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Tube Tips

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We fished about one hundred days last year, all over our home state of Tennessee, in Missouri and in a few other places. Our kayaks were launched in ponds, creeks, rivers and lakes of all sizes. Fishing our home waters or places new to us we had a pregame plan as we packed our Jackson kayaks, Bending Branches paddles, Lew’s rods and tackle boxes. One constant was the bags of soft plastic baits and included were tube type plastics. Debbie Brian, my partner pedals a BITE FD and I paddle a Big Rig.

tube types

Picking Plastics

I plan for water color, weather and previous success when choosing the plastic baits that will make any of my trips. Like most other freshwater fishing lures plastics and specifically tube type baits are available in multiple colors, several sizes and other variables. Color selection is a giant problem for many fishermen. My typical reply is “it’s like chicken, do you want light or dark? “Clear water calls for more subtle shades, dirty water has you rigging dark contrasting colors. We both carry specialty boxes with our favorite colors. Debbie’s top three choices are a catalpa color (chartreuse / black combination) for most waters, next is the RageTail watermelon /red flake and the 0095 Monteleone silver tube from MidSouth Tackle (Jonesboro Arkansas)

Species Specifics

Like all the plastics they can catch almost anything that swims in fresh saltwater. In my own case I’ve caught bunches of bass (all three major species- largemouth, Spotted Kentucky and smallmouth bass), crappie, bluegill, walleye, northern pike, carp and others. Last season Debbie landed a ten-pound catfish while casting a tube intended for crappie. Any bait that catches a diverse species is a keeper. The ability to catch many kinds of fish speaks to the versatility of a lure with tubes being no exception.

How to Fish with Tube Baits


Next up how to rig your tubes. Again, there are many ways to rig your tubes. For bass I lean toward Texas rigging with a 3/8ths ounce slip sinker on a #5/0 Daiichi copperhead hook, it can also be worked on a jig head inserted in the cavity of the body. The line tie is pushed through and makes a great bass bait. For topwater fans a deadly technique is the weedless tube set up. Make a one-foot leader with 12-pound test fluorocarbon line, attach a swivel to one end and a 5/0 hook to the other. (The swivel eliminates line twist.) Secure the leader to your main line on a stout open face spinning outfit, seven-foot medium heavy action and a reel spooled with braided line.

* TUBE TIP- I push a Styrofoam packing peanut into the body cavity of the tube to make if float on the surface. Cast around shoreline cover, aquatic vegetation and submerged trees. The action imparted by the angler with a twitch, rest, repeat is erratic and random, the hit is explosive. For the small tubes, we use a standard leadhead varying in size from 1/16th ounce to a ¼ ounce, standard is a 1/8th ounce version. Merely thread the tube onto the lead and you’re in business. Target boat docks, brush piles, partially or fully submerged trees, rocky points, creek channels and drop offs.

How to Fish with Tube Baits
Why They Work

Depending on your rigging choice the biggest plus to the motion of the tubes is a random fall in a hexagonal slow descent. It’s different than almost any other bait. The small tubes display a similar drop. A key to the baits rigged on leadheads is the knot position on the line tie. *see photo. To achieve the best action the line should be snug to the very middle /top of the jig head, this provides the slow circular falling motion. Another plus is the subtle appearance of this bait. It’s slow in movement, silent and its size makes it look easy to swallow. Tiny tubes come in a few lengths, 1 ½ inches, 2 ½ inches and the upsized Strike King Flip-N-Tube is available in 2.75, 3.5 and 4.5 models. In clear water we use smaller light-colored plastics, in stained water we go with bigger and darker shades.

Rods, Reels, Lines

On the upsized tubes I prefer baitcasting equipment, my partner Debbie loves the open-faced spinning combos. My tubing gear is a seven-foot Lew’s medium heavy action rod and a low profile, lightweight Lew’s baitcasting reel geared at 6.8:1. We agree on the smaller set ups for the smaller tubes. Spinning rods six feet long and medium size reels spooled with 8-pound test braid and 6-pound test fluorocarbon leaders. The spinning rods allow for easy casting and coupled with the line choices we got solid hook sets. I utilize the baitcasting gear fishing the same structure as I do with bass jigs and like the power of the baitcaster for horsing fish away from cover. The downsize spinning rods reels make the crappie and bluegill fun and the bass a challenge.

How to Fish with Tube Baits


You can fish almost any bait too fast but with plastics it’s unlikely you can fish one too slow. Experiment with retrieve speeds until you get bit, but it’s wise to start slow. Consider ”flipping” heavy cover for bass. The pendulum swing, quiet entry and erratic fall can be deadly for bass hugging cover closely. The standard swim, twitch rest or slow bottom crawl are also viable possibilities. Another plus is the unfamiliar look of the family of soft plastic tubes. Bass see the common plastic worm, lizards, craw imitators but many had never been introduced to the cylindrical body equipped with trailing tentacles. For the smaller tubes, a slow arcing return with the occasional twitch often is all it takes. For the laziest of crappie, bluegill and bass a drop into their “house” with a slow vertical presentation will many times draw a hit from the most inactive fish. Strikes vary from the subtle (is that a bite) to rod ripping hits. Concentrate and keep contact with the bait, at the first feeling of anything different, sock em’.

Almost anywhere, any time, any species, tubes are highly effective. Coupled with you other favorites baits and techniques they’re a great addition to your kayak tackle box.
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