Plastic Worms for Bass
Soon after plastic was invented, lure manufacturers began using it to create fish-attracting imitations of live prey. Fast forward to today, and plastic worms are the largest category of bass lures on the market. Offerings from countless brands include every style, size, and color you can dream off. Whether you’re shopping in a tackle store or online, you can be sure that the collection of soft plastics you’re seeing is a tiny fraction of what the industry has to offer.
Bass are attracted to plastic worms because of their lifelike appearance, but it’s what happens after the strike that makes worms really special. Their texture causes plastic worms to feel like natural food, so when a bass gets a worm in its mouth, he’ll usually hold on for a while, giving you a longer opportunity to set the hook.
One reason plastic worms are so popular is the fact that they are extremely versatile baits. They can be fished in almost all conditions, by experience and novice anglers alike. Worms are the lure that so many beginners started out with, yet they also play a major role for professionals on the tournament trail.
Of all the ways to rig plastic worms, one rig that can be used in almost all conditions is the Texas rig. It’s an especially good rig for beginners because it’s so weedless. If you’re new to fishing with plastic worms, check out this Texas Rig Kit. It contains all the components needed for Texas rigging, including Owner hooks, the best offset worm hooks you can find. A strong, sharp hook is critical when fishing with plastic worms, and this kit has the right hooks for the job.
Best Plastic Worms for Bass Fishing?
One time-tested style of plastic worm is the ribbon tail variety, a good example of which is the Zoom Magnum II Worm. It’s a nine-inch ribbon tail worm that has been popular with bass anglers for many years.
Ribbon tail worms like this one produce the best results when used with a Texas rig or Carolina rig. Two of the most effective colors are green pumpkin and junebug.
A more recent innovation in soft plastic worms is the Senko Worm by Gary Yamamoto. These stick-bait style worms work everywhere, in clear and stained water, and attract both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
A Wacky rig is one of the best ways to fish the Senko Worm, but it works great on a Texas rig too. If you want to narrow down your color choices, we suggest going with watermelon, green pumpkin with black flake, and green pumpkin with red flake.
Selecting Soft Plastics
Anglers select the right worm to use based on the body of water they are fishing, the current fishing conditions, and their chosen presentation technique. This section covers the three most important factors to consider when you’re selecting a worm: style, color, and size.
Selecting a Worm Style
Selecting the best style of worm has a lot to do with whether the worm has a tail or not. You should use a worm with a tail in warmer, stained water, near sparse weeds, and when bass are actively feeding. A worm with no tail is better in clear, open water, when the water temperature is low, and when fish are heavily pressured.
Selecting a Worm Color
Light colored worms work best if you’re fishing stained water, but it’s common to mix things up by using a worm that has a dark body and a brightly colored tail.
Darker colors and the more natural-looking choices tend to work better in clearer water where it is critical to “match the hatch.” That means showing the bass something that looks like the live food they’re eating. In clear water, the enhanced visibility that the bass enjoy calls for an offering that looks extremely natural.
Selecting a Worm Size
Water clarity and sink rate are the two most important considerations when you’re selecting a worm size. In clear water, you need to use a smaller worm, and in stained water, a larger worm is best. The worm’s sink rate, which is the speed at which it falls through the water, is going to be slower if the worm you’re using is bulky because it will displace more water than a smaller bait. If you’re using a weight-less technique, worm size selection is your only way to control how fast the worm will fall.
If you’re using weights with your worm presentation, you can really dial in the right sink rate. How fast your bait sinks has a major impact on how effective it will be, with a too-fast or too-slow fall causing the bass to completely ignore your worm.
An efficient approach to zeroing in on the right sink rate is to begin with a faster sink rate and then incrementally slow down the fall if the fish aren’t responding.
There are also some useful rules of thumb you can apply. Shoot for a slow sink rate if you’re fishing in the early spring or late fall, fishing for pressured bass, or any time the water temperature is low. Go for a faster sink rate in warmer water, when fishing thick cover, and when bass are active.
How to Rig a Soft Plastic Worm
Three popular worm rigs include the Texas rig, the Carolina rig, and the Wacky rig. There are other rigging methods, but these three will cover almost every worming scenario you encounter. Selecting between these rigging methods involves assessing the conditions to determine the best presentation, but one of these three methods is always going to produce results.
The Texas Rig
A Texas-rigged worm is completely weedless. That’s one reason it’s the most common worm rig there is. There’s really no way to get hung up, unless your line wraps around a piece of cover, but you can’t blame the worm for that! Many hook styles can be used to achieve this weedless setup, but a wide-gap, offset design is best.
When you put a worm on a Texas rig, you thread the hook through the head of the bait, exiting near the bait’s collar. Then, you rotate the hook 180° and, after letting the worm hang feely to check the right spot, you push the point back through the worm’s body, resulting in a perfectly straight rig. Finally, you back up the hook point, so it rests inside the body of the worms, making the rig weedless.
The only other required component in a Texas rig is the cone shaped sinker that is threaded on the line. The sinker can freely slide up the line, which means bass won’t feel the weight when they strike, and the bait will be harder for a thrashing bass to throw.
Texas-rigged worms are typically fished in thick cover, using a very heavy-action rod and strong, abrasion-resistant line. Those tools are needed to enable a lightning-fast hookset and help you move the fish away from cover quickly. When fishing a Texas-rigged worm, under most conditions, there’s no such thing as “too slow.” Whether you’re working it through cover or bouncing it along bottom structure, go as slow as you can.
When a bass strikes a worm, you’ll feel a ‘tick-tick’ transmitted up the line, and that means it’s time to set the hook. This should not be a gentle, sweeping hookset—you need to wind up and hit it hard so the hook point can come out of the worm’s body and penetrate the fish’s mouth.
Once a bass is hooked, you’ll want to steer it out of cover fast. That’s where a stiff baitcasting rod helps, and baitcasting reels have the strong heavy gears needed to winch bass into open water. A powerful drag will help seal the deal in case of a late surge.
For more information about Texas-rig worms, click here.
The Carolina Rig
If you’ve never seen a Carolina rig, picture a Texas rig, but with the weight separated from the bait by a length of leader. A swivel and bead situated 12″ to 18″ away from the worm are what keep the weight from sliding all the way down. The result is a swimming action that’s very different from the crawl you get with Texas rigs.
A Carolina rig is a great search bait because you can fish it faster than other worm rigs. The presentation involves a long cast and a moderately slow pumping retrieve that allows the bait to follow the bottom contours. When a fish hits, you may feel a tick on the line like with a Texas rig, but just as often, the strike on a Carolina rig just feels like resistance. Use a sweeping hookset that takes up slack quickly, and land that lunker.
Deciding between a Texas rig and a Carolina rig is like trying to pick between a hammer and a saw—it all depends on what you need to get done! If your goal is to cover a lot of water, the long-casting Carolina rig is the right choice, but it’s lousy in dense cover. Plus, a Carolina rig won’t follow the contours of a ledge or drop-off due to its slower sink rate. A Texas rig excels in that scenario, staying close to the bottom as you crawl it over structure. It’s also great for penetrating cover like downed trees, allowing you to careful dissect every section.
For more information about Carolina-rigged worms, click here.
The Wacky Rig
The last worm-rigging method we’ll examine is called the Wacky rig. It’s not as crazy as it sounds! You just stick a hook through the middle of a worm, and it creates a very enticing presentation. One of the best hooks to use with a Wacky rig is the Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Weedless Hook, and a Wacky Ring will help keep your bait in one piece.
The Wacky rig is most effective when fished either weightless, or with a tiny split-shot. Simply cast it near cover like a weed line or under a dock, then wait for it to sink. During the slow descent, twitch the rod tip slightly to give the worm a tantalizing action.
The Wacky rig is best when fished near vertical cover like weed lines, dock posts, and bridge pilings. Sometimes you’ll see the strike, but just as often, you have to wait for the bait to reach almost all the way to the bottom before the action starts. The light-weight presentation means you’ll feel even the subtlest of strikes.
For more information about the Wacky worm, click here.
How to Fish with Plastic Worms
When you fish plastic worms, you absolutely have to stay in contact with the bait. While keeping tension on the line is critical, do not apply so much tension that you move the bait more than intended; the nature of worm rigs is that, even with a slight arc in your line, the strike will be transmitted to your rod. It’s really more about knowing where the worm is in relation to the bottom or cover throughout the entire retrieve.
When bass hit a worm, they don’t bite it, they suck it in. There are usually two ‘ticks.’ Some say the first tick you feel is the bait entering the fish’s mouth and the second tick is the bass closing its mouth on the bait. A fish can eject the worm remarkably fast, so, whether you feel one tick, two ticks, or just some unusual resistance, set the hook! A quick aggressive raising of the rod tip will drive the hook point through the plastic and into the jaw of the fish.