Arkansan George Cochran, who has won nearly $2 million fishing bass tournaments, admits that he underestimated a lure he’s been using for a quarter century, the jig worm. In the past, Cochran resorted to the jig worm only when he fished clear water for shy bass. Now he knows that this banal lure is the most productive bait in bass fishing.
The irony is that amateur fishermen turned Cochran and his fellow pros onto the jig worm. These days, pro bass anglers are paired with an amateur who must fish from the back of the boat and catch his own bass. Two separate tournaments take place simultaneously, one for the pros; another for the amateurs.
Over the past five years, amateurs have won more tournaments on the jig worm than any other bait. And they have often beaten their pro partners.
“When I’ve got an amateur who’s throwing a jig worm, it seems like he always catches a limit behind me,” Cochran says. “Now, I’m catching the heck out of bass on them, too. Anytime of the year, anywhere.”
A jig worm is a 1/16- to 1/4-ounce jig dressed with plastic, usually a finesse worm. The bait is made snag free by threading the worm onto the jig’s hook similar to a Texas-rig. Or, by fixing the nose of the worm to the jig’s head via a molded-in, locking device.
To bring you up to speed on the jig worm, we’ve picked the brains of Cochran and two other accomplished pros who dote on this bait, Bassmaster Classic winner Dion Hibdon, of Stover, Mo. and Washington’s Luke Clausen, 28, the youngest bass angler to win more than $1 million.
Though a 1/8-ounce jig is the workhorse for jig worm fishing, Cochran relies mainly on a 1/16-ounce round head jig molded to a wide gap 2/0 jig hook (his jigs are hand poured by Brinda Robbins, (501) 760-2550). The jig’s collar has a keeper point that holds the worm in place when rigged Texas style.
“I like that 1/16-ounce jig because it falls slower,” he says. “On a jig worm, you get most of your bites as the bait falls.”
When it’s calm, Cochran can fish a 1/16-ounce worm effectively to about 20 feet. In deeper water or breezy conditions, he steps up to a 1/8- or a 1/4-ounce jig.
He favors a round head jig because it sinks straight down when he casts it next to dock pilings and cover. This keeps the jig in the strike zone, whereas another head might glide away from the bass as it falls.
Hibdon fishes two styles of 1/8-ounce heads 99 percent of the time. One is a homemade round head on a 3/0 fine-wire hook. A thin band of lead about 1/8-inch down the shank secures the worm when you rig it Texas-style (Bagley’s now makes a similar jig called the Shaky Head). The 60-degree line eye helps the jig come through wood with fewer snags.
When he fishes rocky bottoms, Hibdon gets fewer snags by switching to a wide Luck “E” Strike Finesse Football Head Jig that features a spring-style keeper molded into the lead. The spring prevents the worm from sliding down the shank and impeding penetration.
Picasso’s 1/8-ounce ShakeDown jig gets the call when Clausen fishes a jig worm, which is about 60 percent of the time. This round head features a 3/0 Gam-akatsu hook, an inset 60-degree crosseye that reduces snagging, and a flexible titanium keeper screw that bends out of the way when a fish bites.
Do The Worm
Small, straight worms excel with jig worming because their slight profile and subtle action doesn’t intimidate bass. Strike King’s tough, stretchy 3X Finesse Worm adorns Cochran’s jigs. He claims he can catch 20 to 30 bass with one of these 4-inch worms. On sunny days he goes with watermelon. He switches to pumpkin on partly cloudy days, and to Junebug on heavily overcast days.
Hibdon likes Luck “E” Strike’s 6-inch Razor Worm. He does especially well with green pumpkin or black.
Clausen fishes a green pumpkin worm 90 percent of the time, a 5-inch Berkley Gulp! Shaky Worm or a 43/4-inch Zoom Finesse Worm.
I’ve had good luck with Yum’s 4-inch Houdini Worm in green pumpkin and green pumpkin purple flake.
Inside Line On Line
The most popular line for jig worming is 8-pound fluorocarbon. My favorite is Silver Thread. Fluoro is, of course, virtually invisible underwater and has less stretch than mono. Though fluoro is stiffer, it is supple enough in 8-pound to handle well.
Cochran matches his 1/16-ounce jig with 6-pound test P-Line, a copolymer. He’s convinced that the lighter line gets more bites, especially in clear water.
Hibdon usually fishes 6- or 8-pound Seaguar. “But if I’m throwing around brush, I’ll go to 10-pound mono. When you’re fishing a light worm, 10-pound fluoro can be hard to manage.”
Since the slightest breeze bows the line with a featherweight jig worm, Clausen spools with 10-pound Spiderwire Stealth braid, which has no stretch, for improved hooksets. He adds a 10-foot, 8-pound test Berkley Vanish fluoro leader with a seven-wrap blood knot.
To ensure the knot doesn’t unravel, Clausen gives it a dab of Super Glue. Aside from keeping the knot together, it also lets it glide smoothly through the guides.
Clausen sets his drag light when fishing jig worms with braid to avoid breaking the leader on the hookset. “When I get a strike, I drop my rod and reel in the slack,” he says. “Then I pull through the hookset so the drag slips the whole time.”
All three pros assert that a quality spinning reel with a silky drag is essential. They match their reels with medium-light to medium action rods from 6 feet, 3 inches to 7 feet in length.
When And Where
The jig worm is most effective in spring and clear water. However, as many pros have learned, the presentation catches bass year-round and in stained water.
“It’s an all-season bait,” Clausen says. “I catch bass on it in water with only one foot of visibility. It’s more effective in dirty water when you’re casting to targets like laydowns, dock pilings and stumps.”
In clear water the bait is deadly over clean bottoms, such as rock and gravel.
So, where should you fish a jig worm? The pros say anywhere, with the exception of dense cover. When bass won’t hit other lures due to heavy fishing pressure or a cold front, you can often tempt them with a jig worm.
“I’ll fish them anyplace there’s fish,” Clausen says. “If bass are on docks, I’ll fish docks with them. The same goes for brush, points—whatever. The jig worm is effective on riprap, but you have to fish it on controlled slack so it doesn’t snag.”
The beauty of the bait, however, is that there are few ways you can fish it wrong. When you’re struggling, it will put a bend in your rod and a smile on your face.