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Texas-rigged Plastic Worm

Though it is certainly not the most exciting way to fish, a Texas-rigged plastic worm is one of the most effective methods of putting largemouth bass in the boat.

    Here's the situation: You have been given a life sentence to be served on a good largemouth bass river (what a punishment!) and you must survive on a diet of largemouth bass. You are allowed only one type of lure to catch your meals. Which lure will you choose? That decision would take me about half a second. Of course I'd choose a Texas-rigged plastic worm! Largemouth bass will hit a Texas-rigged worm or lizard in all seasons and in all types of water conditions. If my survival depended on it, I think my best shot at catching river bass throughout the year would be with a Texas-rig.

    So what the heck is a Texas-rig? A Texas-rig begins with a bullet type sliding sinker weighing anywhere from 1/16 to 1/2 ounce depending on current and depth. In deeper water or stronger current, more weight is best. The bullet weight will slide up and down the line so that when a bass tries to steal your worm, it won't detect the weight. At the end of your line will be a size 1 to 4/0 worm hook. Choose your worm hook based on the size worm or lizard you will use. Make sure the hook is no longer than half the length of your bait. Finally, a plastic worm or lizard will be threaded onto the hook with the business end of the hook buried into the body of the worm (see picture). More on worm and lizard selection later.

    The best thing about Texas-rigged worms and lizards is that they catch bass of all types like crazy. The second best thing is that they are next to impossible to hang up, meaning that you can fish them amidst the deepest tangles a river can offer and get your lure (or a bass!) back almost every time. Having said all that I'll say this: I absolutely detest fishing Texas-rigged worms. It is a painfully methodical fishing method. You cast, wait for the lure to reach the bottom, and slowly twitch it back maintaining contact with the bottom. Once the lure is out of the strike zone, you reel it back in and repeat the process. Worm fishing is a bit slow for my taste; a necessary evil if you will. Many times though, it is the only way to catch 'em.

Two of the author's favorites: a red shad Culprit worm (top) and an electric grape Zoom lizard 

Best Seasons and Situations

    There is no bad time to use a plastic worm or lizard. Warm or cold water, prespawn, spawn, or postspawn, winter, summer, spring, or fall; any time is a good time to use a plastic worm. I use them when they won't bite anything else. There is no slower form of fishing than bumping a Texas-rigged plastic worm along the bottom, so if I can catch fish with a faster technique, I will. You will never make as many casts in a day of worm fishing than you will fishing anything else. Impatient by nature, the worm is my weapon of last resort. Any time the bass are inactive (which is a lot of the time), I will go to the worm. This happens in all seasons, but winter and the dead heat of summer are times when a Texas-rigged worm and not much else will put a few fish in the boat.

    Do Texas-rigged worms work on other bass species? You bet they do! Most of the time when smallmouth, redeye, spotted or shoal bass fishing I will use different methods for probing the bottom. In situations with lots of current though, I will often rig up a smaller (4-5 inch) worm, lizard, or grub on a Texas-rig with enough weight to get it down to the fish. This is especially effective on these species during the spring when the rivers tend to run high. 

Tips and Techniques

    Fishing a Texas-rigged worm or lizard is an art unto itself, and perfecting the technique, especially on moving water, requires a lot of practice. The first thing you have to do is develop enough confidence to go ahead and throw it back in the thick stuff. After all, that is where Ole Mossyback lives. Next, you have to maintain a high level of concentration to feel what that worm is doing at all times. A stiff graphite rod (medium-heavy works) helps, but you also must watch your line. A lot of times you won't feel the traditional tap-tap, but rather notice your line twitch or begin moving off. You can do everything else right, but still get skunked if you don't know how to get that hook into the fishes jaw. When you get a strike, don't count to three or let the fish run or any of that foolishness. Quickly reel in the slack and give that rod a solid yank toward the heavens. Half the time you will discover it wasn't a fish, or you might send a 6-inch bass into orbit. Don't worry about it. If you aren't sure it's a bass, set the hook anyway. You'll get skunked a lot if you don't.

    When fishing a worm or lizard Texas-style, you need to use gear that can hold up to a strong hookset and drag a bass out of heavy cover. Both spinning and baitcasting gear are fine, but use at least 10-pound test line and a fairly stiff rod. Don't fish too fast either. I have warded off a skunking more than once while trying to get out a backlash. My worm just sat in one place for a couple minutes and when I began reeling it in, a bass had it. Fishing plastic worms too rapidly is a common mistake. Plastic worms work best when cast upstream and worked downstream. It is much easier to keep the lure in contact with the bottom this way. I also prefer to use as light a bullet weight as possible. I feel that the slower the worm falls, the more enticing it is to the fish, and fish tend to hold onto worms longer if there is less weight attached to them. 

    I am a firm believer that worm color matters a whole lot more to fishermen than it does to fish. I almost always use 6-inch Zoom or Culprit worms in the Red Shad color, but some folks do just as well other sizes and colors. Most fishermen prefer darker shades (browns, purples, black), but whatever you feel confident in will probably work just fine. I will also use both plastic lizard and fat 3-inch curlytail grubs on occasion. Lizards seem to work well during the spring, I guess because bass see them as a threat to their spawning beds. Grubs work well when the water is colder and the bass don't necessarily want a big meal. Sometimes a worm rattle inserted into the body of the worm is a good idea too.

    One of the biggest drawbacks of fishing plastic worms on a river is boat control. By the time you have made a cast and let the worm reach bottom, you have floated so far downstream that its impossible to work the lure properly. Anchors are a tremendous help here, but progress can be painfully slow when you are constantly throwing out and pulling in an anchor. Drag chains could help, but I always seem to forget mine. If possible, try and find an eddy to pull into or have your boat rest against a log or rock near the area you want to fish. What I normally end up doing is fishing a faster lure until I get to a spot that I just know has to have a bass in it. At that point, I will anchor, stick the boat against a log, or jump out and wade-fish the area. Fishing Texas-rigged worms can be a pain, but if it comes down to getting skunked or catching a few, I'd fish naked if I thought it would help!


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