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by Jim Porter

(I am about to introduce you to what may possibly be ‘the’ most deadly way to present a plastic worm.  If you know dedicated tidal water bass angler, go ask him if what old Jim is telling you isn’t true!!  And, the best part, is that this rig is sensational in other than tidal waters when presented around cover, particularly  grass and blowdowns.)

I really hadn’t paid too much attention to the lures that my bass tournament partner had tied on.  One was noted to be a crank plug and the two others were plastic worms, but that was about as far as my concern led.  Actually, yours truly was ‘Mr. Know-It-All’ that fateful morning, being the scoreboard leader after the first of the two-day contest.  The lure, the color, the location—I already had them figured out.  Boy, was I in for a humbling experience.

Charlie Dobbs was a local angler, quiet but with a readily noticeable determination and an air of confidence.  After the first day’s competition, he was in the top six, having weighed in a limit of fish.  The only reason he wasn’t the leader was that he didn’t have a big bass in the bunch.  As we got ready to leave the starting position, he said, "Go where ever you want to.  I’ll be able to catch fish there, too."

A few miles up the tidal river, we peeled off into a feeder creek.  The tide was just about right- high, but about to start falling.  Idling a quarter mile up the small tributary, we note a good bit of bait fish activity along the edges of the grass and lily pads to each side.  Turning about to face the direction we had come, I shut the big motor down, dropped the trolling motor in and grabbed up a Texas-rigged plastic worm.  Now, I normally fish a worm pretty fast.  But, my first thought about Charlie’s technique was that he was either in one heck of a hurry or mistakenly thought that his worm was his crank plug.  While I was completing one retrieve, he was starting his fourth cast.  Then, suddenly, he set the hook hard and called for the net.  I dipped up the two pound bass, laid it in the floor of the boat and hurried back to the front deck.  On his very next cast, Dobbs again connected and I dutifully returned to the netting chore.  When my partner connected with his third keeper fish in as many casts, he didn’t have to call for the net.  I was there and waiting, wanting to sneak a good close-up look at that worm of his.

What Charlie Dobbs was using was nothing more than a simple plastic worm.  But, how he had it rigged and the way in which he presented it were totally foreign to anything I was familiar with.  Dobb’s ‘Swimming Worm’ was also destined to become the most effective method of fishing a plastic worm I have yet to find.

The Swimming Worm rig is the easiest way to fish a plastic worm that exists.  One simply casts it out and reels it back.  It never touches the bottom and it should have no angler-induced action—just a slow, steady retrieve.  What could be simpler?  Along with that, the following are some other positive aspects:
  • The action is amazingly life-like and nearly compels the bass to strike.
  • It is ideal for shallow cover areas, where most of us prefer to fish.
  • It is a fast way to fish and allows one to cover a lot of water in a highly productive manner.
  • An angler will virtually never miss the hook-set.
  • Rarely does a bass manage to throw the hook, even with repeated strong jumps.
  • Heavy lines can be used without fear of spooking the fish, so break-offs are generally rare.
  • It is at its best in exceptionally hot weather, giving us a good tool for tough Summer bassin’.
  • Sounds like the best of all bassin’ worlds, doesn’t it?
  • It’s better than that!
There are only two angler skills required to learn to use the Swimming Worm successfully.  The first is the correct rigging method, which is easy to master.  The second skill is recognizing just when to set the hook, something that we will explain herein but which will still take a bit of practice to fully master.

There are actually two ways to rig up an effective Swimming Worm, one being relatively simple and the other a bit more complex.  As you might guess, the more complex of the two is the more productive.

Both rigs utilize a ball-bearing swivel (size and color immaterial), about 18 inches of heavy leader, some small split shots and 2/0 blue steel hooks.  Basically, we want to insert that swivel into our line, a short distance ahead of the actual worm lure, in order to compensate for the line twist we are going to generate.  The leader is heavy (17-25 lb. test) so that it can readily accept the shock of a strong hook set, can withstand the abrasiveness of the cover we will be fishing around, and will allow small split shots to be crimped securely on without incurring the damage that a lighter weight line would.

The better of the two riggings involves using two hooks, one at the end of the leader and the other about two inches above it.  The upper hook is embedded into the head of the worm for the entire length of the shank, drawing the point out as the eye finally meets the head.  The lower hook is simply pushed through the worm body.  In both cases, the hook points are fully exposed.  The trick to this, and where we get the swimming action from, is that we draw the worm tail forward an inch before embedding that lower hook.  The result is a worm that is now held in a slight arc, rather than lying straight.  The final step is to add a quarter ounce of split shot six inches above the worm.

The type of plastic worm used is critical to this first rigging method.  It must be rather stiff and firm-bodied in order to hold the shape necessary to generate the swimming effect.  The best is the six inch ‘SUPER FLOATER’ marketed by Bass Buster Lure Company.  (Since, in our high tech age of soft natural plastics, this type worm is next to impossible to find on most store shelves,  you may have to contact Bass Buster direct at P.O. Box 118, Amsterdam, Mo. 64723.  Product code 86904 gets you purple, while 86902 applies to black.  Either one will do the job.  I prefer black.)

I am the first to admit that this outfit really looks like a contraption some drunk dreamed up in a nightmare.  However, the first time you pull it through the water, you will be totally amazed at what you see.  The lure will look like a living creature, as it swims along in a cork-screw fashion.  It is impossible to adequately describe this action to you in words.  Just take my word that you WILL be astounded.  The key to fine tuning the action of this rig lies in adjusting the location of that lower hook and getting just the right amount of arc into the worm body.  With a bit of practice, you will also be able to place the hooks and adjust the roll where the hook points will always be facing to the inside of the arc.  This makes the outfit nearly 100% weedless.

The second and more simple rigging method uses just one hook and different style of plastic worm.  Here, we want one with a short, fat main body and a long, flowing ‘ribbon’ tail.  The original six inch Mr. Twister worm is excellent, but there are many others which will do as well.  To configure the lure, just thread the hook into the head of the worm.  Run it down to the mid point of the body before drawing the point out.  Now, pull the head of the worm forward and up the line until it is lying perfectly straight on the hook.  With this configuration, we do not want the lure to roll or twist at all.  The goal is to have the worm lie as straight as possible during the slow retrieve, with the only action being the ‘swimming’ effect of the tail.  Again, the split shot weight is placed about six inches above the lure.  This rig is not weedless, but is easier to assemble than the other one and is nearly as effective.  If conditions so dictate, a weedless hook can be used, but it cannot be placed as far down the worm body as is desirable.

The Swimming Worm rigs we have described herein are best fished on short, heavy action rods and not less than 15 pound test line.  As stated earlier, the short leader used should be even heavier, in order to withstand the abuse it will be subjected to.  Although spinning gear is acceptable, bait-casting tackle is the more preferable, especially for dealing with the heavy line.  In its proper application, the Swimming Worm is presented with very short casts in and about heavy cover features, such as weeds, brush tops and pilings.  Long casts are to be avoided, in that the depth of the retrieve (to be discussed in a moment) cannot be controlled well.  Because of the placement of the weight out ahead of the worm and the natural pivot point created by the swivel in the line, the lure can be a bit awkward to cast at first.  You will find that side-arm, or short underhand, tosses will solve that little problem.

While we have said that the Swimming Worm is generally a shallow water lure used around heavy cover, it can be very productive in selected open areas of current flow, particularly if the water is slightly muddy.  Retrieve the lure just inside the areas of eddy water, or the mud line, and hold on tight!

The method of retrieve is very simple; keep it slow.  All we really want is for the lure to run just fast enough to provide the rolling action or tail flutter, depending on the type rig in use.  The only factor that the angler must exercise control over is the depth at which the lure runs.  Line weight and the amount of split shot used cause this to vary and the angler should experiment until he has the right combination.  The proper depth is attained when the lure cannot be seen by the angler.  Generally, this will be two or three feet.

Water color has a decided impact on the success of the Swimming Worm.  The ideal conditions will have highly stained water, such as is found in tidal rivers and in lakes with large amounts of decaying vegetation.  The rigs will work, with a lesser degree of success, in clear water areas, but it will be necessary to go to a light color worm, such as pale blue or green.  Clear water will dictate a deeper retrieve.


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