Tube Baits Explained
By Bill Wilcox
Tournament fishing tips, that's what this column is about. I usually write about your mental state and how to approach your next tournament. While I feel strongly that your confidence and positive attitude is still the best thing to have in your "tackle box," a few good lures will still come in handy.
The one lure that I feel is still overlooked the most by tournament fisherman is the tube bait. At weigh-ins talking with fellow tournament pros and also interviewing anglers as a tournament MC, I'm amazed at the lack of confidence most fisherman have in tube baits. The tube bait today is not the same lure it was 10 years ago. It's not the 2- or 3-inch gitzit that most anglers picture when you mention tube baits. It's also not just the light-line-clear-water technique that it started out as.
Flipping is the method most used for these baits and, in my opinion, the one that accounts for more bass than any other. Bassmaster Classics have been won using this method. This spring I won four tournaments during February and March. Two were on Cedar Creek, the others on Whitney and Palestine. Of the four wins, only at the one on Palestine were none of the bass caught on tubes. For the two on Cedar Creek, every one of my bass came on a black/blue Strike King Flippin' tube. The bulk of the flippin tube is important when you're fishing stained water. It helps the bass locate it in limited visibility. The compact size and design makes it the perfect lure for flipping. It penetrates heavy cover well. With the high winds we face a lot here in Texas it makes for easier presentation.
The biggest drawback you hear about tube baits is the hook-up-to-land ratio. A lot of anglers don't know how to rig a tube bait. The biggest mistake I feel you can make is to rig it Texas style. The best method is to rig your tube like you would a soft plastic jerkbait. The only change that I make is to lightly skin the hook point. With the flippin tube, I'll use 20-pound test line and a 4/0 hook.
Another effective technique that is probably the best kept secret on the tour is using a tube on a drop-shot rig. When most anglers here drop-shot they automatically think of deep, clear-water techniques. But I've found that you can use a drop-shot anywhere you would use a Carolina rig. Here's how to rig a tube bait: Rig a 3-inch tube like you would a grub. Thread the tube on the hook two inches down, through the bait, and leave the hook exposed. This technique is deadly around boat docks, grass beds, and points.
The other way to rig a tube is the most common one also. That's with a leadhead jig. Most anglers know how to rig a tube bait this way. You can use it as an alternative to a jigging spoon. You can also use it like a swimming bait along boat docks and rip-rap. Floating docks, like the ones you find around marinas are also good places to fish these. In tandem with a 1/8- or 3/16-ounce jighead it can be very effective. In tournaments theses bass see so many spinnerbaits and crankbaits, you'll need to use something that's different to encourage more strikes. Using a jighead on a spinning rod will give you the best skipping method of lure presentation I know of. It's easy to learn, with a little practice. Skipping tubes under docks is often overlooked by most anglers. When the bass are on the docks, boat after boat occupant can be seen flipping and flipping. If you'll rig a skipping tube you'll be able to reach water under the docks that most anglers can only see.
Don't forget to use the tube for what it was originally made for: Light-line casting. The tube was invented by Bobby Garland and was called the "Gitzit." Tubes are very effective around steep bluff banks, rocky banks, rip-rap, and really productive for smallmouth bass. Last year I had a Top Ten finish in a bass tournament event in Michigan. I caught 17 smallmouth that weighed 49 pounds, and every one was caught on a Carolina-rigged tube. Take the time to learn how to rig a tube bait the ways I mentioned, and you'll open up your fishing possibilities.
Good luck, good fishing, and God Bless.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.Fishing Lures