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Smallmouth Bass

soft plastic tubes

If you have been fishing with me for smallmouth bass, then the chances are we where using a soft plastic tube. I would have to say that fishing a tube is probably one of my favorite ways to target big trophy smallmouth bass, especially here in Wisconsin

What is a soft plastic tube:

A tube bait is a hollowed-out, cylindrical soft plastic lure, with a tentacle-encased open end and a closed rounded head.  When fishing a tube you want it to resemble a crawfish swimming across the bottom of the lake, if your fishing a little faster and swimming it in the middle of the water column then it may look like a small minnow or bluegill.  But whatever it looks like to the bass, they sure seem to love it.

Tube baits and smallmouth bass are a match made in fishing heaven. Representing their preferred bait of crawfish perfectly, the plastic tube bait has been garnering attention and catching boat loads of fish for a record number of years, with many believing it to be the pinnacle of baits for catching smallmouth and largemouth bass. They can be deadly in the hands of a seasoned pro, but confusing and frustrating for those that are discovering the bait for the first time. Come and learn the correct way to rig and fish this bait — once you understand the basics, the catching part will become rudimentary.

Although they come in a variety of sizes, from micro for panfish and extra large for

musky, when dealing with smallies, a tube between three and four inches in length

is perfect for the task at hand.

Tackle store shelves are literally jammed with row-upon-row of tubes, with each of

the major manufacturers competing for your dollar. My personal preference is to stock

the box with the ISG TUBES, letting the fish (and spending your time on the

water) dictate the best color choices for that day. A tube that is comprised of soft

and supple plastic is a definite asset, allowing for a more lifelike and realistic feel

for tricking fish, especially when scent has been added. Color selection and superior

craftsmanship should also be taken into consideration when narrowing down your choice.  

Although they come in a wide range of colors, there are a few combinations that will generally shine above the rest. Natural hues such as brown, smoke, white, and green are mainstays on my rods, with a nod being given to gaudier hues when water conditions dictate it. My favorite color of choice for almost all bodies of water anywhere in the United States and especially here in Wisconsin would have to be .. GREEN PUMPKIN  with either black flake or purple flake.

Tube jigs are meant to be used with a special hook and weight system. This lead-molded or tungsten jig head is slid into the cavity of the body, at which point the line tie is poked through the shell in order to attach to your line. The standard style of head is of a cylindrical shape, although round-headed and arrow-style jig heads are also very popular. When faced with heavy cover (especially vegetation) a weedless style is also available to the angler.

Weight is important to your tube bait, as you want your presentation to be down on the bottom of the structure area you are fishing. Maintaining contact with a rock shoal or underwater hump is imperative, so choosing the right size for the job is extremely important. For smallmouth fishing, the top three weights for jig heads are 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 of an ounce. A rough guide for choosing weights is as follows — water between 0 and ten feet (1/8 ounce), ten to twenty (1/4 ounce) and anything over twenty (3/8 ounce) Keep in mind that these are only rough estimates, and may need to be increased when faced with extremely rough windy days, or finicky fish. 

Hooks should be wide-gapped and chemically sharpened, allowing for increased penetration when setting the hook. Solid hooksets are mandatory when chasing smallies, as the jumping nature of these fish will allow more opportunities for thrown hooks.

We've already established that tubes mimic a smallmouth's favorite food, namely crawfish. Since craws spend the majority of their time directly on the bottom of lakes, rivers and streams, this will be your main target of presentation. A smallmouth has honed its hunting skills to notice and react to any movement or sound coming from the rocks or sands down below. As long as you can get your bait down there and within a fish's strike radius, you should be able to find some action. Here are a few tactics for working your bait along the bottom.

Dragging a tube bait across rock shoals or humps can be a dynamite technique, mainly because it replicates the movement of a crawfish realistically. For the most part, craws scurry across the bottom in a horizontal manner, never leaving the safety of the lake bottom.

Dragging is a simple technique to master - cast your tube out, let it fall to the bottom and then proceed to drag or pull your bait in 6-inch to a foot intervals. After each pull, reel up any slack line and prepare for the next drag. Fish will either hit the bait while it is stationary or moving, so be prepared to set the hook hard and fast.

When using the dragging technique, pay careful attention to your line and hook. These will come into contact with rocks and snags often, dulling hooks and fraying line. Periodic checks will lesson the chance of losing a big fish.


Soft Plastic Tubes