Soft Plastic Worms and Baits

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A Beginner's Guide to Bass Fishing


Soft plastic baits imitate a variety of bass food from worms, salamanders, crayfish and lizards. Soft plastic jerkbaits imitate small forage fish. Let’s begin with the ubiquitous worm that comes in so many variations, sizes and colors that it can be overwhelming for beginners adding to their soft plastic collection. Beginning bass anglers should fish a worm 50% of the time until they master the technique of fishing on the bottom. Fishing close to shore in turbid water with a flipping presentation is probably the best confidence booster a novice can experience. Start out by attaching the worm with a Texas Rig (see glossary for illustration), which slightly embeds the hook point into the worm on a weedless hook. Experiment fishing the worm in all conditions for every pattern conceivable. The best water temperatures are above 55 with the ideal temperatures between 60-65 degrees, especially during the spawn. Watch Your LIne One of the most frustrating nuances that I have yet to learn is to anticipate line movement. If you feel a tick on the line, it is usually the bass exhaling and pushing out the worm when it realizes it is not food. Setting the hook at this point is like closing the barn door after the horse is out. Bass engulf their food when it is on the bottom by opening their mouths and sucking in water along with your bait. When they move off the line will move ever so subtly. This is when you need to set the hook! If you are fishing weedless with an embedded hook, lower the rod tip, take up the slack and heave-ho! If you are fishing wacky style with the hook exposed, a gentle lift is usually all that is required. (See Shastina Lake entry.)

Worm Size: Select a worm 4 to 6 inches long for all-around fishing and 8-10-inches for those elusive, trophy bass. Using heavy line size has two advantages. The first is obvious in that you can fish the worm in heavy cover. The second advantage of a large line size is that it helps slow the descent of the falling worm, which frequently triggers the most strikes.
Common Hook Size: 3/0 and 4/0 hooks

Worm Colors: (photo) A myriad of color combinations await the consumer, but a simple rule of thumb for the beginner is to start with dark colors for murky water and natural or flesh color for clearer waters. One thing is certain, it is hell to be catching bass on a particular pattern only to find that the action stops when the conditions change. Bring an assortment of color to experiment throughout the day. Black and black/blue followed by dark browns with green are the most popular, but everybody has a favorite color combination for a particular condition or pattern. The Senko brand is a favorite, especially during the spawn. Use a weedless hook rigged Texas Style. For information on rigging the Senko worm, go to

John Fox suggests that if you are fishing during a cold front, keep your boat positioned close to shore and cast out to the deeper water, and then slowly move your worm from deep water to shallow water, as bass move into the deeper water, especially the females. When the front passes, and you have a blue-bird day, work your plastics in the deep section of coves or creek beds. (Be sure to read my review of John Fox's bass fishing video. It is the best instructional video that I have found.)
Hook Set: Watch for subtle line movement or a slight rod twitch, lower the rod tip and reel in any slack, and then hook-set hard – repeat again in 2 to 3 seconds.

Presentation: Crawl the worm slowly. Pause for agonizing long periods! If you flip the worm up on the bank or on a half-submerged log or rock, SLOWLY move the worm into the water. Anticipate strikes when the worm drops over rocks or other obstacles such as a ledge. Bass usually strike on the first or secondary fall. Work the worm slowly to the boat. In deeper water, jig the worm vertically one to two feet with a twitching motion, and then allow the worm to spiral to the bottom again. Always watch the line for movement, as the takes are often very subtle. A variation of the Texas Rigged Worm is to use a soft plastic worm or bait with a cone-shaped, slip sinker, which is perhaps the most popular rigging. A Texas Rigged Worm can be crawled or snaked through heavy cover. Most anglers use a tooth pick to jam in the slip sinker for heavy cover. (photo) Carolina Rig: The Carolina Rig targets bass feeding above the bottom by floating a worm at a pre-determined depth. An egged-shaped slip sinker (1/2 oz. to 1 oz.) is attached above a swivel. The worm is attached on a short leader. Generally the hook is left exposed, as the worm floats above the bottom with an inserted Styrofoam piece embedded in the plastic worm or bait. (You may buy floating worms.) (photo)

Split Shotting a plastic worm simply adds a split shot 16 to 20-inches above the worm on light line. Utilized in shallow water, the retrieving technique of reel-pause-twitch moves the worm along the bottom as a searching pattern for heavily pressured fish. In off-colored water, position your boat within ten or twenty feet of the shoreline and flip your worm to likely cover. Strikes often come on the fall. Silent entries into the water are best, as a splashy plop may spook a bass holding in shallow water. After a pause (experiment with short to agonizingly long pauses) lift the worm again with a little twitch, and pause briefly before you flip to a new spot.
Targeting Spawning Bass: Bass protect their spawning beds by carrying the worm away from the bed, or they attempt to kill it. Since spawning bass are not as hungry as in other seasonal periods, they often pick up the worm in the middle to move it. Attach the worm Wacky Style, which penetrates the hook through the middle of the worm with the point exposed. Cast over the bed and slowly work the worm to the center or edge and then let it rest. Every soft, plastic worm collection should have some salamanders as well. Use all of the techniques mentioned above, but don’t be surprised if the take is violent. Bass hate salamanders and snakes and they attack to kill, especially on or near their spawning beds. While you practice your worm techniques on the bottom, be sure to spend a great deal of your time fishing with a jig as well. Many tournament professionals fish extensively with jigs, especially the Jig and Pig (pork rind).