By Tom Schlichter
Like most other anglers, I have an occasional day when I find myself talking out loud to bigmouths on a local pond.
“Don’t make me do it,” I caution them. “I don’t want to get serious but I will if I must.”
After fair warning and a full run though my usual assortment of spinnerbaits, stick baits, poppers and sometimes even spoons, the nice guy attitude fades away and I reluctantly break out the secret weapon.
“I warned you,” I tell them as I pop the hook through the middle of a thick plastic worm and send it toward the nearest patch of lilies or phragmites. Within minutes, sometimes seconds, I’m talking trash to a fish with a big grin on my face as I wrestle it toward the boat. “Had to push me to the limit, didn’t you? I ask. “You couldn’t make it easy. No, you had to make me break out the big guns. What? You didn’t think I knew about the wacky worm?”
Wacky worming has taken bass fishing by storm over the past few years. In fact, there are some anglers who fish plastic worms almost entirely for bigmouths without ever using another technique. While I strive to score using every type of lure and approach in my arsenal, I can’t say I blame anyone for relying so heavily on this one option. It is, after all, amazingly productive.
Plenty has been written over the years covering various techniques for using artificial worms. Most methods call for a gentle touch, precise depth control, keeping tight to the bottom, and a watchful eye for the slightest hint of unnatural line movement. Wacky worming, by contrast is so simple, it’s hard to get it wrong. Even beginners have luck with the technique, although veteran anglers do have an advantage having had years to refine their skills and bass detection senses.
The most simplistic form of wacky worming is to thread a size 1 or 2 beak or Octopus style hook once through the center of the worm, cast out and then let the lure do all the work. The less you do to give it any action, the better your catch rate is likely to be. As the worm settles toward the bottom on a slack worm, both ends suspended equally from the centered hook, they shiver and shake. Just before the worm settles into the weeds or reaches the mud, simply lift it back toward the surface, take up a little line, and then allow it to free-fall once again. It’s as simple as that.
Most wacky worming strikes are registered by the line simply moving off in a strange direction, but bites are also discovered when anglers attempt to lift the worm and the rod takes on slight set. The method works especially well in shallow depths of four feet or less, but can be used in deeper water with a weighted hook or the addition of a split shot.
HIT THE HOT SPOTS
Wacky worming works anywhere more traditional worming works. I like to try it along outside weed edges at the mouth of a cove, in deeper open water off points, along drop-offs, around stick-ups and, especially, near lily pads and phragmites. Skip your worm under docks, pitch it into an opening in the weeds or use a long, stiff rod to simply reach into a tangled blow-down and let it drop between the branches. If bass are present, your next headache will be figuring how to get ‘em out before the line breaks.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to compare a wacky worm presentation with my favorite Carolina weedless worm technique. Working alongside a floating dock in crystal clear water, I flipped a four-inch watermelon Gary Yamamoto Senko perfectly into the shadow line along the edge. I watched it slide head first toward the bottom in four feet of water and gently snaked it alongside the dock with no response. Two more perfect casts failed to draw any interest.
Next, I rigged the same Senko wacky style using the same offset hook. As the worm hit the surface just outside the shade line, I watched it shimmy and shake while it settled toward the sandy bottom. As the worm continued to drop on a slack line, a three-pound bigmouth shot out from under the dock and inhaled it as if this worm was the last piece of bait on the planet. I’ve got to think that fish saw the first two offerings as well and simply ignored them.
AS LIGHT AS YOU LIKE
I like using six- to 10-pound class spinning gear when I worm, especially if using a three-inch version. For larger worms of five to seven inches, I’ll usually opt for bait-casting gear and 12- to 14-pound test. Mostly, I fish with a tight drag, but that’s chiefly a reflection of my penchant for hanging around structure when I probe for bigmouths.
Although I tend to favor Gary Yamamoto Senko Worms in watermelon, purple or black, many anglers swear by other brands designed for wacky worming and pumpkinseed, green, chartreuse and blue are also touted as productive colors. I’ve also had good luck with Charlies Worms, the Strike King Zero and wacky worms from Tailored Tackle. I like large, six-inch sizes when the bass are feeding aggressively as I think they lead to more high-quality fish, but I’ll drop down to a five- or four-inch size if the action is a little slow or I’m missing fish due to short bites.
Does a wacky worm imitate a real worm? I’m not sure, but I believe it offers a chunky profile and enough life-like movement to interest even the biggest of bass. This much is for sure: as long as the wacky worm keeps on working, I’ll keep talking to the bass on my local ponds anytime they decide to be more than a little uncooperative.