Whatʼs the best style, size, and color of a catfish dipworm to use with dipbait? According to dipbait manufacturers and veteran anglers who use dipbait, the answer is: never more than 1 inch in length, but never less than 4 inches. The ribs on a dipworm should always be deep, except when theyʼre shallow. The color of a dipworm makes absolutely no difference, unless it makes a difference.
Confused? Don’t feel bad. Finding the best delivery system for the latest generation of dipbaits depends on a variety of factors and angler preferences. Here are some of the variables to consider.
Ribbed vs. Surgical
Tubing vs. Sponge
“A dipbait worm needs to match the viscosity of the dipbait you’re using,” says John Prochnow, product innovation manager for Berkley. “If you have a thin, runny dipbait that dissolves easily in water, you need either a sponge worm or a tube worm. If the dipbait is thicker and more sticky, you need a ribbed worm that will shed the bait easily.”
Depth of ribs on ribbed dipworms isn’t as significant as the type and condition of “rubber” that the worms are made of. Ribbed dipworms actually are made of PVC plastic, with plasticizers added to keep the worms supple and rubbery. Tube-type dipworms are made of a different type of plastic, but both types of worms often have shiny oily-appearing surfaces.
Those shiny chemicals on the surface of a worm can make it difficult for dipbait to adhere. Prochnow recommends washing “shiny” dipworms in a bath of warm water and a little dish soap. Rinse them in clean water to remove any traces of soap. In the field, he suggests blotting worms dry with a paper towel or cloth to remove any water and improve dipbait adhesion when dipworms are poked into bait tubs.
Many dipbait manufacturers dislike foam dipworms because the sponge rubber tends to soak up water and releases dipbait too rapidly. Wayne Scheffsky, owner of W-D-3 Baits in Geneseo, Illinois, agrees that foam dipbait worms must be selected carefully.
“I make my dipworms from a special type of rubberized silicone sponge with fibers embedded in it,” Scheffsky says. “I prefer that sponge material because it lets my dipworms float even after they’ve been loaded with dipbait. I want my bait floating right at eye level when catfish come cruising by, looking for the source of the scent and flavor particles released by the bait.”
Length of dipworms is another source of discussion for dipbait manufacturers and users. “Some guys cut my worms in half because they want short worms, and others string two worms together because they want the longest worm possible,” says Bob Hosch, owner of Doc’s Catfish Baits (319/346-2184).
Everybody agrees that longer worms hold more dipbait, which puts more flavor in the water per cast. And everybody agrees that more flavor attracts more catfish. The argument comes from the way catfish bite dipworms of various lengths. Buddy and Eileen Holub, owners of Catfish Charlie Bait Company ((641) 673-7229), prefer a 11⁄2- to 13⁄4-inch dipworm so a catfish can swallow it in one gulp. “If the worm is too big, cats will pick it up by one end and carry it before they swallow it,” Eileen says. “They seem to pick up and gulp shorter worms in one bite, so they’re easier to hook.”
Rick Gebhardt of Glasgow, Missouri, chases catfish for up to 100 days each year on the Missouri River. He agrees that length of dipworms affects how catfish bite, but he swears that longer worms yield better hookups. “Cats tend to take dipworms in a big gulp,” he says. “That means a longer worm puts the hook farther into their mouth when they take it. I’ve noticed that the longer the worm, the deeper in the throat they tend to be hooked.”
Color Catches Catfish
Gebhardt also swears that the color of a dipworm makes a difference. He began using dipworms 30 years ago, when Devil Worms first hit the market. “Every package had two colors of worms, red and black,” he recalled. “The black worms always outfished the red worms nine to one. It got to the point that when we got a package of those worms, we’d throw the red worms away.”
Gebhardt still favors dark dipworms in most situations, but notes that comparatively clear water conditions in the Missouri River last summer allowed white dipworms to outfish darker colors. “The fish were feeding on shad, and I think when the water is clear the fish learn to associate the color white with shad,” he says. “I’ve also done well with chartreuse, and I’ve noticed in catfish tournaments that orange dipworms work better on cloudy days, for some reason I haven’t figured out yet.”
Mark Mikalakis, President of Cat Tracker Bait Company, isn’t picky about what color dipworm he uses when he catfishes (and he catfishes frequently under the guise of “researching” new baits), but offers dipworms to customers in a variety of colors because anglers like Gebhardt believe that color counts.
“If a dipbait is working like it should, about 20 percent of the bait washes off the dipworm before it reaches the bottom,” Mikalakis says. “That’s good, because it means that a lot of flavor is dissolved into the water to attract fish. But it also means that some of the dipworm is exposed, so color could become a factor.”
Short versus long. Ribbed versus sponge. Dark versus light. It seems like modern dipbaits catch catfish no matter what configuration, color, or delivery system is used. The difference is what each angler believes works best—confidence remains a key factor for consistent fishing.
- Nightcrawlers remain a great bait for all cats, sometimes unequaled for channel cats. Even the biggest cats can’t resist worms. Drift ’em, float ’em, or bottom rig ’em. A ball of about six crawlers on a 3/0 hook is a fine bait for flatheads early in the season. The aroma and wriggling action seem to attract the big cats. In Kansas reservoirs, catmen dabble treble hooks adorned with several juicy crawlers for spawning flatheads, targeting undercuts and rock crevices along riprap walls where cats have holed up. Catalpa worms are a highly regarded bait in parts of the South, where they’re common. These meaty green worms apparently become a focus for many fish species, where they feed on lakeside trees and tumble into the water. Freeze them for future use. The worm’s flavor is said to be so irresistible that the essence of catalpa or crushed worms is added to some commercial pastebaits.