Handloaders are capable of making tailor-made ammunition for their firearms. Inexplicably, every gun is different and what works for one may not be the best for the one right behind it on the assembly line. The same holds true for bass lakes. What is deadly on one lake may make bass turn and run on the next. Those who pour their own worms can dial in exactly what their bass want. This scenario is what got Carl Wengenroth in the custom soft plastics business.
"My partner and I were on Fayette County Lake in central Texas. We were throwing colors only we had — watermelon brown camo and Texas tea. Everyone knows you fish the riprap on Fayette at certain times of the year, and this was one of them," Wengenroth said. "We were going behind guys and catching loads of fish. My partner came in first, I was second and third was more than 20 pounds behind me. After that, the guys wanted what we had, so we started pouring more and selling them. They began telling guys in other clubs, and it just snowballed."
Wengenroth and his wife, Dianne, own and operate The Angler's Lodge in Del Rio, Texas. The Lodge consists of a hotel, restaurant, tackle shop and Carl's worm-pouring lair in the back of the tackle shop. At any given time, there are hundreds of freshly poured plastics strewn across several tables. Tucked away in the corner is a Toyota Texas ShareLunker tank. Wengenroth creates unique "Texas-sized" plastics.
While Wengenroth admits he "went overboard," he believes that casual pourers enjoy several benefits.
"First, you can save money. After you get over the initial investment, your worms get cheaper and cheaper," he says. "My first hand-pours cost $.03 each, versus $.40 for a store-bought worm."
That's a markup of more than 1,300 percent.
"Also, what do you do if your bait shop is out of a certain worm or color?" he asks. "You're SOL."
Second, you can customize your baits. Like a .270 Winchester that shoots most accurate with a certain powder, a certain color stickworm may work the best in your lake.
Finally, there is a high degree of satisfaction that comes with bagging a 180-class buck using your own handload, and this feeling transfers to catching a bass on a bait that you made.
Wengenroth started his operation with a hot plate and two tin cans. He'd ordered plastic by the gallon and made worms in his garage. Today, the Web affords even the most casual worm pourer everything he needs to make quality plastics. Wengenroth gets his supplies from www.lurecraft.com.
For an idea of what an experienced pourer uses, we'll detail what Wengenroth uses.
- 1 Pyrex measuring cup
- 1 gallon of "green" plastic
- 1 microwave oven
- 1 pair of safety glasses
- 2 pot holders
- worm mold(s)
Total cost: $100 or less
Plastic, glitter and color
Wengenroth uses "green" plastic. Not because he hugs trees, but because it lacks the harsh chemicals that give you a massive headache when working with them.
There are several grades of plastic available. The softest is the "West Coast" formula, which is also the least durable. The mid-grade is standard and is what most manufacturers use. Finally, there is saltwater grade, which is the toughest and least malleable. Wengenroth uses a 50/50 blend of saltwater and mid-grade. This allows him to make the large, soft, unusual baits he is known for without fear of premature breakage.
Wengenroth also forgoes salt in his plastics. He does this for two reasons. First, saltless plastics float, making them more versatile. Second, they last longer. The more salt you have in your baits, the more the plastic is compromised.
Glitter runs from extra-fine to large, and Wengenroth keeps all on hand to give customers exactly what they want. Color is also a highly subjective component. A handful of basic colors and a color wheel are also necessities for beginners.
Wengenroth says the custom plastics market is inundated with worm molds. All you have to do is look.
"A quick search on eBay or the Internet usually brings up molds that people are getting rid of or selling," he says. "You don't have to have 200 molds, or in my case almost 400, to start with. Pick the ones that you use on the water the most and start from there."
Wengenroth says a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, pot holders and safety glasses are all must-haves. If hot plastic gets on bare skin, you will instantly receive a second-degree burn. You'll also need a large table with a clean towel to set fresh worms on after removing them from their molds.
In the next installment of our plastics-pouring primer, Wengenroth will detail the process of making your own worms once you've acquired all the necessities.
Originally published June 2010