Over the past several decades, bass fishing has evolved to levels that none of us could have ever imagined. The multitude of tournament circuits, the numbers of huge fish caught and released and the depths of angling knowledge have far surpassed anything my feeble little brain could have imagined. But through it all, some very simple lure concepts have withstood the test of time and remain at the forefront of the angling community.
For 15 years the concept of "stick worms" have remained in every bass mans arsenal. They are simply that ... straight, dense plastic worms that are blunt at the head of the worm and tapered at the other end.
They range from smallish three-inch models to some that are 8-to-10 inches long. They can be fished wacky-style, with the hook through the middle, or in-line with or without weight. They can also be used for drop-shotting, making them one of the most versatile baits around.
Many companies make stick worms, including some big-time, big-name lure companies that have been a standard for the industry for a long time. There are many, many colors and styles.
But for my money, and the best stick worms I have ever used, are those made by Travis Crosman, from Portage, Mich., owner and operator of Stank X Bait Company.
Believe me, I have used them all, including the "head-liners" from the big box outfits. None compare to the effectiveness and pure catchabilty of his lures.
Crosman calls his lures the Stix, and they come in 4.25- and 5.25-inch models. Colors can be customized to your preference.
Besides the Stix, the Stank X Bait Company also makes a wide variety of surface frogs, plastic creature baits and larger plastic worms and crawfish trailers.
He also infuses his plastics with a fish formula called CB's Hawg Sauce ... and this may be one of the reasons these lures are so effective. Even in waters that bass are used to seeing the stick worm gig, the Stix seem to out produce the rest of the pack.
Let me point out that I am not a sales rep or am I sponsored by anyone other than my own wallet. It's just that when I find a good, American-made product that is produced by the little guy, I tend to promote it ... if it is a quality product. And these baits are indeed that. I have given them a pretty good test run on some pressured water the past two years and they have shined when others faltered.
Last season, I landed 10 largemouths on the 4.25-inch Stix in Bluegilla color that went from five to just under six pounds, and another 30 or more that exceeded three pounds. Arguments might be made that I fish a lot of private venues, where the bass are "dumb" and easy to catch. But previous trips on these same waters proved to me that the Stank X Stix far outfished the ever-popular "yama-mommas" and the "humdingers" at least 2 to 1, and the "big-fish" count wasn't even close.
On a recent trip my son Matthew and I totaled 44 bass in a furious, 2-hour stint at a local pond in the rain and chill of an oncoming front.
Water temperature was at 60, and the overcast and wind kept shallow, pre-spawn fish from being spooked as we caught fish as shallow as in one foot of water.
However, most of the larger fish were cruising the shallow flat portion of the lake in preparation of the upcoming spawn. Depending on the weather and exactly where you are, there are likely bedding fish as we speak, in many of our local waters.
For this light-tackle, catch and release sport, we employed 6 foot spinning sticks and small reels spooled with either 6 or 8 pound Sufix Clear monofilament.
Our hooks were 1/0 and 2/0 Owner offset worm hooks and we simply hooked the Stix right in the middle, wacky-style, with the hook exposed. Nothing fancy ... cast out, twitch the bait a few times, let it fall, twitch again.
Most strikes were light taps, and we would set the hook quickly once we felt the bass move off a few feet. Matt actually had a carreer day, landing a total of 35 bass! Our previous best on this water had been 16 bass for a days work. And we have used the stick worms over the years, but nothing as effective as this. To top it off, Matt also got the fish of the day at 22 inches and well over five pounds. I swear, I will never take that kid fishing again!
Quality baits for quality catches. Check them out on the web at stankxbaitco.com or call 269-267-0210 for the full story. These are indeed weapons of bass destruction.
Jim Gronaw is a Times outdoors writer. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or