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Entries in worms (3)


Why We Fish: Time Travel

I fish almost exclusively with artificial baits for bass and other game fish.

But once a year, I dig some worms, clean the dust off my catfish gear, pack some hotdogs and marshmallows, and spend the night tightlining for catfish on a lake or river. In recent years, mostly I go down to the little lake behind my house.  No chance of catching flatheads there, but, in my mature years, watching moonlight dance on the still water more than makes up for that. It doesn’t hurt either that the channel catfish usually are cooperative.

I never thought much about why I was doing this until this latest trip. I was alone for a change and watching the yellow flames of my campfire burn into blue when, suddenly, I was transported.

(Excerpt from "Time Travel" in Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Reel Fishermen.)


Worm Weather Is Here!

"One of my best memories is of the first day of summer vacation at the end of fifth grade. No sleeping in for me. I got up earlier than I would have for school, and three of us rode our bikes to a big tree in an open field at the edge of our subdivision.

"We had found lots of worms in the shade of that tree previously and were confident we’d find more that day. As I stood there with a shovel in my hand, I looked up at the early morning sun filtering through the branches and thought to myself that life just couldn’t get much better than this.

"I don’t remember digging for the worms or anything else from that day. I just recall the simple moment in time when I was beginning an endless summer by digging worms with my friends so we could go fishing. That was perfection."

Excerpt from "Worm Weather" in Why We Fish: Real Wisdom From Reel Fishermen.


Artificial Baits are Tools of the Trade; Use Them Appropriately

I caught this 12-4 largemouth on my confidence bait--- a lipless crankbait--- at Lake Guerrero. That bait is a Cordell Spot, by the way.

I wrote the following article a few years ago for young anglers. It was published in Junior Bassmaster. By the way, a lipless crankbait is my “confidence” bait for when fishing is tough, but a topwater is my favorite when the bass are cooperative.

Like you and me, the pros have favorite baits. But in fishing many waters under a variety of conditions, they’ve discovered that those favorites aren’t always the best choices for catching bass.

With that discovery, each has learned to view baits as his “tools” of the angling trade. If he wants to catch bass--- and win tournaments--- he must use those tools appropriately.

And just as he wouldn’t use a saw to pound a nail, he wouldn’t throw a topwater over clear, deep water on a calm, sunny day, no matter how much he enjoys fishing topwaters. (Of course, there always are exceptions to the rules, and that's especially true in fishing.)

Listed below are five types of baits that the pros keep in their “tool” boxes, as well as information on how and when they use them. Follow their lead and you, too, will catch more fish.


Depending on where you live, this bait can produce during all seasons for you, even winter. But overall, it works best when fished on windy and/or cloudy days, or in murky water.

That’s because this “tool” mostly is intended to provoke instinct strikes. In other words, its flash and vibration stimulate bass into biting without getting a close look.

You need less vibration in clearer water because the bait is easier to see. In fact, too much might even frighten the bass. Blades shaped like willow leaves are the best choice.

In stained and muddy water, and at night, you need more vibration. Round-shape Colorado blades are preferred then.

The Indiana blade provides an “in between” option.

Mostly, spinnerbaits are fished through and around shallow cover, such as brush, stumps, and rocks. They also can be fished along edges and in openings of grass and pads.

Pros vary their retrieves from fast to slow until they figure out what speed the bass prefer. They might add a plastic or pork trailer to tease less aggressive fish into biting.

They’ve also learned that spinnerbaits can be great tools for deep water. They “slow-roll” them along the bottom, pulling them just fast enough to make the blades turn.  And they drop them vertically around places such as standing timber. This allows large blades to spin, or “helicopter,” as the baits fall. Helicoptering is a good technique for bass in cold water.


For most anglers, no bait is more fun to throw and catch fish with than the topwater. That’s because you often see the bass coming for your bait and because you both see and feel the bite, which sometimes can be explosive.

As with the spinnerbait, clouds and/or wind can keep bass banging topwaters all day, from late spring, after bass have spawned, into late fall.  More likely, though, the bite will be early and late, when the sun is low.

Shallow, shoreline cover is the most likely spot to throw a topwater. And, if you keep close watch, you often can see feeding fish in such places. If possible, cast your bait past the action and retrieve it into the lively water.

Topwaters also will draw bass up from deep water, especially in clear lakes and reservoirs. Points, humps, and dropoffs are good places to look for suspending bass that are willing to rise for a bait.

Also, look for bass crashing shad on top during summer and fall. Throw a topwater into the middle of the frenzy and you almost are guaranteed a bite.

But which topwater should you throw? Here are some general guidelines: a floating minnow bait, such as a Rapala, in clear, shallow water; a popper, such as a Pop-R,  over  submerged grass beds; a prop bait, such as a Torpedo,  in choppy water, and a stickbait, such as a Spook, over points, humps, and flats.


If you throw a crankbait, you are going to get hung up, especially if you fish it properly. That’s because it carries two sets of treble hooks. And that’s because one of the best techniques is to bounce it off rocks and wood as you retrieve it.

The erratic action and the quick flash when it swerves attract hungry bass.

“Crankbaits can be fished year around,” says pro Mike Auten. “But no matter when or where you use them, the key is deflection--- hitting cover or structure with the lure and triggering a reaction strike. It’s something I try for on every cast.”

Most crankbaits are fished in 15 feet of water or less, but some, such as Mann’s 30+ and Bomber’s Fat Free Shad, will dive much deeper. The key is to match your crankbait to the depth of water you want to fish. That’s because you want your crankbait to hit bottom, except when you’re fishing over underwater grass beds or the bass are suspended.

 In general, baits with long, straight bills swim deeper, while those that angle downward are more shallow-running.

On the other hand, lipless crankbaits will work at just about any depth. A steady retrieve with these vibrating baits will catch fish. But the pros like to vary their retrieves, ranging from “burning” it to crawling it on bottom to “ripping” it off ledges.

I caught this largemouth in early spring on a YUM Dinger stickbait.


This next generation of plastics began with Lunker City’s Slug-Go more than 25 years ago. From soft jerkbaits, or “flukes,” with fluttering action, they’ve evolved into stickworms, or “Senkos,” with little--- but irresistible--- movement on the fall.

Both are most effective in clear to slightly stained water, while rattles can be added to help attract bass in murkier lakes.

Early spring, when bass first start moving into shallows, is one of the best times to use flukes. They are especially effective around grass beds and brush. Most often, they are fished Texas style, while smaller versions also can be Carolina rigged.

Make certain that the hook is straight in the bait or the fluke will not move as intended.

Senkos will work in early spring as well, but they are at their best during summer, to catch bass prowling shorelines, as well as suspended in timber or along steep rock walls. They can be rigged Texas style or wacky, with the hook through the middle of the bait.

The key to catching bass on both baits is to fish them slowly. Especially with the Senko, many bites come on the fall. You often will see the movement of the line instead of feel it.


No other bait catches more bass than this versatile soft plastic, which comes in hundreds of colors and dozens of sizes and shapes. You can fish it shallow or deep. You can crawl it, bounce it, or swim it.

In general, though, this slow-moving bait is not good to start with if your time is limited. Rather it is a good choice once you have located bass with a faster-moving spinnerbait or crankbait.

Worms of 6 to 8 inches most often are used for fishing points and brushpiles. But smaller versions usually are best for throwing to pre-spawn bass in the shallows and for enticing lethargic bass during hot, summer days. Ten-inch baits are good options for night fishing.

For clear water during the day, natural colors such as the watermelon and pumpkin shades are preferred. If the water has a little stain, a chartreuse tail will help attract bass. For stained water, cloudy days, or at night, go with dark shades, such as red shad, Junebug, black, and purple.

In fishing worms, experiment with size, color, and retrieve until you figure out what the bass want.