The spawn has ended, and the bass have moved back to their summertime havens. You know the primary lure for your next bass fishing trip will be a plastic worm, but what size worms should you load into your tacklebox?
Four worm fishing experts have some solutions for your dilemma.
When choosing a worm length, Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Arkansas, mulls through the same set of variables for all the lakes he visits. His list of key ingredients for choosing the right size worm includes type of cover, time of day, size and species of the bass he is pursuing and time of year. "If I fished Truman (Lake) all the time, I'd throw a 9- to 11-inch worm, simply because I know the capabilities of that lake and the type of water (heavy cover and stained to murky water) I'm going to have to fish," Nixon said. "If you've got a lake with a lot of Kentucky and smallmouth bass, then you're going to have to resort back to your 4- and 6-inch worms."
This top money winner on the B.A.S.S. circuit chooses larger worms (9 to 11 inches) on lakes with heavy vegetation, such as Sam Rayburn or Toledo Bend. He also uses the bigger baits when fishing at night. The larger worms are more visible and bang around more in the weeds or brush to trigger reaction strikes. "Basically, choosing a worm size all boils down to if you're trying to get the fish to react or if you're trying to finesse them." If a lake is clear and heavily fished, Nixon switches to the 6-inch worm. He also has success with smaller worms in the fall. "The main reason I think that's so is because the fish have been hit pretty hard all year," Nixon says. "They've been seeing worms all summer long. All of a sudden you reverse your tactics and go back to something small, and they haven't seen many of them."
BASS Masters Classic Champion, Woo Daves, lists grass as the number one factor in determining which size worm he will use. On lakes that contain plenty of grass, he will use 6- or 8-inch worms. On other lakes, the Virginia pro scales down his bait. "If I want to catch a lot of fish, I'll use a 4 1/2-inch worm 90 percent of the time," Daves says.
The size of the fish he's chasing also dictates what length worm Guido Hibdon of Gravois Mills, Mo., will select. He advises anglers to avoid throwing 4-inch worms on lakes that have 15-inch bass length limits. "Once the fish get that size, a 4-inch worm isn't going to feed them at all," the former Bass Master Classic champion says. He believes that if you use small worms on these types of lakes, you'll catch mostly non-keepers. "An 8-inch worm is a good all-around worm," Hibdon says. The bigger worm gives a bulkier appearance and can be shortened if necessary. If he keeps missing strikes on the longer worms, Hibdon will look at the worm to see where the bass' teeth marks are. If the toothy indentations appear behind the hook, Hibdon trims off some of the worm. "I'm going to get it right there where he is pouncing on the thing."
The 8-inch worm has been a mainstay in the tacklebox of veteran tournament angler David Barker of Hollister, Missouri. His favorite plastic worm is an 8-inch plum Gene Larew curly tail model. "I can catch little fish on it and I can catch big fish on it," Barker says. "About the only time I've used bigger worms is in muddy or stained water."
Since he mainly fishes clear water, Barker sticks with the 8-inch worm the majority of the time. Despite the fishing pressure he encounters, he still catches plenty of bass, including spotted bass, on the longer worm. He notes that one of the best times to take spotted bass on the worm is during the post-spawn period when the fish are stacked on the points 18 to 25 feet deep. If he keeps missing Kentucky bass, he cuts off about an inch of the worm and starts hooking more fish. Barker also believes the 8-inch Gene Larew worm works better than larger ribbon tail worms in areas that receive heavy fishing pressure. He says he has caught several limits weighing 25 pounds or more while using the 8-inch worm in tournaments.
The Long & Short Of It
When selecting worms lengths, you should consider the following bit of advice from Barker. "I think a lot of times a fish will bite a smaller worm quicker than they will a bigger one," he says. Nixon also believes a smaller worm catches more while the longer version catches bigger bass. If you still have trouble deciding what length worm to use for that next fishing trip, Hibdon suggests trying something different. "Be a little bit gutsy and experimental, and try your own stuff," he recommends.
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