It Is Time for Worms
Bruiser Baits worm
When I was just a boy, I can remember getting to go fishing with my grandfather on a lake about 30 miles from his house. It was called Horseshoe Pond and was known to have trout, catfish and carp in it. What a mixed bag. I was every bit of five or six years old. Grampy, my grandfather, finally gave in and accepted my challenge to go catch that big trout I'd heard so much about. Nannie June, my grandmother, got up early and fixed us each a thermos of hot coffee. Well, Grampy had hot coffee - what I had was a combination of 1 part hot coffee, 3 parts cream and 3 parts sugar. It was really good too.
We got up early and left the house with all the fishing tackle in the trunk of the car. There was a cold misty fog along the road leading out of Morgantown, W.V. Grampy owned and operated a little convenience store called "Friends Store" out in the Flats. On our way out of town, we went by the store for a minute to pick up a box of night crawlers and some fishing hooks. The store was at the bottom of a hill below the Medical Center and the dew was heavy on the grass looking up the hill. Grampy came out of the store with a box of worms and a small package of fish hooks, and climbed back into the car. We were headed to the pond.
I probably dozed off along the way. It was not that far but I wasn't used to getting up that early in the morning. The car heater kept it pretty warm and with the big breakfast Nannie June had made I was ready for a nap. All the sudden I heard Grampy's voice, "Ok Eddie, let's go get em."
I sat straight up and popped open the car door. We walked around to the back of the car where Grampy opened up the trunk to take everything out. He handed me his new, prize fishing rod. Then he handed me more stuff - so I naturally leaned the fishing rod against the back of the car. He pulled out the rod I was supposed to use and closed the trunk - crunch! The new rod, leaned against the back of the car, was broken off about five inches from the end because I sat it down. He coughed a couple of times, then said, "Well, we still have one good rod." I think I could see a tear in his eye, but he never said anything more about it.
We went over the edge of the lake and put down our lawn chairs. Then he pulled out one of those long, squiggly, slimy night crawlers and started threading it onto the hook. He left a good bit of it hanging off then cast the line out into the lake. After he wound in the slack line, he hung a little bell on the line near our end. He said that if a fish bit on the worm and pulled on the line, it would ring the bell - so remember to take the bell off before reeling in your fish!
We sat back, poured ourselves each a cup of our special coffee and watched the line going into the water. It was a slow, slow morning. Grampy wasn't much of a talker so it was pretty quiet too. We just sat there watching the line. Then, all the sudden, that bell started ringing like nobody's business. Grampy reached over quickly removing the bell and handing me the rod, "Reel him in Eddie," he said. I don't remember how big the trout was. I do remember he dressed it very carefully then froze it in a pan of water whole - so he could show it off to all his friends back home before we cooked it up a week or so later.
That was my first ever fishing trip with live worms. It made an impression on me and now half a century later, I still fish with worms when I have the opportunity. We call it meat fishing - not that we are using meat to fish with but that we pull out the worms when we want to actually catch fish, and it doesn't much matter what kind!
From that early on fishing trip I learned valuable lessons - like not leaning a fishing rod against the open trunk just before it gets closed. But also, that it is O.K. to sit and wait for a bite. It seems to me what makes all this bass fishing exciting to folks is that they can make all kinds of splashing, keep on casting, giggle, wiggle and twist back and forth. I really don't know how that is relaxing. Not only that, but the lures they go through on these kinds of fishing trips cost more than the boat they are riding in.
Did you know if you drive a wooden stake into the ground, then rub a dull saw against the wood, it provides just the right vibration that worms, particularly night crawlers, can't stand it and come bubbling out of the ground? I've caught a dozen in 10 minutes in a little planter area just in the front yard doing this. Just prior to a trout fishing trip I always "dig" up a nice ball of worms to go along. I find pinching a big crawler in about half or maybe even a third, is just enough meat to bring meat to my table.
Oh, I'm fine with flipping flies - matching the hatch, dry or sinking, size 24 or 6, but when it is time for dinner, a nice long shank hook in size 8 with about two inches of slimy wiggler and a couple split shot - here comes dinner.
When I went off to college there was a lake out behind the dorms we called Lake Kneedeep because that is what the frogs all said, "kneedeep, kneedeep, kneedeep." Ok, a little corny, but in that South Georgia lake were plenty of fish. Three nights a week I would slip down to the lake, tie on a purple plastic worm and cast it to just about the same spot. There was a split in the seaweed that I would drag the worm up through very slowly - and almost like clockwork, BAM - fish on. I would clean it there then take the fish up to my dorm room and bread it and fry it in my popcorn popper.
I have heard a story about two roommates on that campus that decided to check out what kind of experimental fish were growing in some ponds surrounded by barbed wire and high fences. Around mid-night, or so the story goes, they carried a blanket down, climbed over the barbed wire and brought various different baits, rods and reels. They didn't get any bites on the artificial baits they were using so one of these guys pulled out the majic...night crawlers. He tied on one and BAM, something hit so hard it bit through the wire hook. He tied on a heavier hook, slipped on another night crawler and in seconds something was splashing big in the darkness along the bank. He told his roommate to jump down on that thing so he wouldn't lose it - to which the future Game Warden responded - heck, I have no idea what it is...but very soon after it was laying on the bank. A beautiful 10 pound catfish. 9 more worms later - 9 more 10 pound catfish. They made it back to the dorm and were iced down for the night.
The next day, so the story goes, the boys loaded the fish in the back of one of the roommates Ranchero and another guy joined them to go to lake kneedeep for cleaning the fish. While they were cleaning them the other boy, a Yankee from Ohio who had never been fishing before, said "What is this XXI on the side of the fish?" Then they looked at the others - XII, VII, VIII, and so on. These were all tattoos on the fish as a part of the experiment. All the fish were eaten that weekend. The next week when the future Game Warden entered his fisheries class where Dr. M was the professor - Dr. M walked in slamming his clipboard down on the table in the front of the class! He said, "Three years in a row we have carefully weighed every fish in this test from day one to time to market - and just before it is time to pull all the fish for the final weights, some &^%*&$ pulls out just enough fish so our experiment is not valid!"
Salt water offers some different challenges - but don't think for a minute fish don't like worms in salt water. I've caught a cooler full of gator trout (large weakfish for my Northern cousins) using a grub with a lead head. And yes, slipping a six inch night crawler on a four inch grub still adds a special treat enough to draw in one more bite.
I don't get to fish Lake Okeechobee as much now as I have in the past - or the Harris Chain of lakes further to the North. But there is a new worm in town and it is winning tournaments for those fishermen who are using them. "Bruiser Baits" makes these new worms and they are being made available if your bait shop calls them. www.bruiserbaits.com is their website. You can buy them there. I do. BIG FREAKING NEWS! Scott Martin, #2 on the big money winners board FLW has now joined the Bruiser Baits Pro Team! He uses these baits himself when he grabs soft plastic - and he's won nearly $2 million dollars catching bass. Now that is a BIG endorsement. Check it out on his website or Bruiser Bait's website! Fantastic news for these American Made baits!
So color (usually choose a color that matches the color of the water you are fishing (I know that doesn't make much sense, just try it), shape (some look like night crawlers, some like red wigglers, some like crawdads (crayfish for my cousins), and some like snakes), texture (soft to hard, rough to slick), size - from 1/8" in diameter to 1/4" in diameter and from an inch long to eighteen inches long, salty, smelly, floating, sinking, with or without a rattle built in. One trick - keep some of those plastic wigglers in the same box with some live worms - it really does work.
I'm going fishing, and I hope you will too. And when you do - invite that little kid along, let him reel in the big one and make a big deal over it. He'll be hooked for life and you - well I promise you too will benefit.