Tom Mann's 3-inch Sting ray Grub 1978 BPS Catalog

Yesterday we posted a piece about Roland Martin’s efficient structure fishing techniques he’d use to locate fish prior to an event. In that article, which came to fruition from an article written in 1973 for Bassmaster Magazine, Roland describes one of his go-to baits used for the fast, deep presentation. That bait was the 3-inch grub.

Reading these old articles always brings back a flood of memories for me. More so, they illuminate old methods and techniques that have been lost on nearly all anglers, unless they’re over 45. A good example of this is the 3-inch grub.

But let me get back to Martin’s article to lay the ground for this next bit.

Martin’s philosophy was to have at least 12 deep spots to fish during a tournament. But, with so many other anglers starting to fish deep, Martin knew he had to have more spots. The problem was it was impossible to fish deep water fast with standard techniques of the day, like a Texas rigged worm or jig and crankbaits were not as effective in deep water as they are today. He knew he needed a faster method of fishing.

His goal was to fish fast and deep to determine if there were fish willing to eat on a spot and give it away. Once he hooked a fish on a likely spot, he’d leave and go look for another. Hopefully by the start of the event he’d have enough water to take him through the final day.

Today any angler is likely to fish the area fast with a crankbait or possibly a big spoon. As stated above, one of Martin’s go-to baits was the 3-inch straight-tailed grub. Who in the last 20 years has even had a 3-inch straight-tailed grub in their boat? This deadly little bait has been lost to history.

Rigged with a 3/8- or even a 1/8-ounce head, the bait falls fast and can mimic a shad or a crawdad depending on the colors chosen and how far off the bottom it’s fished. The only thing that compares with it today is the Ned Rig but the bait itself is in a category all its own and the Ned Rig is generally dragged on the bottom – too slow for what Martin was trying to accomplish.

Back in the day, and again, we’re talking the 70s and early 80s, every company selling soft plastics had a straight-tailed grub. The most famous is probably the Mann’s Sting ray Grub, which is still in production. There was also Cotton Cordell’s version, which I believe was called the Feather Tail grub, the Mister Twister Groovy Grub, along with others I can’t remember.

Then a funny coincidence happened. A buddy of mine on Facebook, Bob Micks, told me I needed to write about the 3-inch grub before it was lost to all. We’ve been talking about this bait and the ways it can be fished now for a few weeks.

The versatility of the grub is much more than meets the eye. Looking at it, you’d think is doesn’t have any action at all. And you may be correct. But the tail has everything to do with how it behaves as well as the head style chosen. For example, rig the grub with the tail in the vertical position and the bait falls straight down on the sink. Rig the tail horizontally and it will glide with a slight tension in the line. Rig it on a ball head and it’ll fall hard and fast. Rig it on a slider head and it will glide even more. Rig it on a mushroom head (Ned Head for you readers under 40) and it can be fished dragged across the bottom.

Mister twister Groovy Grub 1978 BPS Catalog

With all the Ned Rig anglers out there today, it surprises the heck out of me that this bait hasn’t taken hold in that crowd. Maybe it has and they’re just keeping it a secret. In any event, the bait deserves to be checked out by those who haven’t seen it or used it.

There was another subject that Micks and I discussed these past few weeks and that was a specific head he used back in the day with the grub. He sent me several pictures and asked if I recognized it. I recognized it as a head Bobby Garland sold with his Mini Jigs and Skinny Squids. But there were a lot of other tackle companies that sold the same head under their brand.

If you’ve seen the head, it’s kind of hard to forget. It’s hard to describe so I’ve included the pictures that Micks sent me. According to Micks, this is the best head to use in rock as it’s hard to hang and if you do, the old banjo plucking technique readily frees it. If any of you out there have seen this head and know who made it, please leave a comment below.

Do you know who made this jighead?  If you do, please leave a comment below.

Anyway, back to the 3-inch grub.

It’d be a shame to see this proven fish catcher go the way of the Dodo bird. Mann’s still produces them so there’s still a supply out there to start with. But I challenge all you Ned Rig aficionados to pick a couple packs up and try them for yourselves. The reason the bait quit producing is because anglers quit throwing it. When people quit throwing a bait, they stop losing them to fish or a rock, and the pegs in the tackle store stay full. If stock has a couple birthdays in a shop, it’s relegated to the discount bin and no further orders are placed. Next thing you know, you can’t find the bait in the following year’s catalog.

I sure hope this isn’t the pathway for the lowly 3-inch grub.

Bass Fishing Archives reader and supporter Dave Garner sent in this picture of a Cotton Cordell 3-inch Feathertail Grub for us to post. Included was the head he preferred to use, a 3/8-oz ball head made from a muzzelloader round with an extended shoulder. Thank you Dave for contributing to the Bass Fishing Archives!