Baseball, watermelon, pool parties — if you’re making a list of summer faves, don’t forget that big worm. See, bass bites can be hard to come by during the dog days of summer, as the big green dudes spend most of their time sulking in deep offshore haunts, or in the shadows of docks or large trees. Locked in general lethargy, the fish prefer gobbling one big meal over chasing several smaller ones.
That’s where whopper worms in the 8- to 12-inch range earn their keep; by mimicking a slow, vulnerable and calorie-rich target and tempting some of the lake’s biggest fish into opening their mouths. But let’s leave “lazy” for the lounge chairs; big worms like the Zoom Ol’ Monster, Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Bull Worm, Yum Ribbontail and V&M Wild Thang offer several rigging options worth our consideration and experimentation.
Starting with the tried-and-true Texas rig, reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Jordan Lee will rig a Strike King Rage Recon worm or a 10-inch Strike King Thumper Worm on a 6/0 wide gap hook, pair it with a ½-ounce weight and slide it through brush or wood. The slender form creeps in and out of the cover like a living creature and the weight’s hard surface provides just enough bump and commotion to attract attention.
Living legend Kevin VanDam is also fond of Texas rigging a big worm for summer use, but he’ll reach beyond the ribbon and curl tail styles and put the chunky Strike King Bull Worm into duty. The bait’s flat belly creates a different dynamic on the bottom, while the cup-shaped tail tip grabs water for an erratic kicking, fluttering motion that shows fish a different motion. Slowly dragging the Bull Worm over deep water points and humps, or pitching it with a light weight to reeds and flooded trees often delivers serious bites.
Elsewhere, Bassmaster Open pro Jimmy Mason expects ample payoffs from diligently swimming a big worm over deep grass. Rich with big-fish potential, his technique excels anywhere hydrilla, milfoil, coontail, etc. offers clearly delineated zones of aquatic vegetation.
Late summer often finds much of this grass topping out and laying over to form thick mats. However, when Mason finds a gap between the top of the grass and the surface, that’s prime territory for big-worm technique.
“One of the ways I like to look for schools of fish holding in the grass is swimming a big worm,” Mason said.
Mason fits a 10-inch Yum Ribbontail worm with a 6/0 offset wide gap hook and adds a 1/8- to 3/16-ounce weight, which allows him to cover water and give himself optimal opportunity for putting the bait in front of a hungry fish. Fishing the rig on 8- to 10-pound Vicious fluorocarbon yields an effective fall rate for a peppy pace that’s something like a spinnerbait retrieve.
“I’ll make a long cast over the grass line, let it sink down and then slowly wind it back,” Mason said. “If I lose contact with the grass, I’ll kill the bait and let it fall back down. A lot of your bites are going to happen then.”
For colors, Mason likes green pumpkin/purple, watermelon red and redbug for bright days. In cloudy conditions, Junebug and other darker baits fare best.
When he comes across docks near the main lake end of a pocket or creek, Mason will send the big worm into the shallows beneath the planks. Nothing fancy here; he’s simply offering the fish a departure from the jigs, shaky heads, dropshots and wacky rigs they’re used to seeing.
Shake it like you mean it
Lee considers the shaky head a go-to summer bait, but we’re not talking about the light finesse stuff. Rather, he likes a beefier presentation with the Bull Worm and a heavier jig head that’ll keep that big piece of plastic looking like it’s feeding head-down on the bottom.
“If the wind’s blowing hard or if I’m 15 feet or deeper, I’ll throw a ¾-ounce head; and under that, I’ll throw a ½-ounce,” Lee said. “I like this bait anytime I’m fishing brush piles, (offshore structure) or any place the fish are grouped up in deeper water. It’s just a different look than a traditional Texas rig.”
Delivering this bait on 17-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon, Lee reminds himself to not overdo it on the action. The ideal presentation is a slow drag that’s more like a football head deal than the wiggle-heavy form common to lighter shaky heads.
“Let the worm do more than your rod tip,” Jordan says. “Instead of giving it a lot of action, it seems to work better for me when I just drag is as slowly as I can.”
One thing Lee stresses is bait size diversity. His general preference for the heavy shaky head is an 8-inch Bull Worm, but he’ll keep a 10-inch rig handy for those magical moments when he’s around straight-up studs.
When he needs a more enticing display; one that might turn a looker into a taker; Lee rigs a 8-inch Strike King Rage Recon worm or a 10-inch Strike King Thumper Worm on an articulated (wobble) head and works it almost like a crankbait.
“I’ll rig these worms on a ¾-ounce Strike King Jointed Structure Head (articulated) because this gives it a different action,” he said. “With a traditional Texas rig, it just lays on the bottom and it doesn’t have a lot of movement. Everybody has thrown it for years and it still catches fish, but I think the Structure Head shows them something they’re not accustomed to seeing.”
As Lee explains, that articulated look presents an irresistible commotion as it rumbles across hard bottom where every bump and drop makes that big worm shiver and shake.
Gone to Carolina in my mind
Okay, that subhead might be a little indulgent, but we simply cannot overlook the big worm’s relevance to a Carolina rig. The old ball-and-chain gets way less love than it deserves because it’s not sexy and cool like the poetic motion of a skillfully skipped jig and it’s doesn’t flare your eyes and nostrils like a monster topwater bite. But during the heat of the day, when fish are deep, the wind is flat and and you’re wondering how to trigger a bite, that slow drag can be just the ticket.
Rig your ‘rig with a weight appropriate to your depth, but keep those leaders long — something in the 4- to 5-foot range. This allows plenty of swing on your bait and provides a comfortable buffer between that big, clunky weight and the lumbering, vulnerable look of that big summer worm.