Return of the Ringworm Lure
On Wednesday, April 24, 1996 at 12:00:00 AM UTC-7, Kevin Power wrote:
Return of the Ringworm
I distinctly remember thinking, This is the dumbest looking
plastic worm I've ever seen. It was 1981, and someone had
just handed me a bag of odd-looking worms at a one-day bass
tournament for float tube anglers. They were a dingy purple
color with embedded metal flake. The ringed shape of the
body looked bulky and not very appealing.
I thought about giving them away but instead stuffed a
dozen into a sandwich bag and put them in a pocket in my
float tube. The rest went into a storage box, probably
never to be seen again.
A few days later, however, I was fishing a tiny reed-
encircled pothole lake on the lower Colorado River. The
bite wasn't all that great, and out of boredom, I rigged up
one of the peculiar ribbed worms and picked out into a
pocket in the reeds. It dropped out of sight, and the line
twitched sideways. I set the hook and discovered a fat 3-
pounder had swallowed the worm on the drop.
Thirty minutes -- and four more bass -- later, I was
convinced. These plastic worms with bodies made of rippled
rings definitely worked. It's been nearly 15 years since my
first encounter with the ringworm, and may opinion hasn't
changed -- it has long since become one of my favorites.
It's a favorite of bass, too. Something about that
ribbed body sends a signal that says, "I'm alive and good to
eat." It might be that the ribs around the body feel more
lifelike when a bass mouths the worm, or because the shape
will hold liquid scents longer than a conventional worm
One angler I know reasoned that it was because the
rings trap air, leaving a trail of bubbles as the worm
descends. It's a distinct possibility. I've played with
them in a fish tank, and the rings do trap air bubbles.
What's funny is that this was not the intention of the
lure's original inventor -- he was interested in designing
better baits for catfish, no bass.
"My dad, John Hendricks Sr., was trying to develop a
worm for catfishing with dip baits,' said John Hendricks
Jr., president of Luck "E" Strike U.S.A. in Casville, Mo.
"He basically took the idea from a wood screw to come up
with the idea of rings or ribs around the body to hold the
dip bait. A fellow name Dewey Bain had an idea to put a
curly tail on it, and that because the ringworm."
Luck "E" Strike makes a wide variety of plastic baits,
but several of the company's worms follow the ringworm
design, including the Original Ringworm, Guido Hibdon's
Ringer and the Shaw Gribsby Ring-It multi-tail, ringed grub
body. A number of other companies make similar ringed or
Greg Hines, An Arizona bass pro with back-to-back tournament
victories on giant Lake Mead last fall, thinks vibration is
a major reason for the ringworm's success.
"The ribs and the curly tail attract fish from a long
ways as the lure falls," Hines says. "It's actually a
finesse-type bait -- I've used it in just about every
situation, but I thin it's probably best used as a flipping
worm. I rig it with a 3/16 ounce slip-sinker, a size 2/0
Owner hook and 15 to 20 pound test line. I've caught a ton
of fish using this rig."
Saying the ringworm is a finesse bait probably will
startle some anglers who think of finesse as meaning a
skinny, California-style, straight-tail worm 3 to 4 inches
long. But it's true. The ringworm can be -- and often is -
- fishing on light line.
TO me, the best use of the ringworm is as a drop bait.
i think of it as a flipping or pitching worm, rather than
one I would retrieve across the bottom on a Carolina Rig.
Usually, I drop the ringworm into a likely looking spot and
watch the line as it drops out of sight. If it's going to
be hit, chances are it will happen on the initial drop.
It's also a highly successful swimming bait. The
ribbed body probably creates unusual vibrations as it moves
through the water, and I've had much success fishing
ringworms Texas-rigged outline line. In many of our clear
Western waters, a 4 inch ringworm rigged with a 1/8 or 3/16
ounce sinker on 4 to 6 pound test line is a deadly bait when
bass are active. You can also get good results rigging it
on slider or dart-head jigs. It's not a particularly good
worm to drag or pull across the bottom -- with the exception
of fishing it slowly in timber where you crawl the worm up
through the branches and let it free-fall (a deadly ringworm
technique). I thin the action suffers if the ringworm is
rigged on a heavy worm hook. Light-wire hooks are much more
productive. Recently, Claw's Featherlite hooks in the in-
between 1.5/0 size on a 4 inch ringworm.
In the West, where I live, many anglers don't think of
the ringworm as a successful lure. George Kramer, a long-
time bass angler, said he never considered the ringworm a
first-choice lure for Western waters, but acknowledged he
caught his largest bass on one.
"We were down at Otay Reservoir, near San Diego, in the
winter of '94, fishing a rock-pile," Kramer said. "I had
been fishing the finesse-type, straight- tail worms and
wasn't getting anything. I thought I might try something
with a little more bulk. So, I put on a camo Berkley Power
Ribworm, rigged on a dart- head jig, and got up on top of
the rock-pile and fished it up the steep side.
"The line go a little heavy, and I actually didn't have
to set the hook," Kramer said, "The line jerked down, and
the fish weighed 11 to 12 pounds."
Another successful angler who thinks highly of there
ringworm is Rick Clunn. "I think there ringworm generates
more strikes and bigger fish," said Clunn. "Both U.S. Open
tournament I won in the 1980s were won with ringworms. In
1980, I fished the ringworm as a traditional Texas rig. For
the other win, I was using the ringworm as a trailer lure."
Clunn, who gets the most out of any bass lure, said he
fishes ringworms two primary ways. "I go to ringworm under
very touch conditions. i like to flip a Texas-rigged
ringworm. I sue a lighter, longer rod and flip it on
lighter line. Flipping in heavy cover, I'll peg the
Clunn noted that flipping produces a reaction bite,
rather than a deliberate feeding response from bass in
cover, and said he normally doesn't spend a lot of time in
any one spot. "With ringworms, i keep it here a little
longer, shaking it a bit instead of hopping it, for about 30
seconds or so."
Clunn also likes the ringworm as a light bait for
casting to spawning bass. many bass anglers think tube baits
are the best lure type for bass on nests. Clunn disagrees,
saying he's had a lot of success with the ringworm during
Clunn's other primary ringworm method may surprise most
"Most of the ringworms I use now are added to
spinnerbaits as a trailer," Clunn said. "I don't know if
it's the ribs on the side of the worm or what, but they make
an incredibly effective trailer."
Clunn started using ringworms as trailers by accident.
He was fishing in clear water, using spinnerbaits with clear
skirts and glitter, and wanted a trailer that matched the
transparency of the skirt. Older plastic trailers were
solid colors, as are pork products.
"I had ringworms with some clear sparkle and chartreuse
tails that matched the skirts, so I started suing them,"
Clunn said. "I was fishing for spotted bass a the time, and
spotted bass are notorious for plucking off the trailer. I
noticed that with the ringworm, they started taking the
whole bait. And over the years, I've found the ringworm
generates more strikes rigged that way."
The next time you're searching for something different
to offer bass, think about the ringworm. It's like a
pitcher throwing a change-up to fool a batter. The ringworm
makes them strike.
By Richard Alden Bean
Richard Alden Bean