If I had to choose one lure to handle all my bass fishing, it would be the plastic worm. Whether my worms are tossed into Piney Run or Liberty reservoirs, the nearby Potomac River or a dozen other favorite Carroll County streams and farm ponds, they never let me down.
Worms come in various lengths, from tiny 2-inch worms up to 12- or 18-inch snakes. The most popular lengths are 4-, 6-, and 8-inch sizes, and it pays to keep a 10-12-incher in your tackle box for use in heavy cover for giant-sized largemouths.
Worms can be round or flat and look like the real thing. They come in many colors and can have a specially designed tail, which determines the natural action of the lure.
A basic color selection includes purple, grape, black, blue and red. Motor oil-colored worms and their cousins, twistertail grubs, are deadly on Potomac River smallmouth bass. Two other deadly colors are black with a chartreuse tail and grape with a red tail.
Today, these lures come in different buoyancies. Some float, others sink. Worms also can have flaked reflective material embedded in them and scented worms are never a wrong choice.
On smallmouth bass, I seem to do a little better with smaller worms than those favored by largemouths. A worm chosen to chase the river smallmouth should be from 4 to 6 inches and be about the thickness of a pencil, or thinner.
If you are fishing one of Carroll County's rich farm ponds for largemouths, pack worms 4-10 inches long, and a little thicker in diameter. Also, I think a flat-action tail is the better largemouth worm.
There are special worm hooks made for rigging plastic worms so that they lie straight on the hook or are held more securely to help prevent the worm from sliding down the hook shank.
My favorite worm hook is a "keeper" style made by Mister Twister. This hook has a separate short barbed shank attached to the eye of the hook with a bend near the eye.
To rig the worm, you push the head onto the barbed shank and then bury the hook point and barb into the body of the worm.
The size of the hook used should depend on the size of the worm and the size of the fish you expect to catch. As a general rule, use a 1/0 or 2/0 hook for worms up to 6 inches long and for smaller bass. A 3/0 hook is about right for 8-inch worms and 4/0 or 5/0 hooks work well on larger 10-12-inch worms.
I use a Texas-rigged worm for the majority of my bass fishing. It is probably the most popular method of rigging a plastic worm.
If you are using a conventional-style hook and not the above-noted keeper style, you simply insert the hook through the front of the worm, then bring the hook back and bury it in the worm's body. This makes the rig virtually weedless. On the strike, rear back hard and the hook comes through the worm and hooks the bass.
You also need sliding sinkers for rigging worms. In shallow waters, sinkers weighing 1/8 - or 3/16-ounce are good. In deeper ** water choose 1/4 - to 3/8 -ounce sinkers. In short, use the lightest sinker that is practical for the size of the worm and type of fishing being done.
I usually add a sliding sinker to my Texas rigger worms. This is a cone-shaped sinker specially designed for worm fishing. The problem is that the sinker wants to slide up the line on the cast and down the line on the retrieve. To put a stop to this, a toothpick is inserted into the hole in the front of the sinker until it jams the line tightly. Then, the toothpick is broken off. Now I can cast effectively and fish the lure along the bottom or across underwater structure without worrying about snags.
If I'm fishing big worms for big bass in heavy cover, I use a bait casting rod and reel with 15-25-pound test mono line. But for day in-day out fishing with 6-8-inch worms, I opt for a spinning outfit matched with 6-10-pound line.