Finesse fishing's most overlooked lure

To me, plastic grubs rank as finesse fishing’s most overlooked lure, which is surprising, since they’ve been around since 1958. They’re among the easiest of all finesse lures to use, since they imitate small baitfish swimming through open water; you can fish them anywhere in the water column, including on the surface in place of buzz baits in thick vegetation.

I use grubs to cover water with a horizontal presentation. That means casting and winding, and it could hardly be easier. You don’t want to overwork grubs with a lot of jerks, pauses and speed changes. Only on rare occasions, when I’m absolutely certain I know bass are feeding on the bottom, will I use a short hopping presentation right along that bottom, and even then I only move the lure in very short hops.

Grubs have three basic tail designs that create the lure’s action, and water temperature essentially determines which tail style I use. The grubs I use range from three to five inches in length, and length choice is also determined by water temperature as well forage size.

For example, the colder the water, the more lethargic bass will be, so I chose a grub with a straight tail or a slightly pointed tail that looks like a spade. I don’t want any action, and this tail style does not vibrate or create any water movement. I use this style every winter where I live in New Jersey when water temperatures are in the 30s, just letting the lure sink and slowly swimming it near the bottom.

When water temperatures are between the mid-40s and low 60’s, I change to a paddle tail, or the popular boot tail style, because now the bass are more active. These tail designs produce a very tight wobble, even when I retrieve them slowly. Again, I don’t want to produce any wild action. All I do is cast and retrieve.

Bass are the most active when the water temperature is above 65 degrees, and this is when I choose the curl or swimming tail design because it creates the most water movement and commotion. In contrast to the boot tail, a curl tail grub has a wide wobbling action, almost like a crankbait.

In nearly all my grub fishing, I rig with a flat, slightly pointed dart head, rather than a rounded ball head, because the dart head helps create a gliding motion and keeps the grub swimming straight. Weights range from 1/16 to 3/8-ounce, depending on water depth, and I rig with the hook exposed. For boot tails and swimming tails, you want to rig the bend of the hook opposite the bend of the tail; with a flat spade tail, hold the grub so the flat tail is parallel to the surface of the water, and insert your hook so it points up, perpendicular to the flat tail.

Line size is critical, too. I nearly always rig with 6- to 10-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, and I may rig three rods with the same grub and jig head weight, but with three different line sizes so I can decide which combination works best. You’ll always get better lure action with lighter lines, but you also have to be able to feel your lure working.

Basically, grub fishing is just casting, letting the lure sink to a certain depth, and then retrieving slowly and steadily. Don’t do anything erratic; remember, you’re trying to imitate a baitfish swimming quietly through open water. You can fish grubs almost anywhere, too, but over bottom cover and contours, through standing cover, across points and down channels are my favorite places.

Want more? 

Finesse Fishing with Mike Iaconelli, the latest book produced by Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike Iaconelli and B.A.S.S. Senior Writer Steve Price, details many more of his finesse fishing techniques, including drop shotting, shaky heads, split shotting and others. Autographed copies are available at for $19.95.

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