Hula grubs are soft plastic lures with “hula skirts” in front and twister tails in back. They work very well for smallmouth bass in a number of situations. They work in lakes and rivers. They work in cold temperatures and they work in more moderate temperatures. I’ve caught so smallmouths on hula grubs over the years that they have become a go-to lure.
Like any other soft plastic, hula grubs come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They come by a lot of different names, including some that don’t even use the word “hula.” My favorite hula style plastic is probably a Yamamoto double tail hula grub in a natural color like green or brown. The 4 inch model works in the most situations. Though I might scale down the size a little in colder water.
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Lures like the Big Bite Skirted Grub also catch a lot of fish. The slight variations in the shapes can create different actions in the water. Basically though you’re looking for a bulky soft plastic that will fall slowly in the water column. The hula skirt helps slow the fall. It also adds action even when you are not moving the lure. Currents in the water cause the hula “legs” to wave around in a way that tantalizes smallmouth bass.
Hula grubs for smallmouth bass
Hula grubs work on different fish. You can definitely catch largemouth and spotted bass on them. But I do especially well on smallmouth bass with these lures. I have fished them from the great lakes to smaller streams and they almost always perform. If I can’t catch smallmouth on hula grubs I know I’m probably going to be in for a tough day of fishing.
There are exceptions. If it’s very warm or even hot I am more likely to go with an active lure like a crankbait. Otherwise, I often start out with a hula grub. I usually end with them on too. There’s no reason to change baits if the lure I am tossing is working!
Hula grubs are easy to rig on a jig head. I traditionally used unpainted jig heads in the 1/8 oz to 1/4 oz size range. In very big water I might go up to a large jig or even try a tungsten jig head. But normally I want the slow fall in the water. So I tend to fish with smaller jigs. It doesn’t impact my ability to cast at all. The 4 and 5 inch hula grubs on their own have enough weight to toss. Especially considering I normally fish a light or medium rod with 6 pound test when fishing for smallies.
Fishing with hula grubs
I start out throwing hula grubs early in the year. When the water is just starting to warm up I look for vertical structure in the water. That could be ledges, walls, trees or simply the bank itself. Vertical structure over deeper water seems to be best when the fish are just starting to think about spawning. This can be some of the best smallmouth fishing of the year. I simply toss my hula grub right up against the vertical structure and let it sink. That’s it. If I feel a bump or see the line jump, I set the hook.
As the year progresses and the water warms up, I use a more active approach. I still toss my hula grub up against banks and structure. But after it sinks to the bottom I jig it back. That means I pick up the rod tip a bit then drop it again. Sometimes I even leave the lure on the bottom and just twitch it. I don’t want to get too aggressive with the retrieve. This catches a lot of fish.
So does a sort of drift fishing approach in moving water. In rivers and streams that hold smallmouth I’ll toss my hula grub to the head of a pool. I then follow it with the rod as it sinks. While it sinks it is also being pushed downstream and often bouncing off the bottom. I just help it along with subtle twitches and bumps. I want it to look like some sort of creature that has become dislodged from the bottom.
When fall comes along I tend to go back to the “dead fall” approach. Only this time I am fishing deeper holes and basins. As the smallmouth start to stage in deeper water and slow down I want to get the lure right out in front of them. Smallmouth are cold blooded fish that slow down with falling water temperatures. Catching them in those situations requires a more targeted approach. I don’t expect to catch as many fish on those colder days either. Though I do still catch my fair share.
Some people think hula grubs look like crayfish in the water. I can see where they are coming from, and they very well might be right. On the other hand, it could just be the shape and action of the lure that draws strikes from smallmouths. I find that the idea of “matching the hatch” only matters in certain situations. Other times you catch trout on pink rubber worms and realize that something else is in play. Whatever the case may be, hula grubs definitely work well on smallmouth bass.