Fishing with plastic worms requires patience, practice

Column by Larry LaGrange

Back in the mid to late 1950s, when I first graduated from bluegill fishing to bass, I recall using a three-hook Creme plastic worm with my semi-trusty Abu-Garcia closed-face spinning outfit.

Dad, my bass mentor, didn’t much care for the rig, preferring spinner baits and crank baits to the new-fangled lure. I took a friend bass fishing recently and he was using something that looked very much like that original worm, tiny hooks, spinner, and all. He caught a three-pounder, the best fish of the trip. The venerable plastic worm has come a long way and continues to be one of the most reliable bass baits ever made.

Another clear memory is a trip to Kentucky Lake in the early sixties. Charlie Bumpas was a Tennessee fishing legend in the Big Sandy area. He was a retired military man and bass fishing was his passion. He also fished local tournaments, so he was in effect the first “pro” I had ever met.

He was a person of few words, as he didn’t like to give away his spots or his methods. We did see him plying deeper water at times, something we struggled at. If the bass weren’t near the bank or in the weedy shallows on the islands, Dad and I were in trouble. Charlie consistently caught fish, shallow or deep, and he caught them at all hours of the day. Most days our productive fishing was done after 8 a.m., or even earlier if the sun popped out.

One day we met at the boat launch, and Charlie showed us some nice bass he had caught. He told us a plastic worm was the lure, and he gave us some card packets with a seven, eight inch worm, slip sinker, and gigantic curved hook. No tiny hooks or spinners on this bait. He showed us how to rig it weedless, or Texas style as it came to be called, using the slip sinker.

The outfit looked big and awkward, and besides, how the heck can you stick a fish with the hook embedded in the worm? It took a lot of trial and error, but eventually that rig became the way to catch bass at Kentucky Lake as well as in our local lakes and pits.

On one trip last year, I caught a five-pounder, two fours, and two threes on curly tailed Culprit red shad plastic worms fished deep. I also like to throw a wacky-rigged (the hook is in the middle) Senko-type worm, fished weightless. If fish are around they will eat this bait, but one must be very patient. Slow and slower is the ticket.

There are times when other lures are better. Worms come into their own when warmer weather arrives. I always think fishing season begins the first time I see earthworms on my driveway after a rain. Early and late in the season, I do better on crank baits, jigs, and spinners.

Here are some tips on how to fish plastic worms.

Get the right equipment, which starts with the rod. I like a six and a half or seven-foot rod, which allows me to take up more line when setting the hook. Slack line is a killer. The rod needs to have backbone but a soft tip to detect the strike. Don’t scrimp on quality. I have a Bass Pro rod that I paid a hefty price for, and every time I use it, I’m glad I got it. The quality will remain long after the price is forgotten.

You have to be able to feel what the lure is doing, as it should be in contact with something. It takes experience to detect a strike from a rock or stump. Expect to miss fish if you’re just starting, learning to get the right feel. It’s a process.

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