Plastic worms are a staple of bass fishing. They’ve been around since the late 50s, and have been used to catch bass for 3 generations now. In fact, soft plastic fishing lures exist because of the idea of using worms for fishing. But worms don’t just catch bass. Here in Europe, we use them to catch our local perch, zander, and pike with worms, and not just on a Texas rig. Let’s find out how to catch big euro fish with plastic worms.
If you think of it, it’s kind of odd that worms catch fish at all. After all, I seriously doubt 99.9% of fish have ever seen an actual earthworm. Sure the odd worm will get washed up by the rain and end up in the water. But really, how often and how many? And yet, live worms can catch ANY fish species. Name one you can’t catch with a worm, from trout to pike, carp and barbels, chubs, roach, wels catfish, and perch. They all love it! So it makes sense that plastic worms would have a wider appeal than just bass.
If you want to break free from the paddle tail swimbait crowd, how about trying a worm? I’ve had great success worm fishing for zander. In France, you can’t fish a baitfish-looking lure before pike season opens. But worm baits are legal and are so good I often keep fishing them later in the season.
The easiest is to fish a stick worm on a jig head. Their high density allows for a lighter jig head and can be fished vertically right under the boat. You can use a simple round ball jig head for dropping straight down. I have found that jig heads with a more triangular shape are great to use in rivers by just gently lifting off the bottom a few meters behind the boat and letting the bait plane on the flowing water just above the bottom.
For more of a cast and retrieve action, I select curly tail or small ribbon tail worms rigged on a jig head or a weedless jig head if fishing around cover. The name of the game is finding the exact head weight for a perfect action. The lure needs to reach the bottom reasonably quickly but retain a planning effect and hover above the bottom.
This is maybe the least obvious technique, and yet it works very well. It’s called the swimming worm; it’s kind of dumb if you think of it, as if worms could swim. The lure to use here is a big 8” or 10” ribbon tail worm like a Zoom magnum or II worm. Just rig it with a weighted weedless hook or a long shank hook jig head. As for action you can just hop and crawl on the bottom or swim over grass beds. It moves a lot of water and pike have never seen it before.
Plastic worms are a great way to add volume to a bait without creating too much drag and affecting the lure balance. You can add a stick worm behind a chatterbait. It will increase volume and buoyancy and shake very convincingly. I also add a straight worm or a curly tail on a spinnerbait. You can also add a worm on a spoon, it changes the profile and adds a lot of action.
A good perch lure is often a fast darting on steroid action. A small trick worm on a jig head can be fished very aggressively with snapping and popping action. The lure will dart and glide very erratically, just like perch want it. Just use a rather stiff and actionless straight worm and thread it on a darting or fish head type jig head. This technique imitates a small fish trying to get away, the best bite triggering action!
Drop shot fishing is a great presentation for perch and will catch numbers as well as big fish. My favorite presentation is a small trick worm or finesse worm. In clear water, I favor an actionless straight worm for more of a shaking and darting action. If the water is stained or has low light visibility I prefer a curly tail to add some extra action. It also creates more drag and slows the fall giving more time for potential suspended fish to find the bait.
Perch are maybe the most demanding fish in terms of bait color. My experience has shown that they like blue /purple and red. Of course, that’s depending on local forage and water clarity. Early in the year, I’ve found that stained water perch would readily eat pink baits. Experiment and let the fish tell you what they want.
Whether it’s for pike, perch, or zander, worms definitely have a place in the tackle box for European anglers in France, England, Netherland, or Germany. And not just for going bass fishing in southern Europe but also for more traditional fish wherever you live. So get a few bags and try them out, you won’t regret it!