"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Night Crawlers On A 3-Hook Harness
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Half a century ago I spent a cool, drizzly, late-winter day on a small natural lake of Indianaís northeastern natural lake country. 

It was not a fit day out for man nor beast, but Bill Myers, a co-worker at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, and I could wait no longer to try our luck for bass.

We had planned to use artificial lures (mostly plugs with dangling hooks), but we also had a large can of night crawlers we had caught on a warm, rainy night. Our game plan was simple. If the artificials failed, we would fish whole crawlers on three-hook harnesses.

It had been a mild winter and the weed beds of the marl-bottom lake were only a foot or so below the surface of the crystal-clear water. The weed beds were enough to make fishing difficult with artificials, but to make fishing even more difficult, the wind pushed the little boat we were using across the lake at a pretty good clip.

For several drifts we had no action --mostly weeds--with our shallow-running plugs. Then I tied on a three-hook harness and impaled a fat night crawler on the hooks.

On the next drift a smallish bass (but well above the 10-inch limit of that day) nailed my bait and I put it in the boat. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon rowing the old, wood boat across the lake and drifting back while casting and trolling (by wind drift) our crawler rigs over the weed beds. The fishing was not fast, by any stretch of the imagination, but when we left the lake we took half a dozen largemouth with us, the largest topping five pounds.

Since that time--and before--I have fished live night crawlers in many ways for many species, but I think the three-hook harness tops them all. For all species, even bluegills, although smaller fish can take crawlers off of a harness without getting hooked.

Furthermore, I find fishing the night crawler on a three-hook harness (a two-hook harness works well for smaller crawlers and larger garden worms) about as close as one can get to fishing artificials.

Oh, sure! A crawler fished on a harness must be retrieved slowly, but I figure I am not going any place when I am fishing. I am in no rush. 

Harnesses are available in tackle shops, but they usually are tied on stiff line. For this reason, I prefer to tie my own, and I avoid the temptation to add a spinner or two in front of the top hook. I use monofilament line of various weights, but I like six-pound test best because it is a bit flexible. This gives the crawler a little freedom to squirm (as in worm) if it is otherwise motionless in still water.

Fish often take lures and natural baits when they are descending slowly, and a slight movement (say the squirm of a worm) often triggers the action.

Tying night crawler harnesses is as simple as mastering two knots common to angling. The first is a simple improved clinch knot (used often for bending line onto a hook at the terminal end of tackle. The second is the nail (I use an oversized needle) knot, most often used for connecting leader material (like light monofilament) to a fly line. This knot is used for attaching the top and middle hooks to the monofilament after the bottom hook has been attached to the tag end of the line.

Because tying the nail knot can require some skill, not to mention patience, I find it best to tie my harnesses at home when I have plenty of time. I store them by wrapping the line tightly around a cork bottle stopper with each hook point pushed into the cork. However, many are the times that I, in a pinch, have tied harnesses on the water by using simple double overhand knots for the middle and top hooks. They work just as well as their more sophisticated brethren. Fish donít know the difference.

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

harness2.JPG (12670 bytes)

The night crawler harness is no more complicated than three hooks tied on monofilament line. Other lines may work just as well.
I store my harnesses by wrapping them on cork bottle stopper, each hook punched into the cork .The bottle stoppers may be partially split with a sharp knife to make them slide onto the line for use as a bobber to suspend the rig at various depths.
harn1.JPG (3567 bytes)

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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