Tournament fishing tips that's what this column is about. In addition, I usually write about your mental state and how to approach your next tournament. While I feel strongly that your confidence and positive attitude are still the best in your "tackle box," a few good lures will still come in handy.
The one lure that is still overlooked the most by tournament fishermen is the tube bait. At weigh-ins talking with fellow tournament pros, and interviewing anglers as a tournament MC, I'm amazed at the lack of confidence most fishermen have in tube baits. The tube bait today is different from the lure it was ten years ago. It's not the 2- or 3-inch gitzit most anglers picture when you mention tube baits. It's also more than just the light-line-clear-water technique that it started 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 essential when you're fishing stained water. It helps the bass locate it in limited visibility. The compact size and design make it the perfect lure for flipping. It penetrates heavy cover well. Also, with the high winds we face here in Texas, it makes for an easier presentation.
The biggest drawback you hear about tube baits is the hook-up-to-land ratio. A lot of anglers need to learn how to rig a tube bait. The biggest mistake 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 skin the hook point lightly. With the Flippin tube, I'll use 20-pound test line and a 4/0 hook.
Another effective technique that is the best-kept secret on 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 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 lead head 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 as a swimming bait along boat docks and rip-rap. Floating docks, like the ones you find around marinas, are also good places to fish. It can be very effective in tandem with a 1/8- or 3/16-ounce jighead. In tournaments, these bass see so many spinnerbaits and crankbaits that you'll need to use something different to encourage more strikes. Using a jighead on a spinning rod will give you the best skipping method of lure presentation. It's easy to learn with a bit of 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 rig a skipping tube, you'll be able to reach water under the docks that most anglers can only see.
Remember 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, and rip-rap and are 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. So 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.