Tackle & Techniques – wacky worm basics

Tackle & Techniques – wacky worm basics

Sep 17, 2013

An Introduction to Wacky Wormin’

By Mike Pehanich

The wacky worm makes a deadly addition to your tackle arsenal, and it is particularly effective on small waters. The only problem is…some anglers can’t put it down!

My time was running short on the Coosa River. I had hooked up with river guide David Haynes for an afternoon on this legendary river in Alabama. Haynes had navigated the moody, shifty and often dangerous reaches of the Coosa near Wetumpka, Alabama, deftly.

A great day it was, too, as Haynes, who had been director Tim Burton’s river consultant during the filming of the movie “Big Fish,” told stories about the river and Burton and the making of the movie. Later, we locked gunwales and talked bass fishing with a Birmingham disk jockey. We talked fishing with some good ol’ boys fishing live shad at the tip of an island. They had spent the day counting coup on giant spotted bass and stripers

FLW pro Shin Fukae proves that spotted bass are as vulnerable to a wacky-rigged stickworm as their smallmouth and largemouth cousins.

Haynes glided the edges and seams of fast water and talked about his wildlife photography and current management at the dam. All the while I soaked up the beauty of the riverbanks and their haunting Spanish moss.

The only thing missing was a good catch of spotted bass, the handsome, hard-fighting fish that bring bass anglers to the Coosa.

And our day was running short — painfully short!

My timepiece read 4:30. We had boated a mere five fish all afternoon. My ride was due at 5:00 P.M., the same time Haynes had to depart to clean up for an evening dinner engagement.  On a normal day, I could stretch out my “one last cast” for a half hour or more, but not this day.

We passed a promising pool behind a set of large rounded rocks, but I managed only a single cast before the Coosa swept our craft into the next run.

“Do you mind if we anchor at the next pool we hit like that last one?” I asked.

“Sure, I can do that,” drawled David.

I pointed to the next pool. He nodded and edged us into position a cast length away from what appeared to be prime fish-holding water.

I quickly clipped off David’s minnow-style lure, tied on a Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Weedless hook, and extracted a worm from a pack of Yamamoto Senkos I had pocketed that morning just for the kind of occasion we faced now.

Haynes studied me oddly as I stuck the hook in the middle of the fat stick-style worm. Both ends dangled and shuddered as I pitched it into the pool. My line hopped, and I set the hook into a spotted bass who was apparently as eager to view the scenery from above the water line as we were. The 2-1/2 pounder hung there for a moment, splashed down and came to boat a minute later.

The next cast was a repeat of the first. I missed my shot at a third straight fish but another eager spot was right behind it.

Wacky-rigged stickworms like the Yamamoto Senko are best fished slowly in high percentage areas. Bass find them hard to resist!

I hopped from the boat onto the biggest of the rocks and cast into an upcurrent pocket. Instantly, I hooked a spot that was deep into the “threes.” I got two good looks as she went airborne, but she shook free at the base of the rock.

And so it went until I emptied the package of Senkos. I gave the last to David along with two more survivors from another package. I dropped the last two wacky hooks in for good measure.

“Thanks,” beamed David. “I’ve never seen a worm fished like that. In fact, when I saw you hook that worm on, I said to myself, ‘Whaaaat? Does this boy know how to fish?’”

Wacky wormin’ had saved the day!

Gone wacky

That was David Haynes’ introduction to wacky wormin’, and no doubt there are several million anglers in America with a story like this one.

Just about every lure and lure style has its day in the sun, and it usually only takes a good fish or two to ensure endearment.

But a good wacky rigged stickworm – the thick cigar-style worms that often are described generically as “Senkos” after the Yamamoto bait that still rules the category –seems to have magnetic properties! If a bass is around, he seems to find it.

A key piece of its popularity is that it is simple to rig and simple to fish.

Cast it to a high percentage area, and let it fall. Let the worm do its thing all by itself or impart slight action and a pause in the drop with slight movements of the rod tip.

A lift-and-drop presentation with a wacky rigged Senko outside a band of moss-covered vegetation lured this big bass from her small waters lair.

Try a lift-and-drop approach. The arms swim as you lift the bait and return to that irresistible shimmying action on each fall. You’ll get the hang of it!

Every wacky worm aficionado will attest to the fact that the rig often attracts best when you are doing nothing at all – simply watching the line as the bait falls, particularly on the initial drop.

Though some subtle ways of working it are better than others, the only way to fish it wrong is to fish it too fast, and even that is a matter of shifting degree that can change with the day.

That’s because good stickworms are impregnated with salt, relatively heavy, and have a tantalizing shimmy at both ends as the bait descends. Every sort of stickworm will catch fish, but I usually pass on those worms that create little or no shimmy on the fall.

Wacky hooks

The most popular and basic way of fishing a stickworm is unweighted with a hook that allows the worm to do its shimmy, hangs up minimally and catches little debris. The range of hooks anglers bring to the task is broad. But I encourage that you opt for a hook tailored to the task. It will likely provide good results and fewer complications.

The aforementioned Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Weedless hook in sizes 1, 1/0, and 2/0 has become a favorite. Its short shank keeps the rig simple and compact, and it seldom snags bottom.

The Owner Wacky Hook, which doubles as a dropshot hook, is good, too, but it will hang up more frequently on a rocky bottom than the very short-shanked Finesse Wide Gap.

Others like a Kahle-style hook – also known as a “shiner” hook. It has a broad, deep-sweeping bend with a point that angles back at the hook eye. The design reduces the chance of the worm plastic doubling back over the hook point in the fish’s mouth. Some manufacturers explicitly market certain sizes of their Kahle hooks as “wacky worm” hooks.

Both style hooks are available with and without plastic or wire weedguards. But I advise against using any hook with a weedguard positioned well away from the hook point. Bass seem to drop these quickly, particularly when the bite is tough.

A variety of weighted hooks and rigs – from jighead and slip sinker to split shot and nail weight – can add to the lure’s versatility and enable you to fish it in a wider range of depths and wind/current conditions.

Shin Fukae designed the G-Finesse Series Wacky Jig Head for Gamakatsu. The head expands the effective range of the wacky worm in the water column and is particularly effective in wind.

Great bait for small waters and defined areas

Wacky-rigged worms – and we will cover more wacky rig options in SWF – shine in  many “small waters” situations. You can pick out high percentage fish-holding areas on most small waters with little difficulty. Place a high-percentage bait like a wacky stickworm in front of a bass’s face, and it is hard for him or her to say “No!”

The biggest shortcoming of the wacky stickworm is that you have to fish it fairly slowly, so you cannot cover water quickly with the rig. But if high percentage areas are evident and reachable with it, you have to like its chances!

Every bass angler should have a wacky stickworm option on hand on most waters and most months of the year. No, it’s not a perfect or “never fail” bait, though you will sometimes feel that way once you get the hang of it.

In fact, I find the biggest problem with the wacky worm is that it generates so much confidence in some anglers that they fish little else. True, I’ve taken bass on unweighted wacky-rigged stickworms down to 23 feet, but many are the conditions that call for other rigs and baits – even if that option is, at times, a wacky-rigged dropshot worm!

Fish it well, and you’ll think the fish have gone wacky, too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *