May 19, 2021
For the photo finish, master these strokes with a plastic worm.
Efficiency never goes out of style, and Drew Cook, 25, has no aversion to the old-school technique of swimming a worm. The Bassmaster Elite Series competitor from Quincy, Florida, knows this presentation will earn him bites when he's trying to dial in the active areas.
“This is a great way to cover water and it's a weedless presentation, so you can fish it anywhere,” Cook said.
Generally, the swimming worm technique uses either a boot tail worm (i.e. YUM Swimming Dinger, Yamamoto Swimming Senko), a gator tail worm (Zoom G-Tail), or a paddle tail worm. The latter includes solid tail baits (Reins Paddle Tail) and open J shapes (Gambler Burner Worm, Bass Assassin Ding Dong, Net Bait Big Bopper Paddle Tail). Cook favors the Big Bite Baits Tour Swim Worm, with a perforated slit that allows him to open the tail for more swimming motion. (Note: A wellplaced box cutter blade transforms any solid paddle tail into that more active form.)
As Cook explains, a full or partially open tail serves him well in clean water. Conversely, stained to dirty water typically calls for more thump. Size also matters and the Tour Swimming Worm's 5.5- and 7.5-inch models allow him to match the moment.
WHEN IT'S RIGHT
Cook considers the swimming worm technique a good choice when he wants more action than a straight tail worm, but not as much as a ribbon tail. Early in the year, retrieving these baits through barren pad stems is a good way to meet an aggressive prespawner, while tracing the shady perimeter of a laydown or dock is always worth a cast.
“Anytime in the early spring, a big grassy flat is a place I get excited about throwing a swimming worm,” Cook said. “Also, a pad field or a sparse hydrilla bed would be a perfect scenario. You just cover water and once you catch a couple of fish, you can slow down and throw a wackyrigged or unweighted straight worm.”
Summer finds fish tucked into the shade of Kissimmee grass, hydrilla, eel grass, and pads. During the cooler times of morning and late afternoon, swimming a worm along the edges will tempt fish holding in the feeding positions. During the midday, swim your bait across the tops and expect bites in thinner sections and holes.
RIGGING AND PRESENTATION
Cook rigs his swimming worm on a Gamakatsu G Finesse Hybrid Worm Hook, which blends the best attributes of a traditional round bend hook with an EWG (Extra Wide Gap). He'll use a 5/0 hook for the 5.5-inch Tour Worm and a 6/0 for the 7.5-inch bait.
“For years, I'd thrown a swimming worm on a traditional round bend, but this one has a lot of bite,” he said. “The gap is wider than a round bend, but not as wide as an EWG, which can make a bait roll and spin.”
Cook said the proper retrieve speed depends on the situation. He's caught fish buzzing the bait across the surface and crawling it along the bottom. Consistently, he does best with a steady retrieve; no jerking or twitching — just let the worm swim.
Don't hesitate to use the swimming worm to fish occasional targets like stumps, laydowns and holes in the grass. Flip or pitch your swimming worm to a specific spot and that tail swims all the way down for deal-closing appeal.
Cook fishes his swimming worm technique on a 7-3 medium-heavy Dobyns Champion XP with a 7.1:1 reel carrying 20-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon. Braid, he said, causes too many misses; while fluoro allows just enough stretch for the fish to get the bait.
“You want a high reel speed because a lot of times, they'll eat it coming at you and you want to be able to pick up line quickly,” Cook said. “When you reel it fast, they'll blow up on the bait, but most times, it's just a typical worm bite — you'll feel a tick and the line goes slack.” FS
Published Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2019