Worms, in their various forms, have been used since man first started fishing with rod (pole) and line. They are traditional bait, and a favourite of both the angler and the fish. Fish naturally encounter worms as they get washed from the land into canals, rivers and stillwaters.
Get it right and chopped worm fishing can be a very successful method on our waterways.
History of worms as a fishing bait
Dame Juliana Berners writing in the first half of the 15th century listed worm as a bait to catch the following species; salmon, trout, grayling, barbel, carp, chub, bream, tench, perch, roach, dace, bleak, ruffe, gudgeon, flounder and eel.
Izaak Walton wrote of worms back in 1653, "for you are to know that dead worm is but a dead bait, and like to catch nothing, compared to a lively, quick stirring worm".
In the 20th century, the great north-west canal angler Benny Ashurst wrote that worms were not a popular bait with match anglers, having gone out of fashion. Despite not rating the bait that highly, Benny won 19 sweepstakes on the trot during the war years using the tail of a redworm with black magic leaf mould as groundbait. He chopped up the redworms found in compost heaps into small sections about an inch long, which healed nicely after a few days. He would also loose-feed small lengths of redworm. Doubtless this method would still produce results today.
There’s more than one species of worm
Did you know there are more than 25 species of worm found in the UK? Worms are more than just a fishing bait. None other than Charles Darwin wrote that "there are few animals that have played such an important part in the history of the world". The four species of worm most often used as bait by anglers are redworms, brandlings, dendrobaena’s and lobworms.
Canal angling champion Simon 'Motty' Mottram, who trains our Let's Fish! coaches on the best canal fishing methods, is a fan of the lobworm as a bait on the canal network. He first found out about the method from anglers in the Wigan area.
Motty’s secret method of hunting lobworms
During the summer months Motty will mysteriously leave home during the dark hours. His destination, a local cricket ground. Armed with a head torch he will perform a strange ritual whereby he crawls for an hour or two on his hands and knees to gather many dozens of lobworms in a session. A good grip is needed in what is something of a tug of war contest between Motty and the lobworms.
Motty can’t claim to be the first to discover what great places cricket pitches are for lobworms. In the Victorian era, Trent Bridge cricket ground was the venue of choice for numerous worm gatherers, who sold their harvest at 3 shillings (15p) per thousand.
Storing collected worms
Throughout fishing history, anglers have scoured their worms to provide the shiny healthy-looking finish, hopefully making them irresistible to a hungry fish. Motty uses a very large storage tub with plenty of space to keep his worms in. He found that the worms would die if kept in too confined a space. The worms are kept in moss and strips of shredded newspaper are added. The worms like to eat the newspaper. Motty keeps the container in the fridge and after a few days you end up with a nice shiny polish to the skin.
If you are wondering why Motty will go to these lengths rather than buy worms from a shop, then the answer is simple. He believes it gives him an edge over less dedicated competitors, as shop-bought worms are not as high quality as those collected and cleaned yourself.
Motty’s chopped worm canal fishing tips
- Chopped worm tends to be most effective on venues that have not seen much of the bait before.
- Chop three or four lobworms into small pieces with scissors. This releases an aroma that will hopefully attract fish. Feed the chopped-up worms using a bait dropper that takes the bait and releases it on the bed. It’s possible that perch might even be attracted to the bait dropper itself.
- Hookbait is usually half or occasionally a whole lobworm fished on a large hook e.g. size 12 with 0.16 bottom (5 lbs) hook-length. Use a heavy float of around one gram with an olivette rig. The elastic needs to be heavy, typically a number 12.
- The method can be fished down the track (middle of the canal) or over the far bank, especially if the peg has fish holding habitat features such as brambles, roots, etc. When fishing across to the far bank, use a small float and dispense with the olivette rig.
- Lobworm is a brilliant bait for perch, bream and bonus eels. Occasionally a big roach will put in an unexpected appearance. If a ruffe shows up, it's probably not going to be your day.
- One of the secrets of the method is to feed and then fish over the feed straight away. Don’t persist if you have no bites after 10 or 15 minutes. It’s worth repeating the process at one-hour intervals, as fish are migratory and could move into your swim part-way through the session.
- It’s often worth twitching the lobworm hookbait up and down, maybe up to a foot or even more off the deck. For whatever reason, perch will be ‘annoyed enough’ to strike out at the moving bait. It’s a satisfying bonus to pick up an extra fish or two by working the bait in this way.
Last date edited: 14 December 2020