Kevin VanDam epitomizes run and gun. He likes it, he's good (great) at it, and compared to him most anglers look like they're fishing in a slower dimension – all of which makes him an ideal person to talk about fishing a plastic worm.

"I fish a lot of worms," he said. "I don't enjoy it – for me, it's tough – but I'm also not an idiot. In the summer months, especially a month or so after the spawn, it's hard to beat a plastic worm."

During that time "the fish really seem to prefer a bait that has a gliding or swimming action. Longer, skinnier worms seem to get more bites than a jig. You can use craw-worms or lizards or something, but a straight-tail or ribbon-tail worm is hard to beat.

"The strange thing for me was that I probably used a Texas-rig more this year than in the last maybe 10-12 years," he added. "A lot of the guys this year were casting a Texas-rig worm or lizard. They really got back to fundamentals. That was partly because it was tough, but a lot was because of the time zone when we hit the lakes.

"If you hit the spawn and you're not sight-fishing, casting a Texas-rigged worm, lizard or creature bait is deadly," he said. "And when the fish are moving into summer patterns, plastic worms really dominate."

Another reason plastic worms figured so much this year was that "we fished a lot of places in higher water. That's when a Texas-rigged worm is going to be especially strong, and you can fish it anywhere."

Fast, Then Slow

VanDam rarely if ever starts out fishing a worm. "What I do is try to fish fast and cover water," he said. "I'm trying to find an area that has a concentration of fish before I slow down."

At the recent Wheeler FLW he fished the Decatur Flats, which had "tons of grass, and ledges with grass, drops, stumps and things on them. I'd fish a big stretch and catch a fish or two, and then I'd catch two or three in a row out of a spot. When that happened I'd look at the area really closely, to try to find an irregularity. That's usually what (held those fish)."

If he saw anything right away, it was "an area where (the structure) jutted out, or the grass was thicker or thinner." Regardless of what he saw, he'd "kick a buoy out and work the area more thoroughly with a plastic worm. I'd fish around and watch the sonar to see if there was something different about it, and time and time again I found something. You didn't know all the time, but sometimes you'd feel shells or stumps, or sometimes the grass was thicker there."

He'd GPS the spots, and "go back and catch them there again. In areas like that it's hard to beat a plastic worm, especially with the water clarity we had (about 1 1/2 feet).

"I have to get that confidence that there's something special about that spot or area before I slow down and really work that worm," he said. "I don't give it a long time – 10-15 minutes tops in a little area. To me that's quite a long time. But when you're worm fishing, it really isn't. It's not that many casts.

"You just can't go out there and pull up on a mile-long grassline and start casting a worm on it," he noted. "You'll get halfway down and your day is done. So you really have to figure out a way to narrow down the higher-percentage zones. If I'm throwing a worm, you can bet I have high level of confidence in where I'm fishing."


> "One thing I've learned about a worm is to fish it through different levels of the water column or cover. At Wheeler, for example, the grass beds were a lot taller this year (about 5 feet). I'd fish the worm from the top of the grass all the way down into the holes. At Kentucky Lake I was swimming a worm through the cover and letting it fall down through the buckbrush and willows. It has that enticing action (when it falls), and there aren't many other lures you can do that with."

> "It really seems that in clear or stained water that the smaller profile of the worm gets bit more often than the bigger profile of a jig. I've just really re-learned this year the power of the Texas-rigged worm, what a deadly bait it is. You can use other lures at times, but when things get tough, the fish will bite a worm when they turn their noses up at jigs and other baits."

> "I've learned about worm fishing from the very best worm fisherman there is, Larry Nixon, and I'm still learning from him. I've been lucky over the years to be a good friend and Larry's been open at tournaments. When there's a good worm bite going on, I'm picking his brain even if he's not (fishing a worm). He always gives me a recommendation, and it's usually pretty much right on the money. I ask him things and he knows – this color, this action, how you fish it. The majority of what I know about Texas-rig worm fishing I learned from him."