Tokyo Rig Setup: When and Where to Use for Bass

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Written By Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler with more than 20 years of fishing experience and a writer whose work has been featured in magazines for over a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States. He also fishes for trout in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, Paddling Space, Man Can Outdoors, Alabama Outdoor News, and Bassmaster.


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One of the most intriguing new bass fishing rigs is known as the Tokyo rig. This lure presentation was invented just a few years ago and shares many similarities with the Texas rig, but it also has its own distinct advantages that make it an extremely unique and productive fishing rig. 

If you want to know more about what the Tokyo rig is, how it’s different from other lures and how you can use it to catch more fish, keep reading. 

What is the Tokyo Rig?

The Tokyo rig is a fairly simple setup that involves a hook that’s connected to a short wire that holds weights. The premise behind the Tokyo rig and why it’s often used instead of a Texas rig or drop shot is that it’s compact and capable of keeping the bait on the bottom while also offering a bit more action in your soft plastic bait

You’ll have to purchase a few specific items in order to create the Tokyo rig and fish it properly. First, you’ll need a barrel swivel, as well as a short 3-inch wire. VMC is one of the only brands right now that sell everything you need for a Tokyo rig in a single package—except the sinker and soft plastic lure of your choice. If you’re an angler that has more ingenuity than others, you can probably create your own custom Tokyo rig using a few items you can find at the bait shop or hardware store. 

The Tokyo rig involves placing one or more sinkers on the wire and curling the end of the wire with your pliers to prevent the sinkers from falling off. You can use as many sinkers as you see fit to get a heavier or lighter Tokyo rig, but professional anglers like Mike Iaconelli have found serious success using two bullet sinkers that have the ends butted-up against one another. 

This works to keep the pointed ends facing outward and also creates a slight clicking sound when the sinkers make contact with one another while you’re fishing the lure, which is often something that drives fish crazy and results in more bites. 

You will add the soft plastic bait of your choice onto the offset shank hook in a Texas style fashion that will make it weedless. Anglers have found that some kinds of baits work better than others and the Tokyo rig is very commonly used to fish some of the more unique creature baits, especially those that closely resemble crawfish. Many anglers like to use paddle-tail minnow baits or crawfish, brush-hogs or even lizards when fishing with a Tokyo rig. 

Tokyo Rig Schematic Illustration
Tokyo Rig Schematic Illustration

When and Where to Fish the Tokyo Rig

The Tokyo rig is very similar to some of the other kinds of soft plastic lures you might use to catch fish throughout any season of the year. It truly excels when bass are driven down to deeper water by extreme temperatures or if they are moving up into shallow water in early spring. 

Most professional anglers that have taken up using the Tokyo rig have found that it performs quite well in times that you might choose to fish with a Texas rig. The main advantage the Tokyo rig gives you when compared to the Texas rig is that it keeps the bait close to the bottom, but allows it to float a few inches off the bottom instead of lying down as the Texas rig does. 

Since the sinker keeps it one the bottom, the bait is more exposed without being impeded with the sinker as it would be in the Texas rig or drop shot. The fact that it floats up higher off the bottom makes it much more visible to nearby fish and it appears more like a natural creature that most fish view as prey. 

An easy way to remember when and where you should fish the Tokyo rig is to simply consider opting for it any time you might typically use a Texas rig. Both styles of lure presentations have their own advantages and disadvantages and it’s crucial that you come to understand them if you want to step your game up and begin incorporating the Tokyo rig into your fishing strategy. 

It’s weedless like the Texas rig, but the Tokyo rig’s wire does tend to get snagged when fishing in heavy cover or vegetation. This is usually acceptable for anglers who know just how effective the Tokyo rig can be when the bite is hot and they will use braided line to ensure that they’ll be able to get into thick cover and pull a fish out if they need to. 

The Tokyo rig works very well around any sort of depth change when the water isn’t too hot or cold. Throw it around ledges, drop-offs, creek channels, and other bottom changes for some easy bites. It’s also a good one to pitch under docks in the sweltering mid-summer heat when bass are usually hiding in the shadows. 

The Tokyo rig allows you to fish as deep as you choose and you can make it more of a lightweight style rig by using some small ⅛ size sinkers and a 2/0 size hook. For the best results, I like to fish the Tokyo rig on a standard 7-foot rod with a faster reel that has at least a 7.1:1 gear ratio, which lets me keep the line tight while I’m fishing. 


The Tokyo rig is likely one of those hot new lures that some of your fishing buddies might not know about just yet. If you take heed to the tips and techniques we’ve included in this article, you should be able to reach a whole new level of success when fishing at times when other anglers are sticking with their good old-fashioned Texas rig. 

I recommend experimenting with the Tokyo rig yourself since it’s still a very new type of lure presentation. Heavier weights might work well in some situations while a lighter approach might be better for others. Once you become familiar with it, you’ll begin to understand just why the Tokyo rig is taking the bass fishing world by storm right now. 

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