For A Fishing Throwback, Single-Tail Grub Baits Get Bites In The Fall

By on October 21, 2015
Jeff Elliott holds up a nice bass caught with a single-tailed grub bait. (Credit: Jeff Elliott)

One of the first “bass” lures I was introduced to as a kid was the simple single-tailed grub. Throwing it out and simply swimming it back to the boat always produced some fish. It was an easy way to get hooked on fishing. Nowadays, it is often looked at as an ancient artifact from tackle boxes past, but no one can deny the fact that the simple grub still gets bit.

The majority of the year, fishing a grub is more of a numbers game. You’ll catch all sorts of fish on them: bass, pike, walleyes, crappies and really anything else that will eat a minnow. But tournament-quality bass aren’t really the norm. However, that changes in places where the water gets cold and clear in the fall.

You might wonder what changes to make things so different in the fall. Northern lakes have a lot of small minnows and shiners. That year-class of baitfish is plentiful and finally grows to a size where bass want to start eating them. They also seem to really bunch up in certain areas in the fall, making it easier for bass to target them. These two factors are what I believe really drive a baitfish-oriented bite in the fall.

A 3-inch grub really mimics these small- to medium-sized baitfish well. It has a really subtle action and just screams “eat me!” as it moves through the water. I mentioned clear water earlier and that is really important for a stellar grub bite. It isn’t necessarily bumping along the bottom or creating lots of vibration, so they have got to be able to see it to eat it. Since these fish are getting a good look at the bait, natural colors are the name of the game. My two favorites are smoke and watermelon red.

Single-tailed grub bait. (Credit: Jeff Elliott)

Single-tailed grub bait. (Credit: Jeff Elliott)

I find many of the fish that I catch on grubs are looking up and searching the water column and not the bottom. One fall day a couple years ago, this lesson really became apparent. I was in a deep smallmouth area and could see them on my Humminbird electronics but they were all 3 to 5 feet off the bottom. I was fishing some hard structure and throwing typical bottom-bumping baits at them without a bite. I turned back around and went through the area again, this time slowly swimming the grub just over their heads. I experienced vastly different results and quickly caught a bunch of nice smallmouths!

The most common retrieve I’ll use with a grub is simply a slow swim. But just like anything in fishing, there is more than one way to make it work. Quickly snapping the grub up and letting it fall back to the bottom and bumping it along will also put fish in the boat. In addition to fishing a grub on its own, it can be added to a spinnerbait to give it a little more bulk and action.

When rigging a grub on its own, I simply just thread the grub onto a round ball head with a quality hook. The hookset is a pressure set where you just lean into them, so a good sharp hook is critical to keeping fish hooked up. The most common weights I use are 1/8, 3/16, and 1/4, depending on water depth and wind speed. I typically rig the grub with the tail pointing down as it gives maximum action for fishing looking up at the bait. I prefer throwing them on a 7-foot or longer Dobyns spinning rod, spooled up with a braid and a fluorocarbon leader. The braid not only helps to make long casts to spooky fish in clear water, but provides extra sensitivity when the fall winds make staying in contact with the bait a challenge. Many fish will just load up versus feeling an actual bite, so a sensitive rod and line combo is critical.

Now is the time, get out on the water and go retro with a grub. You might be surprised at just how effective they can be.

Top image: Jeff Elliott holds up a nice bass caught with a single-tailed grub bait. (Credit: Jeff Elliott)

About Jeff Elliott

Jeff Elliott is a 2014 Bassmaster Team championship qualifier. He has 75 tournament wins, including the 2012 Detroit Lions/Kevin VanDam Charity tournament. He is a seven-time points champion and a Bust'in Sticks TV show champion.

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