by Jim Porter
"The quickest way to get a limit of bass is through the proper presentation of the two-inch plastic grub." Those are some rather strong words, you may suppose. However, they are quite true and it is hoped, after reading this article, you will feel there is merit to them or challenged enough to try and prove them wrong. Either way, you will come out the winner. The grub lure has been around a long time and, with the common jig, is probably the simplest, and one of the most productive tools for bassin'. Tom Mann's 'Stingray Grub' was the plastic product which appears to have brought this lure to the attention of the majority of present day bass anglers and is the most easily recognized example. It can be fished a number of ways, by itself or as a part of various configurations. Some long time anglers tell us that the grub was the original flipping lure; however the method was then called 'doodle-socking' or 'jigger-poling'. The grub was affixed to about four feet of heavy line and a long cane pole and simply worked around cover areas, much the same as we might use a live minnow.
My first recollection of the seeing the grub's effectiveness was on the tidal waters of the Virginia coast. My fishing partner, a local guide, had three spinning rods rigged up- one with a grub, the second with a grub, and the last with a grub. At the time, I was somewhat of a devotee to crank plugs and worms and didn't think very highly of his lure selection. However, when the score reached ten to one, common sense finally took over and the kid decided something was certainly wrong (at least at my end of the boat, which happened to be the front!). To make a long story short.
I borrowed a grub and got a very enlightening fishing lesson that day. Successful anglers tell us that the most effective locations to fish the grub are rocky points and steeply sloping gravel banks. These areas normally hold good numbers of the natural food that the grub most closely resembles, that being the crawfish. In rivers and some of the Florida lakes, the grub really becomes a dynamite producer when fished in the area of mussel shell beds. On impoundments with an abundance of standing timber, such as Santee Cooper (South Carolina), many successful anglers use a vertical jigging technique in and around the long dead trees.
It is difficult to fish a grub incorrectly. Basically, you toss it out and work it back in virtually the same manner as a plastic worm. The only variation is that, while the overall retrieve is just as slow, the movements are a bit more sharp. Instead of dragging the lure, as we do the worm, we give the grub very short, light hops. Not much, just a little more wrist action. The strikes are very soft, to the point that you do not normally feel three out of four of them. The key, and this is exactly like using the jig and pig, is that we always feel the lure on a tight line before we move it. The bass will just be there and, if you feel for him first, you will usually find that he will tug back gently at your increased tension. If you are fishing the grub down a fairly steep, sloping bottom, or on top of school fish, many of the strikes will come on the fall. This is an 'alert condition' and close attention is required. Normally, a slight 'tick' in the line or a perceptible 'bump' is the fishy indication. If you have counted the lure down on previous casts and know how long it takes to get to the bottom, an early slack line is a dead giveaway of a strike.
Professional guides tell us that the grub should always be fished on fairly light tackle and line. The ideal set-up is a medium action spinning rod (graphite for added stiffness and sensitivity) and ten pound test. A high-visibility line is recommended in order to detect strikes which come on the fall of the lure. Never use a soft rod or one with a soft, or fast taper, tip or your ability to feel the fish will be deadened and many of the strikes will go unnoticed. The Pro's also advised setting the hook with a sweeping motion to the side, rather than a hard overhead snap. This was suggested to prelude possibly breaking the light line and to compensate for flexing of the light rod. There are lead heads made especially for the grub and most work fine. In making the proper selection, there are three factors to consider.
First, the head should be flat, or at least wider than it is high. The intent is that it will come to rest with the hook always in an upright position. This will preclude a lot of hangs and snags. The second factor regards the hook style. If you take the previous advice and go with light tackle, the hook should be made of a light, wire material, such as the Aberdeen style. You nearly always stick the fish on the hook set and usually get it in pretty good. If heavy gear is your preference, be sure that the hook is compatible, or you'll bend it every time. The third consideration is the size/weight of the lead head. On light tackle, the standard head size recommended is one eighth ounce. This is satisfactory until you are fishing below 15 feet. At that point, go a bit larger.If your tackle selection is heavier, with lines of 14 pound test or more, you will find that a quarter ounce head will be sufficient, unless you are fishing exceptionally deep. The sole intent of the grub head weight is to insure that we can feel the lure satisfactorily and, therefore, control it properly and detect the strike.
A rather interesting modification to the basic grub body has proven to be very effective, particularly on Smallmouth and Kentucky Spotted bass. This involves adding a series of dancing, quivering 'legs'. Simply take a large sewing needle (a straightened hook also works well), some straight pieces of rubber band, or similar material, and insert them through the main body of the grub. While it makes the lure look good to the fisherman, it is also very effective on the bass. A guide on Lake Eufaula (Alabama) introduced this variation to me and I assure you that it works extremely well, particularly if the body of water has a large crayfish population.
A variation of the basic grub is the addition of a 'twister' tail. At times, these types seem to produce very well, but I am inclined to think that they probably catch as many fishermen as they do fish. This style does have a number of excellent applications, however. Rigged 'Carolina style', with a slip sinker and swivel 10-15 inches in front of the lure, this 'swimming tail' grub can be exceptionally productive when presented in an area of current flow. When fished in this manner, the lure should be allowed to lay in place for periods while the current moves it about. Keep a reasonably tight line and watch for unusual movements, particularly the grub moving across or against the current! Many professional fishermen remove the traditional skirt from their spinnerbaits and substitute a twister tail grub, saying that the action is better and that it gives more 'substance' to the lure. Another method noted, particularly by anglers who fish predominately grassy waters, is to use a weedless hook and a small split shot weight and simply swim the twister tail grub along as we would a spinner bait.
Many grub bodies have a flat tail. In rigging up, we are advised that the flat portion should be horizontal. This seems to cause the tail to flutter on the fall and appear more lifelike. Whether it really matters or not may be debatable, but why argue with knownsuccess. For the twister tail versions, it is recommended that it be rigged with the curl of the tail upwards. This prevents the thin tail from being torn, or pulled off, when the lure comes across an obstruction.
There are only two problems with the grub, one of which is that they are fairly easy for a bass to throw out on the jump. Unlike a Texas-rigged worm, where the slip sinker normally run up the line and away from the hooked fish, the grub head stays put. When the bass comes up and snaps his head around, the compact weight of the grub lure makes it susceptible to being thrown. The way to counteract this is the same as with any other lure. Keep a tight line at all times and, when you see a jump coming, plunge the rod tip underwater as far as you can and reel rapidly. If you can pull his head over far enough, you will either stop the jump or, at least, shorten it.
The second problem is trying to fish the grub in cover areas, such as brush or grass. The professional anglers questioned do not consider this to be a major factor, in that the grub can be modified to fit the situation. There are three ways to make a grub reasonably weedless. One way is to affix a short rubber band through the eye of the hook and bring it back to be looped under the barb. A second is to use a weedless hook. Some can be found with a lead covering around the shank of the hook and these work fine in lieu of a lead head. A plain weedless hook can also be used if you add a normal slip sinker up front and peg it down.
When questioned as to the best color selections for the grub, our sources were in agreement that black, brown and smoke were preferred, with the latter being the primary selection. If the water is exceptionally clear, we were advised to consider a pale green. The simple grub is an easy to use, highly effective tool for harvesting bass. It can add another dimension to your bassin'.
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