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Spider Sense: The Spider Jig—aka Hula Grub—Is a Western Bass Classic

"Hula dancing" shines when tough bass-fishing conditions come during the pre-spawn.

Spider Sense: The Spider Jig—aka Hula Grub—Is a Western Bass Classic

First popularized in Arizona, the spider jig has become a go-to lure for pre-spawn bass in clear waters across the West. (Shutterstock image)


Among the forage choices available to a bass, the spider would seldom be listed. However, tackle maker Bobby Garland proved just how effective a “spider jig” could be when hopped along the rocky shelves in the clear reservoirs of Arizona—especially in winter.

It’s unclear what prompted the idea to rob a soft-plastic tube bait of its molded skirt material and fashion it above a Mister Twister Double Tail grub, but that’s precisely the source of Garland’s original spider jig design. The injection-molded skirt gave the spider jig an unusual appearance from traditional vinyl, rubber or silicone skirts and also gave the jig its namesake. Today, the original lure developed by Bobby Garland is no longer in production, but similar designs are offered by a handful of manufacturers, which are typically threaded onto light-wire jig heads of varying weights.

The spider jig’s effectiveness in catching bass in the crystal-clear reservoirs of Arizona gave rise to an entirely new category of jigs known as the spider jig, skirted grub or hula grub. These rather small-profile jigs can be recognized as pioneers in the popular category of downsized bottom-hoppers, referred to today as finesse jigs.

fishing lure
A spider jig’s skirt material undulates in the water, even when resting on the bottom, to attract bass in tough conditions. (Photo by Shane Beilue)

In revisiting this classic West Coast lure design, it’s interesting to explore the qualities that make the curious looking spider jig so darned effective at catching bass, especially in clear water or when the bite is considered tough.

WHY IT WORKS

The primary appeal of these molded soft-plastic jigs is the interesting fusion of bulk and finesse. The subtle bulk of the molded “spider” legs flare like a starburst on the Fourth of July when paused, reminiscent of an old-school living rubber skirt, which is still popular among many hard-core jig anglers in winter. This gentle flaring of the jig skirt, while paused, means the jig is working to entice bass even while resting on the bottom.

The “finesse” of a hula grub is derived from the subtle movement of the 4- to 5-inch twin-tail grub as it’s dropped and pulled across the lake bottom like a crawfish scooting among the rocks, providing just enough leg action to attract clear-water bass without revealing its true identity. The thinner legs of the double-tail grub provide movement to the lure without displacing a lot of water, thereby making the spider jig less intrusive to wary bass in clear water.

Finally, using injection molding for both the soft-plastic skirt and trailer affords a myriad of color options available to match specific forage species or prevailing water clarities. As an example, the popular Yamamoto DT (double tail) Hula Grub is offered in more than 35 color schemes, from bright and showy to more muted, transparent hues—a feature not attainable with a traditional rubber or silicone skirt.

HOW TO RIG IT

While a skirted jig can be Texas-rigged with a bullet weight or fashioned at the back end of a Carolina rig, the primary application is to thread the plastic skirt and trailer onto a light-wire jig head and hop it along the lake bottom. The weight of the jig head depends upon depth, as 1/4-ounce versions work well out to 10 to 15 feet, while 3/8-ounce heads are common for depths of 15 to 25 feet and 3/4- to 1-ounce jig heads get the nod for 30 feet and beyond. The caveat for choosing the proper head weight, of course, is wind speed, as maintaining a proper feel with any bottom-bouncing lure requires upsizing the weight when it’s blowing hard.

The thin-gauge wire of a spider jig is essential for two reasons: Providing balance when working the lure across the bottom, and easier hook penetration into a bass’ jaw when using thinner fluorocarbon lines in the 6- to 10-pound range.



WHERE TO FISH IT

The spider jig appeals to largemouths, spots and smallies, with all three species spending most of the winter among deep, rocky ledges in the main-lake basin. February finds bass migrating into creek arms, tributaries and draws leading into the spawning flats of spring. A rocky bottom composition is always a preferred habitat, particularly in winter, and it’s a terrain feature many Western impoundments have in abundance.

Late winter and early spring is a time to use the spider jig to search out rock structure along the edges of deep channels and drops. Ledge rock next to sharp channel turns is a sure bet for finding groups of staging bass waiting for the final warming trend. Into February, bass will often gang up on structure from the middle of creeks to their back ends, such as the last significant channel turn before the creek starts to flatten out.

Extended points terminating into deeper creek channels are another good bet for dancing a hula grub along the bottom. During the pre-spawn period, bass migrate up and down tapering rock points within creek arms as the water begins to gradually warm. By observing the type of rock aggregate the bites are coming from, be it gravel, chunk rock or ledge rock, one can search out similar bottom compositions while point-hopping.

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Lastly, the appeal of red clay points in the creek arms should be noted, as these rather nondescript clay banks offer a firm bottom composition that holds feeding bass and perhaps accounts for slightly warmer water in late winter and early spring. Spotted bass, in particular, have a known affinity for these rather plain-looking clay banks, making them another prime location to crawl a spider jig.

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HOW TO FISH IT

The spider jig is retrieved as most any other bottom-bouncing lure, with short hops and drags being the norm. The colder the water, the longer the pause between hops should be. Allowing the spider jig to sit motionless for 4 to 5 seconds between movements of the rod tip allows the molded skirt to relax and flare while at rest, often convincing reluctant bass to bite.

While the spider jig can be fished along varying bottom compositions, the audible appeal of the lead or tungsten jighead tapping along a rock bottom can act as an added drawing card to attract curious bass.

Finally, experiment with the color of the spider jig throughout the day. As mentioned, the molded plastic skirt and trailer offer unique and interesting color hues that can make a difference in clear water. Shades like green pumpkin and watermelon are players, but also experiment with a variety of translucent colors in extremely clear water and bright skies, as these hues actually reduce the visibility and true identity of the lure to a cautious bass.

Gear for Dancing the Hula

  • Rod, reel and line considerations for spider jigs.

Because the hula grub has such an appeal in clear water, downsizing the accompanying tackle is recommended. Fluorocarbon lines in 6- to 10-pound test are far and away the top choice, as fluoro is nearly invisible underwater and the density of the material doesn’t hinder the fall rate of the jig. A main line of 15-pound braid tied to a 10- to 15-foot fluorocarbon leader minimizes line stretch on a long hookset. The added length of fluoro leader keeps the knot well above the jig to avoid detection by bass in clear water.

Spinning gear offers the ability to cast lighter lines effectively, but keeping the bail open once the lure hits the water allows the jig an easier freefall toward the bottom. Medium-heavy-action rods of 7 feet 2 inches and 7 feet 6 inches are ideal for long casts and efficient sweeps of the rod on the hookset.


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