Shaw of Splish-Splash
Article by Steve Bowman, photos by James Overstreet
Big bass elicite a giant smile from Shaw Grigsby
Describing Shaw Grigsby as a fishermen should be easy. We anglers like to put things in a tidy compartment, which is why we have things like tackle boxes. Our descriptions of each other are similar.
Some of us are bass fishermen, some of us are saltwater anglers, and within those groups we have further definitions -- some of us are sight fishermen, flippers, trollers, fly guys. You name it and there is someone who fits that description.
Grigsby, on the other hand, doesn’t fit in just one of those. He is the essence of, as he would put it, “just a fisherman.”
He’s best known, at least in some worlds, as the king of sight fishing on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He’s won nine Bassmaster events, eight of those by watching a spawning bass do its thing and disrupting that with a hook.
In the saltwater world, he’s the fly guy who has come close to breaking the world record for tarpon.
He just does it all. He won’t even put himself in one of those boxes.
“I don’t know if I could say I wanted to fish in salt or freshwater all the time,” he said. “To me, it’s stunning being on a poling platform in skinny water casting to redfish or tarpon. That is my joy. Whenever I get to do, it’s like where I want to be.
“Would I trade that for bass fishing? I don’t know.
“I think it makes bass fishing more special because I get to go saltwater fishing. I just love fishing. Can I do just one? Probably. But it’s just awesome that I get to travel around and do both.”
In those travels, Grigsby’s tackle box is as simple as it comes, with lures that are equally at home in saltwater or freshwater.
Read on for a look at what he doesn’t leave home without.
Shaw Grigsby's Tacklebox
1. Shimmy Head with a Rage Craw: The big craw with a red head has a lot going for it. The Shimmy Head was developed by Robert Hamilton Jr., and it was part of an experiment that paid off for Grigsby. He used it on win the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series event on Harris Chain, by -- you guessed it -- sight fishing. The red and white combo is affective. "The real key is not the white for the fish, but for the fisherman," Grigsby said. "You can see what you need to see. The Shimmy Head changes the fall a little bit, but definitely changes the look. It works."
2. Pumpkin seed spinnerbait: This is not the original, but it as close as Grigsby could get to a spinnerbait he used to win the Bassmaster Top 100 event on Lake Sinclair in Georgia. The lure is special in a unique way. Although Grigsby has won nine Bassmaster events, the Sinclair event was the only one that didn’t involve sight fishing.
3. Black neon chartreuse lizard: "That’s my big fish, sight-fishing bait. It’s just perfect for a big female. You get a big old sow on the bed, throw a lot of things at her and she’s looking but won’t bite. I generally get that out. I’ve won at least a couple of tournaments where that bait has made the difference."
4. Black Death Fly: "I’m a die-hard fly fisherman. When it comes May, if I can get on the water with my fly rod for tarpon, that’s what I live for. I caught one almost 180 pounds on that fly. It took 45 minutes to get her in." The fish was just shy of world record. "You don’t get many opportunities like that in your lifetime." Grigsby throws the fly on a 12-weight fly rod and 12-weight fly reel either with floating line or sink tip.
5. Clear/Red-flake tube: From 1988 to 1992, B.A.S.S. held three events on Sam Rayburn, and Grigsby won each of them. Details aren’t what they used to be for the 9-time champion, but he said, "I won at least two of those on Sam Rayburn on this bait. That is a Guido Hibdon original," Grigsby said. "That color is hard to find, but the red sparkle really sets it off." In those Rayburn events, he said the bait was not only effective for sight fishing, but he would catch fish that were pulling up and sunning. "You could pick them out and cast to them and they’d just smash it."
6. Natural craw-colored tube: "I used this mostly in the late 80s," Grigsby said."“I won one, maybe two tournaments on it. I settled on that color after looking at a vat full of crawfish. And anytime I would get around wherever there were crawfish, that was the color. It’s good anywhere."
7. Sexy Dawg: This is the topwater that Grigsby says is part of his 1-2 punch. He likes this one because it has a tail weight so you can "chunk it a mile." He adds, "It’s easy to walk and it catches everything. In saltwater there’s nothing better than a snook or redfish crashing on top. There’s not much more fun than that." Grigsby takes off the center hook and adds two bigger hooks to front and back.
8. Strike King Zulu: While this lure would look like it should be in every bass angler’s tackle box, for Grigsby this is decidedly one of his top saltwater offerings. "It will catch anything that swims in saltwater," he said. He follows the proclamation with a list that includes tuna (some in the 150- to 180-pound range), redfish, Snook, pompano, dolphin, mackerel, flounder and tarpon. "It’s a stud tarpon bait," he said. He rigs it either on a jig-head or weightless. "It’s one bait rigged two ways, and those are my favorite two ways."
9. Redfish Magic: Almost every redfish angler in the Gulf has this standard lure in his box, mostly referred to as a redfish spinnerbait. But it’s not unusual for Grigsby to toss it at bass around the country. "I’ve wacked everything on it from bass to tarpon, redfish and snook; it’s stupid good sometimes," he said. "If I have a 1-2 punch, it’s this along with a topwater."