Small baits, bite detection and the short rod crusade

New Z-Man® Drew’s Ultimate Ned Rig Rods blends premium shaft manufacturing with whispers of retro finesse

Before and after local fishing forays, around the 1960s, a group of exceptional Midwestern anglers got together to shoot the breeze at Ray Fincke’s former tackle shop in Kansas City. Fincke’s resembled many other family-owned bait shops of the day: truckloads of lures, rods, live bait, and other angling essentials, all crammed into a cozy little space. Imagine the high spirits, the sharing of innovative fishing ideas that must have gone on, as Ned Kehde, Chuck Woods, Guido Hibdon, Drew Reese and other architects of Midwestern finesse (aka Ned rig fishing) drank coffee and spent hard earned dollars. in the latest and greatest approach.

A generation later, the legendary Ned and Drew have been joined by thousands of their closest friends: successful fans of Ned’s rigs from around the globe. To this day, they continue to innovate fish catching products (Reese was co-creator of the renowned Z-Man Finesse TRD™, TRD TicklerZ™ and Finesse ShroomZ™). And now, along with Z-Man, Reese has perfected Drew’s Ultimate Ned Rig Rods—the first true-to-tech tools built with the highest quality rod-building blanks, components, and magic available.

Fist bump the original heroes of Midwestern finesse fishing, and to celebrate his longstanding friendship with these great anglers, Z-Man has melded the past and future of Ned’s tackle into a singular series of spinning rods with fine line and light line lures. Designed by Reese himself, Drew’s Ultimate Ned Rig Rods fuse the original artistry of Midwestern finesse with impeccable brilliance in rod construction.

Tennessee handles reduce weight and allow anglers to customize the rod’s balance point and reel position.

Two medium-light power/fast action models include a 5’4″ (4-8lb test) and 5’10” (4-10lb test) bar, each epitomizing an emerging trend toward shorter, lighter, ultra-precise spinning rods. The feather-shaped temples weigh just 1.75 ounces and 2.2 ounces, respectively.

“There is an undeniable joy in fishing shorter, feather-light, super-efficient spinning rigs,” says Reese, one of the first anglers to harness powerful ElaZtech® baits for bass. “I think we are already seeing a renaissance in fine lure and true light line fishing. As the fishing pressure intensifies, and people find they just want to catch more bites and keep catching fish, this movement will only grow. That’s partly why we built these nice little rods to get all the best advantages out of Ned rigs for bass and many other species.”

Founded in elite grade carbon fiber blanks, Drew’s Ultimate Ned Rig bars integrate Toray 12K High Modulus fibers with a modulus value of 50 million, resulting in superlative tensile strength in excess of 640 ksi. Super-lightweight, skeletal SSR guides with stainless steel frames and dual-stamped stainless steel inserts improve line flow while reinforcing strength and durability. A premium cork Tennessee shaft greatly reduces rod weight, increases sensitivity, and allows for custom reel placement to optimize rod balance.

“Fishermen seeing a Tennessee mango today might scratch their heads,” Reese admits. “But experiencing the true performance of a rod cannot be fully realized until you have found the precise balance point, or fulcrum, between rod and reel. We chose a cork Tennessee shaft because it is many times lighter and ten times more responsive than traditional reel seats. The rod handle allows each angler to maximize comfort and sensitivity by customizing reel placement to the sweet spot. To me it’s a 2000 size Daiwa, positioned just forward from the center of the handle. A couple of strips of electrical tape work great, providing a secure, low-profile grip that fits comfortably in the hand.

“To achieve the same balance with a 7-foot rod, by contrast, you would need to extend the heel section by two feet, and that adds additional and unnecessary weight to the rod.”

Countering inevitable questions about shorter rod lengths vs. “longer/better” movement, Reese makes a compelling case for lure weight, sensitivity and control. “These could be the first spinning rods under 6 feet in a generation,” she notes. “But pick one up and you’ll immediately wonder why you’ve been overwhelmed by 7-footers for so long.

“Many of these ideas about the merits of shorter, lighter rods came from Ray Fincke, the legendary tackle salesman, who gave us all a local gathering place to brainstorm and spin,” recalls Reese. “In the 1980s, Ray designed two such rods for one of the major rod companies in the United States. These were brilliant, light-line tools for the time, dwarfed today by the hundreds of heavier and longer models. But I never strayed far from Ray’s ideas on rod design, which started me on this quest to build on his ideas and produce a truly exceptional pair of finesse rods.

“The general idea is that creating a top feel feel is all about the weight and length of the rod. A shorter, super light blank simply puts you in closer contact with your lure and the fish. It’s an almost intimate connection. Like your hand is in direct conversation with your lure. It’s right there, and every movement of the rod tip is transmitted directly to the lure and back to the fingertips. Now reduce the weight of the rod by several ounces and you will effectively eliminate as much unnecessary baggage between your fingertips and the lure.

“Imagine, every little movement of the rod tip moves the bait a short, precise distance. It’s almost a 1 to 1 ratio. Whereas the same maneuvers with sticks longer than 7 feet tend to move the lure much greater distances, often to the detriment of accurate presentation. Now add a light, low stretch braided line to one of these shorter precision rods and suddenly you’ll catch more hits than you can imagine.

Legendary Ned rig pioneer Drew Reese argues that shorter, lighter rods provide next-level bite detection.

“Almost everyone who has tried these rods says the same thing. suddenly they are feeling everything They are immediately detecting exactly what their what the lure is doing, where it is going, and how intensely or hesitantly the different fish are biting.”

On a recent trip to Lake Michigan, Reese caught six largemouth bass over 5 pounds and forty largemouth bass over 4 pounds, all with 4-pound test braids, 1/10 and 1/15 ounce Finesse ShroomZ™ jigheads and their TRD series favorite baits. “The rod-line-lure combination allowed for easy 40-yard casts and I never lost a fish. I lent my friend Bill Ward (son of the legendary Virgil Ward) a pair of rods, and he caught plenty of lake trout with 3/8-ounce hooks, easily spotting every bite, even in 80 feet of water. Later, at Truman Lake, he outshot his son walleye 7-0 with the rods. When he finally lent one to his son, he quickly detected four hits in a row. While these rods certainly shine for crappie and walleye, they really bring out all the best advantages of Ned’s rigs for bass.”

Reese hints that anglers wielding longer, heavier spinning rods, even with relatively light lines, only catch a fraction of the hits, especially the subtle inhale-and-spit or “soft-mouth” variety. “You may sacrifice a few feet in casting distance compared to a 7-foot rod, but you’ll make up for it with a huge increase in accuracy, placing the bait exactly where you want it. And in terms of bite detection, it’s not even a contest.”

Ned Rig’s namesake Ned Kehde, who has been testing Drew’s rods for over a year, agrees with his old friend, expressing spontaneous joy at what he calls a renaissance in his fine-fishing endeavors. “As an outdoor writer, after decades of riding alongside top-tier tournament anglers, it occurred to me that these rods won’t attract bass competition. But for the common folk who just like to feel every bite and nod and catch tons of bass or whatever it is that bites, Drew’s rods will add a wonderful element of joy to your fishing.

“It’s funny, I used to refer to my style of fishing as ‘feelless,’” admits Kehde. “But Drew’s rods have changed that for feel everything.” (See Ned’s in-depth article on the short rod trend on

Reese reveals his favorite rod/line/lure combinations:

Drew 5’4″ – 4 lb. Test Fireline – 1/15 ounce Finesse ShroomZ with Finesse TRD or Finesse ShadZ™; 1/10-Ounce Finesse ShroomZ with TRD TicklerZ

Drew’s 5’10” – 4 lb Test Fireline – 3/16, ¼ or 3/8 ounce Jigs with Finesse ShadZ, Slim SwimZ™, Jerk ShadZ™ Combining state-of-the-art rod construction with whispers of retro finesse, every element of Drew’s Ultimate Ned Rig Rods have been carefully customized and perfected by Reese, with extensive field testing done by Ned Kehde himself. The first true-to-art series of rods engineered precisely for lightweight lures and lines, fine wire hooks, and exceptional bite detection, Drew’s rods were built to shoot daily catch rates into the hundreds.

Available in August, Drew’s Ultimate Ned Rig Rods feature a two-year limited warranty, MSRP $169.99 (5’4″) and $179.99 (5’10”).

About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic company based in Charleston, South Carolina, Z-Man Fishing Products has been fusing cutting-edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been one of the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits, and other lures. Creator of the original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovator of 10X Tough ElaZtech® soft baits, among the most sought-after baits in freshwater and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest growing lure brands in the world.