As a kid growing up in the country, I discovered grubbing was no fun.
“Grubbing” meant using a mattock to dig up stumps and roots, or clear fence rows of saplings and brush. Grubbing was the most back-breaking labor there was.
Hence the expression, “grubbing out a living.”
Nowadays “grubbing” has a different connotation, considerably more enjoyable. It refers to using small plastic artificial lures – commonly known as grubs – to entice fish to bite.
Plastic grubs are effective year-round, and on all species of freshwater and saltwater fish. I’ve used grubs to catch mahi-mahi in Hawaii, redfish in Louisiana, speckled trout in Florida, and walleye and Northern Pike in Canada.
Closer home, I’ve fished grubs for Center Hill smallmouth and Old Hickory largemouth. I’ve caught bluegill, stripe, crappie, sauger, shellcrackers, rockfish and trout on grubs.
I’ve also inadvertently caught drum, carp, skipjacks, buffalo and three species of catfish – channels, blues and flatheads – on grubs while fishing for other species.
I even caught a turtle on a grub.
The great thing about grubs is that, in addition to being effective and simple to use, they’re inexpensive. There’s a big difference between breaking off a $10 crankbait on a submerged log and losing a 50-cent grub and lead-head.
It leaves you in a better mood at the end of the trip.
I used to be skeptical about using grubs for crappie. I grew up fishing with minnows and watching bobbers, and I wasn’t convinced that little gobs of plastic would work as well. And at times they don’t – sometimes when crappie are finicky they’ll bite minnows while ignoring artificials.
And I admit, I still enjoy the excitement of watching a bobber twitch, bounce, and disappear.
But generally if the crappie are active, they’ll hit grubs as readily as minnows, and there are numerous advantages to using the former.
For starters, you don’t have to detour by the bait shop on your way to the crappie hole – and sometimes find it either not open at an early hour or sold out. That happened to my fishing buddy and me one day last spring. He’s a dedicated minnow fisherman and apparently so were all the others who beat us to the bait shop that morning and bought every minnow in sight.
We lost over an hour’s fishing time searching for another bait shop. When we finally got on the water, I caught more crappie on jigs than my buddy did on his beloved minnows.
Grubs come in an endless array of sizes, colors and shapes, but my favorite for crappie is a tube jig. It’s just what it says it is – a hollow plastic tube with fluttering tassels. The jig can be fished beneath a float or twitched through the water at different depths and speeds.
Mt. Juliet crappie guru Chuck Campbell introduced me to tube jigs several years ago. I had been using jigs with fluttering tails – Twister Tails – not convinced that a tube jig would impart enough action to entice a bite.
After Chuck brought in his fifth or sixth big crappie of the morning, I became a believer. I switched to a tube jig, and I’ve never switched back.
One lesson I’ve learned during over a half-century of fishing around the world: don’t argue with the fish. If they want grubs for grub, serve ’em up.