I still remember my first introduction to fishing weightless worms wacky-style. While competing in a B.A.S.S. Invitational on Lake of the Ozarks back in 1996, I had the fortunate opportunity to be randomly paired with legendary angler George Cochran. Back then, there were no co-anglers, pros were put in the same boat together. Being that it was day three of the event and George was in position to win, I agreed to let George run the show. We used his boat and I allowed him to run the front all day and choose fishing locations. The timing of the event was right at the very beginning of the spawn with many bass still in pre-spawn as well. George's primary baits were a small jig and a wacky-rigged weightless, six-inch, Crème Scoundrel worm. He didn't win the event, but I did become a believer in the technique that day as I watched him catch all of his fish on the worm.
From that day forward, I immediately put the technique into my must learn department, which I did. Additionally, something else occurred about that time. I had received a few bonus packs of Yamamoto Senkos, a straight cigar-shaped worm that really looked stupid to me. I had never heard of them and nobody else had either at the time because they were new (any slightly experienced bass angler today is well aware of this immensely popular bait in current times).
Even though the Senko looked pitiful, I gave it a try. Immediately I took a liking to it because it was a faster sinking weightless worm that actually had a slight wobble to it on the fall. Plus it cast and skipped really well. And of course, I caught bass on it and put it to work during competition. In fact, I may be wrong about this, but I am nearly certain that the first time the Senko was ever mentioned in a B.A.S.S. tournament report was when I gave the mention in the report on the 1998 Megabucks tournament on Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee. I finished third in the event, having caught many of my bass throughout the tournament on both Yamamoto Senkos and Crème Scoundrels, both fished weightless and wacky-rigged.
My success with weightless worms in 1998 didn't end there either. Six weeks later I placed 2nd in an FLW Tour Event using the technique. And ever since then, I have used the method to catch bass in tournaments, often times when they wouldn't bite much else.
I'll never forget how discouraged and bummed I was when I realized the Senko had hit the mainstream of bass fishing. My secret weapon was no longer secret. I never thought it was ever going to catch on because it simply doesn't look like much. But lures that catch bass quite well tend to become popular. I actually backed off using it for a couple of years in disgust of its surging popularity, which of course, was a big mistake!
As with any technique, weightless worm presentations are not the best option under all conditions. One thing I avoid is fishing it in muddy water. Bass just can't see it, nor pick it up very well using their other senses.
Two clear cut situations exist that scream for me to use a weightless worm. I'm sure there are many other special niche situations that I am unaware of, but here are the two situations I like to fish with one.
First, and without question the most valuable period for weightless worm fishing, would be during the spawn and post-spawn periods. During these periods, bass become lethargic, often ignoring moving baits like spinnerbaits and crankbaits. However, a slow-sinking worm that hangs around will get these lazy bass to eat! Do not go fishing in the spring of the year without a weightless worm.
The other situation I have found productive can be during any period of the year that bass are hanging around boat docks. The bait skips well, so I can cast it deep into the shadows from a distance. I prefer using spinning gear for skipping these baits.
Nowadays, there exists many brand choices for wacky-rigged weightless worms. They are all fairly similar in shape; however the salt content can vary. Those that are heavily salted like the Yamamoto Senko will sink faster. Those brands with less salt will sink slower. I use both styles depending upon the depth. Generally, if I am fishing a bit deeper, then I like a faster sinking brand so it doesn't take so long to sink down to the bass.
With spring time upon us, now is the time to learn how to fish a wacky-rigged weightless worm. If you haven't tried it or have not had much success with it, do it now! You will build confidence as you start to catch bass with it. And be sure to bring enough bags of worms too! I have gone through quite a few in a day's fishing during spring.