Grubs! From Swimmin' to Hoppin' to Scrubbin'
Making the Right Choices
Grubs are a pretty simple lure, for bass fishing most anglers opt for 3”- 5” models in a variety of solid and metal flake colors and combinations. Choosing which colors will work depends on the technique you plan on fishing and which forage you are imitating. Bass Pro Shops team leader Steven “Stick” Strejcek knows his grubs and he needs to - Bass Pro Shops carries thousands of grubs from most of the major manufacturers. “Our most popular bass fishing grubs are the XPS series by Bass Pro Shops. They are made from super soft plastic, with heavy salt and come in the best fish catching colors.” While Strejcek may be a little biased, the numbers of anglers that sing the praises of the XPS grub along with the sheer volume of the little baits they sell tell the true story. “As far as a grub for bass fishing is concerned the 4” XPS is far and away our best seller.” He added; “A few years ago Bass Pro sponsored a charity tournament on Table Rock Lake and six out of the top ten teams fished the XPS grub exclusively. The winners told the crowd at the weigh-in they had tried other grubs and they found the XPS to be the only one that got the job done.” When it comes to color selection, Strejcek suggests that anglers pay close attention to the forage they are trying to match; “….if you’re fishing for suspended fish you will want a grub that looks like a shad while if you are fishing for fish on or near the bottom you want your grub to look like a crawdad.” Stick continued; “Our best selling colors are milky salt and pepper or smoke pepper for shad imitation and melon pepper or pumpkin seed when you want to mimic a crawdad.” Choosing a lead head jig for your grub, you’ll find options are as varied as there are colors of grubs. From fish-head shaped custom finished heads to plain unpainted ball heads the choices are endless. According to Stick; “Finish is important but the bigger concern should be a quality hook, regardless of how you fish a grub the hook is the most important part of any head. You can’t go wrong with a Gamakatsu or Mustad hook and most anglers prefer a light wire in 2/0 to 4/0 sizes.” Bass Pro Shops sells thousands of lead heads. Strejcek says the most popular for bass fishing is the Bass Pro Shops premium ball heads with a Gamakatsu hook; “They are available from 1/16 oz. to 3/8 oz. with a 3/0 or 4/0 hook in both open hook and weedless models. We started carrying them this past year and they quickly took over as our best selling grub head, most of our pro staff swear by them.” When rigging a grub Stick recommends threading it straight on the hook down the middle of the body and then bring the hook point out the opposite side as the curly tail. “…this way the tail doesn’t hang up on the hook point during the retrieve.” Other rigging options include Texas or Carolina rigging a grub on a 2/0 off set hook much like a centipede.
Different Seasons Call For Different Techniques
While a simple cast and retrieve of a grub is the most popular retrieve, there are a few other retrieves used by the best grub anglers through out the year. Pro angler and Coast Guard Licensed guide Mike Webb is an accomplished grub fisherman. His prowess with the curl tailed grubs is obvious when you look at his the number of tournaments he has cashed a check in by casting the little baits. Mike will fish a grub year round and has broken down the different techniques by seasonal pattern. “Winter and spring are really the best seasons to fish a grub. In the late fall and winter bass will migrate over deep water to the backs of creeks following schools of shad. This is by far the best time to fish for suspended fish both out in open water and in the tops of trees.” Webb continued; “I look for trees that top out at around 30’–40’ deep, it doesn’t really matter the bottom depth because the fish are strictly relating to shad and the tree tops.” The Heartland Elite and Pro angler is well know as a master of deep fishing and uses a grub in the same way many deep fisherman use a spoon. “If I’m graphing fish in and around the trees I will drop a grub straight down to them and hop it the same as I would a spoon. But when I know there are fish in the area and I can’t see them on my graph I will fan cast an area letting the grub fall to about 30’ deep and slowly swim it back in through the tree tops searching for fish.” When the seasons change so does Webb, once fish move out of their deep winter haunts Mike will change his technique but not necessarily his bait. “In the spring most of the fish I target will be active and aggressive and I use a Table Rock technique known as “scrubbing”. Windy pea gravel pockets near deep water attract feeding pre-spawn fish in large numbers looking for shad and other minnows. Boat position is critical so if the wind is blowing really hard against the bank I will get within a cast of the bank and if it is only breeze I will stay out a little further.” Using the same salt and pepper grub and Jewel 5/16 spider head as he uses in the winter time the Ozark, MO Pro will scrub the bottom looking for bass. “The key is to maintain bottom contact during the retrieve, anytime you are not feeling the bottom you are moving the bait too fast, drop it back to the bottom and continue your retrieve. Once you get the hang of the correct speed it is not a difficult technique, most of the bites are pretty hard so you don’t miss allot of fish and it is amazing how many big fish will move up into a small area.” Like most professional anglers Webb has figured out the best equipment for his technique. In order to make long cast he opts for a Johnny Morris signature model 7’ medium heavy spinning rod matched with a Johnny Morris 2500 spinning reel spooled with eight pound test XPS fluorocarbon line. When choosing his favorite grub and head combination Webb differs with Strejcek as to which is best. “I really like the Bass Pro Shops Triple Ripple series of grubs; they have a lot more action at slower retrieve speeds due to the rippled tail. Recently I started using an unpainted Jewel 5/16oz. pro model spider jig head as well; it has a 3/0 Mustad cross eye hook, a great keeper system, a wire weed guard and the head design rolls through rocks and other cover better than an open hook.” Through years of trial and error Mike Webb has refined his technique of grub fishing into the reliable fish catching system he has today.
West Coast Style….
While stationed on the west coast with the Navy Pro Craft Pro Gary Rusk honed his grub fishing style on the clear reservoirs of California and Arizona. Gary is well known as one of the top deep fisherman in the area and his skills with a grub are near legendary. Rusk utilizes different equipment than most grub fisherman opting for a bait casting rod and reel set up over spinning equipment. “I use a 5’6” casting rod with a parabolic action matched with a Shimano Calcutta 100 reel and 8# XPS fluorocarbon. The shorter rod is a lot more sensitive plus the action allows me to make long casts and fight the fish more effectively.” While Rusk looks for the same seasonal patterns as Webb he feels the perfect day to fish a grub is a blue bird day with a very little wind. “I like to fish a grub in and around shad in trees. Sunny days with a little wind move the bait up in the water column and make the fish more active.” Rusk will key on submerged trees in creek arms looking for shad between 20’ – 50’ deep. “The most productive way I’ve found to fish a grub is to keep your boat away from the trees and bait and make a long cast. I let the grub fall until it goes slack, that way I know I’m over a tree limb and then swim it back to the boat through the limbs and shad. Many times I will get a bite as the bait is making that initial fall so a sensitive rod is a must.” In order to fish this technique the Bolivar, MO angler uses a white Bass Pro Shops 3/8 oz. ball jig head with an open hook and a milky salt and pepper XPS grub. “I will loose a few bait in the trees but the hook up ratio is much better on an open hook.” Gary continued; “A grub is my number one confidence bait, I will go to it over any bait in my tackle box.” Much like Webb and Strejcek, Rusk feels choosing the right equipment is essential to success. “The most important part of grub fishing is picking a rod, reel and line combo you are comfortable with and then find a grub you have confidence in.”
Other Options and Techniques…..
While most of the grub fishing covered so far centers around deeper techniques the effectiveness of a grub in shallow more fertile waters cannot be denied. During the heat of summer through early fall solid white or smoke / metal flake 5” big tailed grubs like a Zoom Fat Albert are great baits around boat docks. When fish are suspended under the floats of a dock I like to pitch a white grub on a Jewel 3/16oz spider jig head and swim it back about 2’ under the surface next to the floats of walk ways and dock stalls. This technique has been especially effective on Grand and Lake of the Ozarks when fish are out toward the deeper ends of boat docks waiting on schools of shad to come by on their migration back into the creeks.
Another overlooked technique is to fish a darker colored grub on the bottom in the heat of summer. Post spawn fish see thousands of lizards, centipedes, brush hogs, jigs and worms through out the summer. When fishing gets tough many northern anglers will switch to a 5” single tail grub on a jig head and “slow roll” or “scrub” the bottom of main lake points near channel swings and deep water. Most of the fish on these points will react to a grub because of its smaller size and subtle action; it is a nice transition presentation between a Carolina or Texas rig and a deep diving crankbait. Darker colors like green pumpkin, pumpkinseed and black neon work well for this technique.
River fishermen swear by grubs when working deeper pools and eddies near stumps, laydowns and root wads. Smaller 3” white and smoke grubs fished on 1/4 oz. heads are definite winners for smallmouth, largemouth and goggle eyes. Cast a grub upstream into pools and slack water eddies created by current obstructions then swim it back. Grubs are a simple but extremely effective method to catch fish in rivers and streams throughout the summer and fall.
Putting it all Together
Little baits with big results. While inexpensive and easy to fish, grubs are some of the most effective baits you can use on either deep, clear reservoirs or more fertile shallow lakes. Regardless of if you are fishing for suspended fish vertically, in trees, around docks, on the bottom scrubbing or slow rolling, a grub is an excellent choice to mimic bait fish and crawdads. The versatility and reliability of grubs cannot be over looked, so when you are considering what bait to tie on, take a second look at the often under fished grub.
Eric Prey is sponsored by: Ranger Boats, Bill’s Marine, Jewel Bait Co. and Anglers’ Tackle Box as well as the owner of Focused Fishing guide service.