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Score: Tubes 0 - Senkos 18 --- What am I doing wrong with my tubes?

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When you guys are RIVER fishing, how do you work your Tube compared to a Senko? I must be doing something wrong.

I tried an experiment this week that has me baffled. Here's the deal: Monday afternoon there was a feeding frenzy at my favorite smallie spot on the Upper Potomac. Every other cast with my pumpkin Senko caught a decent fish (see the pic below with a 5" Yammi hanging out of his mouth).

I've never had much luck with tubes before, so I thought I would switch out and try a tube in the exact same color just so that I could practice my tube fishing... and nothing happened. Cast after cast and nothing happened. Tried 3" and 4" tubes, but it didn't matter. I worked the Tube like I work a Senko when river fishing: 1/8th oz jig, long cast, let it fall, wait 10 seconds or so to let dance in the current, twitch it 2-3 times, repeat... NOTHING!

Then, I switched back to a Senko and BAM, another nice fish on the first cast. It didn't matter what size Senko I threw, they hit 4", 5" and 6" the same... but nothing doing with the exact same color Tube. I even tried different color Senkos (black, blue, smoke, watermelon and even bubblegum) and they kept hitting it just about every-other cast. Wacky on a jighead or Texas rigged with a vertical-drop hook both worked great.

So is this weird? Am I just totally inept at Tube fishing? Everyone raves about Tubes being the go-to soft plastic for smallies around here, but I just don't see it in my fishing experience.

So, how do you guys work your Tubes when you are casting for RIVER smallies? Am I doing this totally wrong? Is the Senko REALLY that good of a smallmouth bait that it works with nothing else does?

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I love fishing tubes in my home lake, but they don't always work. Last month I caught three fish right away and my partner using a shakey head had zero. My bite die and he caught 10 fish before I saw the light and switch to a shakey head.

Let the fish tell you what they want. If the bite slows down or the fish are small, then try something else... that's usually what I do... in a perfect world ::)

I like to start with my favorite lure, and then switch for many different reasons. Most of the time I change for one of two reasons: Lure not working or The fish are biting and I want to work on something new.

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Thanks, Josh.  I guess it makes sense that on some days some baits just work better.  I just have never had luck with tubes for some reason... guess I need to practice with them more since everyone says they are the go-to bait for river smallies.

Do you crawl them along the bottom slowly or hop them?  Are most hits on the crawl, the fall or the pause?

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Drag, lift or hop...you never know from day to day.

8-)

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I have the opposite problem. I rarely catch senko fish but always can get them on a tube. I fish tubes so slow, painfully slow. Just drag them across rocks and every once in awhile give it a quick twitch.

This morning I had a smallie about take the rod out of my hand when my tube first hit the water. He took off but I ripped it out of his mouth :( I had the hook point into too much plastic and it didn't pop out when I set the hook.

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It seems to me to have to do with the behavior of the fish.  If they're looking up, I don't think a tube is a great choice-- a weightless or lightly weighted plastic is better (like your senko).  If they're suspended, I like a bait I can fish through them, like a grub or swim-jig.  The only time I like a tube is if they're right on the bottom rooting around for crawfish, and even then, I like other baits better.  I'm just not a tube guy, and it's usually my last resort, BUT... sometimes its the only bait I can catch them on. 

If what you're doing isn't working, gotta switch.  If it is working... then what's the problem?

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Tubes and wacky rigged senkos are #1 and #2 on our Smallie hit parade so we always have each of them rigged when we hit the Mississippi.  There are days when either will work about equally well, but more often than not, one will outshine the other by a significant margin, and sometimes one absolutely will not get bit while the other is absolutely getting all the bites.  Color has proven to be almost a non-factor with the senkos while color is usually fairly important with the tubes.  If crawfish are the primary forage, green pumpkins and browns seem to work better.  If minnows are the main forage, lighter colored to almost white seem to be better.  RW is right on about the retrieve...keep trying different ones until the fish tell you what they prefer for that day.  Keep trying the tubes...Smallies love them and once you start catching a few on tubes, your confidence in them will grow and confidence in a bait many times is key to success with it.

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This past weekend (on a lake, mind you), the smallies were hitting equally on both tubes and big 7" *** trick sticks - senko-style bait).  The big smallie of the tournament was caught by yours truly in 12' of water off of a weedbed, 7" black w/ blue flake trick stuck, wacky (w/ 3/32oz weighted hook). 

The majority of our smallies came on a 4" green pumpkin tube with orange tail (I think it's Mizmo but could be another brand... they were not in the original bag).  Just cast out, let it fall, and drag and dwitch it back to you slowly. Painfully slowly.  If you feel the "tunk" ot tick, set the hook.  If there's no smallie thrashing around yet, wait a few more seconds -- he'll come back for it! Let him chew on it for a second or two this time and THEN set the hook.

I find smallies often give the tube a big thud first, but are usually only hittin the tentacles of the tube (the "claws"). Probably knocking the crayfish out and/or damaging the pinchers. Then they inhale the crayfish on the second hit.

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Thanks for all the suggestions, guys.  Glad to know I'm not the only one that has had luck with one bait, but skunked on another.  I'm going to keep trying the tubes as you suggested until I get more confidence in them. 

I really appreciate all the help!

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Thanks, Josh. I guess it makes sense that on some days some baits just work better. I just have never had luck with tubes for some reason... guess I need to practice with them more since everyone says they are the go-to bait for river smallies.

Do you crawl them along the bottom slowly or hop them? Are most hits on the crawl, the fall or the pause?

I try many different retrieves.

I like to rig it as light as possible with a jig head, use an exposed hook, have the weight toward the mid of the tube, and fish it long rocky bluffs.

With the weight toward the mid of the tube, it spirals down. Many bites will come on the fall, so watch your line. Sometimes I will squirt some scent up the tube, and fish it very slow... letting it sit on the bottom. Other times I will count it down and swim it slowly back like a baitfish.

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I use small tubes exclusively in the creek I fish, I catch herds of Redbrest some blue gill, Crappie, other bream and creek chubs. For a added measure I add a propeller, it seems to drive them crazy compared to the normal tube, I fish it close as I can to rocks and submerged trees. I'd try putting a propeller on it for Smallies and working it in a fluttering motion (it will sorta imitate a bait fish) maybe let it drop once in a while, I've never tried it with Small mouth but I'd bet they would love it. Tubes for ponds and lakes don't work well in summer imo, I have more success in early Spring and Fall.

At very least you can catch some redbreast or other panfish on small tubes :)

redhy.jpg

red4y.jpg

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Hey guys, thanks for your advice.  I spent the day yesterday on the Potomac (River Bend) and decided to practice my tube fishing with watermelon / red flake and pumpkin seed BPS tender tubes.  After a bit, I found the pattern -- SLOW across the bottom with the rare slight rod twitch -- and hooked into 8 decent sized smallies, and one 1.5# largemouth.  I think I've probably always put too much action on the tubes in the past.

While I'm still a Senko guy when I need a confidence bait, at least now I have a new soft plastic that I'm comfortable with. 

Thanks to all of you for your advice!

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Good to hear AtoS!! Like learning the flippin' jig, the best thing to do is leave the rest at home and JUST use the jig, or in this case, tube jig, for a day.  The fish will usually cooperate and help you learn!

Now another thing to do, more-so when trolling and not casting into rivers, is to use your spinning reel with the bail OPEN, but keep the line pinned to the rod blank with your index finger.  Once you feel a light tap, let the line out by letting go. Wait 2-3 (agonizing) seconds, then manuall click the bail over, reel in any slack, and hammer it home.

Note: Only do the above if the bass seem to be biting short that day.  It can make a huge difference in your catches.  On the other hand if the bass are agressively feeding, it can lead to a lot of gullet-hooked fish, so ONLY do this if they're biting really short. (An alternative approach - change the color of your tube or move from a 4" to a 3.5" or even a 3" tube... they might hit the new color or smaller size better).

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I've done best for river smallies on tubes by using the lightest possible jighead and inserting it only part way into the tube, thus giving it a very erratic spiral and drop. I will then either crawl it forward or hop it off the bottom and let it fall again, seems they nail it on the fall usually. Motor oil, green pumpkin, and most natural craw colors have been the best for me.

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I too tried tubes a few days last weekend and caught 0 fish. Switched to the senko and caught 3 or 4. This thread has definitely been helpful though. Guess I'll try again next weekend.

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I catch more smallies on tubes than Senkos. Matter-of-fact, the fish I'm holding in my avatar? You guessed it.  Tubes in current.  I buy them by the 100 pack.

For current fishing, I like a heavier weight such as 1/4oz or 1/2oz jig head. I'm talking heavy current here. Sometimes I'll Carolina rig them or use a splitshot rig.

But other than that, the technique is the same: throw it out and let it fall on totally slack line (spinning gear is ideal for this). AS SOON AS IT HITS BOTTOM, reel in the slack and put tension on the line - feel if there's a fish, because often they hit it on the fall. If there's no fish, then lift the rod a little and let it flutter back down on slack line. Repeat.

That's where I start. I may change presentations with heavier/lighter weight or just drag it on the bottom. But that's really all there is to it.

Tubes are also great baits for skipping under docks, as well as flipping and pitching! ;)

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Glenn summed up tube presentation really well,

and in my opinion, the "slack line" he mentions is key.

I catch more smallies on tubes than Senkos.

When it comes to river smallies, I've never felt that the senko can hold a candle to the tube.

On the other hand, the "jig-&-grub has often rivaled the tube in our experience,

but that may not apply to the Columbia River drainage.

Roger

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Swarming Hornet/ 3 1/2" LFT Live Magic Shad trailer.

;)

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