Worm Fishing: A Comprehensive Guide to Fishing with Live Bait

Worm Fishing

Live baits have numerous benefits over artificial ones. No matter how good your lure is, it will never have the same scent and movement that attracts fish, like their natural food.

And among all live baits, there is one that had been around for centuries. From kids to experienced anglers, everyone can use it successfully. I’m talking about worms.

Worm fishing is simple, yet extremely effective. But, to land a fish, you need to know the difference between worm species, you must know how to rig them, how to store them, and to what fish you will present them. It may seem like a lot, and here I will list everything you need to know to get started!

These wiggly creatures are actually quite resilient and can survive in various conditions, if you handle them right.

No matter where in the world you are, there are worms you can use on your local waters for many different fish species, and I got it all covered here!

So, before you get a worm and head out to the water, check out how to use worms for fishing and land a fish you want.

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What Exactly is Worm Fishing? [Understanding]

Worm fishing is a term that describes using live (or sometimes even dead) worms as fishing bait. These baits had been popular since the beginning of recreational angling all around the world. There are writings from 15th century which are stating that worms are excellent for catching trout, grayling, chub, barbel, tench, carp, and many more species.

Moist soil is their natural habitat, so these creatures can occasionally end up in a water and become fish food.

Body wiggling when hooked attracts fish from a distance, and if you cut them, irresistible smell of injured prey almost guarantees a bite.

The whole process, from obtaining worms to hooking them and presenting to fish is fairly easy, suitable even for kids and beginners.

This bait is so good that today, in modern times when fishing is accessible to everyone, you can use artificial worms that resemble the real ones. This speaks enough about their effectiveness and ability to attract hungry fish.

What are the Most Common Types of Worms for Fishing?

The best worms for fishing are the ones that can attract most fish in your area. Most popular species have different properties, and you should choose in accordance with that. Of course, their availability is also a big factor.

NIGHTCRAWLERS (American)

This is probably the most popular specie of worms in the world. You can use them whole (and they are quite large) or cut them into pieces if you are catching smaller fish.

The only downside is their sensitivity to high temperatures. Besides, they cant be farmed easily like their European cousins.

NIGHTCRAWLERS (European)

At first sight, these are almost the same as American, but they slightly differ in body colour. When it comes to habitat, they live in shallow burrows and are considered to be compost worms. They are easily farmed, and large size is suitable for big fish. When it comes to resistance, they last on a hook quite long.

RED WIGGLERS

As the name suggests, these worms wiggle more than any other worm species which makes them great bait. Red wigglers are excellent for variety of species however they are quite small and suitable for smaller specimens. What makes them even better is their ability to survive both hot and cold temperatures and stay alive on a hook for a long time.

BLOODWORMS, WAXWORMS, MEALWORMS, BUTTERWORMS

These species are also quite effective, and anglers love to use them. Excellent for panfish, these baits will catch you a variety of smaller species. Bloodworms are great for roach, bream, and catfish, mealworms and waxworms will land you trout, crappie, and bluegill, while butterworms can go for almost all fish due to their fat. Some anglers use waxworms for ice fishing!

Worm Fishing - Most Common Types

Where to Buy Worms for Fishing?

Where to buy worms for fishing depends on where you live. You can go to the nearest fishing baits store and choose among a selection of worms. That is the easiest way of all.

Another solution is ordering these worms online (like here), but that is a bit hard. If not delivered fast or in suitable temperatures, worms will die and you won’t have bait ready for your fishing trip.

Finding a worm farmer in the area and to buy directly from them is also great, but unfortunately not available to everyone.

And lastly, try large pet stores. Worms are used as exotic animal food so you may get lucky and buy them there.

Check out more details in the article I wrote about where to buy worms for fishing.

How to Store and Maintain Worms for Fishing?

Depending on a specie, worms have to be stored correctly to stay alive and fresh for a long time. But the goal is not just keeping them alive, but in good shape too. Only a healthy worm will last long on a hook.

I would advise you to buy Styrofoam container This material has excellent insulation properties and will keep your worms at optimal temperatures.

Dirt and food leftovers should be used as bedding and it has to be slightly moist. If dried out, worms will die.

Additionally, avoid direct sunlight and high temperatures. For American nightcrawlers you will need a refrigerator as they thrive only in lower temperatures.

On multi day trips, keep the container in the shade, and do not leave it open. When you take a worm out, close the rest of them to prevent loss of moisture and temperature changes.

Worm Fishing - How to Store

How to Put a Worm on a Hook? [Best Rigging Technique]

Now when you know some basics about worms, it is time to learn how to fish with worms! To even start, you need to know how to put a worm on a hook.

For a beginner targeting smaller species, hooks size 4 or 6 are sufficient. Cut a piece of worm about one inch long, and simply impale it on a hook.

If using larger hooks, up to 3/0 size for some applications, you can cut bigger pieces or use a whole worm that is pierced 2 to 3 times to conceal a hook. Leave a part of it hanging, but not too long because little fish may steal pieces of your precious bait.

Sometimes, anglers put multiple smaller pieces on a single hook. This option releases more scent, while using big parts or whole worms make wiggling motion better.

Smaller and fatter species like mealworms are frequently impaled on a hook through their whole body length.

Another option is to buy live bait holders to make sure that your worms are unharmed and well secured.

If you still have some questions about this topic, I wrote a separate article about how to put a worm on a hook.

What Tackle and Equipment is Needed for Worm Fishing?

As I told you, worm fishing is suitable for beginners, and that also means that no special equipment required.

You can use a versatile, beginner friendly, and light spinning rod and reel.

In addition to that, you will need:

  • Hooks (size 4 to 6)
  • Mono line
  • Small floats (optional)
  • Light sinker

Worms may be tough when it comes to survival, but they are also very light and delicate. Use hooks with longer shank and match the size of a hook with a size of a worm.

Mono lines are excellent due to low visibility, affordable price, and ease of use for beginners. Small floats are more than enough to be used with worms in calm water.

Sinkers are used to submerge the worm because they tend to float. Light split shot will do the job well.

Worm Fishing - Equipment Needed

What are the Best Fishing Techniques for Fishing with Worms?

Fishing with worms and bobber is definitely the most popular technique that allows you to position your bait anywhere under surface.

Most often, bobbers are positioned one or two feet above the hook (use clinch knot to secure the hook). Of course, you can go shorter on longer, depending on depth where fish are feeding.

The best rig for worm fishing in my opinion is bobber rig, at least for beginners, but there are other worm fishing rigs available. You can skip the bobber, and present worms on the bottom using weighted bottom rigs with egg sinkers.

This rig consists of a baited hook, and an egg sinker positioned around 2 to 3 feet above. If you add a swivel below the sinker, it may work even better.

If you just let it sit on the bottom you can attract many kinds of fish, except bass. Bass prefers movement and you can drag it a bit to attract this hungry predator.

What is really important in both option is using light and invisible lines.

What are the Best Fishing Locations [Hotspots] for Worm Fishing?

Worm fishing can work anywhere, from ponds to rivers. Some adventurous (and maybe a bit crazy) angler use worms for trolling.

From experience, I prefer bank fishing with worms, whether it is on a pond, lake, or river.

Calms water is the best option because the risk of loosing the worm due to currents is low. That doesn’t mean that you can’t present this bait in rivers, it simply means to avoid strong water movement.

Ponds are excellent for beginners because they are usually small, well maintained, and don’t require distant casting. When casting live and soft baits, you have to be careful.

When it comes to lakes, worms can work excellent, and you can use them anywhere in the water column, from just below surface to deeper bottom areas.

If you have a lake boat, you can position yourself in ideal places and completely disregard casting. Lowering your bait into the water eliminates impacts and splashes that reduce lifespan of a worm.

Worm Fishing - in Lakes and Ponds

What Fish Bite Best on Worms? [Bass, Carp, Trout, etc.]

Many fish species will gladly bite on a wiggly worm, however, not all fish prefer the same worms. So, let’s see which species like which worms.

Do Bass Eat Worms?

Bass love worms! You can catch bass by using nightcrawlers or earthworms. Largemouth bass prefers nightcrawlers and big ones are also likely to bite. Striped bass likes smaller and more visible bloodworms that produce incredible scent.

Do Carp Eat Worms?

If you were wondering do carp eat worms, the answer is YES! For smaller specimens you can use red wigglers, while European nightcrawlers are great for bigger carp! If you are fishing during winter, use species that can withstand cold temperatures.

To know more details read this article about carp fishing with worms.

Do Trout Eat Worms?

Trout are very cautions predators that love natural prey! Earthworms, red wigglers, and nightcrawlers will work excellent in trout waters. Due to resilience on cold temperatures, choose nightcrawlers if you want them to live longer on a hook. Otherwise, you will have to change worms frequently because trout live in cool water.

If you are an avid trout angler, learn more about do trout like worms.

Do Catfish Eat Worms?

Catfish are another species that can be caught on worms! And the best thing is that these opportunistic eaters are not picky! You can use nightcrawlers and earthworms, but also less popular grubs and maggots!

Catfish rely on their sense of scent and taste while searching for food, so you can have a very successful fishing day if you cut worms to make them smell better, and use those with high fat and protein content, like mealworms.

Other Fish?

Worms are not only for fish species mentioned above! You can catch a variety of fish including:

  • Perch
  • Crappie
  • Walleye
  • Sunfish
  • Roach
  • Bream

Besides these, you may have other species in your local waters that will gladly bite on a tasty worm!

Of course, unlike larger bass or carp, these smaller fish species require smaller worms or smaller pieces of large worms presented on lighter tackle and smaller hooks.

However, all of these are the best species to learn worm fishing technique and beginner should start with those!

Worm Fishing - Fish to Catch

Can I use Artificial / Fake / Plastic Worms for Fishing?

Fishing with fake worms can be very effective if you know how to use them!

These worms resemble real ones, but with lack of naturally produced movement or scent. When it cones to presentation, you will have to try a bit harder than with real ones.

So, how to fish with a plastic worms? Light gear is recommended, same as with live worms. Floats can be used but are not mandatory. Straight shank hook should be used as those enable natural movement of the lure.

Now comes the “tricky” part and that is plastic worm techniques. You will have to work the lure in a way that you create movement that impersonates the real worm movement. Avoid dragging them in a straight line at the same speed.

Create speed variations, make pauses and random twitches. Let it sink naturally and expect a bite on a way down, especially if targeting bass with live worms. Bass fishing with plastic worms can be very productive.

When talking about bass and how to fish with a plastic worm for bass, I have to mention that it is the most popular specie for artificial worms. Texas rig and lure size and colour that correspond natural conditions are all you need!

This is a broad subject, and if you want to learn more about it, read what I have to say about how to fish with plastic worms in a separate article.

Are there any Other Tips for Better Worm Fishing?

To make the most of your fishing day with worms, here are 5 best tips!

TIP #1: Cutting

When cutting a worm, make sure to cut as far away from the head as possible. Even if you use whole worms, you can cut off the tail tip to increase smell and wiggling.

If you wish to use large worm in pieces, start cutting off desired size from the tail. Worm will eventually die; however front part can live quite ling without the back. Use the tail sections first. When they die or get eaten, continue cutting of pieces of desired size towards the head.

TIP #2: Chumming

Many anglers like to include whatever they will use as bait into their chumming mix. It makes fish interested and used to certain foods in the area. Worms cut into very small pieces are excellent for this!

But, as they are light, sink slow, and are easily swept by the current, use bait droppers to position worms in a desired location.

As an alternative, you can use maggots that differ in colour and highly visible ones are also available.

TIP #3: Killing a worm

Fish will not feed on old, dry, dead, or half rotten worms!

However, if you accidentally kill a fresh one by wrongly cutting it, don’t worry! It can still be a good bait. Either use it for chumming or present it on a hook and create a bit of movement yourself. All species, especially bass, prefer live ones, however, freshly dead worms can provoke a bite in certain conditions.

TIP #4: Bait presentation

Bait presentation is important here as in any other fishing situations. Worms are very effective but that doesn’t mean you can just put them anywhere and hope that fish will bite.

Get to know your local waters, underwater structures, depth where fish tend to feed, and act accordingly.

TIP #5: Casting

Casting live bait requires a gentle hand. Avoid aggressive and long casts that result in a big impact on a water surface. Doing so will either kill a worm or more likely, you will lose it.

Cast shorter distances, gently, and slowly.

Worm Fishing - Bait Presentation

What are the Most Common Worm Fishing Mistakes to Avoid?

Every angler makes mistakes, especially while learning. So, to save you some time on learning on your own mistakes, learn on mine instead!

Here are top 10 mistakes to avoid when using worms as bait!

  • Mistake #1: Overfeeding the fish – only hungry fish will bite your bait. If you use too much chum, fish will happily eat it and go away.

  • Mistake #2: Using the wrong size of worm – size of bait needs to correspond the fish size. Small worms and hooks for small fish, and big for big ones. It is better to downsize because large fish can swallow small bait, while the other way around is not very likely!

  • Mistake #3: Setting the hook too early or too late – setting a hook in just a right moment is a skill that comes with experience. Wait until you feel a bit of weight and then set it.

  • Mistake #4:  Ignoring fishing regulations and limits – obeying rules ensures happy fishing for everyone, even in the future. Don’t use live bait if that is forbidden (check when buying your fishing license).

  • Mistake #5: Neglecting to maintain and clean your gear – gear maintenance is important and only equipment that is well maintained will be effective and dependable (check how to clean fishing rod and reel). Dull and rusty hooks, dirty reel without lubrication, and 8 years old mono line wont land you a fish. And most important here, use very sharp knives for worm cutting.

  • Mistake #6: Not camouflaging a hook – hook should not be visible. Either conceal it by piercing a worm multiple times or use more than one worm piece to fill a hook. Point should be sticking out, but not too much.

  • Mistake #7: Ignoring time of day and yeartime – fish change their behaviour through the day, but also through the year. In feeding season, you don’t need any special skills in worm presentation. When winter comes close, you may need to spice up worms with attractants to make them more appealing to dormant fish.

  • Mistake #8: Using wrong worm type – I have mentioned which worms work for certain species; however, you should try out different kinds for your local fish population. Don’t stick to the most popular ones, and go for lobworms, mealworms… Don’t just fixate on nightcrawlers.

  • Mistake #9: Moisturising worms too much – I already stated that worms need moisture, however, don’t drown them in wet dirt. Add a damp paper napkin into the container to increase moisture content. Also, don’t put too many worms into the same container as that will shorten their lifespan.

  • Mistake #10: Giving up – no matter how “bad” your fishing day is, don’t give up! Come back tomorrow and try these excellent baits again. Sometimes, it just isn’t your day…

Conclusion

In the world of modern baits and artificial lures, worm fishing gets neglected for no good reason! These baits have natural movement and scent, and are completely natural food for various fish species!

Their extreme effectiveness, low price, and ease of use make them one of the best options in various situations. If you have never used them, now is it the time to try!

Even as a complete beginner you can quickly learn how to rig them and present them to hungry fish! I guarantee that you will land a big one!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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