Secret Best Bass Bait: Helgramites

Helgramites are tiny centipede like water-insects. You can find them in many rivers and streams beneath rocks. Most people have never used them as no one seems to talk about them, I guess that’s because the people who do know about it want to keep helgramites a secret. Anytime in July, go for river smallmouths with them, I’ve had days where it seems like every cast I’m catching a lunker with them. Some companies also make artificial helgramites and they work pretty well too, although not as good as live.

         Here’s a typical helgramite, try them, and good luck! helgramite.jpg

Published in: on July 25, 2006 at 3:16 pm  Comments (53)  

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  1. Where can I buy them, or are the helgie’s just something i should flip rocks for?
    is there a web site that sells them?



  2. Hey Joe, Once in a while I’ll come across small tackle stores that sell live helgies, but I usually just flip rocks for them. You can find the Uncle Bucks artificial helgramites off Bass Pro.

    I hope this was helpful


  3. while they are the greatest bass bait in the world, a recent trip produced a hit per cast, they are illegal to take and use in some streams and rivers in some states ( see rivers in NY )

  4. Where can I buy helgies?
    Any links out there???


  5. Helgramites can be baught at some small bait shops, however the easiest way to get them is by doing the following. Get regular home window screen and some 2 by 4’s. secure the screen with a strong border around its edges using the 2 by 4’s. fine a nice river with mabey knee deep water in the current( almost white water/good current). have someone hold the screen against the current about 15-20 feet down stream. start flipping rocks so that all dust and dirt kicked up from under the rocks flow downstream through the screen. Lift the screen and see if you’ve got any. Good luck and good fishin!

  6. Oh and if you’ve never used them before, this is how to do it. If you look at the picture, they’ve got pinchers. They dont pinch to hard, but there no reason to get pinched. when you pick them up, pick them up by the head. thier head is flat and wide, you want to hold them between thumb and forfinger on the top and bottom of thier head.They will squirm like a worm and they have a little sucktion cup on thier tail, dont even worrie about that, it cant hurt you. By holding them like this they cant pinch you. Ok behind thier head on the next section of thier body is a big shell that raps all the way around. Take your hook and insert it right behind the head on top, go all the way under the shell and bring the hook out the other side of the shell to the closest end towards the tail. So they are hanging on to the hook by the shell so to speak. cast your line.

  7. helgies ? never heard that, I guess some folks know them personally. Tiny ?? Don’know ’bout that, unless you think that a 4 inch insect with the head the size of a dime with pinchers to match that easily draws blood should be called “tiny”. They can be caught by a fisherman via seining,not practicable. I challenge these dudes saying(lying) so casually that they can be caught easily. Bottom line, : if local bait shops ain’t sellin’ ’em, helgramites aren’t thriving in the waters so they’re not a major food source for the fish, moot point.

  8. Helgramites are a great bait for cats and smallies, and are tough enough to catch two or three fish on the same one. Catching them is simple, just flip over rocks on the river bank after the water level has came down. Flip the rocks that are sitting on dirt or sand and you will see a hollowed area with your prize in it. My wife and I actually caught about four dozen today within forty five minutes.

  9. I’m glad these things are still a secret. Here in the foothills of NC we use a seine net to get em’. When I was 17 my cousins took me to the Pee Dee river in SC. But b4 we went we went they told me we had to go and get some helgramites. I was like, what? U guys are crappin’ me. Come on? What’s a helgramite? So they said nah, they’re real so we went to the creek and got these alien creatures out of the water! I was like what the hell are those things! The look like the Predators turds. They said Matthew, they’re helgramites. But lo and behold we went and caught so many catfish that we had to cut down a tree and make an “Indian Fish Branch” strung em’ up on threw it over our shoulders. It took two of us obviously to carry them all about. Whatever a helgramite is, its a secret only real fisherman know about. And whatever is in their DNA it’s like crack for a fish ANY fish. -Matthew 30, North Carolina

  10. helgies? never ever heard em called that before! My uncles and hubby use a siene net to get them. It takes them quite a while to get a couple of cups full –> that’s probably why you don’t see too many bait shops carrying them. Alot of work, plus, they won’t live long out from under their rocks! Been using for ummmm about 20 years. Shenandoah River is loaded with them. And tiny, they are NOT. They are big and they will draw blood if they pinch you! They swear by them!

  11. theres no bait like helgramites. i wont go fishin if i cant go out in the water bout knee deep and find some helgramites. take bout a case a beer and find some bugs and the best fishing starts. ive caught catfish, carps, brim, and bass on em. i always hook mine strait through its face and out the tail.

  12. I have known about helgramites for awhile. My question is do they have different colors at different times of the year. I have never seen one but have some plastic baits.

  13. there is a certain time of year around first of june or so where they crawl upon the banks and go under anything laying close to the banks and they turn yellow and grow wings.when they are crawling out of water to do this. it seems all fish know it and they hit them as fast as they see them because it only happens once a year i have took 2 of them and caught 17 small mouth bass with them wadeing here in wv.if you live where they are you know the time they do this you will see them around outdoor lights at night flying around.but by this time might be too late to catch them yellow.but any ways when they are on the move to come out and do this fish feed on them heavy…….hope this helped

  14. ps….i dont hook mine through the head since they are tough and hard to kill i smash the heads so they wont hang me up in the water since they crawl under things and start under the heads and slide my hook as far down the body as i can and then bring the hook out i have caught many bass on i helgiemite.and i mostly catch mine with a minnow net in low rapids1 hold the net and 1 or 2 stir the rocks up above the net rakeing the rocks up all the way to the net and when the helgie comes loose of the bottom he flows to the net when you reach the net raking your feet side to side have them raise the net and put them in a minnow buchet minus the water keep them damp maybe a few rocks in there and maybe some moss or grass dont drown them just at the waters edge keeping them wet. hope that helped too

  15. I have been using Helgramites for many years, they are by far the best bait for bass. Last week when my son complained of casting every bait known to man and not catching any bass, i was out the next day and caught 12 nice keeper bass in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Imagine this, i catch them myself using a trout net, holding it near a rock, overturn the rock and watch for many items including helgramites to appear in the net. I lose alot gathering them myself, but i’ve NEVER been skunked using Helgramites.


  17. My first encounter with one of these little bastards was when I was 12 years old. There was an older kid by the Susquehanna River in PA who was looking under rocks, carrying a fishing pole and I asked him what he was doing. He said “Looking for helgramites.” I’m thinking, “The hell is a helgramite?” But he eventually finds one, careful not to catch its pincers as once they hook onto you, they refuse to let go. Anyway, he casts his rod, and I kid you not, within 2-3 seconds, he has a bite. I’m not much of an angler, but I’d say that’s a fast catch, and I’ll put my sack on the validity and truth of this story.

  18. A woman I once worked with (she must be in her mid-seventies now) once told me that when she was a kid, the boys would catch these awful looking things (she called them “helgamites”) and sell them to the local fishtermen. This was in eastern New Hampshire. She went on to say that the fishermen valued them highly as bait. Knowing the area, they probably were catching small-mouth bass and catfish.

  19. To Dan, 2007. I was catching and using helgramites back in the 80’s!! I taught my daughter as well. They were and still are my favorite kind of bait!! Maybe you live in an unfortunate part of the country where they are scarce, I DARE you to come to WV and try them!!!

  20. Jeffrey, you are an idiot. Hellgramites are the larval stage of the dobson fly. they do not have wings.

  21. Used to use Helgies for small mouth in the North Branch of the South Fork of the Potomac near Romney, WV. Take a buddy and hold a seining net about 6-10 feet downstream and have your buddy start turning the rocks with his feet. That’ll do the trick. Used to wade up and down the river using 2.5 lb test on an ultra-light rig. Best fishing I’ve ever experienced. Place the hook between the head and thorax and the little critter will try to get back down under the rocks. Can’t beat it for small mouth action. Like it says in previous comments, they’re tough and I’ve experienced a strike with each cast.

  22. Hello, I have only just got my first computer & to discover so much stuff on the internet about fishing is really amazing!
    I reckon my fishing mag subscriptions will soon be stopped as I find more & more sites like this one hahaha
    This is great thankyou

  23. I see a lot of eastern states listed here but want to add that an Arizona boy here was introduced to Helgramite’s fishing for small mouth on the San Carlos indian reservation. Sure enough my buddy showed one to me and they worked real well. I used crawdads a lot because they were easier to find but since this was an annual fishing trip im gonna spend some time looking for “helgies” and “Rip Some Bass!”

  24. My granddad introduced me to fishing with helgramites when I was just a little kid. We would take a minnow seine and get about ten feet up stream and use a maddock to turn over the rocks. There were times we would catch 6-7 dozen before going fishing. We would fish until about dusk and my arms would be tired from all the fish I had caught that day. It wasnt unusual for us to catch more fish than we could count.

  25. An old timer just gave me the “same” info about Helgramites all parallels everything everyone wrote… when he got to the wing part of the story… I thought here it comes! This is just a fishing story of all stories… Yet, I am convicted that it ALL true… I myself am ALL ABOUT THE BASS… rubber worms – spinners (the Death Shimmer) – rattlers and more…
    When he heard that I’m an avid fisherman — the old timer said… Ha! A bass fisherman who doesn’t know about Helgramites….

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  41. I was screening for helgies with my bro-in-law when the white water current grabbed the wood frame of the bait screen. The screen hit me so hard in the shins that I fell and shot the rapids feet first. My bro-in-law, obviously concerned for my safety, kept screaming, “Hang on to the bait screen.” We missed all the big rocks and both survived.
    PS When my father-in-law (who taught me helgie use) needed a fresh helgie, he would just remove his cap and pull one out of his hair where he stored them.

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  51. Back some time ago in the 1960’s my Dad and I went to a fishing spot in Northern California known as Yellow Creek. We were fishing for native trout on flys and bait casters. He told me about helgramites back then. He was an ace angler and knew about them his whole life. Just like what everyone said here, they were under rocks near the bank. We would just get one as we needed, no stockpiling them. Very effective bait.

  52. I used them when i fished after school for our dinner when i was a teen and by far was the best bait ever. You can catch many a fish off of one Hellgramite as long as you hook it right. I would use them and catch Bass, Perch and Catfish. Just hold them right behind the head as they will pinch the heck out of you. I remember trying to get the hook out of a Bass and getting pinched drawing blood. Best bait ever.

  53. I can remember being about 10 years old and living in Lovettsville VA, right across the Potomac from Brunswick MD and going along the river banks and flipping rocks and logs and catching Helgramites by the buckets. That was back in 1978-1979. Now that is some awesome bait and I made good money selling them to bars and bait shops.

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