By Jeff Samsel

While gazing into a tackle box during a recent day of wade-fishing, a couple of Rebel Hellgrammites caught my eye, and it struck me that I hadn’t tied one on for a while. I’ve been an admitted Rebel Crawfish junkie for about a quarter century, and my eyes tend to land on Teeny Wee-Craws when I’m knee deep in a creek and wanting to crank something close to a rocky bottom.

The Hellgrammite is a very different lure from the Crawfish, though, so overlooking it can mean overlooking opportunities. Beyond imitating a different critter, a Hellgrammite is a slow sinker, and its action is much more subtle than that of a Rebel Crawfish. A Hellgrammite’s narrow profile also makes it look like an easy meal.

I tied on the Hellgrammite and put it to work, and three casts later a feisty smallmouth confirmed that I’d made a sound selection. I left it on all morning and continued catching smallmouths and sunfish of various sorts, and I was reminded to not overlook the Hellgrammite.

A real hellgrammite is the larvae of a dobsonfly, and the lure offers a very natural match. Hellgrammites live in clean, flowing streams and spend their time close to the bottom, usually around among weeds or rocks. They are a highly favored menu item for smallmouths and other stream bass, along with trout, catfish and assorted panfish.

While you certainly can catch fish on a Rebel Hellgrammite by working it quickly and high in the water column, I almost always present mine “slow and low” because that matches the behavior of the critter I’m seeking to imitate. Hellgrammites scurry along the bottom, more than they swim, and they generally don’t move super quickly unless they get caught in a downstream current.

I’ll cast generally upstream, let the lure sink to the bottom or close to it, and then work it with slow sweeps of the rod tip and pauses. That makes it slither along the bottom in little spurts. I’ll also experiment with slow steady reeling after letting the lure sink and with twitches or sharper tugs replacing the slow sweeps. In strong current, a good approach to cast cross-current, let the lure sink with a slack line, and then the twitch the rod tip just enough to create little wobbles as the lure sweeps downstream and into the current.

Experiment with rod movements and cadences, and pay attention to the kinds of runs that produce the most action. Whatever presentations you choose, remember to let the lure sink and keep it low in the water column, and you’re likely to find good success.

A Rebel Hellgrammite comes in four color patterns, including three fully natural colors and Firefly Hellgrammite, which is a bright attractor color. This lure is best fished on light or ultralight tackle. Four-pound-test line probably works best, providing the easiest casting and the freest action for the lure. However, 6-pound is sufficiently small if you want a little more leverage for getting fish out of cover or controlling larger fish.