Opinions on baits change like seasons in the world of bass fishing. One year a certain bait can be a must-have, the next it can be relegated to the bottom of the tackle box. Bass Pro Tour angler Mark Daniels Jr. knows that from experience.
“You always want to be ahead of the curve and using the next great technique as a professional angler, there’s no doubt,” Daniels admitted. “But we often forget about some of the tried-and-true methods because we’re overloaded with new information constantly.”
Daniels is one of the key figures bringing an old-school bait back into the new-school spotlight. A good old 7-inch floating worm – particularly in merthiolate color – made a very visible appearance during the Bass Pro Stage Three in early March, thanks to Daniels. The Alabama pro used the bright pink floating worm to rack up 24 bass for more than 84 pounds in his first day of competition on Lake Fork.
That weight helped carry him to the Championship Round, where he eventually locked up a third-place finish.
MLF analysts Marty Stone and JT Kenney made the mention on the MLF NOW! live stream that they were surprised to see Daniels having such success with that floating worm because such an old-school sight fishing technique isn’t seen much anymore. However, Daniels never leaves home in the spring without a supply of the electric-pink plastic.
“I caught an 8-pounder on Lake Chickamauga last year on that same merthiolate floating worm while sight fishing,” Daniels recalled. “It’s one of those old-school forgotten techniques that’s been proven time and time again.”
Daniels was the most dominant with the pink worm on Lake Fork, but he wasn’t the only one working that technique in Texas. His good friend Dustin Connell made it to the Knockout Round on Lake Fork thanks to that same merthiolate floating worm.
“I was working mine out where I could barely see it out a little deeper, but a fish could see it really good,” Connell said. “That’s what’s so nice about using a bright pink color like that. Fishing it weightless and being able to get it out deeper like that helped me get some key bites.
“I think the drawing power that color has is the biggest thing that makes a floating worm so successful. Even when the fish don’t bite it, I see the fish follow it back. It’s so bright and obnoxious that they at least have to come and check it out.”
Another big-name angler who loves working that obnoxiously pink worm in the spring is Stage One Champion Jacob Wheeler. Wheeler didn’t fish it during Stage Three, but of his first career wins came on the bait, and he remains loyal to it almost 15 years later.
“I learned how to throw a merthiolate floating worm when I was 12 years old,” Wheeler said. “It’s such a deadly bait when those fish are shallow and spawning. I won a tournament when I was 17 from the back of the boat on a floating worm. I think we’re starting to see more people revert back to the old-school tactics that worked back in the day, since these fish see so many vibrating jigs and things of that nature. It’s a finesse tactic that just catches massive fish.”
We saw those massive fish being caught in Texas by Daniels, his biggest a 7-pound, 5-ounce largemouth. At times, anglers can be secretive about baits and tactics that can win them tournaments, but Daniels loves being able to share his love of the floating worm to any angler that will listen because that’s how he first heard about it.
“I love that we are able to turn other anglers on to new baits that they never even knew about,” Daniels said. “I remember the first time I saw a bright pink floating worm and I just thought, ‘What the hell is that? There’s no way that’s going to work.’ Obviously, I was wrong and that’s what’s so cool about learning about new baits and rediscovering old ones.”