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Bass Fishing With Kids

Don't get frustrated! Get Wacky!

Assorted plastic stick baits (wacky worms)
Wacky worms come in assorted colors.

So your kids have reached the point where they're no longer satisfied catching sunfish with a bobber and worm. They want to go after New York's #1 sportfish, the largemouth bass. Problem is, their aspirations may have changed, but their attentiveness and patience haven't-two qualities typically required for successful bass fishing. Enter the "wacky" rig. Any child capable of casting a line and reeling it back in with a spin-cast outfit can have success wacky rigging for bass. Slack line and poor hook sets are not a problem.

What is a "Wacky" Rig

The wacky rig, also called the Jersey rig, has been around for a number of years, although it has gained particular notoriety over the last few years with the advent of "Senko-style" plastic "stick" baits. A wacky rig refers to a plastic worm or stick bait that is fished with the hook inserted through the middle, not the head of the bait, perpendicular to its length. What makes this bait so attractive to a bass, or many other sportfish, is uncertain. It may be the lifeless, do-nothing way it falls through the water, or that it annoys fish who can't believe that anyone would attempt to catch them with something so ridiculous.

Rigging Wacky Style

Image of a wacky rig, hooks and o-rings
Use o-rings and circle hooks to make your wacky rig.

To rig your bait wacky style, take a plastic stick bait of your choice and bend it in half. For most bass fishing, tie a 1/0 or 2/0 circle-style hook on your line and push the hook point through the middle of the worm, leaving the hook exposed. The bait should now be dangling with equal sections on each side of the hook. A number of manufacturers make circle hooks, and all are a bit different. I have had best success with the less rounded style of circle hook, which seems to result in more and better hook-ups.

Spin-cast reels are typically wound with 8 lb test line, which except in waters with heavy cover, is adequate for most situations. I prefer 12 lb test line as it provides a bit more of a safety net for beginning anglers, but is still supple enough to cast with a spin-cast reel. Particularly with lighter lines, it is important to set your drag correctly so that the drag gives before the line breaks. Also check the line regularly for nicks and abrasions and change it at least once per year. Nothing is more discouraging to a beginning angler than to lose a fish due to a broken line.

As for types and sizes of stick baits, for most bass fishing situations, I prefer to go with a 5-inch version. Although many anglers prefer heavily salted custom-poured baits, I have had just as much success with some of the mass produced baits available through local sporting goods stores and catalogs. These are less expensive and tend to be more durable than salted stick baits. They come in hundreds of colors, but I have found that you can rarely go wrong with a june bug, pumpkin/purple flake or watermelon/red flake colored bait.

To make your wacky rig last even longer and allow for quick color changes, slide a small O-ring over the bait and slip the hook under the O ring. O-rings can be purchased at various home centers and hardware stores, as well as most fishing tackle stores and catalogs. A special tool can be purchased to help slide the rings on and off the bait, but I have found that except for the most delicate of baits, this tool is unnecessary.

Fishing Wacky Style

Boy holding a bass caught on a wacky rig
Wacky rigs can be the key to catching big
bass and big smiles!

Fishing the wacky rig is as simple as casting your bait towards cover and letting it fall on a slack line. This is what makes it so perfect for beginning anglers using spin-cast outfits. Let it sink to the bottom and then retrieve in a twitch-pause style.

Most if not all of your hits will come on the fall. Sometimes you will feel a slight "tap" on the line, but in many cases you may just see your line begin to move. If you were using a traditional hook, this is normally when you would reel in your slack and set the hook. But, with a circle hook, all you do is reel steadily until the hook finds its home in the side of the fish's jaw. I find this to be one of the most exciting moments when fishing wacky style, because it is not until this point that you have any idea of exactly how large a fish you have. The fish also appear to be surprised by the hook, leading to some very memorable battles. The benefit of the circle hook is that you almost always hook the fish in the jaw, doing little harm to the fish if released. I have also found this bass-catching technique to be the least disturbing to other nearby fish, resulting in multiple catches off the same tree, weed bed or other structure.

Along with being one of the simplest and most effective methods to catch largemouth bass, wacky rigs are also effective for many other species. The simplicity and effectiveness of this technique have frustrated many a veteran bass-tournament angler, as they've watched novices come up with amazing catches using it. It has also brought joy to many a parent, as they've watched their kids land their first bass using it.

Give wacky-rig fishing a try and I'm sure you'll find a place for it in your bass-fishing arsenal. As a bonus, you're bound to turn some of those impatient youngsters into the next generation of bass anglers along the way.

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