Column: Fall is the perfect time to try new baits

By Larry LaGrange

Photo Provided by Larry LaGrange
Ron LaGrange with a nice bass taken on a plastic worm setup called "wacky" style. It involves rigging the worm sideways.

Good fishing is still available, since the waters are cooling. Plastic worms are usually considered best in summer, but they can be also good in the fall. It’s a natural bait that fish like year round.

In my last column I talked about my experiences with a fairly new worm rigging technique called wacky style. My wife says I’m wacky about fishing, so this method suits me well. Here are some insights that I hope you can use, even this fall. It’s a good time to be on the water. The weather is usually stable, and some of the competition is out squirrel hunting, scouting for deer or just waiting for next spring’s fishing.

My cousin Ron clued me in to a worm fishing method involving hooking the lure in the middle. He used a black and red Strike King Shim-e-Stik, which is available in tackle stores around here.  The right hook is very important.  A circle finesse wide-gap hook that has the right size to come through the middle of the worm and leave plenty of hook-up space is the ticket.  A bonus of the circle hook is that it’s so easy to remove.  I’ve caught a bunch of fish with this hook, and I don’t believe any were the least bit hurt. The hook usually pops right out. Ron also uses O-rings that fit tightly over the bait’s middle, and the hook goes under the ring. Saves on torn baits. You can get these at hardware stores. Small hair bands will also work. The ring must be very snug to avoid hook slippage on the worm.

There are several lures like the Shim-e-Stik, and I’ve tried a couple of others.  It’s just that there’s something about this particular bait that, as its name suggests, does the shimmy just right. There may be others that do as well. I’ve seen bass pro Kevin Van Dam use the Strike King Ocho effectively, and there’s the original Gary Yamamoto Senko. The bait must have the right amount of flex. If it’s too stiff, the ends don’t waggle enticingly.

Bass usually don’t drop this bait, but you don’t want to wait too long.  The hookset doesn’t have to be like yanking a log out. The wacky hook is more exposed than in a Texas rig. Just a nice firm pull back does it.  If you’re using a weedless hook, maybe a little more wait time and set force are needed.  The non-weedless has a super hook-up ratio and the weedless somewhat less, but sometimes the brush or weeds demands the hook guard. If you use a  weedless hook, you should do the O-ring. The wire hook guard often gets stuck on this fat lure if you go through the worm.  A 2/0 size hook is about right.  1/0 is too small.

I feel that if a bass is in the vicinity of this bait, and you work it right, he or she will likely eat it.  Just don’t overwork it.  Subtle twitches with your rod moving ten o’clock to eleven will be enough.  Repeat: You can’t work this lure slowly enough. Pretend it’s a live night crawler that might come off the hook if you’re too aggressive with it. This takes patience. Don’t get antsy. Slow down and work over an area thoroughly.

An additional plus about the Shim-e-Stik is that when you give it slack, it floats down and slightly backward.  If a fish is following it trying to make up his mind, that action usually does the deal. And bluegill or crappie may hit it, but they don’t pester this rig as much as some other worms.

The best way to fish it is with no weight, unless you have to get it down deeper than about eight feet. A slip sinker doesn’t allow the proper bait action.  Using a light, clamped on lead weight a foot above the hook would be better, or you could try inserting a small nail inserted into the worm’s head or tail.

Of course nothing’s guaranteed in fishing, but this spring I did well on this bait again. In late May my cousin and I landed and released maybe a dozen bass between two and five pounds, all on this rig. That was a special morning. And naturally Ron had the biggest bass.

The Shim-e-Stik or other Senko-type bait should be another tool in your bass arsenal; give the wacky deal a try.  Just be patient and don’t work it too fast or too hard. And believe a bass is studying it, because one probably is.

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