By Tom Cannon
One classic Bass fishing lure that seems to get over looked, is the big ten or twelve inch plastic worm. It’s a classic, “meat and potatoes” bait, capable of catching plenty of “keeper” size Bass as well as tempting the larger “kicker” fish that help win tournaments.
Big worms should be a staple for any serious Bass fisherman, whether you are a weekend warrior or tournament pro. One pro who relies heavily on the effectiveness of big plastic worms is North Carolina’s, Dustin Wilks. A perennial Bass Master’s Classic contender, Wilks fishes big worms religiously during the warmer months.
“There’s nothing simpler than fishing a big worm,” admits Wilks. Rocket science this isn’t, its worm fishing 101. The key to the technique is simply finding the right areas to employ the worm. For Wilks these places are structure areas such as shell beds, steep vertical drops or long shallow points. Dustin mentioned that the big plastic worm is an excellent choice on schooling fish since it is a very natural looking bait and will allow an angler to catch multiple fish from the school before they get in-active.
The key component of the entire technique obviously is the plastic worm. Dustin uses a ten or twelve inch Culprit Classic worm that he rigs Texas style. He utilizes a relatively heavy weight, either a 1/2ounce or even a 3/4 ounce slip sinker in front of a 5/0 or 6/0 offset hook. Traditional worm fishing gear prevails and Wilks chooses to throw his worm on a seven foot one inch rod paired with the fastest (7-1) ratio casting reel Daiwa makes. His typical line choice is fifteen pound fluorocarbon due to its sensitivity and lack of stretch which allows for great hook sets.
Culprit produces their Classic worm in a couple dozen colors which should appeal to any angler. Wilks. like every fisherman has his favorites, such as red shad, green pumpkin with red flake, black with blue flake and watermelon. Of course he’ll have a few other packs of various colors in his boat at all times but those are Wilks “go to” colors for the southeastern U.S. waters.
“I start throwing the big worm two to three weeks after the spawn ends,” advised Wilks. “It’s best right after Bass move out from the bank”. Dustin did admit that its common for the Bass to travel some distance from their spring spawning grounds to their post spawn, summer haunts. Thus Wilks will traditionally cover some distance in his boat searching for those deeper water “hot spots” and watching his electronics for telltale hard bottom areas.
Contrary to popular opinion, in these structure spots, a long cast isn’t always necessary. Dustin mentioned that the trick to catching bass from the main lake “holes” is finding active fish. Therefore speed is the angler’s friend, and covering water is practical. Often Wilks will simply make short casts or pitches and quickly fish a spot to test whether the Bass are there and actively feeding. A couple casts is all it takes. If there are no takers – it’s on to the next spot. Still, its wise to return at some point in the day since fish get active for many reasons and can “turn on” at any time.
Another trick pros such as Wilks utilize, is rotating the bait color. Once he finds a place with active fish, Dustin will seine the area with his original worm and when bite become difficult to entice, he will switch to one or more different colored worms before leaving. “It’s pretty common to add another fish or two by doing that,” quipped Wilks. Occasionally he will add his largest fish of the spot after switching colors. Smaller, more active fish often bite fish, leaving the larger, less aggressive Bass alone in the hole. Making several passes, casting from different angles and directions can and will entice an extra fish or two into the boat.
One of the best tips I have heard about fishing big worms, is that Dustin allows a couple the Bass a couple seconds with the worm in his mouth prior to setting the hook. He feels it gives him consistently more fish as he believes the fish may not have the bigger worm completely in it’s mouth unless he waits that extra moment.
In addition to those main lake structure spots, Wilks also fishes his Culprit worm on long main lake points that have isolated cover. That cover might be stumps, brush piles or rocks. Either way he is keying on the ten to sixteen foot depth range where he finds Bass typically hang out in warmer months. Once more he will quickly fish the worm until he finds those targets then he’ll slow his retrieve down and bump the worm into the cover.
Wilks lives smack, dab in the center of Blue Back Herring country. The lakes that have good populations of this baitfish have traditionally been pounded by jigs and crankbaits yet here again Dustin throws the big, old Classic worm. “On these Herring lakes, Bass stay shallow all year,” stated Wilks. “I throw that worm way up into one foot of water and it presents a great target for them.”
The bigger worms are overlooked for flipping and pitching as well. Since many anglers toss small craws or jigs into matted hydrilla beds, giving the Bass a different look or lure just makes sense! Make flipping the big ten inch worm your “change-up” lure and its highly probable that it will pay off with bigger stringers!
In the central portion of the United States, anglers have been fishing the big worms for years. Here the technique is for suspended bass in timber. Most of the equipment Dustin used is applicable yet its best to down size the slip sinker weight. We use a 1/8 to 1/4 ounce weight, and allow the worm to fall vertically through the tree as we watch the line or count the fall rate. Should the worm stop falling before it has reached the depth of the “bottom” , set the hook as its likely a bass has picked it up! After catching one or more fish at a certain depth, the angler can often determine that’s where the fish are holding and target that depth range exclusively. At this point making accurate casts to cover and “swimming ” the worm through that depth range is the key to effectively fishing the area.
Big worms are a very effective tool for Bass anywhere in the country once the water warms up. There may not be a more natural bait than a plastic worm, and the added length just makes it more attractive to fish. The low cost allows the angler to stock up on several colors and replace worn worms quickly and without losing time and money. Worm fishing is a consistent producer of big fish and there may not be any better way to introduce a young angler to Bass fishing than by handing them a rod rigged with a big worm. Let’s face it, this is about as simple yet effective way to fish as can be found – but it works for the best. Just ask Dustin Wilks!