Fish these things smartly, and you won’t want to tie on anything else this time of year.
Designed to imitate a range of forage, tubes are among the most versatile and productive baits in a bass angler’s arsenal. A simple drop-and-hop approach will certainly earn you a few bites here and there, but paying closer attention to how you rig the tube, how you alter the tube, how you enhance the tube and, of course, how you present the tube can greatly improve your productivity.
Suffice it to say, many a largemouth bass has found itself heading topside after gobbling what appeared to be a crawfish scooting across the bottom, while many more have attacked tubes that did a fine job of imitating shad, bream and others moving through the water column. Certainly, the right technique helps sell a tube’s performance, but the best thing about this bait is its user-friendly nature.
Tubes typically comprise a skirt of fringes or “tentacles” at the end of a smooth, stumpy body. When pulled upward and forward, the tentacles sweep back for a streamlined profile. However, with even the most moderate of undulations, that skirt wiggles with lifelike facade. Drop the bait to the bottom and that uniform shape slowly blossoms into a cluster of activity, as all of those legs express their individuality.
Good thing for anglers is that there’s no shortage of tube options to fit particular plans and individual preference. Common tube sizes for the bass crowd range from about 2 to 4 inches, although we’ll look at some monstrous models below.
Some, like Yum Vibe King Tube, Zipper Zip It Tube and Trigger X Flippin Tube, sport a ribbed surface that offers bass a little more to hold on to, and that’s always a good thing. Blending the artistic with the realistic, Megastrike MegaTube Craws are molded to resemble the head, carapace and segmented tail of a real crawfish, while Berkley Powerbait Hollow Belly Tubes deliver a lifelike baitfish appearance with 3D eyes and convincing scales.
Expanding the general tube shape, Big Bite Baits and Lake Fork both make craw tubes with dressed-up skirt ends sporting a pair of pincers. Similarly, the Power Team Lures Food Chain Tube includes a pair of appendages outside its skirt.
Lake Fork tubes (standard and craw styles), along with Wave’s 3- and 4-inch Tiki Tubes, feature solid heads and hollow bodies that facilitate Texas-rigging by providing a thick entry point for your hook. The solid head also displaces more water, and that creates a greater sensory target for bass. Taking that notion a step farther, the Yamamoto Fat Ika combines a bulkier grub body with a skirted bottom for a heavy tube hybrid.
Solid-body tubes are most often Texas-rigged for flipping and pitching presentations to docks, laydowns, grass and bedding fish. Elsewhere, tubes with hollow, or mostly hollow, forms can be used for those presentations, as well as bottom-oriented tactics.
For basic Texas-rigging, specialized hooks like the Mustad Ultra Point Big Mouth Tube Bait Hook are designed with wide gaps to accommodate a tube’s body while allowing ample room for clean hook sets. The Mustad hook’s point is angled to lay flat against the side of the tube’s body, and sticking the hook point just under the tube’s skin keeps it weedless.
To minimize wear and tear on your tubes, try a top-fastening hook like the Owner TwistLOCK, which uses a Centering Pin Spring that twists into the tube’s head to form a secure hold with less wear and tear than poking a hook through the tube. Same concept with a different approach, Kumho’s Reaper Keeper attaches to your tube with a sickle-shaped wire hanging from the hook eye. Insert the wire into the bait’s nose and align it so the hook fits alongside the body.
Now, for targeting deeper fish — over rocks, along ledges — the compact form of a lead head tube jig gets the call. Easy enough; you just shove the heavy end into the tube, and once it’s nice and snug, push the eye through the body so you can attach your fishing line.
With the bottom game, depth determines your head size, but your basic presentation options — dragging and hopping — determine the angle of your jig’s eye. Simply put, a 60-degree line tie keeps the jig head pulling forward for the more common drift-and-drag routine. This works best when you’re covering broad areas and looking for scattered fish or isolated groups of fish.
When you find a spot you want to work with a more active hopping or jigging motion, go with a 90-degree line tie. This type of lead head is especially useful for the bold, highly visible tactic known as “cracking” a tube. Big hops, loud impact — it’s all about attracting attention and triggering reaction strikes, as opposed to the feeding strikes you’ll get from bottom dragging.
Enhance the appeal
A high salt content makes a tube tastier to a bass, and the idea here is that the longer a fish holds onto that bait, the greater your opportunity for a solid hookset. In addition to salt, various tube makers impregnate and/or lather their baits with proprietary liquids formulated to tempt a bass’ natural tendencies toward smell and taste. Examples include YUM’s Live Prey Technology (LPT), Wave’s (MoLoPo), Big Bite Baits’ Bio Bait Scent, Trigger X Ultrabite, Berkley’s PowerBait and Sneaky Hollow’s hand-poured tubes, which are infused with real fish parts and fish oils.
Spray scents like YUM LPT, Jack’s Juice, TriggerX Rejuvenator and Berkley GULP can instantly increase, or maintain a bait’s attraction. Also helpful are scented gels and sauces like Berkley’s Powerbait Attractant, BioEdge and Carolina Lunker Sauce. The hollow cavity of most tubes makes an ideal scent chamber. Squeezing a glob of gel inside is one option. Another involves dousing a small piece of sponge with your favorite liquid scent and placing it inside a hollow tube for gradual dispersion.
In addition to smell and taste, sound plays a big role in fish attraction. Bite Me Rattlin Jig Heads are made with attached rattles, while clip-ons like Woodies Rattles convert any jig head by attaching to the hook shank. Specialized rattle inserts like the Punisher Rattle or Strike King Tube Rattler offer another option. Use normal Texas-rigging steps, but run your hook through the hole in the rattle’s flat top end. This keeps the rattle securely tucked inside the tube without impeding hook placement.
With the countless combinations of size, color, rigging and attractants, dialing in the right tube set up may seem overwhelming. Not to worry; just start with a single scenario — shallow or deep — and work with a couple of darker colors for low-light conditions and a couple of lighter baits for sunny days. Focus on making good presentations to your target area and take heart in knowing that those little tentacles will do most of the work for you.