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America’s Best Soft Plastic Bass Fishing Baits

Day 5: Professional Bass Fisherman Ken Cook on When to Fish a Worm, When to Fish a Lizard and When to Set the Hook on Bass

Editor’s Note: Even beginners who never have fished before can catch bass on soft plastics. Tournament bass fishermen who strike out will bet the farm on their abilities to get bites on soft- plastic baits. In weather too hot or too cold or water too deep or too shallow for fishing other lures, you can bet on having bass fishing success with soft plastics. Let’s take a look at some of the phenomenal features of soft-plastic lures, America’s best bass baits.

Click for Larger ViewKen Cook, four-time winner of the B.A.S.S. Megabucks tournament as well as the 1991 Bassmaster Classic, mentions that many anglers argue about when to fish a plastic worm and when to fish a plastic lizard. “My main factor in deciding to use a plastic worm usually is whether I believe bass are keying in on fish as their main source of food. If I think the bass are preying primarily on fish, then I’ll use a plastic worm like a 7-inch Berkley PowerBait Worm or a Flipping Worm. Those swimming baits have tails that mimic the action and the sounds of baitfish as they move through the water. But bass will bite a soft-plastic Power Lizard all year long.

Click for Larger View“I don’t necessarily think the fish like the lizard because it looks like a baby alligator, a salamander or a lizard. I’m convinced bass bite a lizard, because it has a lot of action and wiggle with its legs and curly tail. It’s visually appealing to the fish, since it’s got action and a big bulky body. It also is a good size and shape for bass to eat. I prefer to use the plastic lizard more in the spring up into the summer. Then I’ll change over to plastic worms in the fall. Sometimes I’ll use the lizard in the fall, particularly with a Carolina rig. I’ll fish a plastic lizard when the bass are feeding on the bottom when I’m using a Carolina rig. With a Carolina rig, this soft-plastic bait sort of slides along the bottom. The lizard is ideal for that because its appendages will wiggle and give a lot of action. The lizard really shines with the Carolina rig in the summer and in the fall because of the horizontal movement of the bait.”

When to Set the Hook:

Click for Larger ViewAnglers have many different opinions on when to set their hooks on plastic worms or plastic lizards. The best time to set the hook is when there’s a bass at the end. A bass normally will bite the bait when you hop the bait on the bottom, or when the bait falls initially, especially if you’re fishing a Texas rig. When the fish does that, it nearly always attacks the bulky part of a soft-plastic bait. It will get the head of the bait near the hook, and the bass will vacuum the bait into its mouth as the bait falls on a slack or a semi-slack line.

Therefore, when you’re fishing a Texas rig, and the bass bites your lure on the fall, immediately set the hook. Drop the rod a foot or two, and then set the slack line against the fish. That way you get movement of the hook, which is crucial to getting the hook set. With a Carolina rig, when you don’t have good sensitivity of a horizontal-moving bait, many times you won’t know when the bass bites. The line will get heavy or spongy. Sometimes you’ll feel a thump and then the wiggle, but a lot of times you’ll just feel weight. If that happens, make sure you don’t have a tuft of grass or something instead of a fish.

Click for Larger View“I’ve found a bass on your hook won’t let go if you’re fishing a soft-plastic Berkley PowerBait,” Cook says. “One of the beautiful things about Power Baits is that a bass won’t let go of a Power Lizard on a Carolina rig. The bass even will swallow a Power Lizard if you’re not careful. When fishing a dropping soft-plastic bait, drop your rod tip, and set the hook as soon as you feel the bass. But when you drag your soft-plastic bait across the bottom, give the bass a little more time to make sure the fish is there, and then set the hook. Sweep-set the hook to the side with a Carolina rig because many times the fish will come toward you and give you extra slack.
I like to use my long, medium-heavy rod from Berkley to take up all that slack line and set the hook. Because the bass may be far away and in deep water, having a long rod is important. I also like Berkley’s Vanish fluorocarbon fishing line as a leader. It’s low-stretch and invisible to the fish, which means you’ll get more bites with Vanish. Fish with a monofilament line like Berkley’s Big Game Line as your main line on the Carolina rig. Use FireLine if you’re fishing a Texas-rigged worm or a Carolina-rigged worm in grass, since FireLine has no stretch, which gives the line a lot of sensitivity.”

To learn more about bass fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and some print books, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” “How to Win a Bass Tournament,” “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake: 18 Pro Fishermen’s Best Tactics, “Hot Weather Bass Tactics” and “How to Become A Tournament Bass Fisherman,” or go to, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.


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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Check back each day this week for more about How to Produce a Grand Nite Champion Coon Dog"

Day 1: Using the Carolina-Rigged Plastic Worm or Lizard for Catching Bass
Day 2: Tubes with Denny Brauer and the 6-inch Plastic Swimming Worm with Woo Daves for Catching Bass
Day 3: Taking Bass Down and Deep with Larry Nixon with Soft Plastics
Day 4: Ken Cook on Using Soft Plastics with Scent and Taste Attractants to Catch Bass
Day 5: Professional Bass Fisherman Ken Cook on When to Fish a Worm, When to Fish a Lizard and When to Set the Hook on Bass

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Entry 817, Day 5