October 26, 2023
Just when you thought everything that could be done with a plastic worm had been done—from wacky rigging to Neko rigging to shaky-head fishing and old school Carolina Rigging, this unique take on the time-proven Texas Rig can be doggone deadly.
Nobody’s quite sure who pioneered the Speed Worming technique, but most agree it originated with Florida bass anglers, the most notable being veteran bass pro and longtime TV host, Scott Martin, who passed along the fish-catching tactic to aspiring young guide, Captain Chuck Pippin Jr. sometime in the late 1990s. And Pippin wasn’t alone – many in-the-know southeastern bass anglers started adding the technique to their repertoire, especially guides whose job it is to put clients on fish each and every day.
“I was attending the University of Central Florida back in the late-‘90s, and I was good friends with Scott Martin, and I’d fish weekends with him on Lake Okeechobee. We’d go back into Moonshine Bay and he’d take a Zoom paddletail worm, cut the tail into a fork, and we’d cast ‘em out and reel ‘em in. We caught loads of fish.”
Following Martin’s lead, Pippin says he spent “countless hours” testing the technique all over Florida, especially burning baits through shallow, emergent and shoreline grass on the Kissimmee Chain o’ Lakes. In the process, Captain Chuck Pippin Jr. put thousands of bass over his glittered gunnel.
When To Fish A Speed Worm
“Seems like the best time to speed worm are from mid-fall through late spring—basically right now,” said Pippin.
“When the inside hydrilla is at its lowest and there’s a little more open water, it can be really good. What’s when I’ll use the Floating Thumper to burn the surface, occasionally stopping the retrieve on a pause. Just imagine having a weedless Whopper Plopper you could whip way back into the grass. That’s what these worms do,” he said.
Along those lines, what’s great about Speed Worming is it’s a simple tactic to learn and fish—everyone from kids to newbies to pros can work the worm right and cover lots of water fast.
Pippin & Partner Improve the Speed Worm
The problem, recalled Pippin, was that those first scissors-doctored worm-tails would eventually rip off reeling ‘em through the grass.
“What we ended up doing was cutting a slant in the tails and then punching a hole in the tail with a hole punch. This gave the worm more of a rounded finish to the cut. That was the birth of the Speed Worming thumper tail. The technique was basically rigging a small weight above the modified, Texas-rigged worm, and we’d burn ‘em over the water surface like a spinnerbait, buzzbait, or topwater.”
Pippin remembers his first experience taking the Speed Worming technique into a tournament.
“I was fishing a Red Man BSL tourney, and a buddy of mine had a smaller, speed worm-modified Zoom worm and was reeling it underwater—not on top—just like you’d work a spinnerbait. Again, the problem was the tails were casting off. It’s one thing to lose a tail catching a fish, but the modified tails were falling off mid-air.”
“So, my partner and I set out to design an updated version of the worm with a more aggressive wobble to the tail; something that would stay intact. We wanted to create something more durable and a worm that would have a couple more applications other than Speed Worming.”
The problem Pippin and his partner soon discovered was designing a worm that would not only perform reeled just below the surface, but on top, too, on just a steady retrieve.
“We found out pretty quick that if the worm’s made out of traditional plastic, anytime you stop reeling it’s going to sink. So, we got hold of a floating plastic that’s super durable and we ended up with two versions: a standard, sinking model and a floating version that would reel through the grass just like a topwater.”
With regards to the latter, an angler can actually stop the floating worm and let it rest in holes in the grass, often times where anglers get bit on Florida bass waters.
“You can kind of chug it through the grass, burn it over the grass, and stop it anywhere you want. It’s also super durable—what we call PMR—that will also stretch out to triple its size without breaking. The only way you can rip the thumper tail is by cutting it.”
CPF Lures Thumper Pro
Most anglers have gravitated to the CPF Lures 7-inch Thumper Pro for Texas Rig and Carolina Rig fishing, which also allows slow-rolling underwater. The Thumper Pro is made out of a strong, non-buoyant plastic that’s still very durable. The worm design started with guide Chuck Pippin drawing a bait and tail shape on a piece of paper while fishing from the bow of his boat.
“I was out on the lake testing the Thumper Pro, and I was on the phone with my partner, Jason. He's like, ‘How's the tail performing?’ I said, “Man, you can really feel that tail thump aggressively through the rod tip. Jason asked, ‘What do you think we should call this thing?’ and I answered ‘Thumper’ because that’s exactly what it does—in a big way.”
Pro Thumper Rigging
The most popular technique for fishing a Thumper is putting a small bullet weight on and fishing the worm Texas-rigged.
“I’ve caught fish on this rig all year long but I’m not doing the fall-lift retrieve; I slow-roll it, kind of like how you’d work a spinnerbait just underneath the surface. This works great on eel grass flats, hydrilla flats, pepper grass flats, and at just about any depth you can imagine.”
Pippin also uses the 7-inch Pro Thumper on a regular Texas Rig with a heavier weight during Florida’s hot months of July and August around brush piles, where bass seem to prefer the thumping tail over a regular ribbon or trick worm design.
If you’re like me, you want even more info to get the rigging just right. Here’s a great video that gets into the nitty gritty of how to rig a Speed Worm Captain Pippin-style.
Generally, with Speed Worming, you want to fish without a weight or with as little weight as possible.
“If there’s little wind, I'll use an 1/8-ounce tungsten bullet weight with a bobber stopper pushed right up to the worm to keep it pegged,” he said. “But I will use anything from a 1/16- to 1/4-ounce depending on wind and depth. You don’t want much. If it’s super windy, I will step up to a 1/4-ounce tungsten bullet weight for better casting.”
For slow rolling in heavy vegetation, Pippin likes the 7-inch Floating Thumper.
“A 1/4-ounce weight will sink the Floating Thumper, which is good to work the mid-depths sometimes without hitting bottom. Typically, though, I’m using the Floating Thumper like a topwater bait to float up and above the fish high and dry and create surface strikes in heavy cover—but sometimes over open water, too.”
Given the size of Florida-strain largemouth bass, Pippin likes fishing big worms.
“But you don’t want to use a really heavy-wire hook because the PMR plastic is super durable,” he said. “I’ll use an extra wide gap (EWG), 5/0 offset light-wire hook. That makes it easier for the whole rig to travel through the salad easier and hooksets are better.”
In terms of line choice, Pippin throws CPF Thumpers on 30- to 45-pound braid—specifically, his own brand called NINEX, a non-fade, black braid that floats, making it especially effective with the technique.
“I’ll throw 30-pound for longer casts but step up to 45-pound in thicker vegetation and where I know I might have to winch out really big Florida bass.”
However, if Pippin visits a lake, reservoir, or river where the water is especially clear, he’ll throw his Thumper Worms on 15-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon.
As far as baitcaster gear ratios are concerned, Pippin is a big fan of mid-range speed reels, like 13 Fishing baitcasters around 7.3:1, typically paired with a 7-foot, 4-inch heavy power baitcasting rod.
Does Speed Worming Work Outside Florida?
According to Pippin, many pros have taken to Speed Worming outside of the Sunshine State.
“Eighty pecent of our sales come from our own website and I can see the states where customers are ordering from. No doubt, we sell a lot of worms to Florida bass anglers, folks fishing Okeechobee all the way up through the Kissimmee Chain and Harris chain, Orange Lake, and Stick Marsh 13. But I also filled an order this morning to a guy in Connecticut who bought a half-dozen bags. So, yes, they’re being sold all over the country. My guess is more anglers than you might think are silently Speed Worming on their native waters.”
One area where the technique seems to be taking off is Tennessee, where serious sticks are catching bass on Lake Chickamauga.
“Via social media, we’re getting reports from Guntersville in Alabama, Chickamauga in Tennessee, and Texas lakes,” he said. “Since CPF Lures isn't that big of a company, a lot of anglers like to keep the baits a secret.”
Pippin laughed: “I get a lot of private messages with big fish pictures from all over the country, but they won't tell me where they're catching them at.”
CBF Lures currently offers four colors of Thumper Worms: June Bug, Blue Flake, Watermelon Red, and June Bug Red, but they’re in the process of offering additional patterns. Speaking of bringing the technique outside its Florida home, CBF Lures just launched a non-floating, 5 3/4-inch Pro Jr. Thumper which opens up a lot of possibilities for bass anglers fishing in the Midwest and North.
Personally, I fished the Pro Jr. on a few outings this season and caught bass but stuck more and bigger fish slow-rolling a standard, 7-inch Thumper and Floating Thumper through the vegetation of Minnesota bass waters. Yes, even Northern bass eat (and sometimes prefer) outsized baits.
When does Pippin turn to the Thumper Jr.?
“Any time I can’t get fish to eat the bigger one, I’m going to size down to the Jr. When the forage is smaller down here—like during March, April, and May—slow rolling the Jr. in offshore grass can really catch ‘em,” he said. “And when our bass get finicky—like a calm sunny day and they don't want a big presentation—I'll also switch to the Jr. “But there’s no real rhyme or reason to it, honestly. Sometimes the patterns just don’t make sense and you scratch your head. For two weeks bass might prefer a smaller worm and you have no idea why, and then all of a sudden, they’ll eat up the bigger worm like there’s no tomorrow.”
Another cool thing about CPF Thumper Worms is that they’re segmented, allowing for trimming the bait down a bit to experiment with preferred profile size—or even for use as a trailer on a swim jig, spinnerbait, or ChatterBait.
My favorite improvisation is clipping down the worm to nearly the end of worm body end and slipping on a swim jig. With a subwoofer like thump via the Thumper’s one-of-a-kind tail, adding this plastic turns a typically quiet swim jig into an acoustical nightmare—seemingly drawing in bass from afar.
While there are countless bass tactics at play today—many newer techniques involving offshore fish and forward-facing sonar—Speed Worming is a breath of fresh air that gets us back to power fishing shallower, salad-filled areas that just look good to the naked eye.
Yep, hard to beat stepping on that bow-mount, chunking and winding, and covering serious real estate for bites. And now you can do that with a plastic worm in a way that’s entirely unique and is catching lots of fish.
Give Speed Worming a shot! You might just be surprised with the ease you can fish ‘em—and just how many fish you catch when other methods struggle. Is it the be-all, end-all of bass fishing? Probably not, but definitely one cool, newer tactic to keep on deck.