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How To Fish A Texas Rig




By Margie Anderson



October 30, 2008

Every lake is different - even the same lake changes from season to season and possibly from hour to hour.  But Arizonan Wes McCracken knows he can count on a worm bite of some sort no matter what the conditions are.
The venerable Texas rig, the most basic worm rig of all, is simply a worm on a hook with a weight in front of it and you can rig any soft plastic using this method.  The lighter the weight, the more natural the fall will be, and with a T-rigged plastic the fall is everything.  Nine times out of ten a fish will take the bait on the fall, so you really need to pay attention to what your lure is doing while the elevator is headed down.

Before he even hits a lake, McCracken spends some time examining a map of the lake.  Some of his best spots are so subtle that a lot of people would totally overlook them.  Sometimes these areas are so close to the boat ramp that anglers run right over them day after day. 

On the maps, he looks for odd little fingers or humps near channels – often a single loop in the contour line.  Sometimes these are far from shore and those are his favorites because very few people will notice them, much less fish them.

You don’t have to stick to deep water structure to be successful with a Texas rig.  The beauty of this technique is its versatility.  You can fish a Texas-rigged worm through weeds on the shoreline or in 45 feet of water.  You can drop it down a bluff or swim it over a flat.  For structure fishing, though, a Texas rig is really hard to beat.

A Texas rig is one of McCracken’s favorites for fishing submerged trees or rock piles, and he often fishes a very small Texas rig on spinning gear.  He uses 12-pound-test fluorocarbon and a quarter-ounce bullet sinker or even lighter.  For these light-weight worm rigs McCracken uses a medium-heavy spinning rod with a fast tip and plenty of backbone.  He can cast a 3/16-ounce sinker much better with this rig than with a baitcaster.

“It’s crucial to pick the right weight,” insists McCracken.  “Sometimes one weight will outfish the other, even if the difference is really small.  It changes the rate of fall.  If you get bit on the fall, you know you’re using the right weight.”  If you’re using the wrong weight, you’ll get slapped a lot but not bit, he adds.

“Sometimes I find myself trying to force a bite, and I have to step back and tell myself I’m fighting a losing battle.  I make myself try something different:  slow down, speed up, change colors, change lures – something.”  Generally speaking, slowing down is the key.

Most of the time, all you have to do with a Texas rig is to drag it along the bottom.  In order to detect the bites, you need to keep the line taut.  A lot of anglers fish with one finger under the line, just in front of the reel, so that they can feel any subtle tics or jumps in the line.  Move the worm by pulling your rod sideways, and then take up the slack before moving it again. 

California pro Mike Folkstad says that a major mistake of fishermen everywhere is made when they are dragging their lure over a rock.  If you keep the line taut at this point, the lure will pendulum out away from the structure as it falls.  It may land more than a yard away.  Mike says that the instant you feel your lure begin to fall, you need to give it slack.  This may mean leaning forward and sticking your rod forward.  Whatever it takes, just assure the bait has enough slack to fall straight down. 

When fish bite a worm it rarely feels like a bite.  It may feel like your line has been cut.  Maybe you won’t feel a thing until you go to move the lure, and then you feel a little pressure or possibly some mushiness.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and feel a little thump or a tick.  Thing is, if you’re not paying attention you will miss tons of bites. 

When you’re fishing a soft plastic, you have to be concentrating on that lure all the time.  If anything feels different, set the hook, and don’t just give it a little jerk, either.  If you’re afraid of being embarrassed, take up knitting or something.  When you set the hook; set it hard.  If it’s not a fish, so what?  If it IS a fish you’ll be glad you didn’t mess around.  Practice makes perfect, and after you’ve been fishing a while you’ll quit setting on nothing.

When you’re fishing cover like submerged trees or weeds, you’ll want the point of the hook to be just under the skin of the worm so that the rig is weedless, but easy to set.  To tie a Texas rig, simply slip a bullet sinker onto your line, pointed end away from the rod tip, and then tie on the hook. 

Worm and offset Worm Hook

Insert point of hook 1/4" into top of worm

Bring point through side of worm head

Twist hook around so point is toward worm

Pull hook down so eye is just outside head

Measure hook against worm and place finger and thumb on worm just where hook bend reaches.

Bend worm up and insert point into worm just above where fingers are.

Pierce worm straight across with hook

Worm should be straight with bend inside

Push worm up toward point of hook to create slack

Insert point just under surface of worm

Top view of skin-hooked Texas rig

Side view of skin-hooked Texas rig -- point is just inside worm -- makes it weedless but very easy to set when bit.


For a 7-inch worm, McCracken uses a 3/0 EWG Gamakatsu hook. It’s a good idea to size the hook according to the length and thickness of the worm – with finesse worms you’ll use a smaller, lighter hook and usually a lighter weight.  Most anglers prefer to use the lightest possible weight. 

In fact, the bigger the worm is, the lighter the weight you can get away with because the worm itself has quite a bit of weight to facilitate casting ease with a baitcaster.  Fishing a giant worm with an eighth-ounce sinker is a dynamite way to catch big bass in deep water.  

A good worm rod should have a sensitive tip so you can feel bites, but plenty of backbone for stout hooksets.  Most rods these days will tell you straight up what they are made for.  Just look for one marked “plastic worm”.   A nice long handle will let you hold the rod against your side while you keep your fingers on the line.

A fairly fast retrieve ratio reel helps with worm fishing because it will help you take up line quickly in cases when you’ve got a big fish heading for the surface.  Get one that holds plenty of line and feels good in your hand.

The advent of fluorocarbon line has been a godsend to worm fishermen.  Fluorocarbon line virtually disappears under water, but the true value of fluorocarbon is that it has almost no stretch.  Hooksets are vastly improved.  This line costs more, but it is definitely worth it.

You never know when that bite is going to be the biggest fish of your life, so you should always be prepared to boat a 15-pounder.  This means good hooks.  Good hooks cost more than crummy ones.  Again, they’re worth it and as a reminder, don’t forget to size your hook to the lure - big baits call for big hooks.

Bottom line:  Texas-rigged worms will produce bass, often big bass, any time of year on any lake.  Even on lakes where the bass are savvy to just about every crankbait and spinnerbait on the market, they’ll fall for a plastic worm.  You can rig any soft plastic bait this way, and once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll easily progress to techniques such as flippin’, pitchin’, doodling, and stitching. 

McCracken paints weights to match his worms. You can also buy weights that are already painted but be aware that sometimes bright metallic weights attract the bites instead of the worms. 

If you’re using fluorocarbon line, McCracken recommends a double Trilene knot.  Palomar knots don’t work well with fluorocarbon – they tend to break.

Use scent or attractant with plain worms.  Yamamoto worms and Power Worms tend to make the fish hang on, but cheap bulk worms often need a little help. 

If you’re fishing what looks like a dynamite spot but you’re not getting bit, try fishing uphill or across the structure.  If the fish are holding on cover to one side, they might not see your worm until it comes by at a different angle.