Soft Bait Rigging Tips

Weightless Worms

Salty fluke
Salty Fluke
Texas Rig
Texas Rig
Windy worm

Fishing the floating-worm system begins with gearing up properly: 6-1/2 foot medium-action baitcasting rod. Most anglers tie the brightly colored worms to 8- to 12-pound test line. However, you can use a wide range of line sizes (from 8 to 20 pound test such as Berkley Trilene XT monofilament), depending on the cover situation.

The key is the bright worm. Most floating-worm experts have their greatest success on floating worms with such unsubtle colors as pink, white, chartreuse, orange, yellow and sherbet (a combination of a pink and yellow). Those are the hues that seem to be most visible in clear-water bass habitats - use two sizes for most situations: 6 and 8 inches.

You can rig a floating worm a lot of different ways - that's the neat thing about fishing a floating worm. There's no one way to do it. There are a lot of different things you can do with the worm: rig it either with an exposed hook or Texas style, depending on the cover, but almost never rig the worm straight, because it doesn't have any action at all. Use a 3/0 Owner Rigging Hook, and almost always kink the worm up a little bit on the hook. That gives the worm some twist as it comes through the water, a preferred action.

Rig the floating worm with a No. 3 barrel swivel. The swivel limits the amount of line twist that occurs as the bait darts from side to side during the retrieve (which can fatigue monofilament).

The retrieve depends on the time of year. In the spring during or right after the spawn, give the bait a lot of action, but don't move it very far away from the specific targets, like bushes or isolated patches of grass that bass spawn around. The retrieve should consist of two or three twitches and a pause. The pause is especially important during this time of year, because bass won't bite it if the worm is constantly moving. Move the bait just 12 to 18 inches at the most before pausing it.

In the fall, more concern is with covering water, so a couple of twitches and a pause will move it several feet towards you. You want to move the bait a lot in the fall, but keep it right there in the area the fish are trying to protect in the spring.

Zipper Worms

Zipper Worms
Zipper Worms
Exude Fry
Exude Fry

A zipper worm is a flat, wide, bulky worm. It has stubby rib-like protuberances all along both sides, hence the name Zipper. It is often thicker around the edges and can have a kind of sucked-in, thin center of the body, depending on manufacturer. But all have a signature broad pennant-shaped silhouette, which gives the lure lots of fish appeal. You can rig it vertically, whereby people say the pennant shape appears minnow-like, or you can rig it horizontally whereby people say the pennant shape presents a crayfish silhouette to the fish.

Suspended and Deep Bass. The Western pros have been using zipper-style worms effectively as finesse baits by shaking, doodling, splitshotting, hovering or using other tactics for fish suspended in mid-water or right over deep bottom. Often a light weight Carolina or Texas rig with brass & glass or an open hook darter jig is used on thin line for suspended and deep fish. The lure is often kept dancing with rod tip motion, including frequent pauses. The lure's bulk and ribs create a lot of water displacement. The softness of the lure generates body flex as the rod is worked. After a few seconds of rod tip movement, let the lure come to rest for a few more seconds and expect the resting lure to get bit. A fish will often only feel like a slight pressure or movement in the line, and sometimes you don't even know one is on until you go to shake the rod tip again.

Flippin' and Zippin'. Zipper style worms are also being used on Texas rigs for flipping light to moderate cover, but you will go through lots of them as they get torn easily by the bass and by the cover. In general, you would not want to rig zipper-style worms on flipping jig heads like you can do with other soft plastics such as curly tail and spider grubs. Although wide-bodied, there is often very little plastic going down through the flat spine area of a zipper lure where you would need to thread the entire jig hook. The first nasty bass you catch would rip the hook right out. Also, most zipper-style worms have the tiniest "pin heads" up front where you would need to slip it over a jig collar. For these same reasons, they do not make the most convenient jig trailers in the world either.

Rigging Options. I basically use four rigging options for the Fry:

  1. They excel when rigged on those specially-designed, streamlined jig heads that have an offset bend jig hook shank and no jig collar. This style of offset hook jig is designed expressly for use with soft plastics. Just use a shot of super glue to hold the lure head securely in place.
  2. Texas rig with an offset hook where the weight is kept close to the hook/bait for fishing right on bottom or in heavy cover.
  3. >Carolina or split shot rig with an offset hook for weeds, rocky or open bottoms where a leader is used to keep the bait up away from the weight and up off the bottom out of the rocks or weed beds a bit.
  4. Weightless rig with an offset hook for keeping the bait up on top like a topwater lure, or for letting the lure glide around and drift motionless below the surface.

With any of the four rigging options above, you can rig the hook point Tex-posed in the bait's central body core and you will be well-protected from snags. Just make sure the lure body lies naturally straight with a little slack give in the rigged body, never stretched tightly on the hook.

Relative to other soft plastics like worms and grubs, the lack of plastic in the head and center of the zipper lure becomes an advantage when setting the hook. There is very little plastic for the offset hook to go through when setting the hook with a zipper style worm!

Many pros use the original 5" bait in either black w/blue tail, tequila sunrise (black/purple) or watermelon pepper. Keep in mind these lures are expensive.

Shake 'n Bake. Shake and bake shallow bass out from under shade trees, bushes, docks and other hard-to-reach, relatively weedless shallow cover in 1 or 2 feet of water. Besides the zipper worm, it can also be used with 3" Kalin's grubs on 1/32 oz. exposed hook jigs on the thinnest diameter 8 lb. test line; tubes on wireguard jigheads; Texas-rigged ribbon tail worms; weedless jig spider grubs, etc. Apply this technique to zipper style worms on 10 pound test using 1/16 oz. offset style jig hooks. Also use 12 lb. test and the 1/8 oz. jigs when the water is 2 to 4 feet deep right against shore, usually alternating between two rods.

Always rig the zippers flat for this. It helps with the skipping and the erratic action as the lure drops and darts underwater. With the wide-ribbed zipper style worms, lightly embed the hook point in the plastic spine so it is nestled amidst the ribs.

Bag a lot of inactive fish holed up during the heat of the day under shade trees, bushes and rocks extending out from shore by skipping the zippers back under the trees, bushes or docks, usually hoping to reach the shoreline. Blast them back there as far, as hard, and as fast as you can, and don't worry about all the splashing the lure makes.

Sometimes there are rocks or broken branches under there - bass key off this, so your zipper has to be placed near it. These inactive bass nestle into depressions right next to and under the rocks, and under the branches and they will not swim out to get your lure.

Settle the zipper on the bottom right in front of the fish's mouth. Watch for bites on the initial entry and settling of the zipper. Watch the line as it floats on the surface after the lure settles. Look for the line to jump, or start shooting out rapidly. If this doesn't happen, then slowly wind in a little slack.

Don't move the lure, just "feel" if the zipper is still where you think it should be. Let the zipper lie there for 10 seconds and exude the fish attractant you are frequently splashing on it. Now, bring in slack without moving the lure, then raise the rod tip so you pick all the floating line up off the surface of the water, still without moving the jig.

Now start shaking the rod rapidly with the tip between 10 and 11 o’clock or so. What you want is a little belly in your line and you want the line to wave up and down between the rod tip and the spot where the line enters the water. The whole effect should have the arc of the line following a perfect elliptical pattern in the air.

You still haven't moved the jig forward at all. Shake 5 to 10 seconds, then "bake" - just stop abruptly and let the line float back down and rest on the surface and watch it again like a hawk, because you can expect to be bit right NOW. If not, wait 10 seconds, shake again, bake, then shake and bake some more.

After you have shaked and baked for a minute or two, swim the zipper slowly away for a few feet, then zip it back in and fire off a few more casts. Really saturate a spot before giving up on it.

Drop Shot Rigs

Tying a Drop Shot Rig

Drop shot rigs are one of the most popular way to fish a plastic bait right now. It is an easy rig to tie and fish, and it catches bass. It is especially good for suspended fish or pressured bass that will not hit any other rig.

The drop shot is simply a way of tying your hook up the line and putting the lead on the bottom. Saltwater fishermen have been using rigs like this for many years. Raising the bait off the bottom gives fish a different look, and it is often easier for them to see it.

The drop shot is best fished on light line and spinning outfits. I fish mine on a 6 foot light action spinning rod with a fast taper and spool the reel with 6 to 8 pound line.

Although there are many different specialized hooks and leads available to tie this rig, all you really need is what you have. Any small worm hook and any kind of sinker will work. I like a 1/0 offset Eagle Claw hook and a 1/8th to 3/8ths ounce bullet sinker.

Start by tying on the hook using either a Palomar or Clinch knot. Leave the tag end the length you want the worm to be off the bottom. Start at 16 to 20 inches up the line unless you see fish suspended a certain distance off the bottom. If you do, tie the hook that distance up the line.

When you tie the hook on, bring the tag end back through the eye of the hook from the top down, that will make the hook stand out straight. Make sure you pull your knot tight when tying it.

Tie on a weight at the end or simply slide a bullet sinker on the end of the line. Tie an overhand knot right on the end of the line, let the sinker slide back down to it and then peg it with a toothpick. I usually cut the toothpick off even with the lead when using a Texas rig, but I often leave it an inch long or so. That seems to keep it out of rocks better.

Pegging the lead like this allows it to slip off when it gets hung in rocks and you can slip another one on without having to re-tie the whole rig. You can also crimp on a split shot and do the same thing, and you don't have to worry about weakening the line since it will be below the hook.

If fishing open water, hook a small worm on by running the hook thru the nose. If there is brush around the area, you can rig the worm Texas style, making it weedless. Use small worms like Zoom Finesse worms, 4 inch Dead Ringers, Flukes or other similar baits.

Where to fish the drop shot rig:

Drop shot rigs excel in deep water when the fish are suspended off the bottom. Deep points, roadbeds and humps that are smooth are classic places to fish them. By rigging the worm weedless you can also fish it in brush and around other cover. So the answer is, fish this rig anywhere you think fish might be holding!

When to fish the drop shot rig:

If bass are suspended off the bottom, a drop shot rig is perfect because you can vary the length of the leader and put the bait right in front of them. So if you are seeing fish suspended, try it. Also, when there is heavy fishing pressure and the bass are spooky, the drop shot gives them another look to consider, something they are not as used to, yet. It also helps that you can keep the bait right in their face for a long time. So, fish the drop shot anytime but especially when bass are suspended or when they are under a lot of pressure.

How to fish the drop shot rig:

The drop shot works well at any speed, but a slow presentation is best. You can drop it down to fish in deep water, tighten up your line and shake the worm right in front to the bass. And when you shake the rod tip the bait shakes and jiggles more than on any other rig.

In shallow water it is best to keep your rod tip high to raise the bait further off the bottom. The higher the angle the more distance between the bait and the bottom. Hold the rod tip high and shake the worm in one place.

So, fish the drop shot anywhere you think there might be fish, fish it fast or slow and fish it anytime you are fishing. It gives you another weapon in your bag of tricks to catch bass.