Catch More Bass With Live Worms: Gear, Tips and Tactics for Fishing Nightcrawlers

fishing with worms for bass

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When most people think of bass fishing, they almost automatically think of using artificial lures. While this is certainly a popular and effective approach, another great way to catch bass is by using live worms.

Yes, it might be considered “old-school”, something nostalgic from our childhood, but fishing with worms is just as effective now as it was then. I find it kind of funny how today we use all types of artificial, imitation baits but sometimes question the effectiveness of the real thing.

However, there are still many anglers who feel that live worms are the best bait for bass fishing, and with good reason. Worms are natural food for bass, and they are easily caught and readily available. Not only are worms a natural food for bass, but they are plentiful and easy to find.

I’ll also add that fishing this way is still so much fun. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a big fat largemouth thumping a hook with a nightcrawler on it.

But it can seem a bit challenging to the novice. So, if you are new to fishing with live worms for bass, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Best Type of Worm for Bass Fishing (Red Wigglers or Nightcrawlers?)

Before we get too far into how to fish for bass with worms, let’s talk about the type of worms we want. While there are several kinds of “so-called” worms, not all are actually worms. Mealworms, for example, while being good for species such as perch and crappie, are not really worms but the larvae of the mealworm beetle.

The two actual worms that we would consider for bass fishing are the red worm, or “red wiggler” and the nightcrawler. By the way, both are what folks commonly refer to as earthworms. But there are important differences between them that will make one more effective for bass over the other.

The red wiggler, a popular worm used in composting (vermicomposting), is reddish in color as you may have guessed, and very active, giving it its wiggler nickname. Though they will also catch bass and many other species, these tough little worms are better suited for smaller panfish such as yellow perch, bluegill, and crappie.

live nightcrawler worms for bass fishing

For bass fishing, we are looking for nightcrawlers. They have been used for generations for fishing because they work. They are the best for bass because they are big (7-plus inches on average) abundant, and they’re lively when underwater.

They are also versatile enough that they can really be used for just about any other North American freshwater fish including trout, walleye, and catfish.

As for getting your hands on this staple bass fishing worm, you can buy them from your local bait shop, dig them up after a good rainstorm or raise them via worm farming. With that said, raising nightcrawlers is challenging, leaving the first two options as your best bets for acquiring them.

Tip: Consider transportation – If you’re going to be transporting live worms, it’s important to keep them cool and comfortable. The best way to do this is to put them in a cooler with some ice packs.

Gear for Bass Fishing With Live Worms

Now to we understand what type of worm we need for bass, let’s discuss gear for a minute. There are many options for various situations and personal needs and preferences, so ultimately use what you are most comfortable with.

However, for the sake of keeping things simple and with a slant toward those who maybe are just starting out, here are some recommendations that should work well.

Spinning Rod and Reel for Live Worm Fishing

A lightweight carbon fiber medium power, med-fast to fast action spinning rod paired with a good quality lightweight spinning rod will get the job done.

The spinning rod/reel setup will be better suited to the light setup used in fishing worms, and most find it easier to manage than baitcasting gear, particularly if they are new to fishing with live worms for bass.

A carbon fiber, or even a carbon fiber-composite rod, will be not only light but also provide excellent strength and sensitivity which is important to bass fishing. The rod’s fast action will also allow you to set the hook firmly once the bite is felt.

Hooking, Rigging, and Line

Hooking a Worm – You can use various sized fishing hooks for your worm depending on circumstances but a 2/0 to 3/0 standard long shank hook. Other hook types can be used but this is a pretty straightforward approach.

To bait your live worm onto the hook, take your nightcrawler, poke the hook point through its head and feed it up the hook, covering about 75% of the shank.

Now take some of the excess hanging and wrap it around hook point 2-3 times creating sort of a ball around the hook bend and leaving about 2-3 inches of the worm free to wiggle in the water when you drop it in.

Fishing With Worm and Bobber – Another common way to fish with worms is to use a small basic clip-on round bobber. This method can be used in both still and moving water and can be very effective in catching bass.

To do this, start by threading the worm onto the hook as described previously. Once the worm is on the hook, simply attach the bobber above the worm and cast your line out into the water. For those who want more control over the depths they want to fish below the surface, a slip bobber is a better choice (here is a good video on the setup).

Texas Rig Nightcrawler – This takes the same effective principle and setup used with plastic worms and applies it to live worms. It is a great live worm rig for fishing in heavy vegetation or cover where bass like to hide. Check out this post with step-by-step rigging instructions if you’re not familiar with the Texas Rig.

Fishing Line – There are basically 3 types of fishing line that we can use for live worm bass fishing: monofilament, braid, and fluorocarbon. All three have unique characteristics as well as advantages and disadvantages.

  • Monofilament is the most widely used type of line today. It is relatively inexpensive, comes in a variety of weights and works well for bass fishing. The downside is that since it stretches it doesn’t transmit subtle bites as well as the other two types.
  • Braid is stronger than mono on a diameter vs diameter comparison and has excellent sensitivity, allowing the angler to more easily detect a strike. Also, since it has almost zero stretch, it provides firmer hooksets than mono (I happen to prefer it for these reasons). It is more expensive than mono, however.
  • Fluorocarbon becomes nearly invisible underwater, making it a great choice as a fishing leader or main line for targeting fish in clear water conditions. Its shortfalls are its expensiveness and stiffness, which makes tying many standard knots a challenge.

Live Worm Fishing Techniques and Presentations

The first thing you will need to do is find a good spot to fish. When fishing for bass with live worms, you will want to look for areas that have a lot of cover. This could be anything from rocks to fallen trees. Bass love to hide in these areas, so they are a great place to start.

Simple and Natural

There are several productive ways to fish live worms for bass. However, the most effective techniques are as simple as the bait itself.

Simply tossing the line out with the worm baited on the hook unweighted and letting it drift and sink coupled with the worm’s natural movement is enough to entice bass.

Fish With a Bobber

Using a bobber, as previously mentioned, is an excellent way to provoke strikes just under the surface. The key with this method is to pay attention to your line and be prepared to set the hook when you feel a bite. Bobbers can be very effective in catching fish, but they can also be very frustrating if you’re not paying attention and miss a bite.

Texas Rig It

If you’re fishing something like a Texas Rig, there are a few ways you can present your bait. One way is to cast it out and let it fall to the bottom. Lift your rod and reel slowly before letting fall to the bottom again. Repeat. There’s a good chance it’ll get hit on one of these downward pauses.

Another way to fish the Texas rig with a live worm is to remove the weight and toss the worm near heavy cover and let it sink slightly then make it twitch a few times with the rod. Now pause and wait for a strike.

Get Out There and Try Fishing Live Worms for Bass – It’s Fun and Effective!

While fishing with live worms for bass is a simple and straightforward process, it is still one of the most effective techniques today. Anglers who use live worms for bait can expect to catch as much or more bass as those who use other baits.

Though I have talked about tackle, rigging, and techniques in this post, it’s not rocket science, there is no wrong way to fish with worms. So don’t be afraid to try something new.
The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the experience. Who knows, you might just catch the big one!

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About Dorado

John Pardal, aka Dorado, is the editor as well as an author for Reel Adventure Fishing. He has fished extensively up and down the U.S. Atlantic coast, throughout much of Florida and a bit of the Caribbean. John loves writing about all aspects of sportfishing and is passionate about conservation and promoting sustainable fishing.