I see more and more bass fishermen using ned rigs out on Lake St. Clair every spring, what about trying the Lunker city Hellgie instead? Lunker City posted a slow motion video of the Hellgie on Facebook recently and the action of the tails and small legs would probably drive the smallmouth bonkers.
If you haven't realized this yet with the ned rig, the magic isn't from the small chunk of stick bait, but the actual mushroom jig head itself. The way this jig bounces and sits off of the bottom is unique and different than any soft plastic jig you're used to throwing. As you see when it sits on the bottom, both the gravity and current brings the soft plastic material to life creating a life-like action as it sits stationary at a 90 degree angle off the bottom.
I have yet to try a mushroom jig head myself out on Lake St. Clair, but every spring I see the YouTube videos of local out-of-staters crushing it with this rig, I think this may be the first year I give the ned rig or hellgie a try. Because as I have noticed over the years, my usual Chompers Tube or Powerbait Grub works great up until late spring, then both those soft plastics kind of stop working. Maybe this different type action from the mushroom jig head will trigger more strikes when smallmouth get lockjaw in the spring when they're less active.
And I've noticed, even with the chompers tubes, sometimes it just triggers more strikes when you let it sit on the bottom for 5-10 seconds, I've gotten some monster smallmouth that way, so I suspect letting the mushroom style jig head rest off of the bottom for tad bit longer time may be key when it's super cold out in the spring or even late spring when their feeding kind of titers of.
And there's really no reason why you can't try other soft plastics than a stick bait or hellgie, I think it would be smart buying numerous shaped soft plastic baits and trying them out on the mushroom jig head, stand it up on your desk at home or work, and see what action it produces.