They’re kind of like the short stop of your tackle box, only without all the glamor and star power. Indeed, grubs are a multi-talented category of soft plastics whose lack of fanfare starkly contrasts their versatility.
In terms of contemporary bait designs, grubs might be somewhat of an old-school category, but the lures have an enduring and endearing appeal that merits space in every tackle bag.
FLW Tour pro Andrew Upshaw, who’s tallied nine top 10’s including a College Fishing Series win in Louisiana waters, devotes a lot of his casts to the Gene Larew Rally Grub, a 3 ½-inch bait introduced at ICAST 2014.
And, while Upshaw believes in the grub’s potential across the calendar, he finds these baits excel in the colder months.
“Grubs are typically wintertime lures for most anglers,” Upshaw said. “Some guys take them out after January, others leave them in the boat all year. I think the Rally Grub is a bait that could stay in a fisherman’s boat all year, just because of the versatility of the lure.
“Whether you are fishing shallow in the winter or deep, the Rally Grub has a use in your boat.”
There’s a couple of key reasons for this. First, your smaller, subtle profiles often tempt picky bass when they’ve seen too many reaction baits, and larger-profile jigs and Texas rigs.
Upshaw noted that winter months bring the grub front and center because bass metabolism slows and fish rarely feel like chasing a fleet-footed lure or expending the energy to capture what looks like a big, feisty meal.
This is the time when those modest meals tend to get more attention.
Secondly, even when the fish are snapping — say, a warming trend or a during winter rain — downsizing is often the key to sneaking a bait into the strike zone without the fish scattering, as they often do when plunked with something that exceeds their tolerance.
By definition, a grub’s key characteristic is a short, usually round body resembling an insect larvae. Body design can be smooth, segmented or ribbed (partially or fully), while some makers dress up the presentation with fringed heads like the Outcast Spider Grub or Yamamoto Hula Grub.
On the back end, the traditional look includes a single oversized sickle or hook-shaped tail that swims with a bold display. Examples include Kalin’s Magombo Grub, Z-Man’s Grubz and Chompers Single Tail Grub.
Twin tails like Zoom’s Fat Albert and Berkley’s Powerbait Double Tail Grub increase action, while diversity increases with creature bait styles and slug bodies like the Arkie Salty Crawlin Grub and the Evolve RX Vibra Grub, respectively.
Upshaw said he favors the Rally Grub’s tail design because the flat knob at the end creates more drag that accentuates the swimming action. That’s an important feature, he said, given the emphasis that today’s anglers place on swimming action.
“I feel (grubs) have been overlooked due to the huge push of swimbaits,” Upshaw said. “However, many pros all over the country still rely heavily on grubs in certain situations.”
Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year Greg Hackney agrees. He’s a big fan of the Strike King Rage Twin Tail Menace, a 4-inch grub-style bait that sports two, broad, beveled tails that move lots of water.
The bait is packaged with the tail halves attached so anglers have options for a single or double tail look.
“This is a bait that I can use for several different scenarios, from flipping to swimming presentations,” Hackney said.
Grub uses vary from star-of-the-show, to backup performer.
“My overall favorite time of year to fish a grub-style bait is in the winter to prespawn time period,” Upshaw said. “This is when I fish the grub on a scrounger or jighead the most.
“I cast it out, let it go to the bottom and slowly reel the grub back to the boat; this will allow you to keep it in the strike zone longer.”
He said the exact presentation of the grub can change.
“Some days the fish prefer the shake of a scrounger head, and some days they like the tail swimming through the water,” Upshaw said. “I’ll experiment until I figure out what they like.”
Next on Upshaw’s list of grub tactics is a ChatterBait. The Rally Grub, he said, fits this presentation well because its slim body mimics a shad profile, while the tail pad creates the thumping vibrations that entice fish.
“This is also the time of year I fish the grub on a ChatterBait around shallow water grass,” Upshaw said. “For instance, if I’m fishing a lake that has a lot of shallow-water vegetation during the prespawn, I will use a 3/8-ounce Original ChatterBait in chartreuse and white with a firetiger-colored Rally Grub as a trailer.
“That bait combination really stands out.”
Lastly, Upshaw often addresses ultra-finesse scenarios by using his grub on a dropshot. Here, the bait’s slender profile and active tail offer the kind of presentation bass can’t resist.
“The tail isn’t wide-based like (most) other grubs; its seriously just a little swim tail,” Upshaw said. “It takes very little shake in your rod to give it action, and I think that is crucial for success when drop shotting.”
But there are other applications:
• Slow Swimming — Rigged on a light ball-head jig and pulled along a bank of vegetation or next to a dock, your grub does a great baitfish impersonation.
For another ruse, think amphibians.
One of the biggest bass I ever caught in U.S. waters came on a small, off-brand twin-tail grub barely big enough to accommodate my 3/0 worm hook. Recent rains had turned a storm drain into a mighty current that bounced off a stand of bank grass and reeds with a textbook ambush point in the weed mats on the inside bend.
Tossing that weedless-rigged grub across the mat, I slowly swam it through the shallow puddles in the vegetation. It must’ve looked like one of the frogs traversing this course because the violent eruption that greeting my second cast concluded with a fat 7-pounder nursing a sore lip and a bruised ego.
• Finesse Flipping — Fitted with a 3/0 to 4/0 hook and a pegged with a 1/8- to 3/16-ounce bullet weight, a grub is ready to sneak in and out of laydowns, invade gaps in grass beds, or skip under docks.
• Dance Partners — As flipping jig trailers, grubs can provide active or subtle pairings, depending on the type of tail.
When Hackney fits his Strike King Hack Attack jig with the Rage Twin Tail Menace, the grub’s broader tail sections emit much less action than he’d get from a craw-style trailer.
“A grub is a good choice when I want a smaller-profile trailer that doesn’t have a lot of action,” Hackney said. “If I need to make my jig more compact, I’ll cut about half an inch off the head.”
Conversely, Hackney knows that splitting the tails on his Rage Twin Tail Menace and pairing the grub with a Strike King Pure Poison swim jig creates an appealing package for bass ready to rumble.
Somewhere in between, FLW Tour pro Adrian Avena tackles cold-water bass with a ¼- to ½-ounce black/blue Zorro hair jig with a blue 4-inch twin-tail grub.
Avena trims the length of his hair skirt level with the accent color and thins the skirt by about a third. If the fish are exceptionally persnickety, he might also shorten his grub trailer.
“How I fish a hair jig is slow,” Avena said. “Basically, I dead stick it, and the combination of the thin legs on the twin tail and the hair on the jig give it all the action it needs.”
He focuses his attention on those areas in which he’s confident bass will be holding.
“The key structure during the winter months is hard cover because it’s dense and it holds heat,” Avena said. “So this tactic excels around wood and (riprap).
“I use this bait in typical wintering holes with deep water or spots adjacent to deep water, hard cover and protection from the elements.”
So for the cold weather remaining and the forthcoming warm season, don’t overlook the grub’s potential. They’re certainly not the most-pretentious bait on the rack and it’s a short walk to something with greater media exposure.
However, this workhorse bait serves many angling needs — often with surprisingly productive results.
“Honestly, to me, a grub is a successful bait to have in your boat year round,” Upshaw said. “Whether you’re fishing it on a swim jig, a ChatterBait, a jighead or a Scrounger, you will always catch bass on this bait.”