. The amazing thing was, he really did not know what he was doing. He did not handle the rod right and had trouble casting the spinning reel. It was the first time he had fished in the Niagara River. That did not matter. Once he picked up the rod, he had the hot hand for the remainder of the trip. Beginner’s luck? Whatever the case, he was heading out to buy some Z-man baits after this photo shoot.
“The Ned rig is extremely versatile,” says Shea. “Not only will we catch bass, but we will catch other species of fish, too – even musky. In the lower Niagara River, I will also catch walleye and trout, as well as Coho salmon.”
For more information on Brookdog Fishing Company check out www.brookdogfishing.com, 716-704-5144.