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The Humble Grub: Is It the Best Soft Plastic Bait of All Time?

Written by: Pete D
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The humble grub, a soft plastic bait with a short fat body and a wriggling tail, is an essential in almost every angler’s tacklebox - and for good reason.

The curly-tailed grub and its many variations are deadly on everything from crappie to largemouth bass, flounder to perch, and salmon to walleye. And though tiny, they punch way above their weight when it comes to the fish that they entice into a bite.

If you’ve been reluctant to pick up a pack of grubs, keep reading.

We’ll set the record straight on this amazing bait choice, cover the best ways to fish it, and get you hooked on grubs in no time!

Related: Best Fishing Lures

What is a grub?

Think of a curly-tailed grub as the business end of a plastic worm. Short, relatively fat, and ridged, its abbreviated body sports a long tail that wriggles as it descends or hops.

what is a fishing grub

The magic grubs bring starts with their incredible versatility, and from jig heads to spinners, they’re effective on nearly any species you’re after.

And whether you suspend them and pop them gently with your rod tip, drag them across the bottom, run them behind a thumping spinner, or let them fall and glide, that tail draws fish in for a strike and a quick meal.

Know your bait: Grub options

While the simple curly-tail is the staple, grub designs span a wide variety of shapes.

The standard is set by options like Berkley’s PowerBait Original Power Grub.

Berkleys PowerBait Original Power Grub

Bass Pro

Berkeley’s Power Grub sets a standard few can match.

Available in a nice array of colors, and in both 2- and 3-inch lengths, these legendary grubs have probably caught more fish than any other.

But Berkley’s not the only game in town, and rivals like the Strike King Rage Tail Grub, at a full 4 inches, should be ignored for bass, walleye, salmon and larger species like that.

Strike King Rage Tail Grub

Bass Pro

Big Rage Tail grubs are ideal for larger species.

Paddle-tailed grubs produce a vibrating thump as they’re pulled or fall through the water column, and big slabs just can’t resist!

Charlie Brewer's Crappie Slider Grub is a great example of this style, and these tiny, 1-inch or 1 ½-inch grubs really, really deliver when you don’t need a super-slow fall.

Charlie Brewers Crappie Slider Grub

Bass Pro

Tiny paddle-tails like the Charlie Brewer Slider are crappie killers.

Salmon, walleye, and largemouth are suckers for Chompers Twin Tail Grub, yet another variation on this theme. Designed to move like crawfish, lizards, and other natural prey items, these twin tails are ideal for pre-spawn and spawn fishing.

Chompers Twin Tail Grub

Bass Pro

You’ll find that Gary Yamamoto’s Double Tail Hula Grub, a massive 5-inch competitor with Brush Hogs and other creature baits, is a versatile largemouth option, especially when rigged weedlessly on a worm hook and pitched into the thick stuff.

A final style to consider is the minnow grub, and Berkley’s Gulp! Minnow Grub is the way to go.

Berkleys Gulp Minnow Grub

Bass Pro

Day-glo colors like this make the Berkley Gulp! Minnow Grub a great choice for murky or stained water.

Fished on a jig head or behind a spinner, these 2- or 3-inch grubs really deliver in murky water, and that long curly tail and minnow body work together to deliver strike after strike.

How Do You Rig a Grub?

Grubs are almost always combined with a jig head.

A jig head is nothing more complicated than a hook with a weighted head and eyelet. The proper orientation of a jig is horizontal, as in the picture below.

jig head for fishing grub

In practice, this means that you need to ensure that your knot is at the top of the eye, not off to the side.

The process is simple.

Holding the jig in your off-hand, feed your grub head-first onto the point of the hook. Whether you choose to rig your grubs tail-up or tail-down, the process is the same.

Start feeding the grub onto the hook, keeping it oriented true by following the seams on the top and bottom. You want the tail to be at 90 degrees - straight up or straight down, your choice.

When the head of the grub is about to make contact with the keepers on the shank, pass the hook out through the grub’s body. Then, snug the grub’s head up to the front of the jig head.

What you want is perfect orientation of the knot, the grub, and the jig head.

proper fishing grub orientation

Proper grub orientation to the jig head is essential.

How to Fish a Grub for Bass and Crappie: Top Tips and Techniques Explained

Grubs can be used effectively with a variety of techniques, each having a place in your fishing arsenal. And whether you chase America’s most popular gamefish, the largemouth bass, or are a die-hard slab hunter, you’ll find grubs are deadly when fished properly.

Fishing Grubs for Largemouth Bass

Choose the right tackle

Grubs are finesse baits, and heavy rods just won’t give you the sensitivity you need to work them well.

Even for largemouth, you’ll want a light to medium light rod with a fast action. My top pick is easy: St. Croix’s Triumph 6’6” spinning rod. This light-power rod has the sensitivity you’ll want when fishing with grubs, and you’ll feel every detail of the bottom, each blade of grass, and even the timidest of strikes.

If that rod would leave your wallet feeling flat, try Shakespeare’s Micro Spinning Rod. At 7’, it casts like a dream and fishes way above its price point.

A size-20 Pfluger President or a Shimano Sedona 2500 offers more than enough drag, capacity, and fight-winning power for finesse techniques.

Shimano Spinning Reel 17 Sedona 2500 

Amazon 

Spinning tackle is the way to go for finesse bass fishing.

You’ll want spinning tackle with these light lures and lines, as baitcasters just can’t handle diminutive lure weights without experiencing casting issues.

Finally, choose light lines like 6- to 8-pound mono or fluorocarbon. Finesse presentations and clear water demand low-vis lines, and nothing beats Stren Original and Seaguar InvizX for abrasion resistance, knot integrity, and remaining invisible.

Jigging with grubs

Nothing says grub like a jig head, and picking the right head and the right technique to work it is closer to an art than a science.

For largemouth bass, you’ll find lots of anglers who swear by 3/0 darter heads like those available from Gamakatsu. They’re a bit pricey, but they work well, come sharp, and hook hard.

Gamakatsu 505413-3/8 Darter 26 Jig Head (5 Pack), Size 3/0, Black

Amazon 

For smaller sizes like 1/0 and 2/0, I reach for Owner 5147 Ultrahead Darter Jig Head. They hold a grub like it owes the jig money, and the point design is great at punching home.

Owner American 5147-068 Ultrahead Darter Jighead, 3/8 oz, 2/0 Hook, Black, One Size

Amazon 

If you’re having trouble keeping your grubs attached, a dot of superglue on the shank will create a strong bond.

If you choose a standard jig head, go light in shallower water, starting with something in the neighborhood of 1/16 ounces, moving up to as much as ¼ ounce. That’ll get you to the bottom at the right speed to make the most of the grub’s tail and flutter. 

Too much weight deadens action, proving counterproductive in the vast majority of situations. And while you might be tempted to throw a jig head heavier than ¼ ounces, most of the time, you’ll just get fewer bites.

Keep in mind that jig head design works hand-in-glove with technique.

If you plan to work the bottom and bounce your jig off rocks, stumps, and logs, a shaky-headed jig, something like Reaction Tackle’s Tungsten Shaky Head Jigs, paired with a Gary Yamamoto Double Tail Hula Grub, might be just perfect.

But if you’d prefer to swim a grub just over the top of a weed bed, a VMC Swimbait Jig Head paired with a Strike King Rage Tail Grub is money. Another jig head option to consider are the Z-MAN HeadlockZ HD Swim Jigheads.

Z-MAN Headlock Z HD Jig Heads, 3/8 oz 6/0, Multicolor

Amazon 

Z-MAN HeadlockZ are a great jig head for swimming a grub.

With that in mind, let’s cover some of the most popular techniques for jigging.

Work the bottom

Jig heads like the Z-MAN Pro ShroomZ Weedless are among my favorites for working on a hard bottom.

Z-Man FPHW14-02PK4 Pro Shroomz Weedless 1/4oz 4Pk - Black

Amazon 

I pair them with a 3-, 4-, or 5-inch grub, and let them fall until I make contact with the bottom. Then, I’ll lift my rod tip, pull the jig off the bottom, and let it settle again. The fluttering grub really attracts attention, and the jig head keeps it in the critical head-down orientation.

I also twitch this jig/grub combination, imparting just enough motion to get my grub’s tail wriggling. I’ll combine this with dragging it across the bottom with twitchy pauses.

If you plan to provoke a strike by probing cover like rocks, stumps, and blow downs, don’t forget Reaction Tackle’s Tungsten Football Jigs. Great for areas that have outlawed lead heads, these skirted jigs are designed to hit cover and dart erratically, attracting attention as they do.

Reaction Tackle Tungsten Football Jig for Bass Fishing - 1/2 oz Dark Pumpkin/Brown

Amazon 

I pair them with a Chompers Twin Tail Grub and hit every branch and bump I can find. Don’t be afraid to get hung up. The shape of the head and the weedless design will keep you from snagging, and you’ll find the big females everyone else misses.

Swim through the grass

Those Z-man Pro ShroomZ and Reaction Tackle Football Jigs work well when pulled and swum through weeds and grass, dipping them into and then ripping them free from the veggies. But there’s no sense in sticking to a single jig style when you want a weedless swim bait.

I also like to jerk my grubs through weeds using a ¼-ounce thkfish Bullet Jig. The offset is perfect for getting my “Texas” grub just right, and the 3/0 hook is the right size for bass.

thkfish Bullet Jig Heads Swimbait Hooks Bass Fishing Texas Rig Hook Saltwater Freshwater Offset Weighted Hook Weedless 3/0 7g 20pcs

Amazon 

Weedless “Texas-style” jig heads are ideal for swimming a grub.

I let my jigs settle into the grass until I can really feel it, and then I rip them free and up, letting them drift back down. That mimics prey items darting in and out of cover, and the erratic motion it imparts to my grub drives bass wild.

Spinners

Nothing ups the ante on a spinner like a fat grub trailer, making this already effective lure just that much better.

Grubs are ideal trailers for spinning lures

Grubs are ideal trailers for spinning lures.

A 2 ½- to 3-inch curly-tail, pulled behind a spinner bait, takes everything you love about spinners - flash and thump - and adds everything awesome about grubs - body shape, tail, and color.

For me, the combo I’m looking for is something like Booyah’s Pond Magic running a 3-inch Berkley Power Grub.

BOOYAH Pond Magic Small-Water Spinner-Bait Bass Fishing Lure, Fire Bug, Pond Magic

Amazon 

3-inch Berkley Power Grub

Bass Pro

This is a match made in heaven!

Fishing Crappie with Grubs

Any crappie angler worth their salt already knows that jigs are top-notch slab slayers. And nothing beats a grub in combination with a tiny jig head.

Let’s break down what you need to know.

Crappie Tackle: Make the Right Choice

Slabs aren’t massive fish, and you want a long, sensitive rod to really feel the soft bump of a strike.

My favorite crappie rod is St. Croix’s 6’6” Premier. Its lightpower, fast-action blank is perfect for casting, hooksets, and fighting, and there’s nothing about this rod you won’t like or feel the need to improve.

St. Croix Rods Premier Spinning Rod

Amazon 

Finesse tackle for bass works really well for crappie, too.

But truth be told, the rods we recommended for finesse fishing for bass are just as good for crappie, and both the St. Croix and the Shakespeare will have you covered for any slab hunt.

That’s also the case for the reels, with the Pflueger President and Shimano Sedona 2500 being ideal for crappie when paired with these light rods.

My preferred crappie line in casting is Stren Original monofilament in 6-pound test. But if I want a high-visibility line while I’m spider rigging, I’ll work Mr. Crappie’s Hi-Viz 6-pound test.

Strike King Lures Mr. Crappie Jig Head with Lazer Sharp Eagle Claw Hook, Freshwater, 1/32 oz, 2 Hook, Refrigator White, Package of 8, White/red

Amazon 

Hi-Viz really helps you watch your rods when you’re spider rigging.

Fishing grubs for crappie

When you’re thinking about crappie fishing with a jig and grub, think slow.

You want the grub to impart a slow fall to the tiny jig head, letting the slabs really key-in on your bait and rush in for a strike.

Some of my favorites are Bobby Garland’s Slab Slay'Rs on a 1/32-ounce jig head with a wide-gap hook. When you find a better combo than this for murky water, you let me know!

Bobby Garlands Slab SlayRsBass Pro

Strike King Lures Mr. Crappie Jig Head with Lazer Sharp Eagle Claw Hook, Freshwater, 1/32 oz, 2 Hook, Refrigator White, Package of 8, White/red

Amazon 

Wide gap jig hooks and grubs are among the best crappie options you can fish.

Especially in cooler water, I like a light jig head to slow that fall and give crappie a chance to take it. I’ll pitch or shoot these jig/grub combinations up under docks, let them fall, and nine times out of ten, start picking off slabs like nobody’s business.

A fat Charlie Brewer's Crappie Slider Grub on the same jig head is also deadly effective, and I like this pearlescent color when the water’s muddy.

Bass Pro

Hi-vis colors like pearlescent white are perfect for muddy water.

Where the water is clear, I’ll switch up to more realistic colors, and in deeper water, where I’ll want to keep a tight line and extra sensitivity, I’ll move up in weight to ⅛ ounce #2 jig head.

Charlie Brewers Crappie Slider Grub gold

Bass Pro

Strike King Lures Mr. Crappie Jig Head with Lazer Sharp Eagle Claw Hook, Freshwater, 1/8 Oz, #2 Hook, Chartreuse, Package of 8

Amazon 

Deep water calls for a slightly heavier jig head, just as clear water demands more subdued, natural colors.

Modding your grubs for slabs

90 percent of the crappie I catch strike on the fall, and a long, slow glide is almost always a good thing.

One way to encourage this is to modify your grubs with a knife or scissors.

Malcolm Lane, a crappie guide with more than 50 years of experience, probably knows more about how to catch slabs than any man alive. He says that “Everyone thinks of color first, but the most important thing is presentation. What I’m doing is changing the action and presentation in ways that trigger more strikes.”

His secret?

He trims the front of the grub at an angle, creating a sharp downward slope on the bottom of the soft plastic. That changes the hydrodynamic characteristics of the grub, creating a surface that encourages more glide and a slower fall.

That can not only help you sail your grubs further toward the back of a dock or pier, but it can also dramatically slow its descent.

Final Thoughts

By now, you should be up to speed on grub basics, and be ready to fish for largemouth or crappie with this awesome soft plastic bait.

But of course you’re not in any way limited to these species!

For instance, the High/Low rig, an excellent option for fishing from a pier, can be sweetened by the addition of a curly tail grub on each hook.

high low rig for fishing grubs

And there’s no walleye alive that doesn’t like the look of a 3-, 4, or even 5-inch curly tail on a ¼-ounce jig head.

Pretty much whatever you’re fishing will reliably hit a grub, making this perhaps the best all-around bait money can buy.

We hope that you’ve learned something from this article, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

We’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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