Worms, in general, are some of the most used live bait for fishing worldwide. They’re the classic fishing bait, and some of the best baits for most fish, great for both freshwater and saltwater. Nightcrawlers or red wigglers are the most common and widely available earthworms. However, leeches, bloodworms, beachworms, or other annelids are also pretty high on the list for most anglers, when it comes to fishing bait.
In this post, we’re going to cover some of the most important aspects of baiting a fishing hook with worms of all kinds. It’s also important to add here that the post refers only to annelid worms and not to insect larvae, like maggots, mealworms, or wax worms. We’ll also cover these in a different post.
What Hooks To Use For Worms?
When it comes to hooking worms, first of all, it’s always a good idea to use bait hooks (or bait holder hooks). These are the ones with a longer shank and 1-2 barbs on the shank. On hooks like these, you can be sure that at least a part of the worm will sit on the hook’s shank covering it properly. However, Aberdeen-type hooks, octopus hooks, and sickle hooks also work. Of course, worm hooks also work, but these are typically made for use with soft plastics, like curly-tailed worms.
The thickness of the hook is also pretty important. For example, if you’re going to use small worms like red wigglers, it’s best to use hooks made of a thin wire. These will do less damage to the worm, it’ll live longer on the hook, and of course, the hooking task will be easier.
Conversely, if you’re using larger worms like nightcrawlers (and probably targeting larger fish), thicker and larger hooks are pretty much necessary.
How To Hook Earthworms
Earthworms (i.e. nightcrawlers or red wigglers) can be hooked in different ways, depending on the fish you’re targeting.
If, for example, you’re targeting fish with a large mouth, that usually gulp or (or as they say “inhale”) the whole bait, it’s best to allow more of the worm to hang freely off the hook. So, hooking and threading about 1/3 or even 1/4 of the worm, and allowing the rest to move freely can work better. Also, keep in mind that predatory fish typically (but not exclusively) grab their prey by the head as they can swallow it better this way. Of course, if after multiple strikes you end up with no fish and just a piece of worm left on the hook, you probably need a different presentation.
Conversely, if you’re targeting fish with smaller mouths like bluegill, fish that tend to nibble the bait, it’s best to thread most of the worm. That’s because nibbling fish tend to grab on whatever’s hanging from the hook, rip that loose end off, and leave only a small piece on the hook.
If you only have small worms but you would like to present a bigger bait, you can always ball one of the worms on the shank, leaving only a bit of it hanging, then add a second one on the bend and leave a longer section free.
Especially in cold water (on ice), on muddy water, or when fish are really shy on the bite, cutting the worm in half, or pinching one of its ends can work wonders. This allows the juices of the worm to ooze into to water and serve as an attractant. Plus, if the prey is already in pieces, the fish doesn’t need to use any extra energy to eat it (in winter when water is cold, this can matter a lot). So, in this case, you can either hook two pieces of worm, and leave two ends hanging from the hook, or thread 1/3 from the worm, and pinch its tail off.
How To Hook Leeches
Many anglers don’t like using leeches as bait simply because they’re parasitic worms which is not exactly appealing. However, these annelid worms can make an outstanding bait for walleye, catfish, pike, bass, and other predators due to several reasons.
First of all, unlike earthworms, leeches have a really tough and stretchy skin, which makes them difficult to steal from the hook. Second of all, they’re aquatic worms, and they’re very often found in the same environment where your targeted fish live. And third of all, they live much longer when hooked.
So, how to hook a leech?
The “standard” way to hook a leech is rather specific. First, you’ll have to pass the hook through its sucker (the thin end), then hook it once more through its midsection. This will allow most of its “fatter” end to dangle and move more in the water, leading to an optimal presentation.
You can also “nose-hook” a leech. In other words, just pass the hook through its sucker and leave the whole body free. However, this way a smaller fish can steal it easier from the hook.
How To Hook Bloodworms
The best way to hook a bloodworm is to start from its head and thread a fairly decent portion from it on the line, past the hook. Then loop the mid-section of its body and thread the rest of it on the hook, leaving the bend of the hook out.
It’s important to handle bloodworms with care, though. They’re equipped with four jaws connected to small venom glands which make their bike fairly painful. So, always hold them by the head (the thicker portion), and always pay attention to how they turn their mouth to avoid getting bitten. But once you’ve gotten used to it, they’re not much different from earthworms.
How To Hook Sandworms (or Lugworms)
Similar to bloodworms, sandworms are marine annelids. However, they have a slightly different bodily structure. First of all, only about 1/4 of the sandworm is “durable”. This is the part around its head. The rest is rather flimsy.
Thus, it’s best to thread the part with the head on the hook and leave the rest dangling in the current. Some anglers even hook 2-3 on one hook, just through their head part, leaving their tails hanging and moving in the water. This makes for quite an appealing bait.
How To Hook Beachworms
Beachworms are annelids from the Australonuphis genus. As the term suggests, they’re found on the beaches of Australia. Unlike the American or European sandworms (or lugworms), these can grow much longer, up to a whopping 5 ft. (1.5 m).
Most anglers don’t use more than 1 ft. (30 cm) of worm on one hook. The hooking process is nothing too much out of the ordinary. It’s similar to hooking a bloodworm. You simply need to thread the worm on the hook with the top portion threaded past the eye of the hook and going up the line. Then for the bottom part, you can either pull the point of the hook through the side of the worm leaving a few inches hanging or keep the whole hook hidden without any portion hanging.