Column: Wacky or not, worms prove fruitful in fishing

By Larry LaGrange

Like most bass fishermen, I’ve had good success over the years with plastic worms.  I’m so old that I can recall those slim packages of Crème three-hook red worms with the spinner in front. Lots of fish were caught on those in the fifties and sixties. 

Company founders Nick and Cosma Creme had started pouring the Wiggle Worm by hand in their basement and selling them through the mail in 1949, a buck for five worms. I fished recently with a fellow who still had one and used it to catch a three-pound bass, bigger than anything I caught that day. I used them more than my dad did back when I first started fishing because my lighter spinning outfit would cast it.  His stiff bass rod and heavy line were too much for the light worms.

A trip to Kentucky Lake later in the sixties introduced me to the so-called Texas rigged worm.  A retired military guy, who fished the lake regularly and successfully, was staying at the same resort near Big Sandy Tennessee and told us this was the way to go.   He gave me and my dad some packages of eight-inch pythons with the hook and sinker included.  I thought it was a huge bait, much bigger than any worm I had ever fished. 

The sinker with a hole in it looked way too heavy and the hook way too big.  What do you mean you insert the hook back into the worm? And only one hook? This bait was something completely new to us.  But after a lot of trial and error over the years, my dad and I learned to fish  plastic worms and pretty much swore by them. 

In mid-July last summer I caught my third or fourth biggest bass ever, a 6.21 largemouth on a good ol’ slip sinkered, Texas rigged, red curly tailed Culprit, one of my favorites. Now it’s fall and the water is cooling, lots of fishermen have hung it up for the year, but the fish will soon start their pre-winter feed. It will be a good time to get out there, with whatever style of fishing you prefer. But don’t put away the plastic worm. You might try going wacky, especially as bass move to the shallows.

My cousin Ron and I were fishing a private lake that has a good population of bass.  Fishing and releasing had been good that June morning, but as usual the bite died when the sun came out hot and bright.  It was 11:00. Time to take it in and call the outing a success. The bass were in siesta mode until evening.

“Before we leave let’s hit that spot where we were getting them earlier,” Ron said.  “I have a new bait I’d like to try.”

We trolled over to the west bank near some sunken brush, and Ron rigged up a fat, six-inch, straight tail, red and black worm with a hook inserted into the middle.

Before then I had tried the sideways thing, called wacky rigging, but I’d had little success.  I’d always go back to the standard straight rig after a few casts.  The thing looked clumsy in the water — it just didn’t act right.  And it didn’t have a curly or paddle tail, which I had always used before.   It moved sideways, for gosh sakes. That’s just not natural. Worms don’t do that in the water. Do they? Does a curious or hungry largemouth care?

So cousin Ron rigged up his wacky rig, tossed it out, and did almost nothing with his rod.  He retrieved it oh so slowly — one cast took forever.  So I was observing his practice fishing and marveling at his patience. Then he set the hook on a nice 14-inch bass and brought it to the boat. The thing does work. 

In about 45 minutes, in the middle of a hot, sunny day, he caught six or seven bass from a spot we had give up on earlier. He’s better than I am at it because he’s more patient and methodical. This lure takes slow hands.

Ever since then,  I’ve been a believer in wacky style, at certain times and locations.  If fish are holding at a depth of ten feet or less, this technique can be very good. Next time I’ll get into more detail.

 Until then, fall’s here, some firearm seasons are in and deer hunters are out scouting, but fishing season’s not over by a long shot. I had some of my best action for both crappie and bass last November. It’s just a very good time to be outdoors, and it’s even better when the autumn colors start showing up.

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