Just about everyone starts off their fishing experience with worms. Unfortunately, most people who start with worms are relying solely on luck and the worm to catch fish. But by following some tips for fishing with worms, you can boost your chances of having a successful fishing trip.
5 key tips for fishing with worms are:
- Get the right gear
- Know the fish you are targeting
- Match the worms to your targeted species
- Pick a good location
- Use the right rig
That list might seem simple, but there are many facets to each point and, to be successful fishing with worms, you must follow each one. Read on to learn the various components that make up each point, how to master them, and how to position yourself for fishing success every time.
Table of Contents
The Basics For Beginners And Those With Experience
If you are an experienced fisher, chances are worms take you back to a simpler time. It reminds you of lazy afternoons beside a brook, lake, or pond, patiently waiting for the bobber to start moving indicating a fish had at least started to bite the worm. You can probably still remember the excitement over catching a fish.
Fishing with live worms was also something most experienced anglers stopped doing as soon as they discovered lures, flies, plastic baits, and other live baits. If you are a beginner, fishing with live worms is one way to get started. You do not have to know very much, and the equipment is exceptionally simple.
For the most part, anything you catch will be thrilling. Live worm fishing takes us back to the roots of fishing. It also is an invaluable teacher and an easy way to get someone hooked on angling.
Only General Knowledge Required
You do not need special skills to fish with live worms. You just need to know how to bait the hook with a worm and occupy yourself waiting for a bite. Other than that, you must know how to reel in a fish. But now let’s get into our tips for fishing with live worms.
5 Key Tips For Fishing With Worms
1. Get The Right Gear
To fish with worms, you need a few basic items:
If you are buying a new rod, you want one that has medium power and is fast action or extra fast action. This means the rod can handle a larger fish if need be, but the rod bends near the top, giving you more hook setting control and sensitivity.
You want to get a reel (or use an existing one if you are experienced with other types of fishing) that can handle light to medium action. That means it is not a giant, heavy reel, but is not so light it looks like a toy either.
As for the type of reel, the best reel for worm fishing is either spincast or spinning. You can use a baitcaster but generally, for worm fishing, a baitcaster is not ideal unless you are dropping your line off the side of a dock or boat.
The optimum line for worm fishing is 8 to 10 lb. test monofilament. Anything lighter and most larger fish can break it. Anything heavier and you sacrifice sensitivity. If you are new to fishing with live worms, though, you should try out a few different types of line and different pound test levels.
Remember that your fishing line requirements are:
- The line is sensitive enough to feel fish strikes
- The line is light enough to not spook shy fish
- The line is strong enough to bring in whatever fish gets hooked
Having the right hook is a major factor in successfully fishing with live worms. You want to be able to quickly set the hook and prevent the fish from swallowing it or hooking itself deep in its mouth cavity. Additionally, you want the hook to allow the worm to move, but not kill the worm or let it wriggle free.
Baitholder hooks have these features and have barbs on the shank of the hook. The barbs help hold the bait on the hook and make it harder for smaller fish to nibble the bait away. Some popular baitholder hooks include:
- J-hooks: The shank is slightly curved on these
- Octopus: This is a short hook with a curved shank
- Worm hooks: These are straight shanked with barbs
- Egg hooks: These are wide gap hooks that are circular and have a short shaft
- Live bait: These hold the worm on a straight shaft
- Circle: These have a wider gap and are more oval-shaped
- Aberdeen: The Aberdeen has an elongated shank, wide gap, and is small enough to be used when fishing for panfish
Some useful information about hooks:
- The Aberdeen is great for kids who are learning to fish. Because of the longer shank, they can unhook a fish easier, and it’s easier to secure the bait.
- Using a circle hook or barbless hook helps improve the chances a fish will survive being caught and released.
- You can flatten barbs on a hook with needle-nose pliers to help the fish survive catch and release and to speed up hook release. This does make it more difficult to keep a fish on the line but also teaches how to play a fish correctly.
A word on leaving a hook in a fish’s mouth: If a fish has swallowed the hook or the hook has “deep-set” the hook in the back of its mouth and you cannot easily remove it without hurting the fish, but are not interested in eating it follow this procedure:
- Assess the hook positioning. If the hook has impaled the fish near their gills, or deep in the back of their mouth, and removing the hook will damage tissue further, cut the line as close to the hook as possible
- Give the fish time to recoup their energy (hold them in the water until they are ready to leave)
Studies have shown that a fish will usually find a way to shed the hook on its own within 72 hours. For fish that cannot, the hook will eventually erode to the point it breaks. Studies have also shown that for the most part, if a fish’s mouth can open, it will behave in the same manner as if it were unhooked.
As a rule, however, every angler should make every attempt to safely handle a hooked fish and safely disengage the hook from the fish’s mouth.
Fishing weights make it easier to cast a hooked worm. A weight will also help slow a bait if you are fishing with a current and hold the bait to the bottom if that is needed. The size and weight you need depends on the type of body of water you are fishing.
Worm fishing in a river with a swift current, for example, will need more weight to help hold the bait in the vicinity of where you cast. Weight can also be used to slow the drift of bait. Less weight is needed for holding bait in place if you are fishing in a smaller body of water with little current.
A bobber is a float that is attached to fishing line. It moves up and down or goes under the water when a fish strikes at bait or hooks itself. Bobbers can be just about anything that floats, but the most popular and recognizable bobbers are red and white “balls.”
When fishing with live worms, a bobber helps detect when fish are nibbling at the bait and when they have taken the bait. Bobbers are not critical in most cases, however, as an angler can fish off the bottom and rely on a fishing rod or hold the line with a finger to detect a bite.
2. Know The Fish You Are Targeting
Worms work better with some fish than with others. Panfish and bass will always be up for a meal of worms. More selective fish, like trout, tend to only like certain types of worms. Understanding the type of fish you are going after can help you successfully catch the fish you are targeting.
For example, if you are fishing for brook trout, using giant night crawlers will yield fewer fish than if you use smaller worms that a trout can easily swallow. A larger worm, like a nightcrawler, will tend to attract a larger fish.
Using The Right Size
Many people fish for more than one type of fish. This type of fishing requires worms that can appeal to different sizes of fish with different appetites and preferences. That means the worms must be proportional to the size of the fish that are being targeted as do the hooks that are used.
Fish have thresholds that determine their willingness to bite bait. Some baits are too small for some fish to bother with. Other baits are so large that smaller fish become intimidated. The threshold for a fish depends on its species.
For example, bass tend to be very aggressive and will eat pretty much anything they can find if the water temperature is in their optimum feeding zones. Other fish, like sunfish or trout, will usually only go after baits that meet or are close to meeting their size. The exception to this is if they are hungry.
3. Match The Worms To Your Targeted Species
These come in varying sizes and are probably the most popular type of worm for fishing. Fish like them, and they are easy to see because they are larger than most worms and they work on almost any type of fish, including bottom feeders like carp and catfish. Nightcrawlers can also be cut into pieces and used to stretch the use of each bait.
Common fish that will eat nightcrawlers include large and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, catfish, carp, shad, salmon, crappie, grayling, herring, trout, sucker, and white bass.
Red worms, at least for fishing purposes, cover a wide array of worms, from trout “dillies” to “red wigglers” to regular old worms you find in your garden or flower beds. They are also very effective with all species and sizes of fish, and they are very durable.
Sellers of red worms will usually have four different types or sizes of a worm, from large to very small. The only real “rule” regarding what to go with is that trout will typically go after larger worms, but not get hooked as often as will happen with smaller worms.
The best thing about nightcrawlers and red worms is that anyone can dig their own, find them under rocks or in any cool, dark, moist space with access to dirt. Common fish that will eat red worms include large and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, catfish, carp, shad, salmon, crappie, grayling, herring, trout, sucker, and white bass.
Mealworms are very effective with some fish. They work with trout, crappie, bluegill, perch, bass, and other panfish. Even though they are technically larvae of a beetle, mealworms are covered here because they look and behave like worms.
The mealworm’s body is soft, and its size is very small. They work best with smaller fish or fish that prefer smaller-sized bait (like brook trout). You will need to use a smaller hook with a mealworm to successfully skewer them. Common fish that will eat mealworms include large and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, crappie, trout, sucker, and white bass.
It surprises some, but leeches are technically worms. They also make superlative fishing bait. Working against leeches with most anglers is their reputation. Most people simply do not like touching the infamous bloodsuckers, no matter what fish would find them a good meal.
Fish, however, love them. If a fish could reason, leeches would probably be their favorite food and considered a delicacy. Putting one on a hook and dropping it in a body of water that holds fish is almost a guarantee that you will catch something. Every fish that can swallow a leech – and most will try – loves leeches.
Common fish that will eat leeches include large and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, catfish, carp, shad, salmon, crappie, grayling, herring, trout, sucker, and white bass.
A wax worm is not technically a worm, but it sure looks like one. Technically, it is a larva that will eventually become a wax moth. Fish love them because they are small and tasty. The only drawback to wax worms is their size, which usually forces the angler to use a smaller hook.
Common fish that will eat wax worms include large and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, crappie, trout, and white bass.
Bloodworms live in a salty, sea environment. They can be found underwater or buried in the sand. They are also the largest worm on this list and are reported to grow to sizes approaching a foot or more.
They are also popular with salt and freshwater fish:
- Striped Bass
It is recommended that you wear gloves when handling bloodworms as they have teeth, and the chances of an inexperienced angler getting bitten are high.
This is another animal that has made the worm list that is not technically a worm. A butter worm is a larva and contains a fruity odor that is supposed to attract fish. These worms are difficult to find in stores, so buying them online is the best option.
Common fish that will eat butter worms include large and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, crappie, trout, and white bass.
The worms listed above (or worm-like creatures) most commonly used by fishers to catch fresh and saltwater fish. This list is not exclusive and different areas of the world might have iterations of these worms or entirely different worm species that are used as bait.
4. Pick A Good Location
While fish will usually eat worms wherever they find them, location does play a role. Fishing with worms in a river with a stiff current requires the angler to use enough weight to anchor the worm to a particular location. Using red worms to catch trout in a mountain stream usually entails letting the current take the worm.
Another benefit of knowing the location where you will be fishing is it allows you to decide on strategy and tactics. If you are targeting crappie and bass but the pond you are planning to fish is teeming with sunfish, you know you will have to use larger worms or you will be unhooking sunfish all day.
Understanding where you will be fishing is just another method of giving yourself an advantage. If you do not know the location you will be fishing, it is a good idea to at least get a sense of the current and clarity of the water once you get to your destination.
5. Use The Right Rig
The final part of the equation when fishing with live worms is to make sure your rig – your line, hook, weight, bobber, rod, and reel – matches the fish you are going after and the location you will be fishing. Your goal should be to match them all as closely as possible to allow you to target and land fish with little effort.
If you are targeting large bass with nightcrawlers, for example, you don’t want to use an ultra-light rod and reel as the sensitivity of the rod may record the movement of the worm as a fish biting it. Likewise, if you are fishing in a river with a stiff current, you want to use a tougher line and more weight than if you were fishing in a farm pond.
Additionally, you don’t want to use too small of a bobber if you are fishing in a lake where waves are common, or in a river with a strong current as either will overwhelm the bobber and make it look like a fish is biting. Using giant red worms in a freshwater small pond or lake environment likely will not yield a large catch.
You need to think about where you will be fishing and the species you want to catch and coordinate your equipment accordingly.
That is the lowdown on the world of fishing with live worms. By far, your best bet is to use nightcrawlers or red worms as each tends to attract the largest number of fish. Regardless, if you use a coordinated approach to worm fishing, you will almost guarantee success.