The Versatility of Large, Soft-Plastic Worms

Large worms are more adaptable than many anglers give them credit for, so don’t be afraid to advertise them that way.

The Versatility of Large, Soft-Plastic Worms

Photo from Berkley Fishing Facebook.

For decades, countless anglers have found success Texas rigging, Carolina rigging and jig worming soft-plastic worms over deep rocks and shell beds, and through brush piles and weed beds.  

I remember my first trip to the famed Kentucky Lake for a college fishing event many years ago. When I got there a local angler told me that if I didn’t have any big worms, I best go to a tackle shop and buy some, because that’s what the fish wanted. I did as I was told, and he was right. The next day after casting deep-diving crankbaits and a few other lures, I tied up a 10-inch Berkley PowerBait Power Worm on a Carolina rig and found immediate success.  

Paul Elias still holds the record for heaviest total weight in a four-day Bassmaster event after catching 132 pounds, 8 ounces on Texas’ Falcon Lake in 2008. Elias landed a considerable portion of his fish in that event on a 12-inch Mann’s Jelly Worm fishing deep offshore structure.

The success stories with over-sized soft-plastic worms are countless, but most of them involve fishing the lures in deep water.

What about topwater?

A close friend of mine told me a story a while back about when he was fishing a lake full of weedy slop mats and the fish were short striking hollow-bodied frogs resulting in very few hook ups. To try something different, he tied on a wide-gap hook with no weight, threaded on a 10-inch Power Worm and proceeded to cast out the rig and, with his rod tip held high, steadily retrieving the lure across the surface — it worked and he caught fish. 

Since then, I have tried this technique myself and found it to be extremely effective. Ribbon tail worms like the Power Worm or Strike King’s Rage Tail Anaconda Magnum worm create great movement on the surface while offering a slender profile that fish can easily eat. The beauty in the weightless worm is when a fish strikes the lure and misses, an angler can immediately stop their retrieve and let the lure slowly sink, allowing the fish to come back around and finish off its dying prey. Like fishing a topwater frog, the secret is waiting a second or more after a bite before setting the hook to allow the fish time to engulf the entire lure and hook.

Next time an angler comes into your store and asks about weedless topwater lures, don’t be afraid to aim them in the direction of plastic worms and explain how and why they work.

What are these large plastic worms to bass?

As anglers, it’s easy to overthink questions like this one. I think what it comes down to is that bass think these large plastic worms are simply food. They move like food and they are the size of food and opportunistic feeders like bass are going to instinctively strike them. There are theories that they eat them because they mimic lampreys or snakes which bass are known to feed on and that may very well be true. Another friend of mine was fishing a small bass tournament in northern Wisconsin and was lucky enough to boat a hefty 4-pound largemouth which he placed in the livewell to bring to weigh in. Later in the day when placing another fish in the storage well, he found a large garter snake regurgitated by the bass. The snake measured almost 30 inches in length. NetBait’s 15-inch C-Mac ribbon tailed worm can be intimidating to anglers. But the question is, will a bass eat it? After seeing the size of that snake, I question whether any manufactured soft-plastic worm is too big.

The referenced bass and garter snake found in the livewell
The referenced bass and garter snake found in the livewell


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