By Bill Cooper
Like everything else in our inflation crazed economy, soft plastic stick baits for bass fishing have become more expensive. Increased cost has caused even the best of bass fishermen to watch expenses and make their hard earned money go as far as possible.
Increased demand has made some soft plastics hard to get, thus pushing prices ever upward. Anglers are having to be creative to use baits as long as possible. Gluing torn baits with super glue is one way to extend the life of a soft plastic bait but using them for other fishing purposes is also a viable solution.
Soft plastic stick baits are very popular in bass fishing circles these days. Most resemble a five- to seven-inch plastic worm that is thicker than normal and may be scented and ringed. Some brands are rather fragile and often become torn easily. Even the toughest brands eventually tear. One can plant the hook in the opposite end of the stick bait, but the ends are shaped differently.
Another option for torn soft plastic stick baits is to utilize them on wacky rigs. For those of you new to bass fishing, a wacky rig is the name of the rig consisting of a fat-bodied stick bait like the Yamamoto Senko, or YUM Dinger. A small, short-shank hook is run through the middle of the worm.
When the worm hits the water, the worm tends to flex in the middle as it slowly drifts towards the bottom. The worms may be jigged slightly, too, to increase the action. These rigs account for a lot of bass.
It is quite common to use a 3/0- to 5/0-hook to rig a five-inch plastic stick bait, but when wacky rigging hook size should be reduced to No. 2, 1, or 1/0 hook. Remember that 1/0 is slightly larger than 1, and 1 is slightly larger than 2. However, all of these hooks are much smaller than a 3/0- to 5/0 hook.
A Texas-rigged stick bait normally takes a 3/0 or 4/0 hook; the eye of the hook and knot is buried in the nose of the bait, and the hook point is either buried in the soft plastic, or it sits in a groove of the soft plastic.
Catching bass on this weedless rigging system quickly rips the worm, making it useless for future Texas-rigging, because it won’t stay in place on the hook. It slides down. The same torn worm, however, can be used on a wacky rig and it works very well.
While targeting bass with a Texas-rigged stick bait, you will eventually rip the nose of the worm. You’ll also begin to rip the worm in the area where the hook point and barb is embedded.
After a stick bait is torn to the point where it won’t remain rigged properly on a Texas-rig, most anglers toss the used worm on the floor of the boat, and then discard it later into the trash. Instead, keep these torn stick baits in a plastic bag, and then use them later on a wacky rig.
To further reduce costs of buying soft plastic baits, I buy bulk packs of YUM 5-inch Dingers. I buy them 100 at a time for about $27. Packs of 10 are around $4. The two primary colors I utilize are black and blue flake, and green pumpkin. Those two colors seem to cover most circumstances.
The new ones I use for Texas-rigs, or with a weedless jig. As the Dingers get banged up, I save them in a plastic sandwich bag and use them later with wacky rigs. Eventually all worms reach a point where they are unstable, but by saving torn worms for wacky rigs, their lives have been extended several times over.
Another option when wacky rigging is to use an O-ring over the worm, then slipping the hook beneath the ring. This rigging extends the life of a worm a great deal longer because no hook is penetrating the worm itself. Many companies offer an inexpensive tool to help slide the O-ring over a stick bait.
Because the hook is exposed on a wacky rig, it’s not weedless. But you can purchase weedless hooks specifically for wacky rigging, and then it comes through vegetation much better than with one featuring an exposed hook.
A wacky rig doesn’t slip through thick cover as well as a Texas-rig, because the worm is perpendicular to the path of travel. In general, a wacky rig must also be fished slower than a Texas rig because of the horizontal vs. vertical worm configuration.
The wacky rig often entices strikes from finicky bass when other presentations fail. Another benefit is because the hook point isn’t buried in the worm as in a Texas rig, the hooking percentage is very high, even with spinning gear.
A bass often hooks itself when it inhales a wacky rig and swims off to the side. The angler doesn’t have to set the hook hard with bait-casting gear, which is usually necessary to be successful with a Texas rig. For these reasons alone, a wacky rig is a good choice for beginning anglers.
The bottom line is if you love to fish, and you utilize a lot of soft plastic stick baits, but you need to economize to continue fishing as much as you’d like, pick up the habit of saving torn baits and repurposing them as wacky baits. You’ll feel good about yourself and help the environment in the process. It’s a win-win.
I’ll see you downstream.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Cooper is an award winning outdoor writer and inductee of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Outdoor Communicator. He is the host of the Living the Dream Outdoors Podcast, which can be found on most social media platforms. He lives in rural St. James and can be followed at www.facebook.com/ outsidealways.