Merwin: Lighten Up For Largemouth

Here's a suggestion for the angling legions fishing this summer with soft-plastic worms for largemouth bass. Lighten up.

By that I mean consider using a smaller-than-normal worm weight when you Texas-rig your bait. Yes, you'll need a three-eighths-ounce weight (or heavier) to get down on structure that's 20 feet deep or for dragging a Carolina rig in the depths. But not all bass are deep, and you really don't need that much weight for shallow fish.

Some manufacturers of worm weights have told me their best-selling size is one-quarter ounce, followed by heavier sizes. Most of the time for bass in water less than 10 feet deep I'm using a one-sixteenth-ounce weight at the head of the worm. Sometimes even lighter.

Lightly weighted rigs sink more slowly, giving bass a longer and better look. Twitch-twitch, sink. Twitch-twitch, sink. The whole retrieve process is more subtle and less violently active than is required when fishing heavier weights. To be sure, this rig won't penetrate thick weed mats, but most of the time I'm casting to the edges of things. Logs, stumps, rocks, weedlines.

Or you can use no added weight at all--just a 6-inch worm, say, on a 3/0 EWG hook. This weightless and weedless rig is absolutely deadly when twitched slowly through shallow bass cover. It is the most simple of all bass rigs and often the most effective.

My home bass water is in a lead-ban state, so most of the time I'm fishing with tungsten worm weights. These are smaller than lead weights of an equivalent size and also seem harder. I think they work better. They are also much more expensive, so take your pick.

But whatever your choice in weights, try thinking small. Subtle. Sneaky. Finesse. And I think you'll catch more bass.