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Tube Baits, A Smallmouth Classic

By: Mark Romanack


Chunk smallmouth bass like these caught by Jake Romanack are often taken throwing tube baits.


It seems for every species there is a bait or two that just becomes synonymous with catching that fish. For largemouth bass that lure would have to be the spinnerbait, for northern pike it’s a slab sided casting spoon, for walleye the lead head jig tipped with a minnow takes the prize. When it comes to smallmouth bass, my vote for the most iconic and versatile of all bass baits would be the soft plastic tube.


TUBE BAITS

Soft plastic baits come in hundreds of different shapes and sizes, but nothing out there looks like or does the job of the tube bait. A tube bait with all those tentacles is a dead ringer for a crayfish and everyone who enjoys smallmouth bass fishing knows that these fish simply can’t turn down a crayfish.

In the three, four and five inch sizes, every angler who covets smallmouth bass should have a good selection in at least half a dozen different colors. Part of what makes tube baits such a good option is they can be rigged in a host of ways.


Tube baits have produced countless smallmouth bass for the angler over the years. Every day on the water targeting smallmouth, the author makes sure to have a good selection of these iconic plastics.


TUBE BAIT JIGS

Jigs designed to slip inside the tube bait rank as one of the most popular ways to fish a tube. Like any jig presentation, it’s the hook involved that makes the difference. The Trokar Tube Jig features a 3/0 size hook and comes in 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16 and 3/8 ounce sizes. The work horse of tube fishing these Trokar hooks are so sharp, every bite turns into a stuck and landed fish. Lower quality tube jigs are just not worth throwing considering the work involved in getting a bite in the first place. Why would anyone handicap themselves by throwing an average tube jig?


MUSHROOM HEADS

Tubes can also be easily rigged using a mushroom style jig head that converts the tube into a stand up bait. A tube resting on the bottom with the tentacles moving seductively does an amazing job of imitating a crayfish in the defensive posture.


WEEDLESS RIGGING

A tube bait jig with an extra wide gap EWG style hook is the hot set up when fishing tubes in rocks, weed or wood cover. The design of this hook makes it possible to rig the tube Texas style so the hook point is not exposed.

The Trokar Weedless Tube Jig offers a 4/0 hook for this unique rigging option. Ideal for fishing in cover, every angler who fishes tubes needs a selection of these jigheads in the common sizes.


MORE WEEDLESS OPTIONS

A tube can be fished weedless by Texas rigging it using a jig head equipped with an EWG hook. Another option is to go with a mushroom head also equipped with EWG hook. The Eagle Claw EWG Finesse Jig comes in 2/0 and 3/0 hook sizes ideal for weedless rigging 3 and 4 inch tubes.


Smallmouth love hard bottom areas. This Northern Ontario landscape is about as perfect as it gets for targeting smallmouth with tube jigs.


CAROLINA RIGGING

Tubes are a great choice for Carolina rigging. When faced with deep water, a Carolina rig is often the best way to go. At the business end a tube rigged on an EWG hook such as the Trokar TK110 presents the tube without weight, making it much easier for fish to suck in.


SCENT FISHING

Most tubes on the market are going to be either enhanced with salt or some type of fish attracting scent. The beauty of a tube bait is they can easily be stuffed with gel style fishing scents.

A squeeze or two of Pro Cure Super Gel in crayfish formula just about doubles the chances that tube is going to get eaten! When tubes are used to imitate minnows, going with a Super Gel Emerald Shiner, Gizzard Shad, Smelt or Goby formula is the better option.


SMALLMOUTH COLORS

Every angler who uses tubes for smallmouth will want to carry at least half a dozen different colors. Top colors are going to include a green pumpkin, pearl, chartreuse, black neon, black/blue flake and motor oil.


GREAT ROD/REEL/LINE COMBINATIONS

A tube bait can be fished on just about any spinning rod/reel. The ideal set up is a rod that’s seven feet to seven feet, six inches long and something featuring a medium/light action and a fast tip. The reel should be loaded with 10 pound test super line and terminated with a shock leader of about 36 inches of 12-15 pound test fluorocarbon line. If the water is clear, downsize the leader to eight or 10 pound test line.

The double uni-knot is the ideal choice for attaching fluorocarbon leader material to a super line.


SUMMING IT UP

Every lure has a time and place. When it comes to tube baits, they simply can’t be beat when targeting smallmouth bass. The versatility of a tube bait is hard to ignore. No doubt this is why tubes are classic smallmouth lures anywhere these fish are found.


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