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Tube fishing 101 - pics added 12/31/06


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A tube... What's that? You actually catch fish on that thing?

Believe it or not, I still get asked that question frequently by anglers new to bass fishing. The tube bait has been around since the Bobby Garland Gitzit days, but just like other baits, the hype seems to fall off after the initial craze. Todays savy anglers all have tubes in their aresenal, don't let them tell you otherwise.

Tubes may be one of the most versatile baits going. It can be fished a variety of ways and in a number of different presentations or techniques. What follows is my most successful ways for scoring on a tube.

For simplicity, I will divide this into the 2 species of bass I target, smallmouth and largemouth.


I fish a variety of smallmouth waters including Lake Erie, Chautauqua Lake, and the Allegheny River. In an open water situation where I will be fishing structure I most frequently use a tube with an internal style head and exposed hook. In a lake environment like Lake Erie, I generally use 1/4 to 3/8 oz heads. A couple years ago I began pouring my own heads on Mustad Ultra Point hooks and I continue to use my hand pours. I just found that due to the shear number of heads I go through in a year I could buy premium hooks and pour the heads myself for less overall cost than buying comercially poured heads. My only downfall has been lending some to fishing friends, now I'm pouring for them too :D. The open water tube technique is kind of a no brainer. Most anglers will cast it out, let it sink, then basically drag it along the bottom as the wind blows thier boat along. I have used this drifting technique if the wind dictates that I do so, but I prefer to pull up on a reef and throw a marker, then back off and cast at my target. For a retrieve I generally use a slow, do nothing retrieve, imparting small jerks to make the tube jump off the bottom a few inches. In stark contrast, I too have had days where a sharp and hard jerk triggered bites. In that senerio it's my opinion that I basically get a reaction strike when the bait suddenly jumps off the bottom in the fish's face. Bites will feel a variety of ways. A sharp tick is common but mostly you will feel resistance, if you feel anything that feels different, let er' rip.

In a river or current situation, I basically let the current do the work for me. It is critical to match the head size to the current. I find myself most often using 1/8 oz to 1/4 heads, depending on current strength of course. My favorite technique is to cast the tube up-current and basically allow it to be washed down. A definite must is to keep in contact with the bait my reeling up slack as the bait drifts down. This serves 2 purposes, it allows you to feel the bait bouncing along and can keep you from getting snagged often, and it allows you to feel a bite. Bites in a current situation will often be undetectable and any mushy feeling or possibly a sharp tick will could possibly be a bronzeback sucking in what he thinks is a craw.

For this open hook technique I'm mostly targeting smallmouth in this area. As far as tackle goes, I mainly fish a Kistler Helium 7' MH spinning rod, This rod has plenty of backbone to put the hook home and nice action for when the fish gets close to the boat. I'm also mostly using 6-8 lb floro line. I really like the abrasion resistance and feel with floro.

Colors you ask. Well, I'm a basic kind of guy when it comes to colors. I really only use a few colors: Clear water to stained water- Green pumpkin (and some variations like green pumpkin brown candy) watermelon, brown. Dirty water- black and some variations like black neon. I do also dip the tails in chartruese or orange Spike-It dye on some occasions, mostly on low light days.

Now a little extra secret. You know then days where smallmouth are up busting bait but won't seem to hit any top water you throw? Try this, rig up a white tube, texas rig, no weight at all. Throw it out and fish it back like a soft jerkbait. It will dip and dart like a jerkbait then when you kill it those little tenticles just a wiggle away as the bait falls. You'll be suprised the number of bites you'll get...

Tube size, not too complicated here either. I mainly use 4" tubes. I do sometimes use a 3 1/2 inch but only on occasions where they seem to want a smaller offering.

One last technique that seems to work on occasion both in rivers and lakes, simply swim the tube along. In current I cast either up-current or perpendicular then swim the tube back. For suspended or schooling lake smallies, cast out and let the bait sink to their depth then reel it back through them. This techinque is more difficult mostly because of the location of the fish in the water column but can work under some situations.

Hope this gives you a starting point to tube fishing. In the next few days I will add my tube techniques for largemouth. I will also get into how these techniques will sometimes cross over from one style to another.

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I had great luck before with Largemouth bass,pickerel, and rainbow trout.

My question is do tubes work well on channel catfish, like senkos?

Sorry, can't help you there. I have caught walleye and 1 catfish on a tube but I don't specifically target them. Maybe someone else here could shed some light.

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Thank you for taking the time to make this detailed post. Tubes are a passion of mine, too.

For smallmouth, I too fish an inserted jighead in relatively open water targeting structure, not cover. I prefer the 3 1/2" Mizmo in Kent's Classic (squash green). With this tube my technique is almost always a hopping presentation.

For largemouth, I fish the Micro Munch Tackle El Gordo (black neon) or Mizmo 5 1/2" tube (green or watermelon). My set up and presentation is completely different for these fish, but I'll share that on the next thread when bassnleo discusses his approach to largemouth bass.

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To further expand on Leo's fine presentation.

I bring you

Skippin a tube

The technique was initially attributed to Guido Hibdon but I'm betting he learned it from someone else fishing Lake of the Ozarks.  Essentially, the tube is one of the best baits out there for skipping under overhanging trees or under boat docks.

The art of skipping is all in the cast.  You'll use a spinning rod but a spincast also works.  The cast involves a side arm motion sending the lure in a near parallel or very shallow trajectory towards the object you're trying to skip under.  If done properly, the bait will skip much like a rock and gain you up to several feet extra distance under overhanging objects.  I prefer the old Gitzit style jig heads where the lead head is inside the tube itself.  This presentation is best done after some on the water practicing in an open water situation.  It does take a knack to get the cast down right but done properly you can get the bait to skip 4-6 times, sometimes more.  It's also not a choppy water presentation either.  You're best skipping results will occur in calm water situations.

Once the bait has come to rest and begins sinking, be prepared to close the bail immediately as fish will often strike the bait soon after it comes to rest.  

This technique isn't just limited to fishing under objects either but can also be used in open water situations as well when the fish are shallow.  The skipping action in open water mimicks a baitfish fleeing and will draw strikes.  It's a great presentation during the pre-spawn when the fish are in cruising the banks and you can really rack up some fish quick with this presentation.

If you're skipping around docks, I'd prefer a medium action rod and around 10lb line.  You'll need to get the fish away from cover ASAP so you'll need the stiffer action of the medium rod.  In Open water you can get away with a M/L rod with only 6lb test.  I prefer a 6' rod as the more compact length makes the cast a little easier to perform though some guys prefer the extra power of the 6'6" rod.  

I keep the baits simple, a 3 1/2 inch tube works great and I usually fish it in shad colors.  The lead heads I use are normally 1/8 oz or 1/4.  

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cart, most excellent addition to this post, saved me a little typing for my largemouth section!

I actually have a little system I use for skipping that I will add with my largemouth info. I will include some pics of terminal tackle that I use for tube skippin.

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Awsome topic guys

Tubes are probably my 2nd favorite.  IMO its the most versitale lure available.  Works in all water temps, catches all species, and you can fish it in the whole water column.  Excellent lure.

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Oh Man!...Love those tubes!  Would you mind sending me down some clear water with some Smallmouth, and I'll give your technique a shot!  I mainly pitch Texas-rigged tubes, and will pop it once, then twice after the initial rest before pitching to the next target and repeating.    I opt for the larger sizes in green squash (baby poop yellow), black neon, and green varieties.  I will occasionally swim a tube utilizing a jighead in the spring to imitate a bluegill, and then do the same with a white tube in fall as the bass chase shad.  I think the best advice I can give is to keep the weight you are using internal, even while Texas rigging.  This insures your tube will spiral down on the fall, which is key.  There are several manufacturers that make weights that cling to your hook one way or another, but just make sure the weight isn't impeding your hookset.  My method is to actually shove a drop shot weight up the tube until it reaches the head, and then shove in a large glass tube rattle.  Works for me  8-)

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   I fish Tubes 50% of the time on the water with Jig making up another 40% or so depending on the time of the year.  I fish just about like you except I will yo-yo it some.  I let the bait hit botton and sit for a few second depending on the water temp then with the rod tip pick it up a foot or so with a fairly quick montion and let fall back on a semi slack line.  Similar to stroking a jig

   I have rigged it several ways and have found no difference in the numbers of bites or hook up.  I  usually use a internal style head and exposed hook rigged weedless.  

   The color for me is anything watermemln or green pumpkin in 31/2 or 4 inch

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Ok, here goes some largemouth info.

Since cart7 accurately covered skipping a tube, I'll skip  :D  that. I will add that for skipping, I rig my tubes with an internal weight usually 1/16 to 1/8 oz and a Eagle Claw XP hook. These hooks have a little clip around the eye that closes and holds the tube in place which is really handy. The weights I use are nothing more than the thin cylinder style drop shot weights. I simply take a 1/4 drop shot weight, use an ice pick to spread the line clip into a circle, then snip off about 2/3 of the weight. It makes a nice compact weight. I also pour these myself due to the shear number I use each year for this technique and for drop shotting. This rig is weedless and fairly snagless and has kind of a slow gliding fall that is dynamite for skipping under docks or around any kind of cover or open water for that matter.

As far as the rest of my largemouth fishing, I mainly flip or pitch a tube. I use the same hook but rig it texas style with a bullet weight of varying sizes to match the type of cover and depth of water I'm fishing. I will peg the weight with a rubber band if I'm fishing bushes or really thick cover and want the bait to be more compact. If I'm targeting holes in grass beds or laydowns or stumps I leave the weight free sliding. I use both lead and tungsten weights. I like tungsten if I'm above 1/2 oz, lead below. Cost is the main factor there, I really haven't noticed more or less bites lead vs. tungsten.

On occasion I will cast a texas rig tube and fish it like a worm.

Size wise, I still use 4" tubes but usually flipping style tubes which have a little thicker wall. Colors are usually the same as I mentioned above.

Soon as I get them taken, I will add some pics of some of the things I have mentioned.

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Another great things about tubes is there are many variations to. Tube craw- Lake Fork Craw Tube, Strike Kings - Wild Things are variations of the tube that may help to get the fishes attention if there is alot of fishing pressure by people throwing the common tubes. My 2 cents great post guys. I have 2 poles for strictly tubes they are my money bait year in and year out. I  also agree the 4 inch usally does do alot better and I have even seen some 4 1/2 that looked pretty good.

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Here's the terminal tackle I use for my skipping rig. In the pic is an Eagle Claw HP hook. Notice the little lip around the eye, you open that when rigging it through the tube then close it when done, it holds the tube in place, is great to keep a skipped tube in place.

Also notice my internal weight is nothing more than a drop shot weight modified a little. Be gentle when spreading the clip. They are thin and can break if too much pressure is put on it. Internal weights can be purchased pre-made and I've tried them all. I just wasn't happy with commerciall made ones and the way they rig so I came up with this way to make my own.

I know the pics is a little big, I wanted everyone to be able to closely see the weight and clip on the hook.

The weight goes inside the tube and is threaded to the top, the hook is simply texas rigged, the hook goes through the circle of the internal weight and that's how it stays place inside the tube.

One note of advice. I use the largest hook I can with these tubes, usually a 4/0, I want a large gap between the hook point and end of my weight inside the tube. If you hook is too small or the weight is too long it shortens the gap and ability for the hook to hit pay dirt when you set the hook.


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And, here's 2 styles of internal heads. I just started messing with the wide gap style and will probably pour more this year. Notice the difference in eye angle.

The tube is a 4" Micro Much Flipping Tube, color is green pumpkin  brown candy.


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Lastly, the crossover between these techniques. Although I have divided these between smallmouth and largemouth, these techniques will catch both species.

For example, try a tube rigged for skipping around bedded largemouth or on a shallow weedbed. A tube gliding as opposed to spiraling down can often trigger a fish into biting. Let the fish tell you how they want it. If your not getting bit flipping or pitching try a lighter weight or differently rigged tube. That's often all it takes to turn a biteless morning into a time to remember.

Also, for deeper summertime largemouth fishing (or structure fishing) instead of a deep crank, jig, or carolina rig, try a tube rigged with and exposed hook. Drag it the same as you would a jig or bump it along like a crank. Rip it off the bottom, jig it, basically the only thing holding you back is your imagination. There is no rule when it comes to tubes or bass fishing for that matter.

There are just therioes....

Next are 2 pics, 1 largemouth and 1 smallmouth. Both bit a tube and not too far apart.

Hope this info helps everyone improve your tube fishing. Give them a try, you might be suprised!!

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I usually T-rig a flippin tube with a bullet sinker.   I don't use this often and when I do the tube will eventually slide down the hook.   I use toothpicks to peg my sinkers and so I started taking a toothpick and sticking it through the head of the tube and through the eye of the hook to hold the tube in place.  Any other ideas out there?

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bmkole- use something like along the lines of a flipping tube. They have really thick, meaty heads that can hold a hook really well. They dont work too well on jigheads, though. Btw, i am always fishing tubes. And almost exclusivley on 1/8th oz. insider heads, sometimes 1/16 oz, and rarely 1/4 oz, although i have them up to 1/2 oz.

Here are some good flipping tubes that wont slide on the hook


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Thanks Rockn,

This past season was the first time I really tried using tubes and that was sparingly.  Mostly out of the weeds on exposed hook jigs.  i just thought a "flippin tube" was bigger than a regular tube.   I just cracked open a bag of Powerbait flippin tubes that I just got in the bargain bin and they too have the solid plastic head.....i will make sure I look for that in the future.

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