By George Fiorille
Many bass fishermen are often asked if they had only one lure to use, what would it be? This bass angler will have to chose the tube jig.
The tube is a very versatile lure. It catches bass as shallow as six inches all the way down to 60 feet or more. It can be used weightless, weighted, and it can match all sorts of baits. It can also be fished in heavy cover as well as deep open water.
A white tube looks like a shad or alewife, a green pumpkin bait resembles a crawfish or goby, and a watermelon colored tube is a dead ringer for a perch. Different tube applications along with types of weights and hooks make it a deadly offering.
Tubes also come in several different lengths, or sizes, and the angler can literally “match the hatch.” Small fry are duplicated by using 1- or 2-inch tubes, and the larger mature baits are matched by 4- to 6-inch tubes.
History tells us the birth of the tube was on western states’ reservoirs. Small rigs were cast on light line with medium/light action spinning rods to catch spooky fish in clear water. A tube with a light jighead will fall in a spiraling pattern and gives the bass an illusion of a crippled baitfish.
I’ve had the pleasure over the years of fishing a few times with former Bassmaster Classic champ and pitching/flipping ace Denny Brauer. Brauer would usually have a flipping rod with 50-pound braided line, a jig, and plastic craw trailer on the deck. Also on his deck would be a flipping rod.
It’s harder to land them, but it’s amazing how by using 6-pound line compared to 8- or 10-pound line, the lighter line will produce several more strikes. For better accuracy at getting your tubes under cover such as docks, try skipping them across the water with shorter spinning rods.
Many bass anglers fail to realize how effective a tube can be fished in heavy grass or slop. A Texas-rigged tube with a heavy 1.5-ounce sinker is one of the best baits to punch holes with. The tube is one of the most streamlined baits available and easily slides through cover. Soft plastic punching baits with appendages catch the grass and often hang up.
A little known technique for fishing heavy, matted grass is to fish a tube up on top, weightless, such as fishing with a hollow frog. Try using a 4-inch or larger tube rigged with a heavy tube hook. Rig the tube with the hook exposed against the body and insert a light weight plastic rattle inside the tube along with a piece of foam for added flotation.
All you need are three colors of tubes for this technique. Black works well in dim light, white is great for sunny days, and a watermelon flake tube imitates bluegills. The nice thing about fishing the tube with a single hook in the slop is that the direct center of pull with a single hook will help you land more fish in the heavy cover rather than the double hook used in hollow frogs. If you can’t find a tube with a solid head, try inserting a piece of a plastic worm all the way into the tube to help hold your hook.
Over the years, thousands of smallmouth bass have been caught on the Great Lakes and other waters using tubes. The technique such as the Great Lakes Crawl is deadly and is a very easy pattern to set up.
I normally use a tube with an internal 3⁄8-ounce jighead for most applications. If it’s windy, I use jigheads of up to 1 ounce to make sure it stays in contact with the bottom as you drift along. If the tube doesn’t bounce bottom, you cannot feel it and you are wasting your time. I have caught them as deep as 60 feet using this technique.
I go to the trouble of painting my tube heads to make them slide in easier and not to corrode if left inside the tube. I also use a scent lubricant on the tube head such as Liquid Mayheim to not only entice strikes, but also to aid in inserting the jighead. Try using the shad or garlic minnow flavors.
Another trick that often helps draw strikes is to use a rattle on the jighead. Try attaching a small glass rattle by using heat-shrink tubing over the hook. The glass resting against the metal hook acts as a resonator to send out sound to lead the bronzebacks to the bait.
Popping or cracking a tube works on smallies as well. Cast out a tube with a 3⁄8- or 1⁄2-ounce head and rip it continuously off the bottom. Using a bait cast setup with the heavier heads seems to work better.
Come late fall and early winter, tubes work great on deep water smallmouth bass. Try casting in winter holes and crawl them painfully slow up the structure.
To have a better feel of what the tube is doing, try fishing the tubes with the jighead on the outside of the bait. If you are crawling a tube and continuously getting hung up, try using an Arky or football-style jighead for not only better feel, but for less snagging in rocks.
So as you see, tubes work great for bass in many different situations They are quite a versatile lure and if this angler had to pick only one favorite lure to use, it clearly would be a tube.