Plastic Worm Basics

By Marc Rogers

Many anglers feel the plastic worm is the most versatile lure available. It can be fished from top to bottom and all depths in between. Plastic worms can be rigged weedless, with an exposed hook and with or without any weight added. There are countless styles of plastic worms from straight bodies and tails to ribbon style tails for more action. The five major techniques of fishing plastic worms are Texas rig, Carolina rig, Split Shot rig, Shaky Head (fished with a jig head) and floating (top-water).

The Texas rig is generally the most used among anglers. It is a bottom bouncing presentation and can be worked at varying speeds. The rig consists of a hook, sinker and worm. There are special sinkers made for this technique which is bullet shaped and slide on the line above the hook and worm. The rig is fairly inexpensive for the basic components. However, there are specially made sinkers and hooks that do cost more than the basic set-up.

The Texas rig with a bullet slip sinker is great for most applications. However, if the angler wants to present the worm in heavy grass or timber a sinker that is pegged to the top of the worm head is best. This allows the sinker to stay in contact with the worm so the whole rig will fall together. If the sinker isn’t pegged many times the sinker will fall while leaving the hook and worm above the grass or over a tree limb.

There are two popular ways of keeping the sinker attached to the head of the worm. The first is to use a toothpick and insert the point into the hole of sinker “pegging” the line to the sinker. The sinker is then pushed securely against the head of the worm where it will stay. The disadvantage of this technique is it can cause line damage, thus weakening the line.

The alternative to this approach is use a screw in type sinker. This is often called the Florida Rigs (Gambler Lures was the first to produce this type of sinker) where the sinker has a small spring molded into the bottom of a bullet sinker. The line slips through the sinker just as the regular slip sinker and then the sinker is screwed onto the head of the worm to secure the whole rig together. There must be about one quarter inch of the worm head above the eye of the hook for this rig to work properly. The disadvantage of the Florida Rig is it causes the head of the worm to be torn up more often due to the spring being inserted into the worm. An angler may go through a few more worms in a day but I feel the advantage is greatly worth the additional cost of a few worms. I use this rig exclusively when fishing the Texas rig worm.

The Carolina rig is a great way to present most any plastic lure and is very similar to the Texas rig at the hook. The difference is in the way the weight is attached to the line. With the Carolina rig the plastic worm (lizards are also a very popular plastic lure with this technique) is attached to the hook the same as the Texas rig. The angler then uses a leader of varying lengths (commonly from 12 inches to 48 inches) and ties it to a barrel swivel. The sinker is slid onto the main line (the line from the reel spool) and ties the other end of the swivel to the main line. The most common sinker for this application is an egg sinker of one quarter to one ounce in weight. My personal choice is generally a three quarter ounce sinker but I will change weights when conditions require. Also, I generally use a 48-inch leader when using this technique.

The Carolina rig is a great way to present soft plastic lures in deep water while allowing for a faster retrieve. The slowest presentation requires the angler to simply drag the sinker along the bottom, which allows the lure to sway behind. Many times the sinker dragging on the bottom will get the fish’s attention and the lure will cause the bites. The sinker kicks up silt from the bottom similar to the way a crawfish does while looking for food or escaping from prey.

If the fish seem to be active and willing to hit a faster moving lure I will use a retrieve where I lift the sinker off the bottom and allow it to fall on a tight line. The tight line is necessary to be able to detect strike when they occur. This retrieve allows me to cover more water and still have the advantage of the plastic worm. It can be worked much faster than a Texas rig worm.

A plastic worm can also be used with a split shot technique. This technique is a modified Carolina rig in that the swivel isn’t commonly used. Also, it is used when smaller plastic worms are called for with light line. It is a plastic worm rigged just like the Texas rig worm and the weight is added above the lure using a split shot sinker. There are now available some slip sinkers that resemble a tube shape and can be pegged at varying lengths above the lure and hook. The pegging can be done with a tooth pick or a special tool similar to a needle thread tool that allow the angler to pull some rubber skirt material through the sinker hole. The advantage to this is the angler can later adjust the length of line between the lure and the sinker.

In recent years the Shaky Head worm presentation has become popular. It is, for the most part, a new style of finesse fishing. However, this technique can be used with heavier equipment as well. Shaky worms are generally a straight worm from four to seven inches long with the most common length about five inches. This approach is a worm on a jig head made especially for the presentation. There are several styles of shaky head jig ranging from football shaped heads to round heads. There is some type of attachment point on the jig head for the head of the worm to attach while the hook point is inserted into the body of the worm to keep it from hanging up on rocks and cover. When using the shaky head presentation the Gambler Giggy Head is my choice due to the worm easily coming loose from the head during the hook set. When the worm comes loose it has less chance of covering the hook point and preventing a good hook set.

The floating worm is a great technique to fish with a top-water approach. Floating worms are nothing more than a worm and a hook usually fished on light line.Some anglers do add a swivel in front of the worm to avoid line twist as the worms does cause this during the retrieve. To avoid line twist while not using a swivel it is best to rig the worm so it lies straight with either an exposed hook or the point inserted into the worm body like a Texas rig.

There are many manufacturers of floating worms and some are made of material that is similar to closed-cell foam. Choose worms made for this technique as they will be the most buoyant and stay on the top of the water. Retrieve speed can be adjusted as needed but I always start with a slow retrieve and change it to a faster retrieve if the fish appear to be more active.

When choosing colors of plastic worms a good approach is for dirty water start with a dark color worm. In clear water an angler should use a lighter color similar to the natural forage. When fishing at night a long (ten inches or longer) worm is a great choice in dark colors. As with all fishing don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and styles of worms. Let the fish tell you what they are most interested in with the current conditions.

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