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It’s easy to become enamored with the latest tackle trends but one thing is certain—you should never overlook the effectiveness of bass fishing with plastic worms. It may not be as sexy as heaving an umbrella rig on a river ledge or working a topwater frog across matted vegetation, but it’s arguably the most effective bass fishing technique ever created.

FLW Tour pro and Bassmaster Classic champion Larry Nixon has made the majority of his living with three simple things—a hook, a weight and a plastic worm. Widely renowned as the best worm fisherman to pick up a rod, he believes there are 10 things you need to know in order to boost your confidence and success with this age-old, fish-catching technique.

1. A pegged sinker loses more fish

Whether we peg our Texas rigs with an old toothpick or a rubber bobber stop, we’re all guilty of it. It’s easier to skip under docks and it increases the longevity of your knot, so it’s all good, right? Nixon doesn’t necessarily buy into this theory.

“Plastic worms will always catch fish,” Nixon said. “It doesn’t matter where you are or what type of bass you’re targeting. They’re a bass angler’s dream.”

“I’ve always believed that a pegged sinker causes me to lose more fish,” Nixon said. “With the weight so close to the worm, a big bass will get both the sinker and the hook in its mouth, which can result in many missed opportunities. Now, if I’m trying to penetrate cover and sink the worm into a small, precise area, I really don’t have a choice but to peg it. If I’m casting a worm, however, 99 percent of the time my sinker is sliding free on the line.”

Being the meticulous professional he is, Nixon has spent countless hours examining the action of plastic worms in swimming pools. Years of constant experimentation have allowed him to realize the unique properties of an unpegged Texas rig.

“If you throw an unpegged Texas rig into the water and watch it, the weight hits the bottom about eight inches in front of your worm,” Nixon said. “Once the weight hits, the worm sinks downward like a dead-sticked Yamamoto Senko. I’ve always had so many quality bites at the beginning of my cast and I think that’s why.”

2. Your casting and pitching hooks shouldn’t be the same

Again, this is something we all do. We pitch to a piece of shallow cover, make our way down the bank and start casting to a brush pile with the same setup. Although it may be easier for us, Nixon advises against it.

larry nixon casting a worm for bass
“If you don’t have a straight shank hook when you’re casting a worm, it’s not going to look right in the water,” Nixon said. “I exclusively use the Roboworm Rebarb Hooks for casting because they give my worms a much more streamlined profile. Not to mention, the plastic always slides down at the hook eye upon a hookset, resulting in excellent plastic penetration and better hookups.”

When pitching a flipping a worm to cover, Nixon avoids big, heavy duty flipping hooks like the plague. In his opinion, the bigger hook you use, the more leverage you give the fish.

“I do not like heavy flipping hooks whatsoever,” Nixon said. “I use a thin wire 5/0 Gamakatsu Offset EWG Worm Hook instead. A thinner wire promotes good penetration and the gap is just big enough to penetrate the worm. If I can pin a bass between the hook and plastic, she’s mine—she’s not going anywhere.”

3. Not all plastic worms are the same

In order to get the most out of worm fishing, it’s important to realize what situation each type of worm is best-suited for. Just because two worms are green and wiggle when you twitch them doesn’t mean they’re the same.

  • Straight tail worm—“A straight tail worm is the most versatile worm in existence, without a doubt,” Nixon said. “They’re more erratic, they sink very differently and come through cover well—there is no bad time for a straight tail worm. If you’re just starting out, I suggest using the Yamamoto 6.75-inch Long Pro Senko and a 5-inch Yamamoto Pro Senko to cover all your bases. During cold fronts, stick with the smaller size and bump up to the 6.75-inch model when you’re fishing in warmer water.”
  • Curly tail worm—“The curly tail worm, such as the Yamamoto 12-inch Curly Tail Worm, is at its very best when you have vegetation in a body of water,” Nixon said. “Whether you’re fishing milfoil, hydrilla or lily pads, it provides an extremely realistic swimming action in cover. I’ll also use it in brush piles and heavy cover so the fish don’t get a great look at it—just work it over limbs and let it fall through any holes.”

4. Fall rate is the determining factor in getting more bites

According to Nixon, the most important factor in getting strikes is your worm’s fall rate. You can jiggle and gyrate your worm in every way imaginable, but the speed at which your worm sinks to the bottom is essential.

“I choose my weight size in accordance to the depth I’m targeting and the behavior of the bass,” Nixon said. “You absolutely have to figure out the correct fall rate to catch more bass. If they get too good of a look at your worm, they won’t touch it. There’s no formula or guarantees because it changes every day, so it’s important to always try different weight sizes.”

Outperform reaction baits: According to Nixon, a worm has the unique ability to catch more bass out of an area than most reaction baits. Instead of catching three or four bass, a worm can often catch dozens from a single area.

As a general rule-of-thumb, Nixon utilizes a faster fall and presentation in clear water with a 5/16 or 3/8-ounce weight and a slower fall and presentation in dirty water with a 3/16 to 1/4-ounce weight.

“There are a lot of variables that determine weight selection, but I always tell beginners to start out with a 3/16 and 1/4-ounce weight,” Nixon said. “If it’s a tough bite in stained water, I’ll slow down with a 1/8-ounce weight and make longer casts. If I’m trying to force reaction bites in clear water or battling windy conditions, I might beef it up to a 3/8-ounce weight for a faster fall and a better feel of the bottom.”

5. Your rod is a tool, so use the right one

You probably shouldn’t use a pair of pliers to hammer a nail—you could, but it’s going to hinder your ability to get the job done correctly. Similarly, Nixon stresses the importance of using a versatile rod that can handle all kinds of worm fishing.

“Sensitivity is the most important thing to look for in a worm rod,” Nixon said. “If you don’t know when you have a bite, you’re not going to catch many fish. You also want to use a rod with a solid backbone that allows you to wrench big ones out of cover. Almost all of the time, you’ll see me using a 7-foot, medium-heavy Dobyns Champion Extreme Casting Rod for my worm fishing.”

6. Use fluorocarbon and maintain it well

larry nixon holding fishing reel while worm fishing for bass
Fluorocarbon is not only difficult for fish to see, but it also has very little stretch which promotes direct energy transfer on big hooksets. When you’re fishing with a worm, it’s important to drive the hook into the bass’ mouth past the barb. If not, you may have your heart broken.

“It’s hard to go wrong with 15-pound Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon,” Nixon said. “If I’m in clear water, I’ll drop down to 12-pound test and when I’m using a heavy sinker in thick cover, I’ll go up to 20-pound Seaguar AbrazX. If you use a line that’s too heavy, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of line management issues.”

Before each fishing trip, Nixon puts a lot of time into properly maintaining his fluorocarbon line. He uses a few simple tricks to keep even his older line performing like new.

  • Stretch it—“If you haven’t been out in a week or so, take two minutes to hook your line to something and stretch it,” Nixon said. “Reel it back in with some tension and your first cast will feel like brand-new line. Fluorocarbon doesn’t absorb water, so it will coil if it sits on your reel for too long. If it coils, you’re not going to be able to feel what your worm is doing down there.”
  • Wet your knot—“Regardless of the knot you tie, it’s important to wet your knot every single time you tie it,” Nixon said. “Fluorocarbon will burn itself if you cinch a dry knot and I can guarantee you’ll lose fish if that happens. Always take the extra time to tie a solid, wet knot.”
  • Don’t over-spool—“Try not to put too much fluorocarbon on your reel,” Nixon said. “When you pack a bunch of line on, you’ll have a hard time controlling it. I use cheap monofilament line as backing followed by about 60 yards of fluorocarbon. Anything more is overkill—you won’t find any bass that’ll strip more than 15 yards of line, so there’s no sense in wasting a bunch of nice line.”

7. Hopping your worm will help you cover water quickly

When many of us started bass fishing with plastic worms, we were told to “drag and reel”. You can certainly catch fish with this retrieve, but if you’re looking to cover water and establish a productive pattern, hopping it may be a better alternative.

Stroke it: Nixon keeps a close eye on his Lowrance for suspended bass throughout the year. If they’re within a few feet of the bottom, he loves to stroke a Texas rigged worm to pick up a few extra bites.

“I’m almost always hopping my worm—I’m not much of a dragger,” Nixon said. “If you hop the worm about two feet and let it freefall to the bottom, you’re going to cover water as fast as a spinnerbait angler. When you run across a piece of brush or a break line, that’s when you need to slow it down.”

Nixon believes his ability to quickly fish a plastic worm is the driving factor behind his illustrious career. He purposely blazes through stretches of bank until he is able to put together a pattern.

“When I’m looking for fish, I’m going to cast a worm into an area, hop it twice and move on,” Nixon said. “I’m just looking for a few key bites that will tell me where the fish are positioned. If a bass is there, they’re probably going to eat it. You’re looking to dissect open water and cover with as few casts as you can get away with.”

8. Tungsten makes all the difference, but be careful

larry nixon choosing weight for worm fishing for bass
Unless he’s using a weight smaller than 1/4-ounce, Nixon is a huge believer in the sensitivity and subtle profile of tungsten sinkers. There is one requirement, however, that they must have before he even thinks about using them.

“The benefits of tungsten are undeniable, but you have you be extremely careful with it,” Nixon said. “No matter what people say, if a tungsten weight doesn’t have an insert, it’s going to cost you a fish—I’ve seen it happen far too many times. If you feel your line within 1/4-inch of your hook, it’ll be roughed-up if you’re not using an insert. That’s the tungsten doing that—it’s just like a razor blade.”

Quick tip: When your sinker collides with cover, it will cause your worm to jump which can result in vicious reaction strikes. If it starts feeling rough throughout your retrieve, slow down and run your sinker across the “good stuff”.

Before you throw away all of your expensive insert-less tungsten weights, there’s a way to save your investment and protect your line in the process.

“If you don’t want to lose fish, you can insert shrink tube into your tungsten weights,” Nixon said. “It will keep any sharp edges away from your line and enable you to fish with peace of mind.”

9. Common mistakes are very avoidable

Nixon discovered the magic of plastic worms as a guide many years ago on Toledo Bend. While other guides were having problems catching quantity and quality, he and his clients were having incredible success with worms. This time spent teaching novice anglers gave him a unique insight into common worm fishing mistakes. Luckily, they’re all easy to fix.

“A lot of people fish a worm too fast,” Nixon said. “It’s tempting to continuously cast and wind, but you have to be very deliberate in your presentation. I also see a lot of anglers using hooks that are way too big for the application. You don’t need an enormous hook when you’re worm fishing—a 4/0 hook will do the job just fine.”

Nobody likes breaking off a big bass, but it’s important to avoid using huge line. If you’re able to feel the action of the worm, you’ll have a much better idea of what your worm is doing.

“I think people tend to use heavier line that overpowers the worm,” Nixon said. “You’re going to get a lot more bites if you use smaller line because it sinks better, looks more natural and is easier to manage on your reel. With that being said, you always need to be aware of the size of the bass in a given fishery. If you go to Lake Falcon, throw it all out the window and buy whale rope.”

10. Don’t be afraid to swing and miss—hooksets are free

Learning to detect bites can be a frustrating obstacle to overcome when you’re learning to fish a worm, but there are a few ways to quickly get the hang of it.

Hit ‘em twice: If Nixon gets bit on a long cast, he’ll crank the reel handle about five times after the initial hookset and set the hook a second time. This ensures he gets the barb of the hook through the bass’ mouth.

“As soon as I feel tension and feel like there’s a slight possibility of a bite, I’m going to set the hook,” Nixon said. “Sometimes you whiff on it, but you never know until you try. It’s important to realize, however, that you’re not always going to feel a big “bump” on the end of your line. A lot of times it will feel mushy or simply swim to the side without you feeling anything at all. You have to be a constant line-watcher and be ready to react if it does anything out of the ordinary. If you feel the fish, you can bet he feels you so you better do something quickly!”

Bass fishing with plastic worms is effective throughout the entire year and if you put effort into it, it’s a technique that will catch fish when other techniques fall short. With these simple tips, you’ll be able to catch more fish and gain more confidence in an overlooked bait that has withstood the test of time.

Do you have any special tips for worm fishing? If so, share them below in the comments!

big bass jumping with soft plastic worm in its mouth

39 thoughts on “10 Worm Fishing Secrets You May Not Know

  1. A bunch of good stuff in this article, Its funny how all the anglers have there way of doing things you can read an article about worm fishing from another Pro and get something different especailly the light wire hook issue I think that the light wire hook has some spring to it and always worry about that costing me fish on a hook set in heavy cover.

    Mark

  2. I did see that Mr. Larry said a worm will work anytime of year. I was just wanting to ask how much time does he use it in cold weather months.

    • I don’t know about Larry but me and my father use the worm all winter just last week we went out and caught a 12 lb bass and a 5 lb and I caught 4 lb and 3 lb and we caught about 5 more that day that were smaller we always have good luck using worms and that’s all we use we might switch up from time to time but always go right back to the worm

  3. Thanks for that read, awesome!!! I normally fish a 7″ and a 7.5″ worm and I use the same 4/0 and sometimes 3/0 Offset Gamakatsu EWG hook with 15# line and I have friends tell me that my hook is too small but I’m not using braid so I don’t bend the hooks and I seldom lose a fish once it is hooked. That makes me feel better but I do use heavier gauge straight shank flipping hooks when I use braid. Excellent info, thanks for making my fishing better!!!

    • Right On Terry! If the General tells you how to worm fish, you better be all ears.

      I learned a few new tricks and I’ve been Bassin for 40 years. Crème and Mann’s Jelly worms got me started.
      I loved that part about playing touchy feely with a possible fish on. Just Whack’em. I have had countless drops trying to guess.

      A J

  4. These are great ideas. For the record 80% of the time I use a size 2 hook on a drop shot rod(although not drop shooting but then I do live in the fineness capitol of the world..calif) very effective

    Bob

  5. Great article! Larry’s advise is a bulls eye when it comes to worming!
    I’ll rarely fish line heavier than 12# unless it’s O.H. Ivie or Falcon and my worm hook box has only a few 5/0+ for fishing super monster, 12″+, worms. Go light & get the strikes. If you’re lucky enough to get into fish big enough to annihilate your tackle you can always step it up!

  6. Such a very good collection of brief information about fishing . I really enjoy it . The secrets reveled by you are so much interesting they will help me on my next campaign. Thank you for it .

  7. Great Article, First met Larry Nixon at a Bassmaster University seminar about 12 yrs ago. Learned alot from him about worm fishing. I would like to know more about where to obtain the shrink tubing he mentions to insert into the tungsten. Had a hard time finding it in that small of a diameter. Any information would be appreciated!! Thanks

  8. Great information !!… Remember in early 70’s I had three baits… Texas rigged worm, white spinnerbaits and jigs with pork frogs… Caught lot of fish on them

  9. im in san diego i fish 10 lb flouro n 1/0 offset hooks for any thiner worms like regular robos 4 1/2 inch n smaller or small flukes or tiny brushhog reaper etc…..anything bigger up to 7 inches i use a 3/0….ikas or tubes or things of that sort size 3/0 or 4/0….n most my bigger worms like 5 inch senko or 7 inch fat robo i fish on 14 lb fluoro or braid depending on the structure

  10. Try using a wacky rig under a slip bobber so effective it’s unreal we live in Michigan, we fish several lakes with very clear water putting it under a slip bobber was probably one of the best things I’ve ever used.

  11. I like the part about where he says use the lightest line you can get away with in my opinion that is why shaky head fishing is so deadly people don’t tend to over power their worm with heavy line I catch a lot of fish on worms and big fish also and very rarely use over 12 pound fluorocarbon. I think that is the reason I catch them so good on a worm because I tend to use smaller line than anyone else.

  12. Enjoyed reading this article. We live in Louisiana on Lake Bistineau, not too far from Toledo Bend! We love fishing To,Eco also! There are some really big bass coming out of there lately! Good information that I’m sure we will be using! Thanks for that!

  13. This article is so good I read it twice over. My favorite work to fish is a10″ Zoom. I have caught so many bass on this worm. Again, awesome article.

  14. New at worm fishing, at 67 going to try. Good article lots of information that is helpful. Wish me luck!!

  15. I know it sounds crazy to some but ive really never thrown plastic worms – usually throwing cranks ,jigs,frogs ect… ( except when i was a kid ,and though im. NOt a fan of the turd ( senko ) its way to easy ,i will admit one would be a fool not to have one tied on in a tournament .) this past week after reading an article on worms decided to throw the zoom ol monster 10.5 and had one of the best days ive ever had catching bass .tried it different ways pegged / unpegged the unpegged happen to be the ticket this week ( live in Nh. And still going thru the spawn ) long story short i continued to throw nothing but worms for the last week and had some fantastic fishing and went out and picked up 5 pks yesterday .ill always have one rod with a worm tied on now

  16. I have done my best fishing using a split shot rig. I use slightly larger split shot than most but I like it to get to the bottom fast. My worm of choice is a French Fry. I have been fishing them for years and I have become almost expert at extracting bites. I use florocarbon line (12-14) and either a 1/0 or 2/0 hook. It is all a light rig and I catch lots of fish and big fish on it. The one thing that I have found that increases my catch numbers is to throw it out and let it sit there for up to a minute. The bait moves on it’s own and drives the fish crazy. I cant tell you how many 4,5 &6 lb fish I have caught using this technique. Try throwing your favorite worm into a swimming pool. If you watch carefully, you will learn more than you ever imagined about how your bait reacts in the water. Try different retrieves.

  17. Great article I found using a curly tail worm. If your fishing on rocks or by rocks keep your worm low and reel slow I caught a million bass that way

  18. Been fishing a plastic worm for 50yrs Yelp 50 and your mostly dead on but 90 percent of my summer is night tournaments there are some differents. You got to slow down at night and waight for the fish to tell you its ready for the hook set. I can most the time feel the fish rolling the worm or in my case craw in its mouth. Fine line between hookset and spitout. Its all in the hand and finger feeling the line. I usually feel with my thumb in my left hand on a bait caster. With a spin cast with my left index . And a apinnig with my right index. You can feel alot with this new fluorocarbon line.

  19. This dude’s a legend, no doubt. My problem with the article is early, he’s talking about what beginners should use for worms in terms of length, weights, etc. But when he switches to gear, the link and his suggestion are to a $350 dollar rod. I mean come on! If everyone was googling how to fish plastic worms, do you really think they’re prepared to go get a rod at that price? Article’s all over the place in terms of who the audience is. I stopped reading at 350 rod – pro tips are great but it’s few and far between who need a tip on which worm to buy, and also are gonna invest in a rod of that expense. thanks but also, gimme a break

  20. I’ll always have a Zoom trick worm Texas rigged with 1/4oz weigh tied on no matter how I’m fishing. I just wish I could find out when Zoom will start running the Motoroil color again WITHOUT the chartreuse tail. Best color I be ever used and I found 2 packs by accident by rummiging around in my dads 20 year old tackle, which I still do!!!

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