Have you noticed that often the best looking, sexiest baits aren’t the best fish producers? I’ve seen it time and time again, when a simple impressionistic offering will out perform a highly detailed, high dollar plug or spoon.
When it comes to super simple, cheap, versatile lures, the plastic grub is the leader of the pack. These lures come in a wide array of sizes, colors and styles and they consistently catch fish in both fresh and saltwater. I’ll talk about saltwater grubbing in an upcoming article. Today I’m going to focus on deploying grubs in freshwater. More specifically I’m going to talk about how grubs can help you can more trout and bass!
I don’t know who the first angler was to deploy a soft plastic grub for trout was. I learned about the technique from tackle manufacturer Sep Hendrickson and to my knowledge his company was the first to market a “trout fishing” curly tail grub.
One, two and three inch models, subtle colors or bright, outstanding action and a low price…curly tail grubs are some of the best baits a trout troller can own!
I don’t think there is a trout lake in California where you can’t catch trout on grubs at least part of the time. They work well in lakes like Davis where trout feed heavily on insect. Yet they also work great on lakes like Folsom and Shasta where baitfish are the prey.
Trolling for trout with grubs in super simple, but there are a couple tricks that will save you some stress and elevate your game.
In addition to a variety of 1, 3 and 3 inch grubs in both natural and bright hues, you’ll need some ring eye style bait holder hooks matched to the size or your grubs. Trolled grubs generally spin, but rigging them on ring eye hooks keeps them as stable as possible. While a spinning grub might not look good to you, don’t worry the trout will hit it with gusto.
Next pick up a pack or two of ball bearing style trolling swivels. If you try trolling grubs without having your swivels dialed in your line will soon be twisted into knots.
Rigging is easy. Using a spinning or conventional rod, take the main line and attach it to a swivel. Attache 36 to 48 inches of 6 to 10 pound fluorocarbon leader and tip it with a hook. Pin a grub on the hook such that the hook bend rides in opposition to the grub’s tail (see illustration). The hook eye should be inside the bait if possible. That’s it you’re ready to troll.
Grub trolling is often done at slow speeds, say from 1 to 1.5 mph, but when using larger grubs or trolling lakes that feature baitfish like shad or smelt don’t be afraid to bump the speed up to as high as 2.5.
If I have to get my grubs into deep water, say water that is more than 20 feet deep or if I want to fish shallow but far behind the boat, I’ll utilize a downrigger.
If the fish are shallow and willing to strike near the boat, I love running grubs on a lightweight lead core outfit for the sake of simplicity.
While there are grubs on the market from a bunch of different companies I primarily utilize grubs from Sep’s or Berkley for trout. All Sep’s grubs are scented for trout. From the Berkley line, Power Grubs are my choice. They come in a good array of colors and they are all infused with the deadly PowerBait smell!
Can you team grubs with flashers and dodgers? You bet. I generally run grubs alone, but they work great behind standard dodgers, mini-dodgers or a set of flashers.
Back in the ‘80’s Mann’s Stingray Grub was all the rage among bass anglers. Add a jig head and the grub did and great job of imitating a crawfish. Hop it down a riprap bank with plenty of pauses and hang onÖ
Since the early days there has been an explosion in the grub market. There are dozens of different grubs available from different manufacturers. The most useful for day in day out utility is the standard curly tail type.
These grubs come in a range of sizes from 1 to 8 inches in length. The most useful bass sizes are in the 3 to 5 inch range, but you might want to pick up some 6 or 8 inch models to experiment with when big bass are on the prowl.
I spend most of my time fishing clean structure and as a result I most often fish my curly tailed grubs on a darter style jig head. If your home waters feature a lot of vegetation like Clear Lake or the Delta you’ll probably find that your grub use is evenly split between darter head rigging and Texas rigging.
A spinning rod is the proper tool for fishing a darter head rigged grub. For open water with no nearby tangles, 8 pound test fluorocarbon is fine. If there are weeds or brush nearby 12 pound test is a better choice.
I prefer natural colors when choosing grubs. These baits have a subtle life like action and I believe you are best served to employ them for ìmatching the hatchî. In situations where the bass are likely eating crawfish browns and olives are the way to go. When the bass are targeting baitfish, nothing beats a clear or smoke colored grub with metallic flakes.
When using a curly tail grub I start with a quarter ounce jig head most of the time. This head weight is a good compromise for working open water and the bottom in up to 15 feet of water. Once you find a pattern you can experiment with lighter or heavier heads to see which weight is most effective based on the water depth, wind and preference of the bass.
To start, find an area of the lake that has a variety of structure and depths such as a flat with a submerged creek running across it that terminates in deep water near a rocky point. If the creek and flat features some cover like submerged trees or brush, so much the better. Begin by rigging up a natural colored grub such as a dark smoke colored model with red flakes. Such a bait does a fair job of imitating both crawfish and baitfish. Once willing fish are found the color can be fine tuned to match the forage.
Begin by cranking the grub crankbait style through open water past obvious ambush points such as stick ups, large rocks and points. At first don’t allow the bait to sink much. As you continue, count it down and work progressively deeper until you are hoping the bait along the bottom crawfish style.
Once you start catching bass using either of these methods, you’ve got a decision to make. You can stick with the grub or you can try to dial the bite in even more with other lures. For example if you are getting bass while cranking grubs, you might want to give crankbaits a try to see if you can do even better.
If the grub is hooking fish off the bottom, a spider grub or jig n pig might generate more strikes from larger bass. You just won’t know until you try!