Bass Fishing with Plastic Worms
This article will thoroughly cover bass fishing with plastic worms. Plastic worms are arguably the most effective artificial lure ever designed for largemouth bass fishing. If most experienced tournament and recreational bass anglers had to choose only one lure to fish with for the rest of their life, most would choose some type of soft plastic bait.
Read Capt Jim’s comprehensive article on fishing for largemouth bass
Capt. Jim Klopfer is a charter boat captain in Sarasota, Florida. While he basically makes his living fishing for saltwater species, he very much enjoys freshwater fishing as well. Capt. Jim grew up in Maryland fished the Potomac River for largemouth and smallmouth bass, most of which fell to the versatile plastic worm. He shares some tips and techniques as well as his favorite lures in this article.
Anglers have been fishing with live worms and nightcrawlers for centuries. It was just a natural evolution that at some point artificial worms and nightcrawlers would be designed. The irony is that in the wild, worms are not all that available to bass and other game fish species. While some worms do end up in the water, this represents a very small percentage of the overall diet of a bass.
Fishing with plastic worms
The reality is that the success of plastic worms for bass fishing is that in the water they look incredibly lifelike, even if they don’t precisely resemble something that a bass feeds on. This can be said for many other successful artificial lures. A buzz bait will catch plenty of fish, but doesn’t really look like anything in nature. A plastic worm slowly bouncing along the bottom, undulating seductively, is very attractive to a largemouth bass.
The first plastic worms for bass fishing showed up in the late 1960s. These first versions were very stiff and not pliable at all. Things have certainly changed since then! Plastic worms are available in many different lengths, styles, and colors. They are supple and incredibly lifelike in the water.
Best plastic worms for bass fishing
There are many lure manufacturers that offer anglers choices when it comes to purchasing plastic worms. All of them will catch fish if properly rigged and presented. Capt. Jim will list a few of his favorite, with the understanding that those left out are by no means inferior. These just happen to be the baits that he uses when bass fishing with plastic worms.
Zoom Trick worm
Capt. Jim’s favorite plastic worm is the Zoom Trick Worm. It is on the slender side and puts out an incredible amount of action with very little movement. The worm is six and three-quarter inches long, which is a perfect size. It is also a very reasonably priced plastic worm that is available in a myriad of fish catching colors.
Click to shop Amazon for Zoom Trick worms
Yamamoto Senko worm
The Yamamoto Senko worm is a terrific lure for largemouth bass. They are extremely popular these days and very few anglers venture out without a bag or two in their tackle box. The Senko is considered a finesse bait, also known as a stick bait. It is designed to have minimal action in the water, and this less aggressive action will often trigger fish when the bite is tough. They are available in models from 3 inches to 7 inches in length, most opt for the 4 inch and 5 inch worms.
Click to shop Amazon for Yamamoto Senko worms
Capt. Jim also uses Culprit plastic worms. These are famous for their long curly tail, which puts out a tremendous amount of action, much like an eel. They are an excellent choice when fish are in a feeding mood and are more aggressive. Culprit worms are available from 4.5 inches to 12 inches long. Capt. Jim likes the original 7 1/2 inch long bait.
Click to shop Amazon for Culprit worms
Best rod and reel for bass fishing with plastic worms
Anglers can use both spinning and bait casting tackle when bass fishing with plastic worms. Conventional, or bait casting, tackle is best when fishing a Texas rigged worm around heavy cover. The extra power helps set the hook and get the fish out of the cover. A lighter spinning outfit works best for drop shot fishing and wacky worm fishing. Most serious bass anglers have several of each on board.
A 7 foot to seven 1/2 foot medium spinning rod with a fast action and a 2500 series reel spooled up with 10 pound monofilament or braided line is an excellent light tackle combination when bass fishing with plastic worms. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium heavy bait casting rod with matching real and 40 pound braided line works best when fishing heavy cover.
Click to shop Amazon for Lew’s spinning and baitcasting rod and reel combos
Plastic worm color choices
Anglers have many options when it comes to colors when bass fishing with plastic worms. Green pumpkin is an excellent all round color for most conditions. Generally speaking, light and natural colors such as watermelon work best in fairly clear water while darker colors such as black and purple work well and stained water. Bright colors such as chartreuse or multi-color worms with a bright tail work well when the water is dirty.
Anglers should keep in mind that while technically these are “worms” they can be used to imitate a wide variety of forage that bass feed on. A white plastic worm can be used to imitate shad. Conversely, and olive or root beer colored worm will naturally mimic a crayfish. Green pumpkin and other colors probably look a lot like a bluegill to bass.
Rigging plastic worms for bass fishing
There are several different ways that anglers can rig the lure when bass fishing with plastic worms. These include the Texas rig, Carolina rig, wacky rig, drop shot rig, on a swim bait hook, and just a naturally swimming worm on a plain hook. All of these can be effective and each has a situation where they perform the best.
The Texas rig revolutionized bass fishing back in the early 1970s. It utilizes a specially designed hook which allows the worm to hang straight down with the point being embedded in the worm. This results in the bait being virtually weedless, allowing anglers to crawl the worm over and through just about every type of cover. This is an extremely productive technique. When the hook is pushed through the worm, the tip is tucked back in the worm. This is called a “skin hook” and keeps it weedless while making hook sets easier.
Anglers can fish the Texas rig with or without a sinker. In shallow water, swimming the worm through lily pads and other vegetation can be very effective. In water more than a couple feet deep, a sinker is usually used. Specially designed to sinkers were manufactured for this application.
These sinkers are conical in shape with a hole in the center. The pointed nose of the sinker facilitates it moving through cover without hanging up while the hole in the sinker allows the bass to pick up the plastic worm and move off with it without feeling any weight. In heavy cover, anglers will often peg the sinker to the head of the worm, thus not allowing it to slide. This can reduce snags in heavy cover.
The worm is cast out and allowed to sink to the bottom. Anglers then work the baits slowly back in. Most often, a slow retrieve with small hops is most effective. However, there are times when the bass what the lure moved more aggressively. When a strike occurs, anglers need to set the hook very hard in order to penetrate through the plastic worm and into the mouth of the fish.
The Carolina rig is a variation of the Texas rig. It uses a sliding egg sinker on the mainline followed by a swivel. The swivel stops the sinker from going any further allows for the use of a longer leader. The leader length is usually between 2 feet and 3 feet long. A Texas rig hook is used along with the worm of choice.
This rig is best used with floating worms, which most are anyway. The Carolina rig is almost always used in deeper water around structure such as submerged points and channel edges. As the sinker is dragged along the bottom, the worm trails behind just a bit above the bottom, putting out a lot of action. In most cases, slowly dragging the worm is the best retrieve.
One of Capt. Jim’s favorite ways to present a plastic worm is on a swim bait hook. This combines the weight and the hook along with the advantages of Texas rigging all in one tidy unit. The sinker is molded and at the bend of the hook, which results in the bait having a horizontal presentation. Some type of keeper, whether it is a bar or a coil, provides a place to attach the worm at the eye of the hook. The point of the hook is then buried in the worm Texas style.
Anglers can fish the plastic worm on a swim bait hook just as they do the Texas rigged, by slowly dragging and hopping and along the bottom. It is also an excellent choice in rivers and lakes with current, which is the situation Capt. Jim often fishes. Having the weight in the hook in one unit results in a better presentation without tangling or snagging.
Wacky worm rig
At first glance, the wacky rig looks silly. What is the point in placing the hook through the center of the worm? Whoever thought of it, it was a great idea! Wacky worm fishing has grown exponentially in popularity as it is a very effective and perhaps more importantly, very easy technique to use.
The hook is placed right through the center of the worm. Anglers can use a regular bait hook or a specifically designed hook for the purpose. Some anglers use O-rings and other devices to help increase the durability and life of the worm. It is fished without a sinker.
The wacky worm is used almost exclusively and shallow cover. It is cast out toward the cover, where it lands softly. As it sinks down through the water column, the hook in the central location causes the ends of the worm to undulate irresistibly. Most bites occur as the worm initially falls. Anglers can give the worm a hop or two then retrieve it back in and make another cast. The Senko is perfect for this, though full-sized plastic worms can be used as well.
For some novice anglers, detecting the strike when bass fishing with plastic worms can be difficult. Take is often very subtle, with the angler only feeling a slight tap. However, this is not the case when wacky worm fish! More often than not, the bass takes off with the worm. This is very easy for the angler to see as the line sideways. The slack is reeled up, the rod tip raised, and the fish is hooked.
Drop shot rig
The drop shot rig is a fairly new addition for anglers bass fishing with plastic worms. It involves a sinker at the bottom of the main line with a hook tied inline 12 inches to 18 inches above the sinker. The hook is tied on using a knot that results in the hook sticking out 90° from the line. The worm is then hooked through the nose and allowed to wiggle freely. Most often, smaller finesse worms such as the 4 inch Senko are used, though anglers can use larger worms as well.
Read Capt Jim’s article on drop shot fishing
This rig is very effective when fishing for suspended bass holding over cover in deeper water. The bait is drop to the bottom and worked very subtly. The angler can then slowly work the bait up through the water column if needed. It is important not to impart too much action as an aggressive motion will often spook fish.
Anglers make the mistake of thinking this is only a deep water presentation, this is far from the truth. The drop shot rig is also very effective when cast out and retrieved in shallow water. However, it is not the best choice where heavy vegetation is present. It can be an extremely effective way to lure wily bass that are on the bed in clear, shallow water.
One of the great advantages that anglers bass fishing with plastic worms have is that these lures will catch fish and just about every situation an angler will encounter. There is no better lure for fishing heavy brush or vegetation in shallow water. A Texas rigged plastic worm or a worm on a swim bait hook is excellent for fishing docks. The Carolina rig or drop shot rig is an excellent choice when fishing bridge pilings or deeper structure such as submerged points, sunken islands, deep brush piles, and channel edges. A worm rigged wacky style in cast out towards the edge of a bed of lily pads or other aquatic vegetation is a great way to catch a largemouth bass.
In conclusion, this article on bass fishing with plastic worms will help anglers understand how to rig and fish these incredibly effective artificial lures!