The Expanding World of Plastic Worm Rigs

As the sport of bass fishing progresses, the techniques we use continue to evolve.  Years ago, if an angler chose a plastic worm, it was Texas-rigged because that was all anybody knew.  But in today’s world, there are several options.  These would include not only the Texas-rig but also the jigworm, the shaky-head, the Carolina-rig, the dropshot rig, the wacky-rig and swimming rigs.

So which one should an angler pick?  They all work, but which one will maximize the catch under a given set of conditions?  There is quite a bit of overlap with these rigs, meaning more than one will do the job in a given situation.  So let’s break it down.

The Texas Rig

A bullet sinker is placed on the line ahead of the hook, and the worm is rigged on the hook so that the point is buried in the plastic.   This makes for a snag less presentation which fishes well through weeds and brush.  In the weeds, I only like this rig if I have a hard, clean bottom between weed plants.  When the rig comes to rest on the bottom, I want the bass to see it.  In really dense weed cover where the bottom couple of feet of water is simply a carpet of weed growth, I stay away from this rig because the sinker pulls the worm down into the carpet.  There it gets lost and the bass may be less inclined to search it out.  The same goes for a soft, mucky bottom.  The sinker will pull the worm too far into the muck.   The Texas-rig does great with brush piles and submerged stumps.  It will slide right through all of the snaggy branches and not get hung up.

The Jigworm
Here, the worm is threaded on a jighead that has the eyelet on top of the head.  The hook will be exposed.  Once threaded, the worm will be rigged straight and true behind the jig’s head.  Because of the open hook, jigworms are unsuitable for brush pile fishing.  Where they shine best are around weedy cover, typically above the weeds or around the edges.  Oftentimes, I’ll choose a really lightweight jighead like 1/8 oz or less.  This way the worm will fall really slow and even come to rest on top of a weed.  That’s when suspended bass in the weeds really go for this rig.  I’ve also used jigworms for smallmouths when they are not holding tight to the bottom.  In recent years, something called the Ned rig has gained popularity.  It is basically a jigworm.

The Shaky Head

This rig consists of a worm that is rigged snagless on a jighead.  The hookpoint is buried in the plastic worm much like in a Texas-rig, while the head of the worm attaches to the head by a “keeper” brushpilesof some sort.  This rig is excellent at dragging gravel, sand, and rock.  The head of the jig is usually round or football shaped which transmits “feel” to the rod much better than a bullet sinker on a Texas-rig.  Plus the snagless rigging helps to avoid snags from rocks, bottom litter like sticks, stumps, and brush.  An open-hooked jigworm would be much more snaggy.  Shaky-heads are effectibrush pilestoo, but don’t quite slither through the branches like a Texas-rig.

The Carolina Rig

This rig is where the worm trails behind a pegged sinker positioned several inches up the line. Typically a swivel keeps the sinker from sliding down to the worm hook, but some anglers will use sinker pegs to position the sinker.  Also, the worm is most often rigged snagless with the hook point buried in the plastic, as is the case when Texas-rigging.  Carolina-rigs are great for dragging hard bottoms like sand, gravel, and rock.  But so are shaky-heads, which is why I have gotten away from the Carolina-rig in this situation because they are more involved to set up.  I’ve used Carolina-rigs around weeds too, but then I go with a lighter bullet sinker because it pulls thru the weeds easier than a heavy egg sinker which is normally used.  Most often it is the shorter, sparser weeds that allow Carolina-rigging.  But at that point, nowadays I prefer to use the dropshot.  Super dense weeds call for other tactics.  Split-shotting is a term to describe a finesseful way of Carolina-rigging. In split-shotting, finesse plastics are trailed behind a split-shot on very light line.   But this method has faded in popularity like the Carolina-rig due to the rise of the dropshot rig.

The Dropshot Rig

This is rigged oppositely from the Carolina-rig.  Dropshots are rigged so the sinker trails behind and below the worm and hook.  This rigging has become widely popular in the last ten years because of its versatility and success.  One thing that can be done with a dropshot that is difficult to do with other presentations is the worm can be shook without pulling it out of the strikezone.  That ability can get those neutral bass to bite.  Depending upon the cover, sometimes the worm is rigged snagless, but other times it is “nose-hooked” leaving the hookpoint exposed.  Smallmouths and spotted bass have a certain elevated affinity for this presentation, and largemouths love it too.  It can be dragged over hard bottoms like shaky-heads and Carolina rigs.  But it can also be used around softer bottoms because the worm is positioned several inches about the sinker.  The sinker may bog down in the silt, but the worm will be free and clear above. It can also be used around weedy cover, which is when I like to use a sinker called a bullshot.  Extremely dense weeds may require other options.   Then of course, it is great for vertical presentations when fished straight below the boat in deep water.  If I am fishing deep brushpiles, this works great.  But if I am casting from a distance to shallower brushpiles, then I prefer the Texas-rig because a dropshot tends to snag branches more easily when pulling the rig across them horizontally.

The Wacky Rig

This is when the hook is poked through the side of the worm somewhere near the center.  The end result is an exposed hookpoint that leaves the worm positioned perpendicular to the hook’s shaft.  The hook can be unweighted or a special jighead weighted hook can be used.  And some hooks also come with small brushguards so it can be fished around cover.  Using it unweighted, normally limits the practical depth that it can be fished because it takes a looonnng time to sink without any weight.  Shallow, cruising bass looking up for their meal love this presentation, so it can be very effective around the spawning cycle.  I also like to use this rig around boat docks because it is easy to cast it under them to the dark shady spots.  Opting for the special jigheads will make the rig sink faster.  So now it can be fished in many similar situations as a jigworm, but giving the bass a different look.  Another variation is when weights are inserted into the worm itself.  Again, this helps get the worm deeper a little sooner.  A specialization of this inserted weight method has surfaced in recent years called the Neko-Rig.  It calls for special placement of the hook through the worm and also special placement of the weight.  Done properly, the rig falls straight down with little sideways movement.

Swimming Rigs

Here I am referring to those times when the worm is steadily retrieved to the boat as is often done with paddletail type swimbaits.  Hooks are specially made with weights on the belly of the hook which help to give the worm some depth.  They also have “keepers” that hold the head of the worm up near the hook’s eye.  The worm is rigged snagless.  When there are lots of active bass around, this is an effective way to cover water and load the boat.  Typically, it is a shallow water presentation used around shallow vegetation.  A Texas-rig can accomplish the same thing, but the special hooks made for swimmimg are much easier to use and usually hold the worm straighter without it tearing for a longer period of time.

Worm fishing has evolved quite a bit since the Texas-rig first hit the scene way back when.  In fact, variations of the variations have developed and I am sure will continue that way.  In today’s fishing, my most valuable worm rig would be the dropshot because of its versatility and all-around effectiveness.  Second, I would choose the wacky rig because of its allure to shallow bass.  The rig that I need the least would be the Carolina-rig because the other rigs in one way or another makeup for it.  And the Texas-rig?  Well, it will always have a place in my strategies!

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