Floppy-Tail Grubs for Smallmouths

By Darl Black

One lure synonymous with springtime smallmouth bass on the bays of Door County is the floppy-tail grub. Some anglers refer to it as a curl-tail, twister-tail or swim-tail. But I call them floppy-tail grubs, and I’ll explain why shortly.

For many years, the most recognized grub on Sturgeon Bay and its affiliate bays was the 5-inch Kalin Lunker Grub. More recently, Get Bit Baits introduced their 4-inch Hyper-Tail Grub which quickly became a respected competitor in the arena of floppy-tail grubs.

I had been using a 4” Mister Twister grub before I had ever heard of any other grub. But as soon as I was introduced to the Kalin Grub, I switched. The reason was simple – the wider, softer, floppy tail of the Kalin.

The Lunker Grub and Hypertail grubs’ tails wave like a flag in the breeze with the slightest movement of the bait. This action is very critical to the success of a particular retrieve used in the cool water of pre-spawn. Get Bit Bait’s Hyper-Tail grub incorporates a tab on the end of the curl tail which helps enhance the action.

Okay, here’s the retrieve that has works so incredibly well across the Northern Tier as smallmouth begin transitioning to spawning areas: slow rolling. You’ve heard of slow rolling a spinnerbait, well, this is slow-rolling a grub. Simply let the grub find bottom after the cast then begin a very, very slow retrieve, keeping the grub just above the bottom. Pause the retrieve and let the grub find bottom again if you believe the grub has climbed in the water column.

As smallmouth bass move from deep to shallow water in the spring, they are hugging the bottom. Although hungry, smallmouths are not aggressively chasing bait – but will certainly snatch a would-be bait fish that comes too close. This is the retrieve that will likely catch your biggest fish.

In my opinion the color of the grub is very important. I usually start out with a clear/silver flake or smoke colored grub in the clearest water. If the water has a hint of color, I will go with a Root Beer or Amber colored grub. In stained water, green pumpkin usually gets the nod.

I use a 7-foot #2 power G Loomis Spinning Rod with Shimano Sedona Reel. The reel is spooled with 10-pound Gamma Torque braid with a five foot leader of 8 pound Gamma Edge. The grubs – either Kalin or Hypertail – are rigged on Bass Stalker Spot Stalker Heads with the wire-guard removed. Depth and wind conditions determine the head size – 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16 or 3/8-ounce heads are all in my box.

For additional information on floppy tail grubs, visit www.unclejosh.com and www.getbitbatis.com.

The Crawling Tube

By Darl Black

Get Bit Baits (www.getbitbaits.com) of Wisconsin makes a variety of different tubes, worms and grubs specifically for smallmouth bass fishing. I very much like their Finesse Tubes for general river fishing. But their unique Crawling Tube is a somewhat different creature. Each tube has strands of silicone inserted through the length of the body, creating a tube that looks very much alive even when sitting still due to the relentless quivering of the strands. Get Bit Baits owner Dan Elsner created the Crawling Tube for bedding smallmouth. Personally, I believe smallmouth bass should be left alone when on beds, but that doesn’t mean the Crawling Tube cannot be used at other times. I find it particularly deadly for ice-out smallmouth on our area rivers. Shaking the rod tip lightly with the tube resting on the bottom causes the multiple inserted strands to dance. Dragging or slowly swimming it just off the bottom results in a pulsating appearance to the tube. The Crawling Tube is available in a 2-3/4 and 4 inch models; both produce at ice out. However, be prepared to pay extra for this tube due to the amount of hand labor that goes into each lure.

Go Fish!

Sources of Hand-Tied Jigs

I've never fished a hair jig made outside of the US or Canada that was worth a darn. Seems like only expert North American tiers understand how to choose quality materials and adjust the amount of material to achieve a properly balanced jig.

When purchased from a quality tier, hand-crafted hair jigs will likely run between $2.50 and $3.50 each – maybe more. Of course you can learn to tie your own, but there is a learning curve involved before you start producing a decent jig. Plus there is the upfront investment of vise, tying tools, hooks, lead, body materials and so forth.

I started tying my own jigs 40 years, but eventually got away from it as demands on my spare time increased. Today, I obtain most of my hand-tied hair jigs from master-tier Jim DeZurik who does business as Jimmy D’s River Bugs out of Minnesota (www.jimmydsriverbugs.com). Jim is a very skilled tier, offering a wide variety of hand-tied creations. But if you want something special, send Jim a prototype sample and he will custom tie the pattern you desire. View several samples of Jimmy D’s River Bugs in the accompanying photo.

Good Bets for Prespawn River Smallmouth

SMQ 03 4 15Good Bets for Prespawn River Smallies

Trying to narrow down the wide array of useful lures for springtime river smallmouths is a difficult task. Therefore, I’m going to suggest seven baits for anglers to consider.

Of course these are not the only baits which produce, so please don’t consider this a “final” list by any means. You may have others that are equally effective. But if pondering what to use, here’s my picks:

Tubes – Simply put, tubes are effective for river smallmouths at all times. Whenever I hit the river, I always have a tube jig on one rod. For river fishing in the spring, I prefer a tube that is 3.5” to 4” in length.

Galida’s Grubz – I’ve had great success with curly-tail grubs for smallmouth in the spring. Galida’s Grubz are especially popular with my fishing mates on the Allegheny River. While I generally fish a grub slow and steady, my wife and several other friends employ a lift and drop jig retrieve with Galida’s Grubz. One buddy, Bill Logan, fishes the Grubz more than any other bait on the river, and catches fish when everyone else struggles. You will not find them in stores, so Google them online if interested.

Sweet Swimmer – Swimbaits are being used by more and more anglers in the spring for river smallmouths. If you’ve never used a soft plastic swimbait for smallies, it really is time that you tried one out. One of my favorites is the Gene Larew Sweet Swimmer. 

Suspending  Rogue – When the river is clear, it’s time to break out a hard jerkbait. There are many excellent ones on the market. More often than not, I tie on a Rogue in a particular color pattern that has been especially effective for me for river smallies – that would be #69 Golden Rogue.

Bandit Crankbait – However, if the river is dingy, I leave the jerkbait off and tie on a Bandit Crankbait 200 series in Rootbeer. It’s a great search lure when the dirty water is swirling around the shoreline.

Chatterbait – I used to fish a spinnerbait in the spring for river smallmouth under dirty water conditions. Today, I generally tie on a Chatterbait. I believe a Chatterbait has a lot more vibration. And the shimmy action of the Chatterbait seems to turn smallmouth on.

Terminator S-1 Spinnerbait – Okay, I didn’t say I never use a spinnerbait anymore. To round out the lucky seven springtime river baits my vote goes to ¼-ounce Terminator Super Stainless double willow in White Shad pattern (or other shad pattern). It’s the perfect all-around small-profile spinnerbait for spring bronzebacks.

The above selection of baits will cover the various situations which confront the angler as smallies from wintering locations to spawn time.