White rag are very hard to obtain – but they can be well worth the trouble. Certainly you can’t afford to be without them for an important match. More matches have been won with lug tipped with white rag than almost any other bait. Not for nothing are they known reverently in some parts of the country as white gold.
White rag are usually most effective in clear rather than coloured water. Probably this is because their bright colouring is as much an attraction as their scent trail. There are no hard and fast rules, however — at times white rag are deadly in coloured water. Equally, it has to be said there are days when white rag are useless, catching nothing but undersized fish all day long.
White rag are distinguished from other rag-worms by their pearly sheen, but don’t expect your tackle dealer to sell them — you have to find and dig your own.
Small whites are quite widespread in clean sand. On shingle beaches look where the pebbles meet the sand.
Large whites are much more localized and once found the location of a bed should be a closely guarded secret, or it will quickly be dug out by all and sundry. Don’t even tell your best mates! As a guide, large whites are usually found in sand or shaly ground close to the water’s edge at low tide on the very longest tides. One pointer – find some tube worm ‘tubes’ and there will usually be some large whites nearby.
White rag don’t give themselves away with casts or any other surface signs so you just have to dig in different spots until you find them. Trench dig to a depth of one spit with a garden fork.
Large whites are tougher than small ones and can be kept for several weeks. Small whites are best used within a few days.
Put the worms in a bucket of sea water as you dig them. When you have finished digging, separate any broken worms but don’t throw them away — put them in a second bucket of water. You can use up the broken worms first, while those that aren’t too badly damaged will often grow new tails. Change the water in both buckets just before leaving the beach.
At home, tip the worms into shallow trays of sea water – the water should be about 2.5cm deep – and put the trays in the fridge. Check the worms daily, and remove any dead or dying ones. Change the water at least twice a week. Keep the spare water in the fridge because white rag don’t like abrupt temperature changes.
Serving them up
Large whites can outscore all other worm baits for codling, plaice and flounders, while bunches of small whites can be brilliant for dabs, flounders and whiting. But the bait that can really give you the edge is lug tipped with small whites. Whiting, dabs, flounders, plaice, codling — all can find this cocktail irresistible.