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by Jim Porter

Right off, I want to say that I agree - the Swimming Worm has got to be a dumb-looking lure!! It has line and hooks and swivels hanging off it. It's short, dumpy, and -well, just 'strange'. If I saw someone fishing one I would probably consider him/her 'strange'.

Well, I probably would have said that 26 years ago, before I saw the Swimming Worm doing its thing. Today, however, I would call it one of the most beautiful (for a fisherman's perspective) lures I know of. The Swimming Worm is not an Infomercial gimmick. The Swimming Worm is also NOT a 'magic lure'. There has never been one of those and never will be. It can hang out there on the end of that rod forever and it ain't gonna catch nuthin'.

Lures are inanimate objects comprised of wood, metal, plastic, etc., and will just lie on the floor of the boat unless the angler does something with them. The angler imparts the 'magic' by what we call 'presentation' and 'application'. The lure design provides the interface to allow the angler to do so. In the case of most lures, the Swimming Worm being no exception, each has some type of inherent action or motion that simulates life to attract a predatory fish.

Think of a lure as a 'tool' on your garage workbench. Most tools are designed to do a specific job. When used for other than the designed application, they usually perform poorly. Examples: screwdrivers don't drive nails well and a hammer isn't too good a choice for tightening a nut. Lures, as 'tools' for fishing, are exactly the same. Deep crank plugs don't perform well in shallow weed beds and a shallow Rapala jerk bait isn't to swift a choice for Coho salmon schooling 75 feet down. The lure must operate at the depth you intend to fish, and it must be adaptable to the structure or cover to allow it to operate freely as intended.

The Swimming Worm follows those same rules and its application is very similar to a spinnerbait.

It has been said, and repeated many times, that 'confidence' has caught more fish than any other single item. I firmly believe that. Dry lures catch darn FEW fish. The lure has to be on your line, not in the tackle box. And, it has to be wet! I hope that I am able to impart that confidence to you regarding the Swimming Worm. It may change the whole way you fish.

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!

Why does a fish try to eat something that looks like nothing else that swims? I ask myself that a lot when I tie on a piece of scrap iron like a spinnerbait. Or, why does a buzzbait, which is just a Tinkertoy contraption, draw them to attack it? A plastic worm looks a little like a small snake or worm. But, it sure doesn't move, or smell, or taste like one.

So, why do the fish go after them? Who knows, for sure? I always say that I won't know a lot of answers about fishing until I get to talk to a fish and ask. Since that still doesn't look too likely, I will probably remain dumber than the fish I chase.

My opinion, based on a LOT of experience, is that a bass hits a lure out of an instinct to be predatory. He may want to eat or he may just want to kill something he sees. I once had a 16-inch bass try and eat a large spinnerbait. When I went to take the lure out of his mouth, I noted a shad's tail protruding from his gullet. I worked that shad out and it was 9 inches long. You tell me what the bass was going to do with that spinnerbait. We have all seen bass throw out the contents of their stomachs when jumping during the fight, or even when in the livewell. It would seem they did not need to eat, but still got caught by our lure.

Taking all of these ramblings into consideration, it would seem that a 'perfect' lure for the strong predatory bass would be:
  • attractive to the fish (moves enticingly); and,
  • would appear easy to catch (slow and non-threatening).
And, there you have the keys to the effectiveness of the Swimming Worm!

Fish it around and over cover like you would a SLOW spinnerbait. Do not set the hooks with the lure; the fish hook themselves on the two exposed hooks and virtually NONE ever get off. Just tighten up when you feel the strike. The strike is like a crappie hitting a jig. Nothing smashing; just a light tap or jerking action. Then, just raise the rod tip and play the fish easily and carefully. Don't get in a hurry; you will not lose the fish.

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, corkscrew action. 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 angler cannot see the lure. Generally, this will be two or three feet.

Watercolor has some impact on the success of the Swimming Worm. The ideal conditions will have stained water, such as is found in tidal rivers and in lakes with 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. Clear water will dictate a deeper retrieve. Whether stained or clear water, be sure to fish it over and/or around some form of cover.

Water temperature also has an effect on the application of the Swimming Worm. In the winter, it has to be fished deeper and very slow. That means the potential for snags and lost lures. So, I recommend it be saved for those especially bright sunny days of late winter when the bass come to the shallow, rocky areas to absorb heat.

Like any lure, you will have to fish it until you get the feel and touch. Once you start to get this rig working for you, shallow plugs and spinnerbaits will be things of the past. It is that effective.

One other thing - as with 99.9% of other lures, color is basically immaterial. Start with a Tequila Sunrise or grape of some type and go from there. Or, try my personal favorite - the pumpkinseed w/fleck.

For more information on the Swimming Worm, CLICK HERE.


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