When Terry Scroggins finished third in the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Wheeler Lake — after catching more than 100 bass on each of the last two days — it only verified what the Florida pro had done almost exactly two months earlier at Falcon Lake, where he finished second despite bringing in a whopping 44 pounds, 4 ounces the final day. In that event, he caught two bass heavier than 11 pounds.
In essence, "Big Show" showed the fishing world how effective big plastic worms can be.
To be sure, plastic worms in the 10- to 15-inch range have been around for decades, but anglers use them sparingly, most often when they're looking for big bass on summer nights. Scroggins, who designed two 10-inch worms for Yum, the Paddle Worm and the Ribbontail, throws them anytime and almost anywhere, and his tournament record proves big worms catch bass, often after the fish stop hitting other lures.
"The theory has always been that you'll catch big fish on a big bait, and this is true," Scroggins acknowledges, "but I catch a lot of 1 1/2- and 2-pound fish on my big worms, too. At Wheeler, I led the first two days, after catching all my bass on either a crankbait or a football head jig. The third and fourth days, the fish wouldn't hit a jig, but I caught more than 100 fish each day on a 10-inch Ribbontail.
"The problem was, I didn't catch any bigger bass with it."
The primary key to fishing big worms, Scroggins says, is fishing them where bass live, but in slightly deeper water. Although he has caught bass as shallow as 7 or 8 feet with his 10-inch worms, they're generally more effective at depths of 15 feet or deeper.
"That's mainly because it's difficult to get a crankbait down that deep and have good bottom contact," he explains. "Big worms are effective around ledges on summer nights because that's where the fish locate then, but you can even catch bass with big worms in cold weather if you throw them where the bass live. They're that versatile."
While Scroggins designed his two 10-inch worms to be fished differently, his techniques can be applied to other oversize plastics, as well. In both cases, his rigging is the same; the primary difference is in using each worm in the situation for which it was designed.
"My Paddle Worm was designed for slow, methodical fishing in small, specific areas or around specific cover where I'm confident bass are located and when they will not hit any other lures, as was the case at Wheeler.
"With this worm, the tail stands straight up when it's on the bottom, so any type of water movement produces a waving tail action. When I get it in the strike zone, I just shake my rod slightly and then let the worm sit there and create its own action. Bass come and get it."
Basically, Scroggins Texas rigs the Paddle Worm with a 5/0 straight shank Gamakatsu hook and a sinker ranging from 1/4 to 3/4 ounce, depending on wind, depth and current. Rarely does he use anything lighter than 1/4 ounce. He also toothpicks the worm through the hook eye so he can make longer casts if needed.
Rigging for his Ribbontail, which is essentially a swimming-tail worm, is the same, although Scroggins uses the lure differently. With this lure, he's either trying to cover a lot of water or working vertical drops so he can take advantage of the worm's swimming action. This is what he did at Falcon.
"At Falcon, I was fishing a turn in a roadbed where the depth ranged from 20 feet on top of the road to 35 feet along the edge," he explains. "I'd let the lure fall to 20 feet, then swim it off the edge, and most bites came before the lure hit the bottom again."
The real key to worm fishing this type of structure, he emphasizes, is having a quick, sharp break. It doesn't have to be that deep or long, either, just steep enough to produce an abrupt depth change. Current will make it more attractive to bass, especially if it flows into the break at the inside of a turn. Rocks, stumps or other cover only make it better.
"When you find a place like this, bass will be on top of the break when they're feeding," Scroggins points out, "and when they're not feeding they're usually right along the side. Rarely do I actually find them on the bottom of the break.
"I cast to the top of the structure at an angle and let the worm swim down and across with the current so I can cover more of the break with each cast. I think your worm's swimming action is really important in this type of fishing because it makes the lure look more natural."
Scroggins occasionally fishes his big worms on a Carolina rig, although this is not his first choice when he's looking for fish. Because he likes to fish fast, thoroughly covering five to seven miles of a lake or river during each Elite Series practice day, he prefers a crankbait. If bass aren't hitting diving lures, however, he changes to the Carolina rig.
For this he rigs with the same 5/0 hook but with a 3/8-ounce tungsten sinker and braided line, which allows him to feel and identify the bottom composition. At this point, all he's looking for is a bite that confirms something lives in the area.
Color-wise, Scroggins keeps his choices simple when he's fishing big worms. In clear and slightly stained water, he prefers green pumpkin, while in dingy, darker conditions, he uses redbug or black/blue.
"Overall, I think fishermen have a misconception about fishing big worms, which is that they're 'niche baits' that only produce in very limited situations," Scroggins concludes, "but one of my favorite times to use them is actually when bass stop hitting other lures."
Big Worm Manufacturers
Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits
Gene Larew Lures
Luck "E" Strike USA
Mann's Bait Co.
Optimum Bait Co.
Strike King Lure Co.
Strikezone Lure Co.