The Floating Worm
The Floating Worm
By Reed Montgomery
Emerging on the tackle buying public during the late-1980's was a worm that performed like never before. The Floating Worm was introduced as a totally new way to entice bites, from the already lure-conditioned bass of our nation's waters.
Prior to this period, catching bass on top had been practiced by many anglers for years. Even as early as the turn of the century anglers hoping to catch an evening meal used strips of hog hide (or pork) to generate strikes on or near the water's surface. This technique was similar to modern day topwater worming.
Worms of years past had-at some time-been swam across the tops of weeds and the uneventful result was, Topwater Worming. However, these hand-poured plastic creations would sink when allowed to sit idle on the waters surface. Never had a worm been manufactured with an air-injection process creating a high floating worm. During the late-70's to early-80's period this radical, new floating worm design had to follow some well-established competition.
The 60's had shown some firsts in plastic worm designs. Nick Creme was the pioneer of plastics with his then popular, 'Creme Scoundrel ' worm design and thousands were sold, but the Scoundrel was still made of a rather hard plastic (or rubber worm as some anglers called them) and getting a good hookset often meant lost fish.
Tom Mann, noted Eufaula, Alabama lure designer, created a much softer, hand-poured worm. "Mann's Jelly Worms" created right out of the pots and pans of his kitchen was an instant success. This later lead to his "Mann's Augertail" series of worms, which had an endless array of colors, followed by dozens of new worm designs.
Another popular worm of that era, "The Burke Fliptail" series worm, was a segmented-bodied, flat-tailed worm, that came in lengths of 6-12 inches and was hailed by trophy bass anglers. But most anglers used a lead weight and fished these worms Texas-rigged on bottom. Eventually some tinkerers of that time tried the rather big worms weightless and unknown to most anglers, when fished weightless, all of these worms made great topwater lures.
When drug across weeds and newly growing aquatic grasses, then taking roots in all of our nations reservoirs, these topwater worms were the pioneers of today's floating worms. These mass produced worms were followed by many copies and plastic worm factories sprang up nationwide.
Still, none had yet to create the floating worm. Like hundreds of lures before, the floating worm could have easily fallen to the wayside and ended up on today's bargain tables as another discontinued failure. But truly only the opposite occurred, with dozens of brilliantly colored floating worms on the shelves of tackle stores today. The popularity of these worms is evident as major bass tournament wins have been accredited to the floating worm. Today's so-called versatile angler may be contributing to his own downfall by not including the floating worm in his bass-busting bag of tricks.
Those that have not tried these brightly colored worms may still exclaim, "Why all the fuss over a silly, sissy-colored worm ?" The simple and evident answer is, because it catches bass-BIG BASS-and lots of em' ! The floating worm falls in the minuscule category of offerings that can be fished right behind other anglers and generate strikes with phenomenal success! Also unknown to some anglers are the many ways the floating worm can be fished from top to bottom for finicky bass, holding at various depths. A lure for all seasons the floating worm of the new millennium is here to stay and keeps on getting better with new lengths, colors, designs and ways to fish them. A knowledge of the many aspects associated with floating worms will definitely increase your bassin' success.
The floating worm got its design (and name) by an air injection process incorporated into the molding of these surface floaters. Like most worms, floating worms are poured with a head, eggsac and a tail. Some floating worms such as, Zoom's Trick Worm, have a fat, lob tail. Another popular worm, created by Sizmic Lure Company (www.sizmiclures.com) is the 8 inch Shaker Worm. It tapers to a long, slender flat tail, like that of a snake. Some floating worm models may have either a curly or a flat tail for extra movement upon retrieve. Body styles can be shaped like that of a worm, snake or fat on both ends.
Many floating worms come in lengths of 4-12 inches, with 6 inches generally being the most popular. The longer, 8 inch floating worms, have more plastic, creating more underwater vibrations. These bigger versions, provide better visual appeal and a bigger target for bass to home in on. Most trophy bass experts agree, an oversized worm, like most larger fake offerings, satisfies the feeding urges of bigger bass. Big is good, but in some situations, smaller is necessary. Different actions can be attained whether fishing the shorter or longer version floating worms, but only in the hands of a skilled angler, fully aware of the capabilities of each model. Experimenting will give you the answer.
Just like the worms of years past, modern day floating worm designers have adorned their worms with spots, stripes, and two-toned bodies. The manufactures have also met the demands of floating worm enthusiast's with brighter, bolder, colors. This array of multicolored worms has a definite purpose for both bass and angler alike.
Floating worms come in a kaleidoscope of colors including sherbet, bubblegum pink, yellow, white, chartreuse, lime and a bright shade of red dubbed 'methiolate.' These colors are highly visible to the bass especially in clear or lightly stained water. To a bass, the colors are slightly uncommon compared to the more natural hues they are used to seeing. These bright colors are also well identified by the angler constantly eyeballing the worm above or just slightly below the water's surface. Strikes can come fast and constant eye contact is a must to avoid missed fish. A wandering eye (or mind) could leave a huge bass wandering off with your worm before you realize it!
Some anglers prefer to fish floating worms just beneath the water's surface, slightly out of sight. This is when the angler must feel for a strike, or watch for a huge boil, when the bass takes the worm, before setting the hook. In these cases, the strikes are often just a slight bump, a disappearing lure, or an abrupt line movement, indicating the bass already has the worm and is moving off or rejecting it.
More natural colors of black, brown, purple, gray, shad, blue, green, red, and pumpkinseed, may be used above or below the water line. Again, these darker colored worms are much harder to see when observed from a distance, with a slight ripple on the water, or even on calm, sunny days. Dipping either the head or the tail of the worm, into a brightly colored worm dye, can create a more visible worm with an added enticing, movement.
Sunglasses are a must whenever fishing these deadly worms. To aid you in fishing floating worms in shallow water, a quality pair of polarized sunglasses will allow you to see the worm, while cutting the glare of the sun on the surface of the water. In these instances, seeing the bass take the worm, will insure an angler of an increase in hookups. Paying close attention when fishing with floating worms must be practiced at all times, above or below the surface of the water. Seeing the worm is important for success, but the proper rigging, equipment and techniques are equally as significant, to complete the many ways of fishing these versatile worms.
How you rig these delicate, air-injected worms will determine how many bags of worms you go through in a day's fishing. Perhaps more important is utilizing the proper rigging to create a more natural lure movement, increasing the number of strikes. The standard Texas style rig, with no weight, is the most common rig.
Other rigs (which may tear the worm with hard casts resulting in using many worms in a day) are a 'kinked ' Texas rig version. This is the same standard Texas rig but calls for pushing the hook point down a little further on the worm when rigging. This creates a 'kink' in the worm, between the eye and the shank of the hook, resulting in a twisting movement when retrieved.
Another popular rigging is dubbed "wacky style ." When bass are in a dormant mood and less likely to chase a bait, this painfully slow method will entice a strike. Rigging a wacky worm calls for pushing the hook through the middle of the worm (usually along the eggsac area) and leaving the hook point exposed. This rig calls for fishing open water for fewer hang-ups and to attract cruising bass. When the wacky worm rig is twitched in a forward motion, both ends of the worm jerk backwards giving the worm a U-shape. Pausing between short jerks, allows the worm to spring back forward creating a swimming motion. This version, is at its best on bare, nothing banks.
In addition to knowing the proper rigging for each situation there are countless ways to fish floating worms. This not only includes many shallow water presentations but also probing deep water with floating worms as well. Combining these two factors is very important for consistent success.
In shallow water, very shallow water, the floating worm is at its best. This is when bass are spooky as during the spring spawn, or any other time bass are in water less than one foot deep. Totally weedless, these worms can be cast up on the bank and allowed to ease into the water, without much disturbance. Even when hopped across the tops of weeds, an easily retrieved weedless, floating worm, is much more productive (with better hook-up capabilities) than other lures, especially for the inexperienced angler. In offshore or deeper water there are several ways to present these worms to bass on or above the bottom. But first, selecting the right equipment is vital to success.
Using the correct equipment can lead to a day of fishing with less frustration. Rod and reel combos can vary in each application when casting floating worms. Each outfit you use should fit a specific situation, and fit your desires.
First of all, floating worms weigh very little. With air pockets throughout the entire worm they are half the weight of conventional worms. Casting any distance calls for applying your casts-throwing with the wind-or fish on days (or in calm areas) with little or no wind. Open-faced reels will work in these situations, but the ever-plagued backlash can occur.
Although you can cast weightless, floating worms on 20 pound test monofilament line on open-faced reels, it is best to reserve this method, when seeking big game in thick cover, generally approaching with shorter casts. Spincast or closed-faced reels allow better control when casting these weightless worms to precise targets. Both of these outfits cast floating worms much further, have less wind resistance, no backlashes, and are more tailored for light line. In open water situations rods (in either of these combos) should be long, in lengths of six to seven feet. Rod handles extending 12-18 inches below the reel allow two-handed casts for greater distance.
Fishing in close quarters (such as in the backs of creeks) may call for pistol grip rods or short spincast models in lengths of five to six feet. When 'skipping' floating worms far up under piers, boathouses, overhanging bushes or around floating docks, a spincast outfit will avoid the dreaded backlash, so common with open-faced reels. A light to medium action rod, with a limber tip, will provide the whippy characteristics needed. A graphite rod will work in these situations, but a limber, more forgiving fiberglass or graphite composite rod, will aid the angler in casting accuracy. This rod in turn, helps an angler play down a hard fighting bass.
Keep in mind, when fishing shallow with floating worms, especially in clear water, very long casts are often needed to avoid spooking some very skittish bass. Experimenting with several rod and reel combos will help each angler determine on his or her preference. Not only can selecting the right rod and reel aid you in your search for these shallow water bass, but in addition choosing the right line can be just as important for floating worm success.
Monofilament or braided line can be used when fishing shallow or deep with floating worms. Different cover calls for different selections. When you can get away with it, light monofilament line in the 8-15 lb. class will perform best especially in clear water, sparse cover or when targeting smaller fish.
Heavy monofilament or braided line is a must when walking floating worms in thick weeds, around brush, trees, stumps, rocks and when fishing up under piers, where a big bass must be horsed from cover in a hurry. Heavy line also rides higher on the water allowing the worm to sink much slower during subsurface retrieves.
On the downside, heavy line can be seen much better than light line by wary bass in clear water. Generally, most anglers use heavy line for stained water and light line for very clear water. Lighter line will help to impart better action to the worm and provide a quicker response, when jerking the worm in a side-to-side motion. Coupling light line with a sharp hook requires less hook setting power, to drive the hook through the soft worm during a strike.
Hooks labeled 'offset wire hooks' will work in most shallow water applications. The bigger, thick-shanked hooks, can aid an angler with extra weight for better casting distance, while allowing the floating worm to sink a little faster. Hook sizes of 4/0 to 6/0 are required when fishing bigger worms or when added weight is desired.
As in all worming applications, the size of the hook should apply to the size of the worm. Light wire hooks in sizes of 1/0 to 3/0 work best when fishing with smaller worms, light line, targeting smaller bass, or when a suspended technique (Carolina rig) is needed.
Smaller hooks will tear the floating worm a lot less, especially when making long casts or when dragging floating worms through thick, shallow cover. With repeated casts these delicate worms will not only tear, but constant sliding of the worm down the hook can become a problem. Adding a drop of super glue to the hook eye before rigging the worm will help hold the worm in place. Pushing a toothpick through the hook eye, after rigging the worm, then clipping off both ends snug to the head of the worm, will also keep the worm in place and reduce the number of worms you use in a day of fishing with floating worms.
Adding small nails will help increase weight when a subsurface retrieve is desired. When placed in the middle of the worm, this extra weight will provide a more horizontal fall to the lure, as opposed to nose diving when the nail is situated more towards the head of the worm. Adding a glass or brass rattler also increases weight and helps bass home in on the worm during stained water conditions. Another tactic is to add a small swivel, above the hook, one to two feet ahead of the worm. This helps prevent line twists and possibly simulates the worm chasing a small meal.
Any retrieve will work with floating worms, whether walking them on top or down out of sight beneath the water's surface. The most popular method for shallow or suspended bass is a jerk-and-pause cadence just beneath the surface, similar to walking-the-dog with a Zara Spook or when fishing jerkbaits. Although labeled as a topwater lure the floating worm is at its best during a sub-surface retrieve, usually a few inches to one foot deep (according to water clarity) but always within sight.
Most models actually don't float when allowed to rest but have a very slow decent. A jerking side-to-side motion, with short pauses, around thick cover keeps the worm in the strike zone much longer than other lures. Clear water is a must for surface or subsurface retrieves. When visibility is at a minimum, fishing bigger model worms, adding rattlers, and selecting brighter colors, will assist the bass in tracking down the worm. Although thought of generally, as a shallow water lure, the floating worm can be just as deadly in mid-to-deeper water applications.
Going Deeper With Floating Worms
Without going into deep detail, here are a few pointers when fishing floating worms away from the shoreline.
With a light weight a floating worm can be fished on bottom in one to five feet of water. Going deeper calls for using a heavier weight such as a bullet weight, jig head or split-shot. These bottom-dragging techniques allow the worm to float up off the bottom in a tail-up position. This technique is often new to the older, lure-conditioned bass and can provoke a strike. However, smaller bass are known to nip at the seductive tail, resulting in missed strikes. Two hook rigs, can remedy this problem when fishing floating worms on bottom.
Most anglers know the qualities of fishing plastics Carolina rig style. Although thought of as a great technique for suspended bass or bass holding up off the bottom, the Carolina rig is similar to the Texas rig. A heavy weight is drug across the bottom but the lure is trailing behind on a one to five foot leader.
Unless the lure is buoyant or a high floater-like the floating worm-it will stay on or close to the bottom. A floating worm will trail along behind a swivel-which is tied to the heavy weight-and float up higher off the bottom. This is all according to the hook size, lure buoyancy and length of the leader. When allowed to rest, the worm will either rise to a horizontal position in calm water, or swim seductively in the current. This rig is known for it's big bass appeal and many trophy bass are fooled when probing offshore structure with floating worms.
The Floating Worm is undeniably a lure that will entice bass to strike under a variety of conditions in all seasons.
During Summer -at the height of fishing season when weeds are in full bloom and big bass can be fooled in shallow water, it is a deadly lure.
During Fall -it is not used as much as other lures for covering a lot of water fast, but can often entice strikes, such as when severe cold fronts slow the bite.
During Winter -the slow movement of the floating worm can attract lethargic bass in shallow water during warming trends. Bass that reject faster moving lures.
During Spring the floating worm at its best on shallow bass during prespawn, spawn and post-spawn conditions. Not only does the worm provoke bed-protecting bass during this season, but it also helps in locating bass that give away their position with boils and missed strikes. You can then throw in a lizard, crayfish or jig as a follow up lure.
If you have not fished the floating worm, see what you have been missing by trying these techniques and maybe discover a few presentations of your own. Fishing with these silly, sissy-colored worms, may leave your fishing buddies laughing, but it can also bring a smile to the adept bass tournament angler...often all the way to the bank!