Lately I have been slowing it down a bit and going “old school.” What is old school you ask? It is tossing the worm… most likely the first artificial lure to catch a bass and a favorite of most bass fisherman in the world. This time of the year I like to stitch a big worm between 12′ and 16″. Yes, I said 16″! It is a monster of worm, but it catches some big bass.
When getting ready to stitch a big worm, you first need to get your tackle set up correctly. I like a rod between 7′-0″ and 7′-8″ in a medium-heavy action and any reel that will hold plenty of 15-20 pound line. Over the years I have changed over from monofilament to fluorocarbon line because I like the way I can feel the bottom I’m stitching better with the zero stretch line. I prefer a slow ratio reel like 5.1-1 because the ideal is to “slowly” work the worm over the structure back to the boat, or shore.
Once you have your rod, and reel ready it’s time to find some big worms. This can be easier than you think, but I would suggest going to your local bait store and seeing what they have. You might only see smaller worms so ask the someone if they can order larger worms for you. Most people who pour worms have a few big worm molds that they will use for a custom order.
After you find your big worms invest some time in to getting some good worm hooks. I prefer to use Owner oversize worm hook in 7/0, and 11/0 sizes. As you can see in the picture above this hook is built for big worms. It has an extra long shank that gets the point of the hook further down the worm and the “Z” bend was designed to hold the hook in place better in the head of the worm. This “Z” bend is key during casting so that your hook stays in place. What I really like about this big hook is how the point of the hook lines up with start of the hook (as you can see by the picture below, I drew a red line to show how this lines up).
There have been plenty of years I have used pliers to bend the point towards the shank of the hook to keep the point from sticking out of the worm and hanging up on structure. Proper hook placement is key in a big worm your casting a lot of plastic that will stretch during the cast so you will have some movement. The last thing you want is your hook point sticking out and snagging on structure, or dulling the point of the hook, so when you get bit you can’t get a hook set.
I very rarely use a bullet weight with big worms since the hook has enough weight to help keep the worm head on the bottom. Besides, I like to stitch the nastiest structure I can find so rigging the big worm without a weight or fly-lining it is essential to getting all that plastic through the structure.
Once you’ve secured you tackle, it’s time to do some homework and find some good structure to stitch. I like to start with a main point and set up in about ten foot of water and toss out to the deep water. Stitching big worms is a technique where you need lots of patience. The key to success with these giants is to work these big worms as slow as you can, I mean “fall asleep slow.” If you want to catch one of the monster bass in the lake then you need to keep the big worm in the big bass’ house for as long as possible.
Stitching is an old technique where you hold your rod downward towards the water and hold the line between your fingers and slowly pull the line away from the rod. While stitching you want to pull the line and pause, you should always feel tension on the line, if not you need to pull more line out until you feel some light tension. What’s nice about stitching is your going to know when your bit. Big bass thump the big worms hard so hold on. If you have pulled some line out and get bit let the line pull back towards the rod while still holding, once the line is back to the rod, let go and set the hook.
Working big worms on points, humps, and flats with deep water access is how you’ll catch some of the larger bass in the lake. Once you fish these areas for a while, you’re going to find some sweet spots, or key areas on these locations that you will have to make note of mentally so you can visualize in your mind what your big worm is doing. Paying close attention to which direction you’re stitching is also very important. I almost always work the uphill, but there are times during the year when you’ll find the big bass want the worms pulled down hill.
Time of day is another factor you should pay close attention to. I have caught some giant bass early in morning and during the last light of the day while working shallow water key spots with deep water access. I have found that water color and time of the year really dictates if these big bass will be shallow and want to eat a big worm. Once again putting time on the water and taking really detailed notes will help you understand when and where you need to be and how much time to stay and stitch an area.
Moon phase was a trigger to some of my largest catches on big worms. I’ve found that while looking at my fishing logs, kept for over 30 years, that the times you want to be on your key fishing area is 45 minutes before and after a moonrise and moonset. These times of gravitational pull seem to activate the big bass and get them moving and hunting.
Another secret that for me has changed over the year is scent. I am a firm believer in using scent when spot fishing. I call it the “barbecue effect.” If your neighbor three houses down is barbecuing a steak, you can smell it through the air, it will most likely make your appetite increase. This is how I see scent on a key area i’m fishing. If I’m set up on a rock pile and have the wind at my back and there is some water current blowing towards deep water then the “barbecue effect” is working. The only difference between air and water is the density of the molecules. Air molecules move very fast and free if there is a breeze, water on the other hand is much more dense and you need some water current to move your scent in the water. Bottom line is the less current the smaller the area around your scented bait that the bass can pick up the scent. But if you work an area for an extended period of time you can really marinate it and believe this will help spark the bass into biting.
I prefer to use Smelly Jelly in the 3XXX, or Crawdad flavors and after years of getting scent on my hands I finally figured out a better way to apply this sticky smelly scent.
By using a large sandwich bag and placing a small amount of scent inside the bag you can now dip your worm in the bag and squeeze the worm around with your hand on the outside of the bag where no scent can get on your hand. I have found this to make my life much easier while worm fishing and less flavor on my sandwich.
As for big worm colors I always keep it simple brown with a black vein, cinnamon black vein, purple pink vein, and black with a purple vein. These colors for me where I live here in San Diego California work really well, but when I look at my fishing logs I have caught 70% of my largest bass on the brown black vein color. It is a very natural color matching a night crawler. My logs also show that some of the best times for me have also been during storms where there is some runoff going into the lake. If there is a key area next to some stained, or dirty runoff coming in the lake I have had some multiple big bass days. I believe as these bass grow up they recognize that food is coming in the lake during storms that are large enough to create some good runoff where worms and bugs are un-earthed and go down stream into the lake. I have noticed that the first good storm that produces runoff is best and only for a couple of days.
So next time you feel like slowing it down a bit, but still want a chance at a toad bass go buy some big worms and soak them on your best spot I think you’ll be glad you did.