Worming Away

Article by: Matt Williams

There is a right way and a wrong way to present an artificial bug to rainbow trout as they suck mayflys off the surface a rolling mountain stream. And come to think it, much the same could be said for plastic worms and largemouth bass.

Plastic worms have long since been heralded as one the most productive bass baits ever made. In fact, many professional anglers around the country have listed it as the single-most effective artificial lure for fooling the sprightly largemouth.

The reason? Let's just say it's the most fool proof bass bait money can buy.

That's because plastic worm is "versatile," meaning it can be utilized in a variety ways in order to cope with an assortment situations be they related to weather, terrain, water color, season or a combination said factors.

The worm can be bumped along the bottom, crawled through heavy cover or fished vertically in thick moss. Furthermore, it can be floated on the surface or even in rigged in such a manner that it will suspend around vegetation or wood and dance a jig that even the most reluctant bass can't resist.

Here's a glance at some the more popular worm rigs along with some tips that might help make a beginner a better worm fisherman:

Texas Rig

Considering the quality bass fishing we have in this great state, it should come as no surprise to learn that the most popular all worm rigs originated in Texas. It's called the "Texas-rig," a strong name that pretty much speaks for itself.

The Texas-rig consists a bullet-shaped sinker which can be left free to glide on the line above the worm and hook or held in place with a toothpick. The basic mechanics the bait make it virtually snag free, which enables the angler to toss it into heavy cover with little concern.

To rig the worm, insert the point hook into the head the worm, pull it through until the eye is countersunk in the head, turn the point the hook back into the worm and bury it in the body cavity. The properly rigged worm will hang straight, with no humps or curves in its body.

Hook size should vary in accordance with the length and diameter the worm.

A 1/0 or 2/0 hook matches nicely with a four-inch worm, whereas a 3/0 or 4/0 is preferred for use with larger seven and eight-inch worms. A 5/0 hook is what you need to penetrate a bulky 11-12 inch model.

Slip sinker size will normally vary with the depth water and type cover being fished, as well as the season the year.

For instance, when bass are holding on bottom in matted vegetation growing in 17 feet water, a 1/2 or 5/8-ounce slip sinker will be more effective than a 1/4-ounce sinker. Not only will the heavier weight promote better sensitivity, but it also will penetrate the grass much easier and put the bait in the strike zone quicker.

On the flipside, a light weight can be just what the doctor ordered when bass are holding at suspended depths or on the bottom in eight feet water or less. A 1/4 or 3/16-ounce slip sinker will allow the bait to work wonders around shallow peppergrass or hydrilla beds, whereas an 1/8-ounce weight may be needed to do the trick on temperamental spawning bass.

A trademark often associated with the Texas-rigged worm is the "tap-tap" that occurs when bass bite it. This does happen from time to time and usually can be felt with the cheapest graphite rods.

But it also is important that you become a "line watcher," because bass can sometimes inhale the worm without giving any forewarning at all. Watch the line right where it enters the water and be ready if it twitches or moves to one side or the other. The strike usually will occur as the worm is falling, which brings us to the antiquated Texas-rig fishing method.

Once a cast has been made and the worm has descended to the bottom, make short sweeps with your rod tip from the nine o'clock to the 11 o'clock position. What you're doing here is hopping the worm along the bottom.

As your rod tip reaches the 11 o'clock position, stop for a second and watch the line as the worm falls slowly to the bottom. Should a "false bottom" or tick be detected, keep your elbows down, reel the slack out the line and set the hook with a quick jerk.

A mental note to heed here is to try and avoid overreacting to the strike with a haymaker, boat-rocking hookset. Not only is it unnecessary, but it looks rather silly.

Carolina-Rig Perhaps no other technique in the books has accounted for more dollars earned on the professional tournament trail in recent years than the Carolina-rigged worm. The technique actually originated in North Carolina many moons ago, but anglers have since learned to apply it on reservoirs all over the country.

The Carolina-rig craze got started in Texas back in March 1991 when Arkansas angler Jim Nolan used it to collect a $45,000 purse in the B.A.S.S. Top 100 bass tournament held on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Nolan landed a record-setting 86 pounds bass during the event, most which gobbled up a pumpkinseed Zoom lizard worked along the edge a submerged grass bed.

What makes the Carolina-rig so effective is the fact the worm is not restricted by weight. Instead, the weight is staged a couple feet ahead the bait. This allows the bait to fall very slowly and maintain a free-flowing action. It works best on bald bottoms, inside grass lines, points and in areas where there is secondary brush growth.

The basic Carolina-rig is set-up something like this:

  1. Slip a 3/4-ounce slip sinker onto the main line, add two, small glass beads and then tie on a small, barrel type swivel.
  2. Cut a 18-36 inch leader out smaller diameter line, tie it onto the opposite end the swivel and add a 2/0 or 3/0 hook, depending on the size soft plastic. The purpose the beads is create noise when the weight crashes into them.

Detecting a strike on the Carolina-rig is somewhat different than a Texas-rig. In fact, you'll rarely feel a bite until the fish tries to run off with the bait. That fact alone makes some anglers nervous.

"I grew up feeling the bump a bass on a worm, and a Carolina-rig is a totally different animal," says B.A.S.S. pro Harold Allen. "It's got an entirely different feel. And because that, I used to avoid fishing it. I don't avoid it anymore, though. It's a fish-catching son a gun."

Instead working the Carolina-rig with the same hopping retrieve as a Texas rig, Allen prefers keeping his rod tip low and dragging the bait with a sideways motion. He says it's more comfortable, plus it keeps the weight on the bottom.

"I've also found that you don't have to reel down and set the hook with a Carolina-rig like you do with the Texas-rig," said Allen. " The fish hold on to the bait real well. In fact, a lot them will swallow it before you know it if you aren't careful."

Weird Worm Rigs

While the Texas and Carolina-rigs are by far the two most popular worming methods among Lone Star anglers, there are some others that will work equally well in specialized situations.

The "wacky" worm is an excellent lure to use when bass are feeding in shallow water five feet and less, and it will often draw strikes when all the conventional methods fail. Some anglers prefer using lightweight spinning gear and 10-pound line in combination with "finesse" worms like the wacky worm, but heavier tackle will get the job done.

Rigging a worm wacky style is simple. Take a 2/0 or 3/0 hook and run it through the egg sac a six-inch worm. When fishing bald shorelines, you can leave the hook exposed. But when fishing around brush, you'll need a hook with a weed guard.

The type worm used can be critical as well. Most wacky style connoisseurs prefer one with a stiff body and straight tail. These tend to have the best action when the bait is "twitched" along. The best colors are those that can be seen beneath the water with the aid polarized sunglasses. White, hot pink and yellow are among some the favorites.

The swimming worm is another deadly rig to use when bass are roaming the shallows, but refuse to hit other baits. It's rigged similar to a Texas-rig, except it doesn't have a slip sinker.

To rig a swimming worm, tie a small barrel swivel to the mainline, add a 10-inch leader and then tie on a 3/0 hook. The swivel sinks the worm and helps out with casting, but it's not so heavy that it restricts the worm from darting from side to side as it's twitched back to the boat.

No matter what rig you choose, chances are good you'll agree the plastic worm is one the more versatile lures on the market once you've given it the opportunity to work for you. The key is to fish it slow and do so with the utmost confidence.