How to Set Up a Texas Rig for Worms and Soft Plastic Lures

Plus Info on Sinker Use, Sinker Weights, and Hook Sizes

142_Texas Worm Rig
Shown are the steps for rigging a plastic worm Texas style, as described in the text, including inserting a toothpick in the nose of the sinker. © Ken Schultz from Ken Schultz’s Fishing Encyclopedia

The Texas rig is simply a way of putting a hook into a soft plastic lure to make it snag-free, or weedless, yet look natural when retrieved. It has been the standard worm-rigging method since the 1970s, when manufacturers stopped making worms out of hard rubber in preference for soft plastic. Although the Texas-rigging method originated with plastic worm use, and is still the foremost application, it is also employed with many other soft plastic lure bodies.

 

With worms the rig is usually accompanied by a sinker, but a Texas-rigged worm or other soft plastic can also be fished without a sinker. In other words, a sinker is not necessarily part of the rigging, and its use depends on the depth and cover being fished. A Texas-rigged plastic worm can be fished in almost any bass habitat, though it has limited value in really deep water and when used with heavy sinkers.

How to Set Up A Texas-Rigged Worm with Sinker

This rig incorporates nothing more than a plastic worm, slip sinker (also called a “worm weight”), and hook, with the hook point turned back and imbedded in the neck area of the worm so that it is essentially snag-free. While there are varying hook styles to use, set up the rig as follows:

1.    Put a cone-shaped slip sinker onto your line, narrow end first, then tie the line to your hook.

2.    Take the point of the hook and imbed it into the center of the head of the worm up past the barb, then bring the point out the side of the worm.

 

3.    Pull the shank of the hook through this passage and rotate it 180 degrees. 

4.    Bring the shank all the way out until the eye of the hook is secured in the worm head. 

5.    Slide the hook point into the body of the worm so that it is firmly imbedded in it, yet has not pierced through it. Don’t curl or rotate the body of the worm, and be sure that the hook and worm are aligned and that the worm is straight and not bunched, twisted, or kinked.

The biggest problem experienced by users of the Texas rig is getting the worm curled or bunched up. This causes the worm to spin when it is retrieved, producing an unnatural, unappealing action and contributing to line twist.

To use the Texas-rigging style to place the hook further along the body of the worm, carefully thread the point and shank of the hook through it to near the midsection. This rig can be fished with either a very light slip sinker or without a sinker, and is employed when bass are taking a worm in the middle rather than head-first. It is often used when bass are spawning, and thus called a bed, or spawning, rig, although it is also possible to use a worm hooked right through the middle of the worm for the same purpose.

Sliding and Fixed Sinkers

The slip sinker will slide freely when the Texas rig is set up as described above. But there are times, such as when fishing in thick cover, when it is advantageous to prevent the sinker from sliding freely and getting hung up. This occurs when the sinker and line slide over some object and the worm remains on the back side of it.

You can peg the slip sinker to prevent it from sliding on the line. Jam one end of a toothpick in the head of a sinker as far as it will go, then break or clip it off.

This is usually sufficient to keep the sinker from moving, but at times you may want to also jam the other end of the toothpick into the back of the cone and break it off to keep the sinker completely immobile. An alternative way of accomplishing the same thing is to use a slip sinker with a wire corkscrew stem, which holds the worm in place.

Pegging with a toothpick renders the sinker unusable once you remove it from the line, as you cannot put your line back through it again. If you’ve only pegged one end of the sinker, you can usually push the little sliver of pick out with the point of a fishhook, or with the end of a paper clip. Keep a paper clip with your worm tackle for this purpose.

The theory behind the unpegged Texas rig is that when a bass grabs the worm,

it does not feel the hook and does not detect the weight, which slides up the line. Theoretically this gives the angler an extra moment in which to react and set the hook. When the hook is set, the worm should freely pierce the worm, which is another reason why the worm should be relatively soft. However, if you’re using a sensitive rod and line, you should be able to detect a strike and react quickly enough that it won’t matter whether the sinker is fixed or sliding.

As noted, around heavy cover, a sliding sinker can be an impediment to getting or detecting strikes, and it’s more important that the cone shape allows the rig to move properly and avoid hangups and unnatural action. I peg a slip sinker with a Texas-rigged worm more than 50 percent of the time, due to fishing often amongst lily pads, bushes, brush, and the like.

Using the Right Sinker Weight

The size of slip sinker ranges from 1/16-ounce to ½-ounce. The proper weight to use depends on depth, wind intensity, and the general activity of the fish. Lighter is better as a general rule for natural motion, but a heavier weight becomes necessary as the water gets deeper and if there is much wind, which can hamper your ability to feel the lure crawling on the lake bottom. Sinkers are still primarily made of lead, which is legal to use in most though not all places; in the latter, alternatives are available and work just as well.

Some anglers like painted sinkers, but unpainted weights are overwhelmingly popular.

The lighter the sinker weight the more likely you are to have success. Sinker weight must be matched to the terrain and fishing conditions, but using the lightest sinker you can, and still correctly fish under those conditions, brings the best results.

The primary reason for this is that the heavier the sinker, the larger it is and the more detectable it may be to a bass, especially at the instant that the fish picks up the worm. This is particularly true when fishing pressure is intense or when the bass are not aggressive. Another important reason is that the worm is moved more naturally with a light sinker than with a heavy one, where its actions are more dramatic and pronounced. A worm with a light weight swims more convincingly than one with a heavy sinker. Light weights don't hang up as much as heavy ones, and they aid in detecting strikes, so it’s best to use the lightest slip sinker possible for the conditions.

Sometimes, strong winds or current make worm fishing very difficult, and you have to use a larger-than-customary weight to gain casting accuracy and to maintain a feel for the bottom. In shallow water you can usually get away with a light sinker, but as you fish deeper, you may need to increase the weight of the sinker. You can cast small worms and light weights more effectively with spinning tackle than with baitcasting equipment. Light and thin diameter line is conducive to light-weight sinker use, since it does not offer as much resistance as larger diameter, heavy-strength line.

As noted earlier, a Texas-rigged worm or other soft plastic lure can be used without a slip sinker. Perhaps you want to fish the lure over submerged vegetation without having it sink into that vegetation. Or you want to work it along the surface or in very shallow water. Perhaps you want to retrieve it so that it has a slow sink, or use it more as a jerk or twitch bait than as a bottom-crawling one. In these instances, you would rig the lure the same way, just not employ a sinker with it.

Hooks

Hooks vary from 1/0 to 6/0, depending on the length of the worm. A general guideline is: 

•    1/0 or 2/0 with 4- to 6-inch worms; 

•    3/0 with 6-inchers; 

•    4/0 with 7-inchers, 

•    5/0 with 8-inchers or larger; 

    6/0 with the thickest and longest worms.

A number of worm hook styles are popular, and there’s a dizzying array to select from.

Many anglers prefer a keel, or offset, hook shank with a wide, or so-called Southern, sproat. The offset shank retains the worm pretty well and the wide gap gives plenty of room for hooking. You might try experimenting with various hooks that turn when you strike a fish, and also with hooks that have outside edge barbs. While circle hooks are a great tool for fishing with live baits, they are not an option with soft plastic lures, especially worms, due to the snag-free rigging method.

Modern worm hooks are very sharp when new, but become dull after use, so make sure that the hook point is as sharp as it possibly can be, keeping in mind that it has to go through the plastic (which may get bunched when inhaled by a bass) before it sticks in the mouth of the fish.

Set the Hook Quickly

Speaking of hooking bass or other fish, the quicker you set the hook when you feel a pickup of a plastic worm, the better. It used to be advised long ago to wait a moment before setting the hook, but waiting gives the fish time to swallow the lure and that often results in the fish being hooked in the stomach, which in turn requires cutting the line to the hook and leaving it in the fish, or trying to extricate the deeply embedded hook and injuring the fish. A quick hookset usually results in the hook being impaled in the outside of the mouth, usually on the upper lip or in the corner of the lip.

Disposing of Used Sinkers and Worms

Make sure to responsibly dispose of used sinkers or worms, especially lead sinkers, which are toxic, and soft plastics, which don’t belong in the water or on the land. Put sinkers in trash containers, as well as worms if you’re unable to recycle them. Here’s some good info about recycling soft plastics. When the fishing is good, bass anglers can go through many soft plastic worms during an outing, so discards should be collected and saved for proper disposal. 

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