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When in a slump, go back to the basics

September 21, 2008
Bill Harding

Sometimes, when fishing is slow, it's time to get back to basics. I recently told a friend that the fishing was slow and that I blamed the swarms of minnows in the lake. He was a little disappointed, but went out anyhow and caught fish using special bait: nightcrawlers.

That is what I mean by getting back to basics. The fish don't really have to work hard to get a meal. All they need do is bust into a swarm of minnows and fill up with protein. No wonder they are not interested in the minnow imitating lures we cast and drag around the lake. They wanted dessert.

My friend's success made me remember a book in my library called "Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers" I bought it many years ago and it provided some interesting facts about using nightcrawlers for bait. I wondered if the book was still available so I checked out The book is still on their website with prices ranging from about $5 to one listed at $235! The $235 price does not include shipping and handling. Would anyone like to buy mine at a bargain price of just $200?

Anyhow, the book goes into great detail on how to catch big fish using the nightcrawler method. Not only does the author recommend the rod and reel you should be using, but his advice goes all the way down to the hook. The recommended hooks are the Mustad Aberdeen Bronze No. 3261 and the Eagle Claw Aberdeen No. 214. Can it get any more specific than that? For those who feel you must use a big hook for big fish, the book recommends a No. 6 size.

The idea is to present the nightcrawler as natural as possible. Hence, the lightweight tackle. The method brought back memories of my presenting nightcrawlers using my flyrod. I used no weight and the worm wriggled enticingly as it slowly sank in a natural way. I caught a lot of fish with the method.

The author also conditions his nightcrawlers by placing them under water soaked newspapers before going fishing. His theory is that the worms absorb water and get fat and juicy. When I talk about conditioning my worms Barb always laughs and starts doing jumping jack exercises while calling cadence. Very funny. Hah!

How many of you bunch the worm up on your hook? I'll bet a lot of you do, but this book recommends hooking it lightly through the nose. This lets the worm act even more natural as it falls through the water. Granted, you will lose a lot of nightcrawlers to smaller fish that just bite off the tail and swim away, but we are talking big fish here. If a perch or bluegill makes off with part of your nightcrawler, you are supposed to throw away what is left and add a fresh worm.

Of course I had to give this method a try. This was just before the wind got really bad, but it was blowing hard enough that I decided not to leave the dock. Instead, I rigged up a sensitive rod as the book recommended and fished with the boat tied to the dock. I didn't have time to condition my worms so I just selected the fattest and liveliest. By doing this I also avoided Barb's sarcasm.

With the wind picking up I found I needed a small slip sinker, but I did hook the nightcrawler lightly at the nose and used a small #6 hook. Within a short time my rod doubled over and I was fast to a heavy fish. He fought deep so it took a while before I could identify my opponent. Eventually, I had him close to the boat and Barb used the landing net to hoist a nice 12 pound channel catfish on board. The method evidently worked.

Within a couple of hours I landed another channel catfish of similar size, caught and released a nice bass, and added a couple of big bluegills to my livewell. It had been a long while since I had used the nightcrawler method, but I sure intend to use it more often. It works, but I still cannot see how the book would be worth $235.



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