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The Ultimate River Smallmouth Lure

By Sam Rorrer

After spending the greater portion of my life pursuing smallmouth in one VA body of water or another, after using a bulk of artificial baits that would weight down a tandem dump truck, I think I have found the “ultimate” bait: the Jack’s worm from Charlie Case and Case Plastics. This is the most versatile, most fish catching lure I have ever used in my life. Bar none!

I have gone through every “old stand-by” and “new & unique” bait produced since circa 1980. Very few are still made, even fewer still are found in my tackle box. There was a progression of sorts in my angling experiences, all of which lead me to an almost exclusive use of soft plastic baits. There are 10’s of thousands of soft baits on the market, so finding one that stands above the rest is a daunting task. But I have found it.

The Jack’s Worm (named in honor of legendary guide Cap’n Jack West) is a nondescript piece of plastic, about a quarter inch thick in the head, tapering slowly past the egg sac to a needle point tail. There are two sizes available, the original, which is 4.5 inches long, and the Big Jack’s Worm, which is 6 inches long. The genius of the design is in its simplicity.

If you are an angler that targets aggressive fish, then it may be a little effort to fish a Jack’s Worm. The beauty of the bait is in the fact that very little action needs to be imparted into the lure to make it effective. The tail, while drifting through current, or sitting on the river bottom, cannot be stationary. There is a movement incorporated when any hydraulic action is present. As the old saying goes, “just add water!” The tail is in constant motion.


My favorite way to rig the Jack’s Worm is on a Charlie Brewer Snagless Slider Head. The day I first viewed this new bait, a light bulb came on telling me, “This is what Brewer’s Slider Heads were made for!” This is the light-wire hook on the black “aspirin” head. I only use the 1/8th ounce version, as it pretty much suits my needs very well. If there is too much current for a 1/8th ounce head, I typically switch to the RR45 tube, also made by Case Plastics ( The base of ledges where current flows under the ledge in a direction different to the flow is a great place to cast this lure. An eddie created on the downstream side of obstructions is a good target as well.

The second rigging of the Jack’s Worm is the use of a 2/0 Gamakatsu offset hook, tex-posed. This is used in the upper-to-mid levels of the water column, usually dead drifted with just the current providing the action to the lure. This is an effective presentation over ledges, boulders and the push water of hard-pan lifts. It serves well as a semi-aggressive strike inducers. It floats by and the fish seem to think, “What the heck, let’s eat”. It can be deadly on fish that are in the shallows chasing minnows, as well as mid river smallies feeding on an aquatic hatch. Simply cast to the disturbance and hold on! I recommend if you are fishing the slider head method to stay with darker, more natural colors. In the upper part of the flow, a lighter, minnow-type color seems best.

My livelihood depends on me putting my clients on fish on a regular basis. Thanks to the Jack’s Worm and Charlie Case, my job is a lot easier. I highly recommend that anyone that is giving thought to finding a system that is effective on catching river smallies to give this a try.