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Springing the Hula on Early Season Bass

By Russ Bassdozer

March right in! This is one of THE most definitive hula grub articles EVER published, with insights and tactics for you from Garry Garland, Gary Yamamoto and Dion Hibdon.

There's a lucky saying that one good thing follows another. For Bobby and brother Garry Garland, their luck at developing the original Gitzit tube jig was followed by the first spider jig they produced in early 1974. Initially, the Garlands experimented with rigging a tube jig in reverse to appear barer behind with the tentacles up front to better imitate a crawdad. Modifications happened quickly as Garry Garland split the back of the tube into tentacles too. A superfloater worm was added as a trailer. Next, the worm tail was split in half to make two legs kicking back there. That split tail gave Bobby Garland the idea for the double tail twister grub in back. The addition of a weedless jig head came on Bull Shoals in February 1974. The lake was exceptionally high. Bass were holding shallow under a shoreline rim of floating wood and debris that was too tough to fish without being weedless. The spider jig was born!

Today, over thirty years after helping to make the original, Garry Garland says the spider jig remains largely unchanged. The spider jig isn't exactly a true copy of a crawdad - or anything else. Lures can sometimes be too perfect and too painstaking in detail, says Garland. Imperfection and incomplete detail in a bait works better. Garland says it presents to the fish that this is not a perfect, healthy specimen, but an easier prey to catch than a perfect copy.

Gary Yamamoto agrees. The hula grub is like that, he says. It imitates nothing in particular and everything in general. Depending on the color and action that an angler uses, a spider jig can give fish the impression of a craw, a panfish, a shad, etc. Yet at other times, it is just something non-descript and moving - an easy target that bass strike.

Yamamoto is one of many lure manufacturers today who make their own versions of soft plastic spider jigs, also called hula grubs. He first started using hula grubs about twenty years ago because it was the bait of choice in the West. From there, he continued to use hula grubs across the country from North to South to East with equal success.

Although hula grubs can be used year-round, springtime is most productive says Yamamoto. The hula grub can be used shallow and deep, but it is most effective shallow in the springtime, swimming and bouncing it off rocky bottoms. Yamamoto uses the hula grub to imitate a crawdad in spring. As fish come shallow in spring, they eat crawdads and are more receptive to hula grubs than at other times of the year.

Yamamoto fishes hula grubs in two ways. First, a half-ounce jig, heavier than most people use, moved fast in a swimming motion. Throw to the bank, and as soon as it hits bottom, start reeling it to give it a fast action until it hits bottom again.

Hula grubs in natural browns and greens imitate both crayfish and bluegills, two major sources of food for early season bass.

Gary Yamamoto uses 16 to 20 lb. test line. He's not finesse fishing or using light line, but going for aggressive fish with a heavy flipping stick and baitcasting reel. He prefers fluorocarbon line that has low stretch and high abrasion resistance. He'll swim hula jigs in spring in shallows from zero to ten feet more quickly than most people, bumping along bottom almost like you'd use a big-billed crankbait. If no fish are present or biting shallow, he'll switch to a heavier jig head without changing the bait, but switching into ten to twenty feet of water with a 5/8 or oz. jig head for prespawn or postspawn fish that may be staging at those depths. Yamamoto may go up to a one-ounce jig in water down to thirty feet deep. Just bounce bottom and reel quickly enough to keep from getting snagged while you swim the lure on a wide football-shaped jig head with a wire-pronged weedguard to deter snags.

It's a moving target, says Gary, adding that he likes chartreuse spider jigs to trigger bites from more active and aggressive fish in spring. As the season progresses and the sun warms the water, Yamamoto prefers pumpkin, rootbeer and watermelon hulas with chartreuse tints that he adds himself on the tail with worm dips and dye pens. In clear water, translucent smoke pepper colors work well.

The second way Gary uses a hula grub is to flip and pitch a big six-inch model Texas-rigged in heavy cover. Where many others would use the old standard rubber-skirted jig of jig-and-pig fame, Gary Yamamoto has practically eliminated the use of rubber jigs. Instead, he prefers to use a large six-inch hula grub Texas rigged with a 5/0 round bend straight shank hook. For flipping and pitching into heavy cover where you do not have to make long casts, you'll get a better powerset by Texas rigging with the straight shank hook rather than an offset shank hook, says Yamamoto. It is a big bait, but one that bass rarely see, says Gary.

On heavy flipping gear, driving a Texas-rigged hook through the soft plastic of a hula grub allows you to get a better hook set than using a conventional jig-and-pig with a bulky jig head and thick fiberguard. With a hula grub, you have a lot more time to set the hook, and a lot more confidence they'll keep on eating it once they pick it up. With a jig, people often say to swing as soon as possible in case the fish might let go of a jig-and-pig, but that is not the case with a Texas-rigged spider grub. You have more time due to the chewy hula grub body, the fact that the hook eye and hook point are not exposed but buried in the bait, there is no stiff fiberguard. Neither is there a protuberant chunk of jig head molded onto the hook, but a separate streamlined bullet sinker. These are all factors that add up to bass holding Texas-rigged spider grubs longer than jigs.

One trick Yamamoto uses is a bobber stopper to peg the bullet sinker close to the hula grub so it all falls through the cover as one unit rather than having the sinker separate from the bait. This is important since the skirted front of a hula grub is too bulky to get through heavy weeds at times. It's especially impossible if the sinker slides down the line under the weed cover, leaving the hula grub stuck up top. The bobber stopper makes sure the weight and bait go everywhere together. A bobber stopper looks like a football-shaped hard rubber grain of rice, only smaller. Each bobber stopper comes on a micro-thin wire threader. To rig up, you insert your line through the eye of the threader and slide the bobber stopper down onto your line. Next put on the bullet weight, the hook, and the hula grub, then snub the bobber stopper back down the line so everything stays together as one unit as it slips through heavy cover.

Even still, the skirted front part of the big six-inch hula grub can be just too wide at times to make its way through the thickest of cover. At those times, Yamamoto downsizes to a five-inch craw worm. Not having the wide hula skirt up front, the pencil-thin end of the craw worm slips through dense cover that the broad hula-skirted grub cannot penetrate easily.

With a spider jig of his own design, Dion Hibdon proudly won the 1997 Bass Master Classic. Hibdon begins early spring using them as craws, but by the time things warm up enough that bass are ready to spawn, Dion switches to imitating a bluegill with the spider grub.

Hibdon has always used spider jigs as finesse baits on a weedless jig head with a fine wire hook that works well with light line. Hibdon favors hula grubs most in clean, clear water, but especially in pressured waters where guys are constantly throwing bulkier rubber-skirted jig-and-pig combinations.

Fishing is a rapidly growing sport, which is good, but it means lots of lakes are getting more fishing pressure nowadays. In large part due to this fishing pressure, Hibdon uses lightweight 1/8 to ounce spider jigs. Dion feels the spider grub with a lighter jig head is bite-sized and not at all intimidating to bass that may have learned through experience to think twice about eating baits that are bigger. It represents a good little morsel to a bass, and you'll get more bites in a day by using a lighter spider jig, says Hibdon.

The lightness also better imitates the subtle action of a crawdad. If you ever watch a craw descend toward bottom, it kicks its legs out and parachutes down slowly. So, your hula jig should get a good slow fall. That's a big key as most bites come when a spider jig is falling, says Dion. The bass on bottom are looking up, and it is easier for them to catch a crawfish while it is up off the bottom. Once they get onto bottom, it is easier for craws to hide. So, bass hit spider jigs on the fall, and Hibdon keeps it pretty light, at least in early spring.

Small sizes of Kentucky spotted bass and smallmouth may rap a hula hard, but with bigger bass and largemouth, there usually isn't a thump or even a peck most of the time, especially in cool early season waters. Due to a hula grub's small size, there's not any reason for a decent bass to hit it hard to kill it. Bass know it is not going to get away from them. They just pick it up and won't spit it out for the most part because it is such light, soft bait. Many bass are often "already there" by the time the angler knows it!

Basically in spring, it is still relatively cool and the fish can be fickle sometimes when it's still cool, requiring spinning gear with 8-10 lb. line to finesse a few bites. Dion uses a 6'6" medium/heavy spinning rod. Hula jig fishing can be really abrasive on lighter lines like 8 to 10 lb. test. For some reason, Berkley Trilene XT in these lighter pound tests truly excels, claims Dion.

Early in the season, especially if it is still prespawn weather, Dion concentrates his hula grub fishing more in the rocks. Hibdon works the hula grub right on the bottom in slow, short hops to represent a crawfish. Hibdon will also use a small soft plastic craw imitation in springtime around rocks. It's another compact bulky little bait used on bottom real slow. Dion matches up the small crawfish with a good hula skirt on a jig head. It takes some sun to warm the water a few degrees around a big old rock. But when that happens, the craws will come out to be in the sunlight rather than the shade, and get out on top of those rocks. Sunshine days draw the craws out, and they draw out Dion and his crawfish-imitating spider grubs too!

By the time things warm enough that bass are getting ready to spawn, Dion changes his tactics by using the hula grub to imitate a bluegill. A bluegill is a major predator on bass eggs and hatchlings. There are few things that aggravate bass more than a bluegill, especially during spawning season.

Dion's approach becomes one of skip-casting the lightly-weighted hula grub across the surface like a stone, getting it far back into hidey-holes under docks and under overhanging trees where other fisherman can not easily pitch or flip a conventional jig, especially not one with a heavy jig head. Since the bluegill he is trying to imitate are not really bottom-skulkers, Hibdon may never let the hula grub get all the way to the bottom, but start cranking it out by swimming it around bass beds or any areas that seem like potential bass holding spots.

Dion's spider jigging is not just shallow. He'll plumb all depths during early season. A familiar hula grub pattern of Dion's is to prospect for prespawn bass that may be holding in flooded brush clusters on underwater points. These bass may be staging on points 15-18 feet deep on down to 25-30 feet. How deep you go depends on water clarity, water temperature, and where you find them staging, which often comes down to trial-and-error and time spent on the water. Hibdon uses the same medium/heavy spinning gear and line, and the same style of weedless jig with an ultra-sharp light wire hook.

In terms of jig weight,1/2 oz. can still be considered pretty light in 15 feet and deeper. You have increased line drag as you go through water, so a oz. hula jig will still float around at these depths, and not act heavy and unnatural as it would in shallower water.

Bass may be feeding on bluegills that inhabit these brushy points in spring. The bluegills stay up in the crowns of the brush, and if you work the hula jig dead on the bottom, you may not get many bites. What Dion does is drop the jig down to bottom on the initial cast, then raise it up a bit and swim it enticingly through the middle and tops of the bushes.

For colors, use green pumpkin, brown pumpkin, and watermelon. One thing Dion does is to color the tails with a dye pen. Dye pens are easy to carry and apply, says Dion. Green pumpkin can especially match both bluegill and crawfish in spring. He will add orange accents to imitate a crawfish, and chartreuse for bluegill. The last thing a bass sees when it's chasing a bluegill is its tail. Likewise, the last thing a fish sees are the tips of a crawfish's pincers raised in defense before being eaten by the bass. Dion feels fish can see these accents easily, especially in clear water. He will also go along the belly to lighten it up at times or darken up the top for a natural camouflage. Many anglers will not make the extra effort required to try this. Therefore, it can be a definite advantage for the few who do take the time to add bluegill or crawfish color accents to their hula grubs.

The clearer the water, the more translucent the color. On the other hand, use darker colors or milky-looking opaque colors for dingy water. For example, Dion uses two different brown pumpkin colors. A light amber one with black flakes for clear water. The second pumpkin for dirty water is more like chocolate milk with black flakes. However, in truly dirty water, Hibdon often goes for the added bulk and solid mass appeal of a dark-colored silicone rubber skirted jig with a big soft plastic crawdad trailer on it. Compared to the small compact four-inch hula grubs that Dion uses in clear to dingy water, a silicone-skirted jig and crawdad trailer is a bulkier bait that's easier for bass to find and strike in dirty water.

As anglers, it is beneficial to know both the heavy tackle/heavy hula grub approach mastered by Gary Yamamoto as well as the light gear/light spider jig tactics favored by Dion Hibdon. Just like the stinging bites of two different spiders, the tarantula and the black widow, they are two deadly approaches for sprining the hula jig on early season bass!

DIRECTORY OF MANUFACTURERS

Originally marketed over thirty years ago, many manufacturers today make their own versions of soft plastic spider jigs, also called hula grubs. Many manufacturers also offer jig heads especially designed for use with their hula grubs.

Arkielures Inc

Berkley / Pure Fishing
* 4" Tournament Strength Skirtgrub

Blakemore Lure
* 2" Branson Bug Bodies

Cajun Tackle
* 5" Hyper Double Tail Grub
* 5" Spider Grub
* 3" Baby Craw

Cabin Creek Baits
* Large Salty Spider Parts
* Small Salty Spider Parts
* Spider Heads

Canyon Lures
* 4" Double Spider Skirts
* 4" Double Tail Grub
* Spider Jig Heads

Competitive Edge Fishing
* Wacko Tackle Alien Flip

Culprit/Riptide Lures - Classic Fishing Products
* 3" Wooly Bugger
* 4" Wooly Bug

Crooked Creek
* Rocker Jig Heads

Fishmaster Lures
* 3" Salty SkirtedTwin Tail Grub
* 4" Salty SkirtedTwin Tail Grub
* 3" Salty Hyper-Flex Twin Tail Grub
* 4" Salty Hyper-Flex Twin Tail Grub
* 4" Double Hyper-Flex Skirt

Gambler / B & B Plastics
* 4" Dion's Classic
* Ninja Jigs

Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits
* 4" Double Tail Hula Grub
* 5" Double Tail Hula Grub
* 6" Double Tail Hula Grub
* Hula Grub Jig HeadGene Larew
* 4" Twin Tail Skirted Grub
* 2.5" Twin Tail Skirted Grub

Haddock Fishing Supplies
* Kreepy Krawl'r Head
* Kreepy Krawl'r (small, medium, large)

Innovative Sport Group
* Willy's Bass Intimidator Spider Grub
* Intimdator Stand-up Jig

Jerrys Simply the Best Tackle Inc

Jewel Bait Company
* 4" Hyperflex Grub
* Fin-Nesse Jig
* Pro Model Spider Jig head

Kalin Lures
* 4" Double Tail Mop Tops
* Ultimate High Rider Jig Head

Kamakazee Bait Co.
* 4" Kikker Grub

Laketown Mfg.
* Hula Grub Jig
* Weedless Hula Grub Jig
* Weedless Grub Jig
* Weedless Bullet Jig
* Weedless Stand Up Jig
* Stand Up Jig

Luck "E" Strike
* Twin Tail Grabber
* 3" Dion's Secret

Lunker City Fishing Specialties
* 4" HydroSpider
* Weedless Football Jig

Mister Twister
* 4" Split Double Tail
* Foster's Double Double Tail

Nichols Lures
* Mango Jig - Black
* 3" Spider Grub
* 4" Spider Grub
* 5" Spider Grub

Reaction Lures
* Small Add-A-Skirt
* Large Add-A-Skrit
* 3" Double Take Skirted Grubs
* 5" Double Take Skirted Grubs

Riverside Lures
* Hula Dancer

Schubert's Professional Lures
* 3" Salty Skirted Twin Tail Grubs

Stan Sloan's Zorro Bait Company
* Hoot-n-Ninny

Table Rock Bait & Tackle
* Chompers Twin Tail Grub
*Chompers Brush Jig
*Chompers Stand Up Jighead

Zipper Worm/HannaNRyan, Inc.
* 4" Zipper Spider Grub
*Zipper In-Line Finesse Jigs

Want Even More Grub Fishing Know-How?

This could easily turn into a diatribe if you try to digest it all in one mind-meal. So pace yourself. There's a lot of grey matter about grubs to absorb here. You may even spot some dichotomy betwixt authors and articles, but that's fishing for you! Make no mistake, grubs are universal fish-catching tools. If I had to pick only one lure to use the rest of my life? It would be a grub! - Russ Bassdozer

grubs.jpg (65289 bytes)
All grubs shown from Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits.

Big (really big) grub fishing :

Heavy (really heavy) grub fishing :

Topwater (really, no kidding) grub fishing :

Hula grub fishing :

 
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