The Texas Rigged Plastic Worm
Part 1 - Tackle and Equipment
By Carlton "Doc" Holliday
First, let us discuss tackle. The rod is the most critical piece of equipment. You are looking for a rod that is very sensitive at the tip yet has a lot of backbone for setting the hook and horsing fish from cover. In today's world, you can find rods specifically made for worm fishing in all price ranges and weights. I personally use All Star WR1 and WR2 rods exclusively. These rods are made from IM8 graphite blanks, 6 ½ feet long, in a heavy- to medium-heavy weight making them very sensitive, a lot of backbone and you can feel the bite without any trouble. The price is nominal, but if the price is too high for you, look at the Tourney Special rods at Bass Pro Shops. The point is that any of these rods provide the sensitivity or "feel" you need for worm fishing. I recommend buying at least one of each weight.
While you are in a buying mood, there is another rod that is needed at some point and that is a flipping stick. Flipping sticks are generally heavy weight rods made for heavy cover and horsing fish from heavy cover. They are generally at least 7 feet long and most are collapsible for fitting into rod storage compartments.
- One heavy weight, 6 to 6 1/2 foot trigger stick for general worm fishing.
- One medium heavy weight, 6 ½ to 7 foot trigger stick for general worm fishing.
- One heavy weight 7 foot flipping stick for fishing heavy cover.
The reel is primarily up to your own preference. A good bait cast reel is what I prefer but my son-in-law prefers a spinning reel and my wife prefers Zebco 33s. You determine what reel you want to use but do not skimp. Get good quality reels that will last a long time. The reel you choose should be a low- to medium-speed reel for worm fishing. You really don't want to use a high speed reel for worm fishing as this will tend to speed up your retrieves thus causing you to fish much too fast under normal conditions.
Whatever type of reel you decide on do not forget to do some comparison-shopping for the best price. Good spin cast reels like the Zebco 33 should be in the $20.00 - $27.00 price range. Bait cast reels run the full gambit of price. Look for a reel that has at least 3 to 5 ball bearings, a good drag system and has substantial gears for wear over a long period. One more thing to look for in a bait cast reel is a flipping feature. I will discuss flipping later. If you prefer a spinning reel, once again do the necessary comparison-shopping for the best reel at the best price.
Line is the next consideration. I have used many lines since I began fishing and prefer monofilament. If you are comfortable with braid, use it. Braid and graphite rods do not mix very well. Braid has absolutely no stretch so when making a hook set you have to be very careful, or the force of the hook set could snap a graphite rod.
One thing that seems to be rather important is the line size. I use a line as small as I can for the particular lake or river conditions I am fishing. For instance, when I fish Lake Ouachita, which is very clear, I use 12 poind Silver Thread, Suffix 12 pound or Trilene XT 12 pound. When I fish the Arkansas River, I will use 14-20 pound line because generally it is muddy to slightly stained. The point is, use the smallest diameter line for the conditions you are fishing. IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Case in point: Last year my son-in-law and I were worm fishing on Lake Ouachita. I had caught four keeper bass and he had yet to get a bite. "Why?" he asked. We took stock of what we were using and sure enough, he was using 20 pound line. We left to eat breakfast. When we went back out, he changed to 12 pound line and within a short time began to catch fish. IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Buy line in the large spools as worm fishing, especially in heavy cover, has a tendency to abrade and wear your line. This causes frequent cut offs of two to three feet of line. Bulk spools also are more economical. Do not go overboard but remember, at some point you will be fishing 12- to 14-pound line, and 20 - to 30-pound line. Buy as many different spools of line as is practical, prudent and affordable.
Hooks and weights are the next consideration. The hook needs to be a relative wide-gap hook in the 2/0 to 4/0-size range for 7- to 8-inch worms. I use three different hooks and found all to be most acceptable. The 2/0 and 3/0 Tru Turn hooks, 2/0 and 3/0 Gamakatsu hooks and the Eagle Claw Laser Sharp 2/0 to 4/0 hooks are all extremely sharp and have good hook-set capabilities.
This is the place to discuss the red hook. Do they really attract more bites? The answer depends on whom you listen to. The hook manufacturers have conducted exhaustive research into the red hook. Their conclusions are that the color red is a trigger for bass indicating a wounded prey.
My wife and I have used the red hooks for the last year. I have been the one using the red hook and she has stayed with the bronze finish hooks. I think there may be a slight advantage of the red hook over a standard hook but it is not enough of a difference to worry about.
Weights are another consideration. I use weights sized by depth I am fishing or the prevailing conditions. Use weights as small as practical for the depth and conditions you are fishing. Rule of thumb for me; fishing 0 to 18 feet, no or little wind, use a 1/8 ounce weight either brass (the better environmental choice) or lead. O to 18 feet with wind, upsize to ¼ ounce weight for a better "feel". 18 to 39 feet I use ¼ ounce weight and if windy upsize to 3/8 ounce weight. I use bullet weights for the most part but the "egg" or round weights also work. These weights let the worm appear more lifelike in the action it demonstrates and does not kill the action. USE THE SMALLEST WEIGHT YOU CAN FOR PREVAILING CONDITIONS.
A tip to use when fishing gets tough: put a glass bead or brass clacker between the hook and the weight or use the rattling weight for clicking noises while worm fishing. The rattling weights are a little pricey but they can put a limit in the live well. This can produce surprising results at times.
Worms come in all shapes, sizes, colors and are all designed to catch fishermen not necessarily fish. I will not try to influence your worm choice other than to say that the type of worm I use has a "swimming" tail that imparts more lifelike action than straight or curly tail worms. That is my preference but I have seen situations where straight worms work better. Colors either have to be learned from experience or experiment. I prefer the swimming tail worms for Texas rigging because of the better action you get with that type worm and tail configuration. The ribbon tail and ringer worm are my preferences. You choose the worms in which you have the most confidence. In addition, it is possible to use lizards, craw worms, and brush hogs with the Texas rig so do not discount using them. The colors are pretty much up to you.
I am sure you have heard the old saying light day - light color, dark day - dark color, and clear water - natural color, dark water - bright colors. Most of that holds true in deciding what worm you should be throwing. I pretty much try to keep my plastic colors as simple as possible. In my opinion, you really only need a few colors. For clear water waters, I use watermelon seed, pumpkin seed, plum, and redbug. For stained/muddy water conditions, I use tequila sunrise, red shad, black, black/blue tail, and camouflage (very hard to find). I can pretty much fish all water under all conditions if I have those colors in a variety of shapes and sizes. The aforementioned colors represent my favorites but make no mistake; I still have about 20 other colors to fall back on when the favorites fail to produce.
Other colors to think about are junebug, purple, red shad, black/red metal flake, motor oil, and root beer / green metal flake.
The basis for this article is the professional bass fishing career of Carlton "Doc" Holliday. I made many mistakes and point them out in this book. The intent is to help you become a better worm fisherman in less time and without the mistakes, I made. I have also inserted some tips and helpful hints to make your experience easier.
Carlton "Doc" Holliday has won over 30 bass tournaments, both individually and as a team member with his wife, and placed in the top 5 in over 70 bass tournaments. The last 3 years of his career as a professional bass fisherman were spent winning the Arkansas Guys and Gals Championship with his wife in 1991, finishing seventh overall in the Arkie Division of the Redman Circuit in 1991 and becoming eligible to fish the Redman Regional Tournament in Columbus Mississippi where he finished 20th. Also in 1990, fished in the Mr. Bass of Arkansas Championship on Lake Ouachita and finished third. Career winnings estimated over $85,000.00, but remember, bass tournaments did not pay the big bucks back then that they pay now.