Bass fishing took a big step forward shortly after the end of World War II. As the stories go, Ohio bass anglers Dave DeLong and Nick Creme independently worked out ways to make soft plastic worms for bass fishing. DeLong reportedly poured his first worm in 1946, Creme in 1949. These early editions were slow to catch on, as anglers favored plugs, spinners, and spoons. But as soon as folks tried the imitation nightcrawlers, they caught bass.
The worm boom took off in the 1960s as production of Fliptail Worms, Mann’s Jelly Worms, and other designs tracked the meteoric rise in bass fishing popularity that lasted into the late 1980s. The anonymous genius who invented the “Texas Rig” deserves much credit for this popularity. This simple rigging twist allowed baits to be dragged through dense cover without snagging, making the worm a bass fishing essential.
The coming of lizards, craw-worms, and tubes, then soft stickbaits like the Slug-Go, and finally the Senko genre, largely relegated worms to the garage or attic toward the turn of the 21st century. But as happens so often in the fishing lure industry, what’s old becomes new.
Over the last year or two, open-minded anglers have found that worms indeed have a special allure that’s not been jaded by time or overshadowed by more modern shapes. Or perhaps we’re encountering generations of bass that haven’t been exposed to worms the way fish were in the past.
Many of the recent applications are so simple and unchanged from the ways of the early ’70s that it seems strange for this 30-year veteran of the bass wars to report them. As one lure maker recently told me, “Developing new worm designs is a lot like reinventing the wheel.”