When it comes to soft baits, worm profiles regularly put walleye in my boat. Fish can’t resist the thin silhouette and wispy action. Here are some reliable worm presentations worth trying this season.
Paddletail jig worms
I had my eyes opened to how deadly jig worms are for walleye years ago while fishing a long rocky point with buddy Serge Bricault. It was hot and sunny, and the walleye were cranky. Bricault was wielding a three-inch Berkley PowerBait Pro Jig Worm on a 1⁄8-ounce jig. He slowly raised and dropped it along bottom, adding the odd shake and pause. While my drop-shot leech plastic caught a couple of fish, Bricault set the hook more than I did.
The Berkley jig worm has several things going for it. Its three-inch profile makes it a perfect walleye snack. Its flat bottom and paddletail displace water to get a walleye’s attention. Rigged on a jig, it’s versatile and can be fished vertically or on a casting retrieve.
The Northland Fishing Tackle three-and-a-half inch Impulse Jig Crawler has similar characteristics and is another bait I like. Other good options are the four-inch Angler’s Choice Spear Tail Worm, four-inch Wyandotte Worm, and three-and-a-half inch Bondy Worm. These worms are popular on the Detroit and St. Clair rivers and are typically fished on half to one-ounce jigs. Worms have an excellent action in the current. More importantly, they mimic a key walleye forage for the area: small eels.
My buddy Derek Samson slams big walleye on jig worms. He once sent me a photo of an eel that had been spit up by a walleye sitting beside his jig with a shortened Zoom Trick worm. The resemblance was uncanny.
Ring a ding
Four-inch ringworms are another reliable pick. Examples include the Berkley PowerBait Rib Worm, B-Fish-N’s AuthentX Ringworm, and Northland’s Impulse Ringworm. Ring worms undulate and wiggle like their brethren, but with more action thanks to their curled tails.
I once had a conversation about ringworms with former professional Walleye Trail angler, Scott Glorvigen, of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He explained the worm’s unique ribs (aka rings) trap air and elevate its tail off bottom, helping it get noticed while enhancing its action.
The rings also displace water for added vibration. The segmented body is squishy and feels natural in walleye yaps, encouraging them to hold on longer. Glorvigen likes drifting ringworms in rivers on a jig. Jig weight is chosen to match current speed with the goal for the worm to drift at the same speed as the river’s flow. In small rivers, he typically uses 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-ounce jigs.
Glorvigen casts the worm upstream at a 45-degree angle. He skips the bait along bottom, picking up slack as it drifts with the current. Once the jig is at a 45-degree angle downstream, he reels in and casts to a new patch of water.
Dragging, swimming, and hopping a ringworm and a jig along bottom has caught me many walleye from sand or mud flats, as well as from deep weededges. Anglers will also catch walleye swimming a ringworm in a similar manner to a twister tail grub or small swimbait.
Harness the power
Artificial worms are great, too, on a crawler harness. Going artificial eliminates live-bait hassles. Plus, panfish can’t peck apart a durable soft-bait like a real worm (I’m looking at you rock bass and perch).
Artificial baits also allow for colour experimentation. I’ve long been a fan of tipping harnesses with six-inch Berkley Gulp! Nightcrawlers. Natural and green pumpkin are two reliable choices, but don’t be shy about trying chartreuse.
Multicoloured baits offer even more colour options. Good picks here include the Mister Twister 6″ Phenom Worm in perch (green top with gold/ blue flake and orange bottom) or motor oil/red flake with a chartreuse tail. The Phenom also delivers added action from its thin, curly tail. It pays to experiment with different tail styles on a harness.
It’s also a good idea to carry floating and sinking artificial worms. This provides more options for refining harness action and running depth.
I know I’ve previously covered the potency of a drop-shot for walleye, but I can’t omit this deadly rig in a discussion about worms.
Nose hook any of the worms noted above on a size 1 drop-shot hook tied to a seven- or eight-pound test fluorocarbon with a 1/8- to 1⁄2-ounce weight and you’ll catch walleye. I recommend cutting back six-inch worms to four inches though.
A drop-shot can be fished straight down over walleye holding on humps or drifted across deep flats and bars. Cast it and slowly reel and shake it back to the boat anywhere you would toss a jig. Why not try fishing artificial worms for walleye this season? They’re some of the most consistent and versatile soft-baits in my tackle bag.
Tim Allard is a full-time freelance journalist and photographer based in Ottawa. He’s the author of the multi-award winning book Ice-Fishing – The Ultimate Guide. Reach Tim at email@example.com
Originally published in the July 2019 edition of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine