Live Worms vs. Plastic Fishing Worms

Ready to head out on the lake and nail some lunker bass? Well, you may be thinking “what kind of bait should I use today?” It’s a great question. If you’ve experienced the benefits of fishing with worms, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the live worms vs. plastic worms debate. Some say live bait is the only option; others say plastic fishing worms can work better and are more convenient.

But no matter which side of the debate you’re on, you do have to recognize that soft plastic fishing worms have won a lot of tournaments. In the case of live worms vs. plastics, you should understand the pros and cons of each before making your decision and hitting the lake.

Each one has its benefits and drawbacks, and each one should be used in the right circumstances.

So let’s get to it!

Live Fishing Worms

Live worms, those that can handle being casted and submerged in freshwater for a while, are often an excellent way to get a fish to bite, especially largemouth bass. Live worms are enticing to fish, since the wiggle and draw attention, and are often preferred by predators over plastic bait.


Live worms are often cheaper than high quality plastic fishing worms. This is because although live bait is easier to lose from your hook, the cost of replenishing live bait is substantially lower since you can go out and find them for free. Most live bait can either be sourced by yourself or bought from a tackle shop for minimal cost, whereas you won’t find soft plastic worms swimming in puddles after a good rain.

Live fishing worms are also more enticing to fish. During the winter, fish do not hunt very often and will not waste their energy chasing down faux bait unless they are starving. Live bait, wriggling and fresh, is more enticing to them if they are hungry and willing to venture out of a warm spot to find a meal.

It can also be a bit easier to rig freshwater worms. Since they are live bait, they need minimal rigging to ensure they continue to wriggle and spasm to lure the fish in to take a bite. Most anglers have two or three ways to rig live worms and ordinarily just hook it through the worm’s body or head and cast the line.

Or you can run the hook through the length of the worm’s body and cast. However, running the hook through the worm’s body could result in the worm dying rather quickly, making it far less effective.


Freshwater worms have a shelf life. They’re alive, after all. Even a fresh batch of healthy worms will eventually die, sometimes even before they’re rigged. Of course, dead bait smells terrible and makes a mess when handling and can be harder to rig than when alive, especially if its decayed. Not only that, but it is less enticing to most fish, and they will avoid it if they can. If live bait is not used on the day it’s purchased or found, they won’t last too long unless properly cared for.

As stated, freshwater worms and other live bait are messy and can have a unique smell and that smell can transfer to your hands. While most anglers do not mind the scent, decaying worms can be intense and overpowering to some, making plastic fishing worms a better choice due to the lack of decay-smell and the mess.

If you’re an aggressive angler, using live worms means your casts can’t be too strong. While they do work great on bobbers, a long-distance cast can result in the worm coming off the hook, or the worm getting injured.

Finally, freshwater worms are not durable when fishing in debris. If the worm gets caught and is wriggling due to the type of rigging, it can slide right off and be gone forever.

When Should You Use Live Fishing Worms?

Using live fishing worms is always fun. You should use them when the fish are most dormant and relaxed. Live bait will entice a fish more than plastic fishing worms during a time when they don’t need to eat much. You should also use live worms when you’re fishing a bobber or want to get very deep down near the bottom and just wait.

How to Use Live Fishing Worms

There are many different ways to use live fishing worms. Like plastic fishing worms, you can rig them in many different ways depending on what you want to catch. However, unlike plastic fishing worms, live bait needs to wriggle appropriately, as the action comes from the worm rather than the angler. Practical rigging may not be possible with some live bait. After all, lengthwise rigging can hinder the wiggling movements of a freshwater worm and could kill the worm, making it less appealing to a fish.

Plastic Fishing Worms

There are many different opinions in the debate between live worms vs. plastic. Overall, though, plastic fishing worms have for decades now been a real go-to for anglers. They are reusable, effective, fit neatly into your tacklebox, and are easy to use, which makes them a great choice for any level of angler.

Of course, it we should mention that soft plastic fishing worms have been responsible for a lot of tournament wins.


Many, if not most, plastic fishing worms are reusable. This is one of the most significant selling points when discussing live worms vs. plastic. Not having to fumble with live bait every cast can benefit many anglers, and plastic fishing worms can be rigged uniquely for different climates and conditions. 

Plastic fishing worms are also more durable in debris and easier to use. When properly stored, they do not expire, so they can sit in the tackle box for extended periods, and are often used on multiple hookups, removing continued rigging that often comes when using live worms.

Plastic fishing worms can be fished much “harder” than live worms. You can cast with more force, retrieve at any speed you like and soft plastic worms will not die, like live worms do. With soft plastic worms, you, as the angler, can create massive commotion that attracts the bite. Like real worms, soft plastic worms can be used year-round in water of any temperature, even near-frozen water; with a big difference being plastics don’t care what temperature of the water is, and wont’ die.


Fish are smarter than you might think; many of them can tell the difference between live worms vs. plastic. If the fish are hibernating and not looking for food, plastics worms are not as appealing. Fish don’t want to spend their energy to hunt for something not appetizing. With plastics, when the water is cold, you’ll need great cast and retrieve techniques to attract the bite, and you’ll need pinpoint accuracy to place your bait in a spot where the fish doesn’t have to do much work.

Plastic fishing worms may also cost more than live bait, at least in the short run. But if you fish more than one day a year, the cost of soft plastic worms becomes a great value.

When Should You Use Plastic Fishing Worms?

Plastic fishing worms are best used when the fish are most active but can be used all year round. While live bait can entice a fish, plastic fishing worms are reliable, reusable, and longer lasting. If you are a new or professional tournament angler, we recommend you snag yourself some and try fighting largemouth bass when the water is either warming up or cooling down.

Plastic fishing worms are also more durable in clogged, debris-filled waters since they can be rigged weedless. Unlike live worms, plastic worms aren’t trying to escape the hook, so there’s a much lesser chance they slip off.

How to Use Plastic Fishing Worms

There are many ways to use plastic fishing worms. The list is too expansive to compile here, but plastic fishing worms should be rigged to entice what you are trying to catch and where you are trying to catch it. Certain plastic fishing worms must be rigged weedless to the hook to swim naturally and survive retrieval through debris in the water. But with such versatility, never be afraid to try soft plastic worms in all kinds of conditions.

Live Worms vs. Plastic Worms: Which One Is Best?

Both serve different purposes. The best option is the one you think will help you get the most impressive catch. Sometimes the convenience of soft plastic fishing worms wins out over live worms. Beyond convenience, soft plastic worms can last you an entire season and offer a fantastic value, and you don’t need to go digging in the back yard to find them.

Where Can You Find the Best Fishing Worms Available?

Charlie's Worms is the premier provider of freshwater and saltwater fishing gear and tackle. If you need freshwater worms and want everything to make your next angling adventure successful, check out Charlie’s Worms selection of swimming worms and other soft baits..

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