Robert Shue is the proprietor of River Rock Custom Baits in Waynesboro, Virginia. And during the winter of 2016-17, he has converted Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virgina, to being a River Rock disciple. In fact, in a recent email Myers noted that he converses almost daily with Shue about finesse tactics for smallmouth bass that abide in the rivers and streams that crisscross the Appalachian Mountain region and nearby environs.
Myers' latest fancy is Shue's 1/8-ounce Crawler Jig, and Myers affixes it to one of the highly customized tubes that Shue makes for him. This customized tube is 2 3/8 inches long and has an outside diameter of three-eighths of an inch.
Shue forges the Crawler Jig onto a No. 2 D0-It Wireguard Wacky Jig 785 Hook. According to Shue, it is a premium black-chrome hook with a wide gap and a 35-degree bend at its head.
The Crawler Jig does not possess the head of traditional jigs, such as balls or mushrooms or footballs or darts. Instead, it somewhat represents a banana, and it is attached to the shank of the hook from near the 35-degree bend of the stem of the eyelet to where the shank begins to make its radical bend. A screw-lock bait keeper is attached to the eyelet of the hook. It is similar to the format of a weighted swimbait hook.
Shue began manufacturing the Crawler Jig about a year ago. Other than the Crawler Jig with a No. 2 hook, Shue makes them in other three sizes: an 1/8-ouncer with a 1/0 hook, a 1/4-ouncer with a 2/0 hook, and a 3/8-ouncer with a 3/0 hook. Shue says these three Crawler Jigs were created for River Rock Custom Bait's four-inch solid-head Elite Series Tube, and they can also be employed on their Pro Series Tube and their swimbaits.
Shue says they were designed to be affixed externally to the tube, and Myers is the first angler that he knows who inserts the Crawler Jig inside the cavity of the tube.
Myers uses it externally, too. In his report on the Finesse News Network about his April 25 outing, Myers noted that he used the Crawler Jig rigged externally and in a deep-water locale where the smallmouth bass reside during the cold-water period.
"The water temperature was 58 degrees. It had dropped six degrees in two days. The water exhibited three feet of clarity. It was running at 450 cubic feet per second, which is up from the 325 cubic feet per second it was running on April 23.
"The bottom of this wintertime haunt is littered with an equal mixture of giant red oak trees and massive boulders. Its depth ranges from 12 to 16 feet of water. It is a classic wild river wintering run, and its bottom structure does not move even when the river is on an extremely high-water rampage. It is a two-mile stretch of water, and it has a canyon-like cliff on its strong side.
"In two hours and 35 minutes, I caught 30 smallmouth bass. They were caught on a black-and-green-pumpkin 1/8-ounce River Rock Custom Bait's Crawler Head Jig affixed externally to a custom-made 2 3/8-inch River Rock Custom Bait's North Branch Craw tube, which I crawled and deadsticked in the timber- and boulder-cluttered bottom. And it never became snagged in those trees and in the many crevices of the boulders.
When the Crawler Jig is rigged externally to the tube, the point of the hook is not exposed. Instead, it is rigged Texas-style.
In an email Myers wrote: "I have not yet wedged or snagged a single one when I crawled it over, into, and through piles of rocks and boulders and through the gnarliest trees and limbs one could possibly fish.
I have tried to lose one and cannot. I am still fishing the same one after a month."
In years past, Myers used 1/32-, 1/20-ounce, and 1/16-0unce jigs, and he was also an avid customizer of jigs. But since he has been wielding the 1/8-ounce Crawler Jig, he has not been confronted with any conditions or situations when and where he had to reduce the weight of it.
But when the water level and current flow are not as high and fast as they have been this spring, and the smallmouth bass are abiding in shallower environments, he suspects that he will begin to carefully tinker with the 1/8-ounce Crawler Jig and trim some of the lead off of it. But in order to keep the balance of the Crawler Jig perfect, he will make sure that the lead remains evenly distributed along its belly or mid-section.
And when he is plying relatively shallow and snag-free areas, Myers will insert the Crawler Jig inside the custom-made 2 3/8-inch River RockCustom Bait's North Branch Craw tube. And the hook will be exposed.
Myers says that Shue created a customized 2 3/8-inch tube so that he could affix the 1/8-ounce Crawler Jig with a No. 2 hook either externally or internally to the tube. Shue created the tube so the bend of the Crawler Jig's hook meets with the junction of the tube's torso and its tentacles. In Myers' eyes, Shue's work was meticulous, and he created the perfect tube: the thickness of its walls is impeccable; the length of its torso and tentacles is faultless; and its diameter is ideal.
Myers says that there are two ways to insert the Crawler Jig into the cavity of the tube, and each one has its place and time for the riverine smallmouth bass.
Before he inserts it, he removes the screw-lock bait keeper.
One way is to insert the jig so that the eyelet of the hook exits the tube perfectly centered in its nose. This rigging is employed when an angler wants to have the tube fall slowly and horizontally. It is also an effective rigging when an angler wants to utilize an erratic action to the tube by executing a twitch-twitch-and-pause presentation, which usually occurs during warm-water periods and when the smallmouth bass are reluctant to engulf a slow do-nothing presentation along the bottom.
For the second method of insertion, Myers uses a pair of needle-nose pliers and ever so slightly bends the eyelet of the hook upward, making it a 38-degree bend.
The second method allows an angler to crawl the rig across the bottom, which in Myers' eyes replicates the way a crayfish nonchalantly moseys across the bottom of a river. When the tube is rigged in this manner, its tail does not flare upwards with its nose down, which many anglers describe as the crayfish's defensive posture, and this defensive presentation is the way a tube is traditionally employed by smallmouth bass anglers on rivers and streams, as well as on natural lakes and reservoirs.
The unique distribution of the weight of the Crawler Jig keeps the nose, torso, and tentacles pinned to the bottom. And even with an exposed hook, Myers has discovered that his tube-and-Crawler-Jig combo does not become snagged as often in the rocks and boulders as the traditional jig-and-tube rigs become snagged.
In a May 3 email, Myers finished his long discourse on the virtues of Shue's Crawler Jig by saying: "I have never read nor heard of anyone rigging this jig internally and using those three presentations.
I rig it externally as the head is intended to be used when I am plying miles of deep-water timber that seemingly eat other tube rigging methods.
Whether rigged internally or externally, it is a wonderfully versatile and efficient rigging method that maximizes time on the water because the tube rigs are rarely lost or need readjustment."
Shue says a package of four green-pumpkin or black Crawler Jigs can be purchased for $7.00. A package of four unpainted ones can be purchased for $6.50.
(1) Here is the link to River Rock Custom Baits' website: http://riverrockbaits.com/. The Crawler Jig is not featured on the website. Anglers can contact Robert Shue about it at email@example.com and (540)414-3293.
(2) From April of 2015 through September of 2016, Travis Myers was a regular contributor to our monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing. Here are the links to those guides: