Summer is the time for a 10-inch worm. But many anglers don’t feel comfortable with baits that big. We all hear “big baits, big fish,” but I have caught all sizes of fish on a 10-inch worm. Of course, I’ve caught some big fish on the same worms, landing the big fish for more than one club tournament on them. The best 10-inch worm, in my opinion of course, is a ribbon tail. They have the most action and create a lot of disturbance in the water that will attract fish.
The thing with a 10-inch worm is that, because many anglers don’t throw them, fish rarely see them. Throwing a bait most anglers are not using can have great results. One of the things I like about big worms is how versatile they are. I can fish from two feet to 22 feet with a 10-inch worm.
With big worms, I tend to use big hooks. A 7/0 offset worm hook is usually my go-to. I know a lot of people use smaller hooks with a good deal of success, however. As one old-school angler once told me, if a fish grabs the worm by the tail, it doesn’t matter how big the hook is. He uses a 3/0 hook for that reason. And he is successful with that philosophy, so I can’t very well say he is wrong. A fish will usually take the worm from the front anyway, meaning a smaller hook should work just fine and because it is lighter, it will affect the action of the worm less. I get the idea – I’m just not sure how much faith I have in it. I would say whatever hook an angler is comfortable with is going to be just fine. I tend to use a worm hook when I’m fishing in grass or heavier cover. It helps the worm come through that type of cover better. When I’m fishing ledges or drops, I might use a EWG hook, but honestly I don’t feel it’s necessary. A 10-inch worm is not a thick piece of plastic, so an offset worm hook is my go-to. One thing I do not do is peg the sinker.
No matter the depth of the water, I do not want to sinker pegged as it can get in the way of getting the hook set into the fish if it is pegged directly to the eye of the hook. If I do use a bobber stop for any reason, such as if I am just changing up a bait quick from another soft plastic I had on the same rod, I put it at least six inches from the hook. In deeper water, with the sinker not pegged, it gives the illusion of something chasing after something else, which can attract the attention of my target fish, a big bass. No matter the depth I am fishing, I Texas-rig the worm, keeping it weedless, and if I have a bobber stop on the line, it is away from the sinker and hook.
So now we get to the versatility factor. A 10-inch worm is a great bait for ledge fishing as well as fishing shallower vegetation such as grass or lily pads. As I said, I have fished this bait up to 20+ feet deep, and I have been beat in tournaments by an angler a time or two when he made that change that I missed and started catching fish in deep water with a 10-inch worm. In this scenario, I would definitely not peg the sinker. Again, the allure of a bass’ forage chasing its own forage to the bottom is often times too much for a bass to take.
When fishing deep, off ledges, there will usually be a “sweet spot” on the ledge. When I find one of those spots, I fish the worm more thoroughly through that area. There will often be more than one or two fish in the same spot. I use my electronics to look for bait fish activity as well. Bait fish mean a high likelihood of bass in the area. When fishing deep, I usually use at least a 3/8 ounce sinker or up to ½ ounce. This helps get the bait to the bottom and using a tungsten weight allows me to feel the bottom better. In deeper water especially, once I catch a fish, I will triangulate that spot using visual keys from the shorelines or markers in the water such as a fallen tree. I will make the same exact cast at least a few times to determine where the exact “spot on the spot” is on that ledge. Once I find a depth at which fish are holding, I will use a depth highlight on my electronics to find other places around the lake that set up just like the one on which I was catching fish.
In shallower water, I might go down to ¼ ounce on the sinker or at times not even use a sinker. I would opt to leave the sinker in the tackle box when fishing areas with lily pads, for instance. Just as with any other weightless worm, this allows me to move the worm along the top of a lily pad and let it drop slowly into the holes between the pads. Some anglers use a heavy mono line, such as 40-pound test, to run through the bait and the eye of the hook to keep the bait pegged to the hook. This does not allow the bait to slide down on the hook. Products such as the Never Slip Bait Tape are good options here as well. For me, I don’t worry about that. If I need to take a bit of the head of the worm off because it was ripped or damaged in some way, I can do that at least one or two times before the bait shortens up too much.
Fishing grass edges is also a place where a 10-inch worm will shine. When pitching into grass, watch your line as the bait is falling. Often a fish will grab the bait before it hits the bottom and you will simply see your line take off in one direction or another, or it will just get slack. If the bait gets to the bottom, lift the rod and let it drop on semi slack line. Lift up, let it fall back down. Keep the rod in front of you to have as much power as you can to set hook. Don’t lift rod too high. Once the fish takes the bait, set the hook on a semi-slack line. If the sinker happens to get into the fish’s mouth, it may have its mouth closed around the sinker. With a tight line, all you have done is turn the fish’s head. With a bit of slack in the line, you will likely pile drive the hook into the fish’s mouth. If need be, you can drop your rod tip a bit to create the slack you need in the line, then set the hook hard.
As far as gear, I don’t believe you need anything super special to throw a 10-inch worm. Long casts can be important, so a 7 foot rod is usually my go to, a medium heavy fast action, to me, is best. That gives a good backbone to get the fish through any heavy cover I might be fishing, and also gives me good hook penetration. I believe these rods are best suited for worm fishing, but they also have many other uses for other applications.
As far as reels, again, I do not feel you need anything super special. Even a high-speed reel of 8:1 or 9:1 is not a necessity. Anything over a 6:1 or even a 7.5:1 is fine. You won’t be speed reeling with a big worm, so don’t worry about specialty equipment. For me, if I am fishing heavy cover, I might go to a 7.5:1 just to get the fish turned and headed toward me after I hook up with it.
Now for line. My favorite for worm fishing, and yes, I completely understand how “old school” this is, but I prefer copolymer for worm fishing. If I am in super heavy cover, I will go to braid. I always use 65 pound braid or heavier, but an angler could certainly use 50 pound or whatever their normal braid is. Copolymer is a good all-purpose line and it holds up a lor better than fluorocarbon. I don’t use fluorocarbon when fishing a bit worm, if possible. If I wind up using it for any reason, I am always sure to inspect the line often to be sure it is not fraying. I can say the same with braid in situations with a lot of rock. Rock can fray braid, so I check that often as well when in those situations. Copolymer is better in rocks, so, again, it is usually my go-to line for a big worm.
I don’t get to stressed out about learning another knot, either. I know a lot of old-school anglers that insist on a San Diego jam knot for a big worm. If you don’t know the knot, don’t stress it. I usually use a Palomar knot, which is what I use for almost everything. A unit knot is a good choice as well. The point is, whatever knot you tie that does not fail and in which you have confidence is going to be a good knot to tie in this case as well.
A 10-inch worm can also be dragged along the bottom. It can also be brought through vegetation such as coontail to create a swimming motion. When swimming the worm it creates a lot of vibration in the water, which will alert the fish that something is coming that may be a decent feast.
I do not get super concerned about colors, but I do have a few favorites. Black is my main color 10-inch worm that I use. But I also like black with purple flake. June bug is a good color, as is tequila sunrise. As with any other bait, clearer water will call for a bit more natural colors. Darker water will allow you to use brighter colors. For the most part, it is the vibration and the silhouette of the bait that is going to draw the strikes.
When fishing gets tough in the heat of the summer, don’t be afraid to “go big.” And a 10-inch worm is the perfect way to go big and get those big fish to the boat.