Trout worms catch fish of all kinds. The small thin soft plastic lures may not look like much. There’s nothing particularly glamorous or even authentic about them. But they absolutely work on a wide variety of freshwater fish. They are as easy to use as they are effective, making them as ideal for beginning anglers as they are for those with experience who simply want to catch fish.
I’ve already written here on how to fish trout worms and similar baits. Probably the best method is to present them in moving water, dead drifted, under a float. You can also fish them as you would a live redworm, drifted on a small hook, perhaps with just enough weigh on the line to get them in front of the fish you are after. In still waters or when all else fails, you can impart a little action in them by slightly twitching your rod.
Trout worms are available from a number of companies in different sizes and colors. My favorite variety by far is the Berkley trout worm. It has just the right firmness and buoyancy to allow for a good presentation. Pink works great on rainbow trout and steelhead. The yellow, white, black and natural brown versions work well on all fish. Chartreuse and orange can also catch fish. I have not had much success with the Berkley Gulp Alive trout worms, which although imbued with more scent are stiffer and dry out after use. The much larger steelhead worms made by Berkley can work, but I find that they are just too big for most Great Lakes applications. I know anglers use them successfully for steelhead on the West Coast, but I haven’t had a chance to fish there. The versions of trout worms made by companies other than Berkley also work.
I first fished trout worms when I was 11 or 12 years old. My mom bought me a few packs of cheese scented trout worms made by Luck-E-Strike for Christmas. She was never an angler herself, but she took me fishing more than a few times when I was younger and almost always put some tackle under the tree in December. She would tell me she just picked what she thought looked good, and believe it or not she made some fine choices.
The bright orange and pink trout worms Mom bought me didn’t look like much. They were just straight pieces of limp soft plastic. I remember the first time I fished them the following spring. I was with my dad, fishing from the bank of Redstone Creek, a tributary to the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. I rigged an orange trout worm on a pink 1/32 ounce jig head, eliciting some odd looks from pops, and then started working it near some drop offs. Within a few minutes, a big largemouth bass emerged from out of nowhere and slammed the worm. After a bit of wrangling I brought the fish to the net. It weighed in at four pounds, a good size fish for the Mon, and at the time one of the biggest bass I had ever caught.
I went on to catch bluegills, pumpkinseeds, crappie, rock bass and smallmouth bass on those same worms. I didn’t use them much for trout, usually preferring fly fishing or hand-tied micro jigs in streams and rivers and lures in still waters.
Years later, I started adding Berkley trout worms to my repertoire. First I would break off a small piece of a white or pink worm and add it to a hackle or marabou micro jig. This often brought more strikes than fishing the jig alone or with maggots. Finally, I started fishing the worms alone on a barbless jighead and that proved to be one of the most effective approaches of all.
On the well-stocked White and Norfork Rivers in Arkansas I caught countless trout on Berkley trout worms every time I fished them. I could literally catch as many of the stocked fish as I wanted, at rates of up to two dozen an hour. Local guides there in the Ozarks often fish a pink trout worm rigged on a small hook near the bottom, dragging it behind a boat that drifts downstream a little faster than the current. This certainly catches fish, but the weight attached to the line to get it down constantly gets covered with the green algae that proliferates throughout the White River system. I found it more productive to fish trout worms rigged on 1/80 or 1/64 ounce gold or nickel plated jig heads under small floats in shallows and near banks and structure. Pink always worked best, but I caught plenty of fish on yellow and chartreuse worms too. A number of fish that refused the pink worms would quickly strike at one of the other colors.
The same under-the-float method works just as well in the small and medium streams of Pennsylvania, where I have used it to catch hundreds of rainbow, brown and brook trout. Wild and experienced holdover fish seem to be just as susceptible to the worms as freshly-stocked trout, but I haven’t caught any giants. Incidental catches of smallmouth bass, bluegills, and especially rock bass have also been high.
Truth be told, the only large fish I have caught with consistency on trout worms have been steelhead in the Great Lakes tributaries. On those waters, a pink worm on a jig head has brought me many hookups, in all kinds of water conditions.
Some purists (whatever that means) like to look down their noses at baits like trout worms, but they’re really no different than any other artificial lure. Why is a fly like a San Juan worm superior to a trout worm? Because it’s made of chenille rather than soft plastic? What nonsense.
The simplicity and subtlety of trout worms allows them to be fished in any number of ways. They have great versatility and appeal to a wide number of species. If catching fish is your goal, it’s a great option to try.