- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

Although bass fishermen have widely divergent views on almost everything, nearly all agree on one thing: They can’t live without a good spinnerbait or a bag full of plastic worms.

The most versatile bass catcher, spinnerbait can be fished near the surface, anywhere in the water column, as well as slow-rolled across the bottom of a lake or river. It can be fished fast, at medium speeds or literally crawled along. In fact, spinnerbait can be dropped into deep water and vertically jigged.

Spinnerbaits were originally intended to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, but they also tantalize northern pike, chain pickerel, muskellunge, tiger muskies, striped bass, large white or yellow perch, even saltwater bluefish, sea trout and channel bass (redfish). In one instance, I hooked a flounder while fishing for bass in North Carolina’s Currituck Sound.

The lure’s versatility and ease of speedy casting and retrieval is the main reason why it’s the favorite of professional bass anglers. But remember the cast-for-cash gang also needs to cover a lot of water in a hurry, hoping to quickly find bass and eliminate unproductive areas. You can’t do that with slow-working lures.

However, if the professionals had the luxury to look for fish all day and not have to worry about returning to a weigh station at 2 or 3p.m. every day during the warm months, they’d be slinging plastic worms all the time.

As for the largemouth bass, nothing is quite as enticing as a lure that — at various times and under changing light conditions — appears to be a night crawler that fell into the water from a dirt bank, maybe a harmless baby water snake or a young water moccasin (cottonmouth). The same plastic worm, sold in a rainbow assortment of colors and flavors from pungent garlic to plain sea salt, also looks like an eel, perhaps even a slender fish fry of some sort.

Whatever it appears to be to a predator’s eyes, it’s the plastic worm that often is the most productive bass fishing lure ever.

From the spring to the fall, there are times when local Potomac River bass hounds use plastic worms — or offshoots, such as plastic grubs and tubes — exclusively and by end of the day have hooked 60, 70 or even 100 bass.

It begins in April when the water temperatures approach 60 degrees and the sport’s insiders start using short, plump, plastic worms. They fish them with either a very light slip sinker at the head of the worm (known as a Texas rig) or forego the weight altogether because the bass are in increasingly shallow water around fallen shoreline trees and brush piles.

The fun really starts when aquatic vegetation begins to emerge and bass fanatics take a simple 1/0 hook, insert it through the center of a stubby rubbery worm and cast it across a water weed field and slowly jerk it over the thin layer of water that covers the “grass.” This is called wacky-rigging. It can result in unbelievably vicious strikes from the largemouths, who obviously believe they’re watching a crippled eel, snake or nightcrawler trying to make it to safety. The bass often do their best to make sure the “crippled” critter doesn’t succeed.

There area also times in the summer when a heavier slip sinker or some kind of a small egg sinker that is kept two or three feet ahead of the worm by way of a two-way swivel (known as Carolina rigging) is helpful. This is especially true in sweetwater reservoirs, including Virginia’s Lake Anna and Lake Gaston, where the bass stay in deeper water during hot days than they might in a tidal river situation.

Currently, the best autumn method in our tidal rivers has been a slender Texas-rigged four-inch worm in colors known as blue fleck, green pumpkin and junebug. We use a 1/16-ounce slip sinker ahead of the plastic bait. The worm is cast alongside shallow marsh banks that rapidly descend into 6- and 7-foot depths. It is slowly dragged from the “skinny” water into the drop zone, fluttering and undulating as it falls.

If Mr. Largemouth is nearby, the worm will never make it to the bottom.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.



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