Renegade rigging

When I became immersed in bass fishing back in the early 1970s, it seemed that we had plenty of techniques to learn in our attempts to fool Mr. Bass. For soft plastics, you could use the deadly Texas rig, which has sure stood the test of time, thanks to its versatility and ability to fish through the thickest cover. The Carolina rig was a whole different animal, but all who learned to adjust their sinker selection and leader length found it deadly on structure or flats without thick cover. It became a fixture in the pros’ arsenal, even if they dread spending the day “draggin’.”

Then some offbeat angler got the nerve to hook a plastic worm through the middle, and the wacky worm was born. I first encountered it at a B.A.S.S. Federation tournament on Cayuga Lake, New York, in the late 1970s. I chuckled as my partner hooked a ­6-inch Mann’s Jelly Worm through the egg sac. But when he skipped it under docks and boated several good keepers, I got really interested. He kindly offered to share, and I joined the action. He referred to the odd setup as a Helderberg rig, after a Federation club in the Albany region. It also became known as a “twink” worm, as the bait could be retrieved with sharp rod snaps, or twinks, that caused the two ends to rapidly flex. Club member Brian Rayle used it at the 1980 Bassmaster Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River to finish in the Top 10. Bassmaster’s report dubbed it “Rayle’s rig” in a sidebar to the tournament report, though some sources referred to it somewhat disparagingly as a “Yankee rig.”