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Keys to Your Tube Fishing Success

By Russ Bassdozer

Get ready, get set, go! We're jumping right into this thing, so hold on to your hat!

When to flip a Texas rig as opposed to flippin' a jig? In extremely brushy or weedy areas that you just cannot get a flipping jig through, go Texas bullet style. Do not use a flipping jig with a bulky skirt and trailer in such thick cover. It's bulkiness resists breaking through hard-to-penetrate cover. Use a thin bait (a tube or worm) that slips easily through thick cover. A Texas-rigged tube slips through great. If you opt for a worm, make sure it does not have a clingy tail that will wrap around and break off on grabby cover. With either bait, there are three rigging options, but the first one is usually the best in thick cover:

1) Pegging the weight right on the nose of the bait is usually required in thick cover. Break off a toothpick in the butt of the weight to keep it in place. Because the pegged weight and the bait essentially cast as one piece, you can cast as precisely as possible into teacup-sized holes and you do not have any of the inaccuracy that occurs with an unpegged weight when it slides up the line on a cast into cover.

2) In moderate cover, peg the bullet (or a Mojo) weight about 6 to 9 inches above the bait. This short, fixed leader gives you more consistent casting accuracy than an unpegged bait and more free fall action on the drop than a nose-pegged worm or tube. This is usually a good way to go in moderate cover.

3) An unpegged weight and bead can be the way to go in light cover but it presents three manageability problems in dense cover. First, it is awkward to cast. You can not cast as precisely as is often required in dense cover because the weight will tend to slide up and away from the bait when you cast - and you'll lose that pinpoint precision required to nail small open spots of water on the cast. Second, the unpegged weight will often break through cover, slide down the line to the bottom leaving the bait stuck on the surface. Third, once you get your rig under the surface stuff, the unpegged weight will often slide down your line to the bottom on one side of a branch, log or weed clump while your hook and bait stays behind on the other side of the log, branch or whatever. This leads to difficulty in setting the hook. However, an unpegged weight can be attractive to fish in light cover, especially when a bead is used between the weight and the bait to generate clicking noise as the weight constantly hammers against the bead.

When either one may work, when to use a tube instead of a jig? I tend to use a skirted jig/trailer to imitate crayfish and a tube to imitate preyfish. I am sure either lure can imitate either critter, but jigs are basically craws to me and tubes are baitfish. A jig has got all sorts of wavy legs, tails and stuff like a craw whereas a tube is sleek-bodied with a flittery tail like a baitfish. All of the earthy colors (blacks, browns, greens) that work in jigs also work in tubes. Additionally, tubes come in nifty baitfish patterns that jigs generally do not.

Now, craws crawl and baitfish swim. So, I use jigs as dropbaits and tubes as swimbaits in cover. Because I want tubes to swim and float around more in cover, I use lighter weight tubes than jigs. To make tubes swim, I use two tactics. First, I often draw the rod tip slowly from nine o'clock until twelve without reeling, letting the tube drift back to bottom as I reel slowly down to nine again. Second, I will reel very slowly, occasionally flicking the rod tip and pausing, which causes the tube to flit and fall. With either of the two tactics, there's lots of pausing without reeling to let the tube flutter down and lay on the bottom.

In the thickest of cover, a Texas-rigged tube can knife through places that you cannot penetrate with bulky jigs. In sparser cover, I often opt to use tubes on wireguard jig heads. Tubes have thin baitfish profiles and I personally like the sleek, unobtrusive look of the wireguard on thin profile baits. That is why I will use a wireguard - to preserve the sleek look on tubes. On bulkier baits like skirted jigs/trailers or soft plastic skirted spider grubs, I fish these more vertically on the drop, and I opt for the sturdier fiberguards, either thinning them down to a few fibers in light cover, or keeping more fibers intact for heavier cover.

Fish hit both tubes and jigs equally greedily on the drop. Fish gobble up both tubes and jigs equally well when you let them lay on the bottom and occasionally jiggle them. In addition, fish smoke tubes when you swim them back out to you horizontally and slowly across the bottom with frequent pauses. Therefore, I use the sleek look given by Texas rigs and wireguard jigs to swim tubes out of the cover horizontally like baitfish do, getting hits at any point in the process. I do not get smoked nearly as much when swimming or crawling jigs horizontally out of cover. So, I flip and jiggle jigs in place then pull them out. I flip and jiggle tubes in place then swim them out.

Hold on tight again! We're getting out of the thick cover with flippin' tubes and heavy tackle...and we're picking up the light tackle spinning stick next.

Tubes on spinning gear have always been one of the most productive baits for me the last 15 years or so. Tubes really shine when I need to go to a finessy, lightweight, hang there and hover kind of approach. Few other lures I've used do that as good as a tube. I almost always use jig heads as opposed to T-rigged for this. The line tie eye coming off the top of the tube helps it get that float for me. Also, I feel the jig head is more solid for the hookset, being one piece with the hook gap wide and clear as opposed to a T-rigged tube, which is two pieces (weight and hook) with the hook gap clogged by the bulk of the tube body. I use light jig heads of 1/16 oz. for this in 6 feet or less, and I use 1/8 oz. down to 12 feet, or 1/4 for 18 feet - always understanding that the increased weight gives you increased depth - but also robs the tube of the hovering, gliding kind of action inherent in it. 

Now, I'm not talking flipping tubes here, but casting tubes across light cover or open water on spinning gear. Flipping tubes are a different kind of animal, and we already talked about them above.

Getting back to lightweight tubes - in shallower water, I'll use 12 lb. test with the 1/16 oz. heads, and lower the line test as I go progressively deeper with progressively heavier heads - 1/8 oz. with 10 lb test, 1/4 oz. with 8 lb. test. The fatter line diameter lets the tube float and hover more in shallower water, but the thinner line diameter gets it down deeper - and the line and the water pressure drag on the long thin line in deep water makes a line belly that gives the same neutral buoyancy effect as you get on a short fat line in shallower water. That's an important point. The effect of the line often dictates the action of a lure. The line - and how you control the belly, slack and tautness in it - allows the lure to achieve its optimum action - or not.  Sometimes, especially with the light tubes we are discussing here, you should be focusing on the line and how you handle it more than you should be focusing on the lure itself. The proper placement of belly in the line is not always bad. When used properly, belly makes an oscillating effect that follows through into the lure which suspends neutrally like one of those little Cartesian diver toys we played with as kids. If you control the line, the tube will be floating around there kind of totally weightless on the end of the string doing its own thing. Fish will wolf it down when the tube achieves that equilibrium point of optimum life-like action induced by proper line handling.

Let's switch gears again to talk about the Ika, a solid-bodied tube lure alternative.

Ikas. As far as the Gary Yamamoto Ikas go, I always think of them as a different lure than a tube. They may have the same shape, but a tube is about as light as you can get for that shape (it's hollow), whereas an Ika is about as heavy as you can get for that same shape. Because of that weight difference, I don't consider them to be the same.

The Ikas produce fish if you treat them as their own lure, never trying to make them be a tube in my mind, which may be different from somebody else's thinking. That's what makes fishing interesting - no two people do it the same!

I will use Ikas on the same or a slightly heavier set-up than tubes. I use tubes to hover, glide and laze around. However, I use Ikas to dart, snap and move somewhat quicker than a tube. Also, because it is so dense, the Ika excels on a weightless or splitshot presentation whereas I personally consider tubes to be lousy (too light) when used weightless, and tubes can sometimes act too flighty for my taste (the Ika hunkers down whereas the tube floats) on a quickly-fished splitshot rig.

Not saying my opinion is right or wrong, just that's what I choose to do!

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