If you spend time at the lake, either at the marina or around the boat slips, undoubtedly you’ve noticed bass cruising around. You’ve probably been on the water since before sunrise, made a long run to an end of the lake and all the while there are bass within a short walk of a hot cup of coffee and an indoor restroom. It can be frustrating.
But to experience true frustration, try your hand at catching one of these cruisers. The frustration seems to ratchet up even higher as the cruising bass get bigger. Sure, they’re swimming around and you can see them, but it’s hard to make them bite. There’s no shortage of ways to try to target these cruisers, but one of the most effective ways I’ve found is to use a floating worm. A floating worm can help you catch fish whenever they are refusing to eat, but only if you know how to use it.
What could be so hard about using a floating worm? A lot of people just cast it out, let it fall and twitch the bait a little. But there’s more to it than that. First, I like to use floating worms in shallow water (five feet or less) or when the bass are high in the water column around structure like boat slips. I use them a lot during spring and fall—even wintertime in some southern latitudes—because the differences in water temperature between day and night draw in shallow water draw more bass into those areas. As the sun gets higher on these spring and fall days, the shallow water warms faster than the deeper water. So, the bass will migrate into these areas mid- to late morning (that’s why you see them cruising the boat slips when you come back to the marina for a sandwich), so focus on areas around the docks, heavy vegetation and willow trees.
I don’t consider the floating worms a go-to bait. I usually reserve these for really tough days. When the bass are shallow, I’d much rather be flipping or throwing a spinnerbait. But when I am seeing them cruising and they won’t eat, the floating worm is my last resort. When the bass seem to have lockjaw, it can be because the conditions are tougher than normal. But if the conditions turn windy, I prefer a spinnerbait.
When using a floating worm, the most important thing to do is establish a cadence, a walk-the-dog-type rhythm like those used on big top-water baits. As the bait passes cover, pause your retrieve and hang on: stopping the bait sometimes drives bass crazy and strikes can range from dead weight to a slight tug or violent flash and boil.
My floating worm rig stays pretty much the same wherever I go: I use a Power Bait 6-inch Bubblegum Pink Floating Steelhead Worm. I use 14- or 20-pound mainline (depending on the amount of cover in the area) and use 8-pound Trilene XL as a leader, connected with a Double Uni Knot, and spooled on an spinning reel mounted on a 6-foot medium-action Fenwick spinning rod. I never weight the floating worm (so it will float) and rig the bait with a 4/0 offset worm hook.
Sometimes the fishing gets so tough that you run out of ideas. When that happens, try a floating worm in shallow water around cover and see if you can entice a big cruiser to come crash into your bait. Once you figure out how to make the floating worm work for you, you’ll be hauling in fish while everyone else struggles.