By Josh Boyd
Bass fishing can be a rollercoaster of sorts. At times, it seems as if an angler can do no wrong, as one bass after another comes over the side of the boat. However, more often than not, less than ideal conditions can make it quite difficult to find success. When the latter rings true, many anglers are left scratching their heads in bewilderment.
In recent years, there has been much attention placed on the use of finesse fishing tactics, as a means to conjure strikes from reluctant bass. Finesse fishing is a tactic that is most simply defined as the use of lighter tackle, in a more methodical manner, to stimulate an aggressive predatory response from fish that are otherwise reluctant to bite.
While several individual finesse fishing rigs are employed regularly by anglers from all over the nation, some have quickly come into favor due to their high degree of potency on lock jawed bass. One such favored setup is the Chicken Rig, which 2003 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Mike Iaconelli, finds immense favor in when the going gets tough.
The Value of the Chicken Rig
For Iaconelli, the Chicken Rig is more than just a rig for occasional use. On the contrary, he says that the Chicken Rig is universal in its appeal, and can be fished to a high degree of success in nearly any setting. “I use it all year round. I would say spring through fall it is at its best. It can be used in any cover, from no cover to the heaviest, gnarliest cover you can imagine,” says Iaconelli.
Iaconelli also states that the key behind the Chicken Rig’s value lies in its versatility. “The Chicken Rig is basically a weedless Neko Rig. It is a Neko Rig that you rig Texas-Style, and it gives you the same pecking action as a Neko Rig, but you can fish it anywhere,” says Iaconelli. “You can use it when fishing in heavy cover or sparse cover, when skipping under docks, and when fishing shallow or deep,” he continues.
Which Bait Is Best for the Chicken Rig?
Another unique characteristic of the Chicken Rig is that it can be fished in conjunction with numerous soft plastic baits. However, Iaconelli has found sustained success with the use of one soft plastic in particular. “I’m using the Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm. You can use all three sizes, but the 5.7” is the most versatile,” Iaconelli says.
In regards to color selection, Iaconelli is quick to reference the value of basing the color of any soft plastic, on that of the favored food source on the body of water that is being fished. However, he also says that selecting a color combination that provides ample eye appeal is also key, especially in stained water.
How to Prepare the Chicken Rig
Iaconelli says that the Chicken Rig is relatively simple to prepare, being a little more difficult to prepare than the infamous Texas-Rig. “I like using a size 1 to 1/0 or 2/0 straight shank style hook. A VMC Finesse Neko Hook is the right hook,” says Iaconelli.
When selecting the perfect weight for the Chicken Rig, Iaconelli looks no further than a VMC Half Moon Wacky Weight. “The nail weight is just a little nail. I’ll use anywhere from a 1/16 ounce to a ¼ ounce weight.”
While not overly difficult to assemble, there are a few key details worth paying close attention to when putting together the Chicken Rig. High up on this list of details is the issue of proper weight placement. “I put it in the fat end of that Flute Worm. It’s really important.” Iaconelli continues, “You want that skinny end to be up shaking, you want the fat end to have the nail, and as you shake your rod, that nail pecks the bottom.”
In regards to proper hook placement, Iaconelli explains that though the Chicken Rig is hooked Texas-Style, the hook’s actual location differs from that which many are used to. “I’m rigging it Texas-Style back in the body of the bait, and that’s the key. I rig it just below the halfway point of the bait. On the Flute Worm, we have three high spots. So I start in the middle-high spot, and by the time the hook pops out at the bottom, it’s at the bottom-high spot,” says Iaconelli.
When fishing the Chicken Rig, Iaconelli has a few additional preferences that he feels provides him with the best possible chance of success. “I prefer Berkley X5 braided line tied to an 8-10 pound Berkley Trilene fluorocarbon leader,” says Iaconelli. As with most any form of finesse fishing, Iaconelli also finds favor in the use of spinning tackle, which allows him to optimize his presentation and put bass in the boat.
Finding Success With the Chicken Rig
The Chicken Rig, which is essentially a hybrid between the Neko Rig and Texas Rig, allows anglers to probe the depths in the most subtle of fashion, while also remaining 100% weedless. This makes it possible to fish the Chicken Rig whenever, and wherever, the need arises.
The Chicken Rig is the perfect addition to any angler’s bag of tricks and can be used to turn an otherwise stagnant day on the water into an outing to remember. Next time that the bass on a given body of water come down with a severe case of lockjaw, be sure to give Mike Iaconelli’s Chicken Rig a try.