‘Old school’ is back in session

Like many anglers, I sometimes reach deep in my tackle cache to find old favorites to take to the party.

I added a Jitterbug to my topwater box this summer, and I still carry an assortment of Super Do’s for the day when the only thing the bass will bite is a tiny tentacle-tail morsel.

Another new old lure in the BassCat this season is the venerable ribbon-tail plastic worm. “Old school,” fishing friend Tyler Converse said recently when he saw my photo of a nice bass with a Culprit worm dangling off the hook stuck in the fish’s jaw.

Old school indeed. Nobody can know exactly how many bass have been tricked by bogus wigglers, but it’s certainly in the billions. And the reason is simple: Plastic worms work.

Summer is the high season for 7- to 10-inch ribbon-tail worms, as well as the various other configurations of soft plastics, including finesse and trick-style baits. When the water is warm and the bass are sitting off the points and hunkered in the weedlines, plastic worms are very effective.

Anglers who were attracted to the numerous variations of soft plastics that lure makers designed and marketed are gravitating back to the simple baits they used when they started bass fishing.

I was among those who enjoyed a lot of success with soft plastics that looked like crawfish and other creatures with fins, ribs, pinchers and flappers. To make room for the new plastics, I relegated my plastic worms to the “someday” box in the basement.

But last summer, someday arrived, and I went fishing on the edge of a grass line at Mosquito Creek Reservoir with a couple of bags of basic black ribbon-tail Culprit worms that had been “resting” for a decade or more. The bass loved them, and so did I.

As the water warmed this spring, I’ve upgraded my plastics to include an assortment of plastic worms in the new glitter color combos. Friends Tyler Converse and John Hirschbeck joined me recently for a couple of fishing trips, and we saw once again the effectiveness of plastic worms.

Another fishing friend, Rick Vargin, swears by another “old school” bait, the basic black Ringworm with a white tail. When the bass are eating shad – and they mostly do here in Northeast Ohio – that old two-tone bait is still a terrific offering.

A familiar saying in the earlier days of plastic-worm fishing was, “It doesn’t matter what color you’re throwing as long as it’s purple.”

Today, numerous colors are available. My advice is to keep it simple and select colors that blend with the habitat and the forage base in a manner that is not too provocative.

We want to convince the bass that the worm is food. My choices at the lakes around Youngstown include blues and greens with glitter that creates an illusion of bluegills, perch and crawfish, as well as shad-mimicking colors like black and silver laminates.

Ribbon-tail worms are effective because the tail waves enticingly on the drop and as the angler drags them through the cover and along the lake bottom. The extra tease can be the ticket to trigger a strike.

Straight-tail worms also have their place. Consider that many baitfish scuttle along the bottom without showing much wiggle or waggle and you can understand why a straight worm works well.

With so many new lure styles and models over the past several decades, many anglers were distracted from the power of the plastic worm. But “old school” is back in session and worth your studies this summer on your favorite lake.


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