July 2006

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Three Ways To Fish A Plastic Worm

By Margie Anderson

Arizona Bureau Chief

Stroll down the fishing aisle of any store or walk into any tackle shop, and youíll be confronted by an amazing variety of plastic worms. They come in an almost infinite variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, but they all have one thing in common Ė they are dynamite bass lures.

There are almost as many ways to rig and fish plastic worms as there are anglers who fish them, but there are a few classic techniques that have been catching fish just about forever.

Texas-Rigged Worm

I have no idea why this method is called "Texas rigging," but I do know that it is one of the best ways to catch bass that I know of. It works on any lake at just about any time of year, and itís simple.

All you need are a handful of plastic worms (usually 6- to 9-inch ones), some offset worm hooks, and some bullet sinkers.

For 6- to 9-inch worms, use a 3/0 or 4/0 hook worm hook. A wide gap helps with the hookset, and NEVER buy cheap hooks.

Good hooks like Eagle Claw, Gamakatsu or Mustad arenít that expensive, and when you finally get that big huge fish of a lifetime on, youíll be glad you spent a few extra pennies on a good hook.

A good worm rod is one with some backbone to it. Get a medium-heavy action rod, or just look for one that says itís for fishing worms.

Most anglers use at least 14-pound-test line for worming. Bullet sinkers are lead weights that are shaped like bullets; they come in a variety of sizes.

For worming, you will probably use mostly 1/4 or 3/8-ounce sinkers. Slip the bullet sinker onto the line, then tie on the hook.

Push the point of the hook straight into the top of the worm and push it toward the tail for about 1/4 inch. Then come out the side of the worm, twist the worm around on the hook so the point is now toward the worm, and pull the hook until the eye is inside the top of the worm.

Then stick the hook inside the worm, until the point is almost out the other side. Thatís a Texas rig.

Fish a Texas rig by casting it out and letting it fall to the bottom on a slack line. Once it hits bottom, close the bail and reel until the line is taut.

You can drag it, hop it, swim it along by slowly cranking, or just drop it straight down into thick cover like submerged trees or brush. They are dynamite on rock piles and on steep rocky banks, or even just dragged down a channel.

When a bass takes a Texas rigged worm, it usually only gives you one little tap. When you feel that, set the hook hard by reeling the line tight and snapping the rod up and back.

Sometimes the bite is just pressure. Other times, it will just feel as if someone cut your line. Rule of thumb: if it feels "different", set the hook.

Carolina Rig

A Carolina rig is one of the deadliest bass rigs in Arizona. A lot of tournaments are won on them in summer when bass are living in deep water.

Itís a great lure for dragging around submerged humps, long points, and creek channels.

To set up a Carolina rig, first cut off about 4 feet of your line to use as a leader. Some people use lighter line for leaders so if they break off, they just lose the hook and lure and not all the other stuff. Suit yourself.

Set that piece of line aside and grab yourself a heavy sinker like a Ĺ- to 1-ounce egg sinker. Slip this onto your main line, then slide a glass bead on right after it.

Then, tie on a barrel swivel. You can get all this stuff at any tackle shop, and itís all fairly cheap.

Just tell the salesperson what youíre going to be doing, and theyíll fix you right up.

After you tie on the swivel, tie the leader to the other end of it. At the end of the leader is where you tie on the hook. Size the hook to fit your lure.

Rig the bait onto the hook just as you did for the Texas rig. One of the most popular lures for Carolina rigging is a 5- or 6-inch watermelon green plastic lizard.

Brush Hawgs and floating worms are also great Carolina rig lures.

A Carolina rig takes a little getting used to when it comes to casting. Try holding the rod behind you and a little up, then swing it up and over to cast.

Let the rig get all the way to the bottom before you close the bail, then move the rig by pulling the rod to the side. After pulling the lure a bit with the rod, reel up the slack line and pull again.

Donít just let it drag around because that makes it hard to feel the bites. Pulling the lure with the rod lets you feel any heaviness or ticks that signal a bass.

Sometimes a bass will just suck in the bait and head right for you, making it difficult to tell that you have gotten a bite. If you feel anything weird at all, set the hook by reeling up the slack and pulling the rod very fast and hard to the side and back behind you.

Once you get the hook set, try not to let the fish get any slack. A longer rod, like 6.5 or 7 feet, makes it easier both to cast a Carolina rig and to set the hook.

Split Shot Rig

The split shot rig is the perfect set-up for the angler who has the back seat in the boat. I canít tell you how many professional bass fishermen have told me that their non-boater has beaten them roundly just by dragging a split shot rig behind the boat.

Itís an awesome and easy way to catch bass, especially when they are in a little bit deeper water and maybe not very aggressive. This would include just about any time of year except the spring spawn!

A split shot rig is best fished on spinning gear. Get a spinning rod with a little backbone to it Ė medium light action for 8- to 12-pound test line is perfect.

Most of the time, 8-pound-test line is ideal for split shotting, and fluorocarbon line (Sugoi, Vanish, etc.) is fantastic. It has less stretch than mono, and it totally disappears in the water.

Since youíll be using smaller worms for split-shotting, youíll want to use smaller hooks. Anywhere from size 1 or 2 to 1/0 is good, and always fine-wire hooks.

Four-inch plastic worms are the norm for split-shotting, but you can also use small lizards, grubs, and other plastic baits. Arizona favorites include Yamamoto cut tails, Robo Worms, and Zoom worms.

Rig the worm just like a Texas rig (youíre going to be glad you learned how to do that!), then just pinch a split shot onto the line about 2 feet up from the hook. This little split shot will be the only weight on your rig. Keep it just big enough to feel on the bottom.

A split shot is just a round piece of lead with a slit in it. You slide the line into the slit, then pinch the lead on.

Some anglers like to use a sort of a mini Carolina rig for split-shotting, with tiny swivels and light weights. Or there are what are called Mojo weights, which are tubular weights that are held onto the line by threading a bit of rubber through.

Pinching a split shot onto the line too hard can damage the line and make it fail at the worst possible time, so if you do choose that method, donít go overboard on the squeezing.

Once youíve gotten your rig ready, cast it out or just let it drop under the boat. Youíll want to let it get to the bottom, then you just drag it around.

You can end up with a ton of line out when youíre fishing a split shot rig, especially if the boat is moving too fast. Keep it on the bottom, and try to move slowly.

Gregg Warne, who is the acknowledged Arizona King of Split-Shotting, says to hold the rod loosely, with the tip pointed toward the lure. Just let the rod sort of dangle there and keep the weight on the bottom.

When a fish takes the bait, heíll just pick it up and swim off with it. Since the hook is so small and fine, it pretty much sets itself. Gregg just tightens his grip on the rod and swings it back while he reels the fish in.

The split shot rig is great when fishing is really tough Ė like the dead of winter or the dog days of summer. You can drag it around in pretty deep water and catch fish regularly.

Even when youíre in the back of the boat and the guy in front who is driving is hogging all the good places to cast (a practice known as "back-seating"), you can still catch fish by dragging a split shot rig behind the boat.

Those are three of the most popular and successful methods for fishing plastic worms. When it comes to colors and such, stick with basics.

Watermelon green is always good, and so are purple, black, and brown. A light orangish-brown called "pumpkin" is good, too. On Pleasant and Havasu, try a light pink (Robo Worm Morning Dawn).

If you keep a few of these colors in both 4-inch and 6-inch worms, plus a few green lizards, youíll be ready to catch fish almost anywhere in Arizona. Like anything worth doing, fishing plastic worms takes a bit of practice to master.

It can be tough to detect bites and set the hook at first, but persevere. Itís really worth it!


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