Soft plastic worms are an essential part of any bass angler's arsenal. With a lifelike action and feel, these classic lures tempt even the most wary bass into a savage strike when fished along the shoreline and cranked with a jerky, stop-and-go retrieval. In Missouri, reservoirs are a great location to fish with rubber worms, as these resemble nightcrawlers that can slip into the water along the banks during the spring months, when the bass are patrolling shallow water. Don't forget to cast near boat docks, where brush and the docks themselves provide a natural cover for bass.
Rig your worm "Carolina style" by threading the soft lure on a snelled hook, then burying the barb in the middle of the bait. This makes your worm weedless and less susceptible to snags on weed beds and those inevitable branches on the shoreline.
Trolling Lakes and Rivers
Missouri bass anglers troll the lakes with buzzbaits, which are designed to resemble topwater baitfish. A buzzbait features a hula skirt of rubber strands molded to a weighted jighead, with a wire outrunner carrying a spinner blade. These lures make an annoying sound in the water that is calculated to irritate a largemouth bass and provoke the fish into a strike--as much out of pure meanness as any real sense of hunger. Buzzbaits are cast toward the shoreline and cranked steadily back to the boat, or you can set out a buzzbait 40 to 50 feet behind your bass boat and motor along merrily until you get a strike.
Check with the locals at the baitshop about the types of baitfish in the waters you'll be visiting. That way, you can match a Missouri bass to the color of his favorite meal, which in this case means the color of your buzzbait.
Medium-sized spoons in silver or red and white stripes are also popular choices when trolling for bass on big Missouri lakes.
Jigging for Bass in Deep Water
When you are fishing the big Missouri lakes, a boat is essential to cover a lot of water in a short time. For example, Lake Wappapello in southeastern Missouri, nestled at the foot of the Ozark Mountains, is a deep-water haven for largemouth bass. Bruisers topping the scales at 6 pounds are common. To get at them, anglers toss weighted jigs into the depths and use fish finders to track their movements.
The most consistently successful jig color in Missouri is silver and pink, which resembles the gizzard shad found in most of the state's lakes where largemouth lurk.
Cast jigs with soft, plastic silver-and-pink baits into deep water and let them sink to the bottom of the lake. Be ready for a savage strike before the lure hits bottom, as bass will often attack a lure on its way down in their impatience to grab what looks like an easy meal.