I’ve been using the wacky rig hooks for a long time, but the last few years have really opened my eyes to its seasonal versatility and effectiveness. What I used to think of as a spring-only technique has quickly become a year-round fish catcher, especially when the fishing gets tough. This is why it’s one of my go-to tools when guiding inexperienced anglers.
If you can avoid the following common blunders when fishing a wacky rig, I’m confident you’ll discover an entirely new dimension to your finesse fishing repertoire.
- Providing excessive action: A wacky-rigged stick worm has an inherent action of its own, so little rod movement is required to maximize the bite count. The most effective way to fish a wacky rig is to pop the slack in your line, similar to how you would fish a drop shot.
- Using your rod tip to detect bites: Bites occur primarily as the wacky rig falls on slack line, so relying on your rod for bite detection will cause you to miss a lot of quality bites. Become a line-watcher at all times and keep your index finger in constant contact with your line.
- Excessive soak time: While wacky rig hooks are intended to be fished slowly, this does not always imply that each cast should last two or three minutes. The majority of bites occur on the initial fall, so aim for action within 15 seconds of flipping your bail over.
- Ignoring the seasons: Wacky rigs are versatile and can be used throughout the year. In colder water, a slower presentation is recommended. In warmer water, a more aggressive presentation can be used.
- Neglecting to rig correctly: Proper rigging is essential to ensure the bait falls naturally and has the right action. When rigging, avoid using hooks that are too large, always rig in the center, and don’t overstretch the O-ring.
Wacky Rig Hooks Mistakes
No. 1: Providing excessive action
This is at the top of the list because I see it all the time. It’s critical to understand that a wacky-rigged stick worm has an inherent action of its own; very little rod movement is required to maximize your bite count.
When sight fishing shallow-water bass, I’ve spent countless hours experimenting with the wacky rig. They’re not on beds, but rather in the upper part of the water column. I’ve discovered that almost every bite occurs when the bait is falling on a slackline. When I move the bait too quickly, the bass swims in the opposite direction.
In my opinion, the most effective way to fish a wacky rig hook is to pop the slack in your line, similar to how you would fish a drop shot. You’re not attempting to make your worm dance because it already does so whether you realize it or not. When you feel the weight of your hook and worm, stop what you’re doing and let it fall on a slack line.
This method takes advantage of the unique, undulating action that wacky rig hooks are known for. Essentially, you’re only raising that wacky rig in the water column to let it fall on the slack line again, because that’s when the majority of your bites will occur.
No. 2: Using your rod tip to detect bites
While it may work in some situations, relying on your rod for bite detection will cause you to miss a lot of quality bites. That may seem strange to some, but bear with me.
Because your bites will occur primarily as the wacky rig hooks fall on a slack line, you won’t feel the majority of them. If you rely on the fish to move your rod tip, the fish may have your bait in its mouth for several seconds before you can set the hook. This has two consequences, neither of which is desirable: The fish will either wrap your line around nearby cover or, worse, swallow your hook.
To avoid both of these scenarios, become a line-watcher at all times; don’t zone out or become distracted. Wacky rig bites are frequently distinguished by a sudden line jump or lateral movement in your slack line. In my experience, quick jumps indicate smaller bass, whereas straightening out and sideways movement of your line indicates big bass.
I mostly fish my wacky rig hooks with a 7-foot, medium-action spinning rod, and I always keep my index finger in constant contact with my line. I notice small “ticks” and “bumps” much faster this way, rather than waiting for the bite to affect my rod tip.
No. 3: Excessive soak time
While wacky rig hooks are intended to be fished slowly, this does not always imply that each cast should last two or three minutes. I like to catch them slowly but quickly. That’s exactly what I mean.
According to my research, the majority of my bites occur not only on the fall (as we previously discussed), but also on the initial fall. So, if a bass is going to eat it after the cast, I expect action within about 15 seconds of flipping my bail over. It’s a goal-oriented approach that allows you to quickly hit the highest-percentage spots.
I could spend four or five minutes on each cover, making repeated casts, but I’d rather play the numbers game and stack the deck in my favor. I’ll run down the bank, duck under a few dock corners, shake it a few times, let it fall, and if nothing happens, I’ll move on to the next target.
To say the least, the drawing power of a wacky-rigged stick worm is impressive. On the initial fall, I regularly see bass swim three or four feet to attack the bait. Make a bunch of casts at it if you’re in a great-looking spot or sight-fishing a big bass. However, it’s easy to inadvertently waste a lot of time when probing the shallows with this rig, so keep time and efficiency in mind at all times.
No. 4: You’re “making do” with your hook.
People believe that because of my job, I have a large tackle collection in my boat. But that couldn’t be further from the truth; I value simplicity. If I can use a single hook for multiple purposes, I’m all for it. But, after some hard lessons, I strongly advise—like, really strongly advise—getting some legitimate hooks designed specifically for wacky rig hooks fishing.
I’ve had a lot of trouble finding wacky rig hooks that work for me. There are a lot of them out there, and I’ve tried almost all of them, but I was losing far too many good basses. To be honest, it was vexing. I’m not a fan of the small, circle-style hooks you’ll see a lot because the bend is too small to fit around the jawbone of a bass weighing more than 4 pounds.
In my articles, I rarely, if ever, use the word “perfect,” but I do believe that a No. 2 VMC Neko Hook is the ideal wacky rig hook. That isn’t some illogical, thinly veiled sales pitch, either. I haven’t lost a fish since I started using these wacky rig hooks. That little 3-degree offset seems to hook nearly every bass that bites, regardless of how the hook is set.
Take it for what it’s worth, but skimping on your wacky rig hook will eventually bite you. It has happened to me several times before.
No. 5: Being concerned about colors
We’ve all got that fishing buddy who brings a dozen different colors of the same worm. When I was younger, I was that guy. But, man, I’m being completely honest when I say this: Go fishing. I’m not going to catch bass if she won’t bite green pumpkin, watermelon red, or Junebug.
I’m not a scientist, but I’ve experimented with a variety of colors on my wacky rigs and I can’t think of one that outperforms another as long as the conditions are right. My basic color scheme is straightforward:
When fishing clear or lightly stained water under sunny skies, I use watermelon red. Sunfish have a little red on them, and the flake adds some extra flash when the sun shines.
When fishing in clear or lightly stained water under cloudy skies, I use green pumpkins. I believe it creates a more visible silhouette, which allows the bass to get a better grip on it.
When I’m fishing in dirty water, I use Junebug or some type of black/blue (whatever I can get my hands on first). When it’s sunny, I might go for a little flake.
That’s as complicated as I can make it. I’m not claiming to be a wacky-rig expert, but I’m just trying to clear things up for other anglers. If you’re constantly worried about your color and whether you’re throwing the right thing, your entire mindset is ruined, and your technique—which is far more important—becomes sloppy. Stick to three or four colors and have fun with it. I’m confident you’ll catch a lot of bass.
Read our recent article on Best Casting Rods for Bass.