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Fishing the Shenandoah River - 1 Technique for Year Round Success

Shenandoah River Smallmouth
Winter smallmouth on ned rig - Shenandoah River

While there are many ways to catch fish on the Shenandoah River, many approaches can be (and are) seasonal. These techniques can vary in cost and there is a large variance in gear and skill level required to use them (all). While having the best of the best and most expensive, newest of the new can be cool... It's over complicating an activity that is meant to be enjoyable by anyone and everyone. SO, I'm going to make entry into fishing the Shenandoah River and many other water ways very simple: THE NED RIG.

The Ned Rig - What is it?

Simply put: it's a jig. A ned rig typically consists of a light/finesse jig hook and a soft plastic stick-style worm in the 2-3" range. While presentations may look different due to jig head configurations, they're all a weighted jig hook with a plastic lure attached and are extremely effective for catching fish on the Shenandoah River (and other bodies of water).

How to Fish it

There's almost no wrong way to fish a ned rig, unless it is too heavy. I have found that for most applications on the Shenandoah, a 1/10oz ned head is the ticket. It is heavy enough to get to the bottom in most areas on the river without constantly hanging up and it is light enough you can fish it through any part of the water column. Drag it, bounce/hop it, dead drift it or straight retrieve this deadly technique.

What to Fish it on

I would recommend a medium-light to medium powered spinning rod with a fast or extra-fast action. This rod doesn't need to be super expensive to be effective. You want something that will cast your light lures well and has enough backbone to set a light hook without bending it out while allowing you to feel structure in the river and the lightest of bites. Pair your rod with a 1500-2500 size spinning reel equipped with a decent (or better) drag is important. A good drag system will let you fight a fish more aggressively without worrying about hook, knot or line failures but doesn't always mean you'll bring the fish in. The best bang for your buck will likely be a combo from the store of your choice. Lastly, you'll need line. You can run whatever brand you prefer or is recommended and spool up with braid, mono, or fluorocarbon. Both your rod and reel will have suggested sizes to use. I run 15lb power pro braid on my reels with a 6-10lb leader attached with an Alberto knot. While I typically run a moss green monofilament, fluorocarbon is great option too. I have had great luck with P-Line's products

My Picks for Fishing the Shenandoah River


  • The ElaZtech plastic that Z-Man uses is super durable, so you can catch a lot of fish on one plastic before having to change it out.

  • They're probably your most budget friendly plastic (not least expensive but not most expensive either).

  • There are multiple styles, sizes and colors to choose from.

  • I usually use the 2.75" finesse TRD but occasionally throw the bigger size and I like the micro finesse TRD in the winter.

  • My go-to colors are green pumpkin goby, PB&J, and yoga pants.

Shenandoah River Trophy Fallfish
Trophy Fallfish on Finesse TRD

Nikko Baits

  • Also made from a super durable plastic (but different from Z-man)

  • They're the most expensive plastic I use, but I also don't have to change them out regularly. I lose them more often from forgetting to re-tie than fish tearing them up.

  • The Zaza Hellgrammite in obsidian my go-to.

Shenandoah River Smallmouth on hellgrammite
Nikko Baits Zaza Hellgrammite - obsidian


  • Z-Man's Shroomz series are a great place to start. The finesse hooks are a lighter wire and usually pull/bend out of a snag and usually don't last as long as the plastic does. this presentation is also susceptible to short strikes.

  • The Z-man power finesse shroomz are a larger and heavier wire hook and I have a better hook-up ratio with these and less issues with short strikes.

  • My Favorite hook is probably the NedlockZ EWG. No scraggly wires for a weedless presentation as well as no fully exposed hook point to snag on things.

Ned rig
Z-Man Finesse TRD on Power Finesse Shroomz

Where to Buy Them

While you can certainly go to any big box store or shop online, I try my best to support local (or at least small). You can pick up everything mentioned above from Jake's Bait and Tackle in Winchester, VA. They are about 30 minutes north from Front Royal, Va and have a great selection of fishing gear as well as decades of fishing knowledge to share. Swing by and support my local tackle shop and tell them I sent you. You can also order from Jake's online here:

1 Rig to Rule Them All...

"One rig to rule them all, one rig to find them, one rig to bring them all, and in the net bind them; In the Shenandoah River, where the lunkers lie," Or whatever they said in Lord of the Rings.

It seems like a silly (and boring) presentation, especially if you only use the stick-style baits, but they have provided some very exciting moments. The truth is they just plain work. They work for anglers on the pro circuits, they work for professional guides and they can work for you too. You can choose to fish different gear and techniques (I definitely do), but the Ned Rig has proven to be an undeniable all-season bait when fishing the Shenandoah River and it's not something you will find me without.

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