Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas bonus: bass fishing with a salt-impregnated worm

I just finished stuffing two nephews' new tackle boxes with a variety of baits to get them hooked on bass fishing, and thought it might be something you might find worth trying this spring, or worth sharing with a young angler buddy of your own. Merry Christmas.  Bill P

Dear nephew,
You are at a perfect age to perfect the one skill most important to your future happiness:  fishing!  I didn’t realize it when I was your age, but that short period between ages 10 and 13 is absolutely the perfect time to be a boy:   First of all, though Mom and Dad may tell you different, no adult really expects much from you yet in the way of time-wasting chores or other responsible behavior.  You also likely haven’t discovered girls yet. Trust your uncle; they will eventually really eat into your fishing time.  But for now you have time to really obsess over how to outwit a bass!

Your Dad and Grandpas are doubtless passing on their favorite fishing techniques. I won’t add to their discussion of things like when and how to use crankbaits, spinners and such.  They work, a lot of the time, they’re fun to use, and you’ll find some in your new tackle box.   But I will use most of this note to pass on the secrets of the sinking, salt-filled plastic bait known as the Yamamoto Senko – and similar brands of salted plastic worms, like the Yum Dinger.  What your aunt Linda and I have given you this Christmas are some of my favorite baits – which should work as well in Florida as they do here in the foothills of the Rockies. 

Better, I imagine.  The sad truth is, though my Colorado fishing buddies and I try to ignore it, fishing for warm water fish here can be pretty tough.  The lakes are all manmade, often kinda murky, and their primary purpose is to irrigate fields and supply drinking water.  Water levels go up and down, and so does the quality of fishing.  Still, with enough fanaticism and experimentation, you can do okay for bass here most of the time, and occasionally really kick fish butt.  So here is my very favorite technique. 
Fishing the Wacky Rig.  I know, the Senko doesn’t look like much, and if you insist on fishing it like a conventional plastic worm, it’s not going to CATCH much.  But done the right way, this technique really catches fish.  It’s been around since about the time you were born, but I only started using it about 5 years ago.  I eventually introduced it to fishing buddies, and now some won’t use anything else for bass.  Out here I mostly fish for smallmouth, which prefer the 3- or 4-inch Senko, but I’m pretty sure you’ll have your best luck with Florida bass with the 5-inch.  They make bigger ones, but you needn’t bother.

I use the Senko, rigged “wacky style (which I’ll talk about later),” most of the time out here in Colorado, concentrating on openings along week lines, rocks and other cover.  In late spring or summer, particularly in early morning or evening, the bass will be moving around more.  Then you might do just as well, or even better, with something that moves through the water faster and covers more ground, like a crankbait.   
The magic in this plain little worm is the salt poured into the plastic.  It apparently tastes really good to a bass, and it makes the worm heavier than water.  It sinks.  Slowly.  That’s why the most productive fishing water for this is 2-10 feet deep, which should be ideal for your part of the world.

Most plastic worms float; you have to weigh them down a lead or tungsten weight and kind of drag or hop them along the bottom to attract bass.  The Senko is more subtle; you can rig it Texas style with a 3/0- or 4/0 worm hook (your Dad or Grandpa can show you how to rig it to make it weedless, so you can pull it through weeds or rocks.  See below).  Or you can use it “wacky style,” my personal favorite. below.  With the Senko, you don’t need a swivel and because of the weight of the salt, you don’t use any extra weights.  Left on its own, the Senko will slowly fall.  (Don’t try to keep the line tight; you want it to appear familiar, tempting and slow.)  With extra weight, it sinks to the bottom too quickly, and just lays there.

You really need to fish this as slowly as possible, with as little action as possible.  Your job is to pay close attention to the fishing line, because the bit can be really subtle and easy to miss.  Until they realize you’ve hooked ‘em. 

Here’s a drawing of the Wacky Rig technique that I borrowed from a Field and Stream magazine article.  Many people are slow to try it out, because it seems, well, a little wacky.  You just hook it through the middle, with the hook riding up, to reduce snags.
You will want a smaller hook than you use for most techniques.  I use a size 1 circle or octopus hook for smallmouth; sometimes they’re labeled Wacky Rig.  Some have a weed guard, which may be good for you but I don’t need out here.  You may want to try a larger, 1/0 or 2/0 size hook.  Regardless, the short-shank, circle style hook makes it less likely that the fish will swallow the bait.  It kind of rolls up and catches them by the lip.  (also good for catfishing, by the way, in larger sizes)
The best colors to use are natural, sold with names like my personal favorite, “green pumpkin,”). 

I get by out here with ultralight equipment – an ultralight spinning rod rigged with 4- to 6-pound test line.  Fluorocarbon line is best, because it sinks, but the monofilament that comes with your spincast rod and reel will do fine.  I’d try to get by with fishing line that’s about 8- or 10-pound test.  It’s easier to cast and more sensitive, so you’re more likely to feel the bite.

With some kinds of fishing, you cast out as far as possible and reel in.  If you’re sneaky, you don’t need to do that fishing a Senko.  Just ease up to a good-looking spot (the edge of docks can be great, or up alongside cattails or logs close to shore).  Most of the time you want to get the bait into the water as quietly as possible.  I’ll often toss it underhanded, 20 feet or less.  When you get a bite, you usually don’t need to give it a hard jerk.  Just pull back to set the hook, and get ready for a fight.  In the absence of a heavy weight or treble hooks, by the way, fish seem to fight harder, and they’re more likely to jump.

Many if not most of your bites come during the fall toward the bottom.  Important tip:  watch your line.  You may not feel a tug the way you do with a crankbait.  You’ll just see the line start to move to the right or left.  The bass has it in its mouth and is going somewhere to look for another snack.  Also, because of the tasty salt in the worm, the fish usually won’t spit it out. 

When you see that it’s settled to the bottom, let it set for a bit, then just raise the rod tip.  That’ll make that unweighted worm make a short hop off the bottom.  I usually don’t move the bait around much; I watch the drop, maybe twitch it a few times, then reel in and cast again.  You can also rig it Texas-style, with the hook pushed through the nose and then buried in the bottom to make it weedless.  Just keep it weightless, watch the drop carefully and then hop it along the bottom with little twitches. 

That's it!  Try it when you get the chance, and send me a picture of your catch.  Merry Christmas.  Uncle Bill 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.