Trout Worms – How to use them and why the work so well
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WOW – Here is another fantastic piece of work just put together by Aaron, (sapdawg11) which he posted on FNN. We thought you would enjoy learning some of his trout catching secrets.
Super job Aaron, you have many talents. It’s no wonder your a great fisherman. THANK YOU for being so generous with your information and the time it took to put this together. I know many that fish Corona Lake really appreciate your help. ______________________________________________________________________________
Techniques for fishing the trout worm at Corona Lake
Pics, Vids, and some good sound!
The rubber worm has found broad application in fishing ranging from ripping the kelp for calico’s off of our coast to catching “bucketmouths” and winning national bass tournaments in inland lakes. But today, we are specifically going to discuss the tiniest of the rubber worm “species”…the trout worm.
Ah yes, the trout worm. My “love affair” with these small slivers of plastic began in the eastern Sierra. Sitting on Lake Mary with my dad, we pulled on fish after fish and even managed to wrangle a 6 pound Alpers into the boat as the sun dipped below the skyline. Nothing can kickstart an affinity for a specific bait like using it during an amazing day of fishing with your dad. And nothing can keep that romance alive like having that bait produce many more epic days thereafter!
The slip bobber thread was so much fun to put together and the responses to that thread were so great that I decided to do it again with a new topic of interest! Since the water out at Corona Lake began to clear a few weeks ago, I picked up my jiggin’ stick and have been getting absolutely ripped on the plastic worms. While I have been out there, I’ve met some really cool people that after chatting a bit, simply came out and asked me, “Can you show me what you’re doing?” “OF COURSE!” The greatest thing to see was that after a quick tutorial, these people were catching fish! And after a few pm’s asking very similar questions to those being asked out on the water, I thought that I would do my best to put some info up here. The point of this is to share with my hands down favorite forum on the web how I fish Corona Lake using trout worms. I FIRMLY believe that this can be THE most productive tool in your fishing arsenal, just as it is in mine. And the best part about fishing for trout with a plastic worm is…IT’S NOT HARD and you can definitely pick it up with minimal instruction. And that instruction is what I’m hoping I can provide.
I’m going to do my best to break it down…rods, reels, rigs, and methods…so that you can get out there and show ME how it’s done! As with everything I write, this is all entirely my opinion and I absolutely encourage everyone to take what I’m saying and tweak it until they find what works for them. The point is to give the newbies out there a starting point, to give the experienced angler a few additional tools that they can utilize, and for the “Corona Lake pros”, I hope that you enjoy the pictures and few short videos as I’m sure everything I am saying will come as “old hat”!! So with that, let’s get started. And let’s do so by talking about fundamental pieces of equipment that we are ALL familiar with…the rod and reel.
Reels and jiggin’ sticks
I, like most fishermen, really enjoy shopping for rods and reels. Over the course of my fishing career, I’ve amassed an assemblage of these items so dense that my wife can’t help but laugh. And to quell the laughter, I explain to her that these pieces of equipment are workable pieces of art that carry with them memories of fish caught and times had…and she still laughs. But at least [B][U]I know[/U][/B] that they are the tools we use to convey the motion to the lures we present and absorb the thumps of the bruisers we catch. As with any tool, there is a proper rod and reel for every job. And thus, to find the proper rod, you have to understand the job. If you want to make your worm twitch, jump, thump, and turn, you supply the energy to do so. And to do this properly requires a small, smooth reel attached to a longer rod with a soft tip. Now that’s not so specific is it??? Well let’s break it down then!
Reel size is the simplest place to begin. And to state it quite simply, I have not found a reason to use anything larger than a 1000 size reel. A 1000 will hold about 270 yards of 2 pound test or 140 yards of 4 pound test for those that like the thicker “rope” (a size 750 will hold about 240/2lb and 120/4lb, and a size 500 about 190/2lb and 100/4lb). This is more than enough line and unless you like paying for a bunch of fishing line you will never utilize for anything other than backing, there is no need for a larger spool. Beyond line capacity, these are the smallest, lightest reels that you can find and having a compact and lightweight reel is a definite advantage with something you will be bouncing and twitching for most of the day.
In terms of spinning reel manufacturers, I am strictly a Shimano guy. I no longer even consider the other reel manufacturers though I’m sure they make some GREAT stuff. I operate under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” code and my Shimano spinners simply never break! Shimano has not compensated me in any way in the past nor do I see them doing so in the foreseeable future. I truly, simply, honestly REALLY like these reels. The drags have never let me down, they are amazingly smooth on the retrieve, and they just last and last. But, truth be told…get what you can afford. Go to your local tackle shop with a price range in mind and play with all of the “toys” in that range (trust me, don’t stray above your range in the store!). The only stipulation I would make is that you should choose a reel in the 500-1000 size range.
Rods are actually a fairly easy choice as well. You want to choose a longer rod with a fast action that will suit the weight of lures that you are going to present. All of the rods I use to jig trout worms are at least 6’6”, have a fast action, are rated for ultralight fishing and are made of graphite rather than fiberglass. Fiberglass rods have a little too much flex in the tip for me but that’s just my personal preference. I know a lot of people that are partial to jigging with fiberglass rods.
Most “jiggin’ sticks” will have short handles as moving the reel back on the rod results in more action from the rod tip with less movement from your hand. Additionally, you will often see people (including myself) using split grips as this is a great way to shed a little weight from your rod without sacrificing comfort or performance.
I am a firm believer in purchasing quality rods. Since I began wrapping rods about 7 years ago, I immediately noticed the difference in quality between the economy blanks vs. the higher end models. But again, get what you can afford as the most important thing is just getting out on the water, not what equipment you have in your hand.
I figure that it may be helpful to share a few of my setups so I’ve put together the picture below. It gives you the specs of what I bring out there with me just about every time I’m working the trout worm:
So you’ve got a 1000 size reel on a 7’ ultralight rod and are ready to rumble…but WAIT! Tailwalkers don’t bite rods and reels, they bite plastic worms! So let’s go there next and talk about the types and rigs available to us for fishing these little gems…
I want to begin by discussing plastic worm brands. For the sake of some form of brevity, we’ll stick to the three main brands of worms that I see trout fisherman using here in So Cal: Berkley Powerworms, Lip Ripperz Trout Wormz, and Eagle Claw/Nitro Crawlers.
In that picture you see that I’ve purposely shown three open bags to let you know that I use ALL of these products. You’ll soon see that while looking very similar, these plastic worms are distinctly different in their size, buoyancy and action. These differences result in each of these products having optimal opportunities for use among the broad set of situations we are presented with as anglers. If you use one of these brands religiously than that is great, but what often happens when you stick to one particular bait is that you find good days as well as bad days where that bait will and will not work respectively. By expanding your tackle box to incorporate some of these other varieties you can without a doubt increase your number of “good days” by filling in the gaps where the fish seem to refuse to eat what you are used to throwing. There is a series of videos (set to some good sounds), photos, and text in this section to demonstrate what each of these varieties of plastics is capable of. The only thing you’ll have to do is recognize those situations “in the wild” and apply what you see/read here correctly! Easy, right???
Size All three of the brands discussed herein are similarly sized, but when talking about a small plastic worm, a 1” difference in overall length can mean all of the difference in the world! From smallest to largest the list goes: Eagle Claw Crawler (2 1/8”), Berkley Powerworm (2 1/2”), and then the Lip Ripperz Trout Wormz (3 1/8”). The maximum diameter of these worms is pretty much the same (all have a diameter of approximately 1/8”). What differs is that the Lip Ripperz Trout Wormz maintain a constant diameter while the Eagle Claw Crawlers and Berkley Powerworms thicken and thin throughout the length of the worm.
The length of your trout worm can and definitely does make a difference. You may notice one day that the fish want tiny baits and maybe on another day they are looking for something big. To find out, you simply have to experiment until you find what works. The old adage that “big bait equals big fish” does NOT hold true in Corona Lake. I’ve caught some monster fish out there on teeny tiny baits. What truly works is putting the right bait in front of the right fish. And the definition of the “right bait” includes a bait being the right size!
Buoyancy The buoyancy, or how well a worm floats, will affect where in the water column the bait wants to stay as well as the bait’s action. The differences in buoyancy between these three baits presents an excellent “gradient of floatation” that we can exploit so that we are keeping our baits in the prime areas longer, whether that be up high or right on the bottom. Here is a short video that will show you really quick which worm floats the highest and which one will drag the lowest…
The Eagle Claw Crawler is BY FAR the most buoyant worm, followed by the Berkley Powerworm, making the Lip Ripperz Trout Wormz the densest of the bunch. So what does that mean for your fishing? Well first, it will affect how your bait presents itself to the fish. The Lip Ripperz Trout Wormz are going to fall more quickly through the water column while the Eagle Claw Crawler will stay at the upper depth limit that your leader will allow. The Berkley worms will also eventually settle out (despite the words “floating” being put on the packaging, the weight of a hook causes it to sink) but will do so much more slowly.
So how do you apply this? Let’s go through a few examples. Let’s say that the fish are holding somewhere in the middle of the water column, but they will only hit a bait that is presented VERY slowly. If you try to slow fish the Berkley Powerworm or the Lip Ripperz Trout Wormz, your bait WILL eventually be on the bottom and that could mean: a) no bites and/or b) getting weeded up. Obviously the choice bait would be the Nitro Crawlers. On the other hand, maybe your noticing that the fish are hitting your bait when you pause it and let it fall a little bit through the water column, then you’d have to go with either the Berkley or Lip Ripperz products as they will sink for you. Using a Nitro Crawler in that situation simply would not work.
“You’ve got to give your bait lots of action…”, “This bait has wild action…”, “Look at the action on that bait”…We’ve all heard it, but what the heck do all of those catchphrases mean?
When I think of “action”, I think of the degree to which a bait moves around itself. What I mean is, when someone says, “this bait has a lot of action”, they mean that relatively little input on your part will result in a lot of movement on the bait’s part. So if you twitch your rod tip, a REALLY active bait will jump, twitch, fold, and/or roll on itself.
Often times I think that a bait with a TON of action catches more fisherman than it does fish. Not at all do I mean that an “active” bait is a bad thing. What I mean is that to me, “more action” does NOT equal “better bait”. As with everything we’ve discussed thus far, there is an appropriate time for everything and action is no exception to this rule.
Here is a video demonstrating the types of action we can expect from each of the three plastic worms discussed herein. The baits are all rigged on 2lb test, a few inches above a 1/4 oz dropshot weight in first wacky and then threaded format (which we’ll discuss further in a bit). Try to pick out the subtleties as to how different these baits “behave”. Remember, the difference between wide open and skunked sometimes lies on a fine line drawn by connecting the finest details!
As you can see, each of the plastic worms moves differently through the water which at this point in the thread should be making you think, “if these baits all move differently, then that movement must have an appropriate time and place!” And to that I say BINGO!!!
Because of the Nitro Crawler’s buoyancy, it likes to “pop” as it is lifted off the bottom. Note that because this bait wants the end opposite the hook to be up, I recommend running it threaded onto your hook the majority of the time. The opposite is true for the Lip Ripperz Trout Wormz. The length and flexibility of this bait means that I will typically fish this rigged in a “Wacky rigged” format and will try to get the two limbs of the bait really “clapping” together. Running this bait wacky will also cause it to fall more slowly through the water column when paused.
There are a ton of subtle differences that you can pick out in that video. The point of showing you them is so that you can keep them in the back of your mind while you are trying to figure out EXACTLY what the fish want.
In general, a rule of thumb that you can apply is: the calmer it is, the less jumping around you will want from your plastic worm. When Corona Lake is a mirror, I will fish a Nitro Crawler mind-numbingly SLOW. When the wind picks up, I may switch to a Lip Ripperz or a Berkley Powerworm. This rule is a generalization and will NOT always hold true. But it’s a starting point for those looking for one.
“Action” really is the “experimental zone”. To find what’s working, you’ll need to throw each of these brands out there, and to throw each of these out there, all you will need is to have them in your tackle box! Switching between these baits is easy as they are all rigged similarly, which is exactly what we’re going to talk about next…RIGGING!
Rigging your plastic worm
You’ve got your rod and reel and a diverse set of plastic worms and at this point you say, “we can go catch fish now, right?” WRONG young grasshopper! Now we have to connect these two critical elements in a format that as many fish as possible will find enticing enough to want to eat.
To give you the punch line first and to satisfy the needs of those that don’t feel like reading my endless droning, this entire section will refer to all of the aspects of the image shown below…
What that image shows are the primary ways that you will see people rigging their plastic worms FOR JIGGING out at Corona Lake. There are so many variations on these themes involving strike indicators, plastic bubbles, fly lining, “powermouses” etc., that I could not even begin to list them all here. These are simply a starting point for those that want to learn how to “jig the worm”.
There are two main methods of rigging your trout worm for jigging: Splitshotting and Dropshotting. The only difference between the two methods is where you put your weight. When splitshotting, the weight is above your worm and when dropshotting, the weight is below your worm. While this may seem like an insignificant difference, it means all sorts of things for how your worm behaves when you fish it.
When you work the dropshot, you are in constant contact with your bait as long as the line is taught. That means that every time you twitch that rod, your worm jumps. And it does so at a specified depth defined by how far you place your weight below your worm. If you set the weight twelve inches below your bait, your worm will be no more than twelve inches off of the bottom at all times. To dropshot correctly, you will need to know the Palomar Knot. Using it ensures that your bait is presented correctly and also provides a strong connection so that you avoid losing fish. You can see that I’ve labeled the “Palomar Knot” connections in the diagram above. And I found the nifty little diagram below to show you how to tie it.
Different from dropshotting, splitshotting does not keep you in constant contact with your bait and the depth at which you fish is more a function of the speed of your retrieve rather than the length of your leader. If while splitshotting you twitch your rod and the worm jumps towards you, your next “twitch” may or may not result in a jump from your bait. Further, because your bait is “dangling” behind your splitshot, it is working a potentially wider range of depths than your dropshot rig would be working.
So once again, different techniques with different applications. I generally will start off with the splitshot and if it seems they are close to the bottom, will switch to the dropshot. But yet again, that’s just me.
So now that you have the general methods, let’s go through the entire setup, starting with the line and moving towards the “business end” of this little shindig!
Line rating is one of the most discussed topics that I see on this forum. Everything from “I weave hairs pulled from the legs of spiders to create the finest line imaginable” to “I use 2 ton rope and still haul them in by the truckload.” It seems that there is no “right answer” so to answer this for myself, I turn to science.
By the sheer laws of physics, the chemical makeup of the line held constant, the thinner (ie the smaller the diameter) the line is, the more difficult it will be to see, the less the surrounding water will be disturbed, and thus the more natural your bait will behave. And that is what we are all trying to create right? A natural appearing bait. But there is obviously a trade-off. You are not only trying to provoke strikes, you are attempting to reel in fish and to do so, you need a line that is capable of absorbing the shock of having 2 animals do battle on the opposing ends of a piece of string. So where is the happy medium?
To reference the “rods and reels” section, I have spent a bunch of money to have really nice equipment and I did not just do that because my wallet was too heavy. I did it because I know those products will perform above and beyond what would normally be expected. That being said, I ONLY fish 2 lb test and refuse to fish anything heavier. I can also say that I’ve pulled on a bunch of large trout on 2 pound test out at Corona…
…and I have yet (and as I type I am knocking on every piece of wood I can find) to break off a large fish jigging worms on that setup. AND what’s a little bit fun is that many of the big fish I’ve pulled up have had their mouths loaded with line that had to have been rated for towing a Buick! BUT, for those that really are wary of fishing such light string, I would recommend fishing no heavier than 4lb test.
While a fish does not wish to eat lead or steel, the lead and steel you use will drastically impact your catch rate. The terminal tackle setup I use is amazingly simple…a hook and a sinker. No swivels. No sliding eggs. A simple hook and a sinker is quick, easy, and most importantly, EFFECTIVE!
I will ALWAYS use a size 10, single barbed hook while jigging the worm. I used to buy the Owner size 10 mosquito hooks but quickly learned that they: a) have a short “life span” and will often straighten when they are removed from a fish, forcing replacement and a retie, b) like to slide up my worm because they lack small barbs up the shank, and c) like to come unbuttoned from fish more frequently than the standard #10 hooks that you can pick up just about anywhere. My solution is that I buy a $1.99 package of #10, single barbed hooks from the bait shop at the lake and that pack lasts me…oh…just about…THE ENTIRE SEASON. I love Owner products and use them extensively in the salt but I no longer use the mosquito hooks when jigging worms for the reasons listed above. The #10 single barbed hooks available at the bait shop stick fish just fine, my worms stay in place, they are cheap and they last me fish after fish after fish.
For weight, I use size BBB – #5 splitshots. I use splitshots for both “splitshotting” as well as “dropshotting”. They do make lead specifically for dropshotting, however, I find that the splitshot does just fine. Splitshots are much cheaper, they can be just as easily adjusted , and they are a whole heck of a lot cheaper than dropshotting weights. By only carrying splitshots, it also means that you are carrying less gear that needs to be organized. Corona Lake is a pretty shallow lake and you can fish it very effectively with very little weight. I do my best to take advantage of that by only carrying the “splitters”!
We’ve already gone through worms in detail so no need to do that again. But do note that there are two primary methods of rigging the worms that you may have already noticed in the videos: Threaded and Wacky. When threading a plastic worm, I try my best to keep it straight on the hook shank. I want the finished product to look like I glued a hook barb onto the underside of the worm. In other words, the body of the worm should be straight along the hook shank. Wacky worming is even easier…Fold the worm in half and stick the hook through the midpoint. It’s that easy.
Both of these methods are effective and I will readily admit that I cannot yet put any rhyme or reason behind why one works better than the other one day to the next, but on some days, they only want to eat a threaded worm and on others it needs to be rigged wacky. Who knows…but it’s still a reminder to always be experimenting until you’re catching fish!
All of my favorite colors are shown in the image above: White, Orange, Pink, and Chartreuse. I do carry other colors with me, but this is always where I’ll start. The color that the fish are preferring can and does change from day to day so if you are not getting bit after about 15 minutes on one of these colors, switch it up and try something new.
Methods You’ve got all of the gear, you’ve rigged up your worms, you’re on the water, you cast out your line…now what? I want to finish this up with a discussion on how to present your bait. Jigging does NOT imply casting your rig out and waiting for a bite. It also does not imply dragging your bait slowly while you kick along in your float tube. “Jigging” means that you are providing action to your bait in order to PROVOKE a bite rather than passively waiting for one to come by. By provoking strikes, I can absolutely guarantee that you will see your fish counts improve!
There are four fundamental aspects that will go into your jigging:
1)The speed of your retrieve – “A slow retrieve is a good retrieve” has and will continue to be my mantra. You should be reeling in a full crank on a 1000 size reel no faster than every three seconds or so.
2)How often/fast you tap your rod tip –Your rod tip does not need to look like Neal Peart’s drumsticks. A steady tap of about 1-2 taps per second is all you need. You should be moving your rod tip about 4-8 inches with each “tap”.
3)How often you pause your retrieve – During your retrieve, you should take a moment to stop everything and let the bait sit. You’ll be amazed at how often this provokes a strike.
4) How often you drag the bait without tapping your rod tip – Often intermittently stopping from tapping the bait and simply dragging the bait will provoke a strike. This is especially true on calm days.
The perfect combination of these variables changes daily and you need to experiment with all of them in order to find what will provoke strikes. And to assist you with “changing” it up, here is the “Tap and Drag” chart…the figure caption explains it all…
Remember two additional things…1) you DO NOT reel while you are pulling the rod back and 2) among the “taps” and “drags” you will want to put in some “pauses”. The taps and drags often work to pull the fish in and take a look. When you stop the bait, the fish sometimes can’t help but jump all over it!
And for those that prefer video, I put this together to demonstrate exactly what I mean by “tap” and “drag”. Sure did confuse the neighbors to see me “fishing” in the street!…
Again, it’s that easy. But practice will definitely make perfect so get out there!
And it all comes down to this…
The ability to get out there and jig the worm is something that all Corona Lake trout fishermen/fisherwomen need to have in their arsenal. I’ve done my best to explain everything the best I could but as with anything, I’m sure that I left plenty out and you’ll need to fill in a number of gaps that I could never hope to describe in a forum post. There is simply no substitute for experience. But now you have the fundamentals at your fingertips. Apply them, let me know how you do and then teach me what you learn!
This has been a blast to put together. I hope you all enjoyed it and were able to pull some useful stuff out of it. Thanks for taking a read! Feel free to ask anything and everything and I’ll do my best to clear things up. And most importantly GO GET ‘EM!!!!!!!!!