“A plastic worm is the most universal bait a fisherman can have in his tacklebox,” said Joe Thomas, former Bassmaster Tournament pro and host of Stihl’s Reel in the Outdoors. He and the other fishermen at Lake El Salto in Mazatlan, Mexico, were only using it one way, though: Texas-rigged.
As opposed to, say, Carolina-rigging a worm, the Texas-style involves using a heavy “bullet” weight at the head of the worm to sink it to the bottom of a lake or pond. Because of its unique hook placement, embedded within the worm’s belly, the fake morsel can then be dragged slowly across the bottom, where big bass like to hang out, without getting snagged on the cover (rocks, trees, weeds) they like to hide in.
In short, the Texas-rigged style is a delivery system to the biggest bass’s homes. But to knock on their door, you need the right setup and techniques. Thomas showed us how.
1Use the right gear. “It doesn’t matter whether you use braided or fluorocarbon line, or a spinning or bait-casting reel,” Thomas said. But you need to use heavy line because of the weight of the rig — 17—20 pound fluorocarbon, or 40—65 pound braided line. Thomas uses a 7-foot rod with medium-heavy to heavy action, which helps him with the style’s violent hookset technique (more on that later).
2Rig it. Slide the sinker up the line, then tie on the hook (Thomas uses a palomar knot). “Hooking the worm the right way is the hardest part for most people,” Thomas said. First, push the point of the hook into the nose of the worm. Slide the worm along the bend of the hook until the hook fully protrudes. Continue to move the nose of the worm up the shank of the hook, up and over the “keeper.” Thomas wets the “keeper” of the hook to keep from tearing the worm’s plastic nose. “The key here is you want the nose of the worm to cover the knot,” Thomas said.
Reposition the worm and hook so the hook’s point is facing back into the worm. Where the hook re-enters the worm is key. “I look to see where the hook needs to go in so the worm will hang straight,” Thomas said. “Then I lift the worm up and insert that hook into the worm, and I’ll push all the way through where it starts to go through on the other side. It cuts a channel in the worm. Then I duck it back inside. So now it’s completely weedless [and won’t get snagged on the bottom], but when a bass puts a little bit of pressure, it exposes that hook.”
3Fish it. The technique here is getting the worm to the bottom, then slowly “swimming” it through the deepest water before letting it sink back down again, Thomas said. “When the bait hits the water, I pull line off the reel and let the bail fall straight to the bottom. This gets the most of my cast. Then I engage the reel. I like to reach forward of the reel, drape the line over my finger and under my thumb.
“Regardless, once that bait hits the bottom, I’ll reel in the slack, then drop my rod tip to about a two o’clock position,” he said. “I’ll slowly crawl the bait by lifting my rod to a high-noon position. While dropping the rod tip again, I take up the slack with the reel. Then, rinse and repeat. That’s gonna keep that bait going nice and steady along the bottom.”
If you feel the worm snag on something, just lift the rod tip up, and it should rise over the debris.
4Don’t miss the bite. A bass eating the worm can feel surprisingly subtle to the fisherman. “When you’re lifting that rod tip, crawling the bait across the bottom, one of two things will generally happen,” Thomas said. “The bass pinches it against the ground and bites it, you get a tapping sensation in the line. There are also situations where you’ll pick up [the line] and it will feel heavy or ‘mushy.’ That’s the bite that most people miss.”
5Set the hook. A Texas rig requires an abrupt hookset, unlike a crankbait, which has treble hooks. “What you wanna do when you feel the bite is drop your rod tip and point it right at the bait,” Thomas said. “Pick up the rod tip a little, and if you still feel pressure, abruptly snap the rod to your chin. That’s what drives that hook in there.”