The pros are finding out that tubes aren’t just finesse lures any more. Denny Brauer won the 1998 Classic with a jumbo 5" tube flipped into heavy cover with magnum gear. Here he employed a 5" inch tube rigged Texas style with a Florida weight that screws into the head of the bait. Add to that a 4/0 EWG hook and this is anything but your ordinary finesse rig. This rig was fished on 20 to 30 pound line. The rig works anywhere a jig will and especially when fish refuse to eat a jig. This technique has been a consistent producer on the tournament trail as of late. Dubbed the Mega tube, it is essentially a refined finesse tactic that is up scaled and fished in nasty places.
I have adapted it even further and put this bait to the test on light line and I think it is even more effective. Using 8lb Yo Zuri Hybrid provides stealth and strength and no doubt gets me a few more bites. One thing that is important is not to over work the bait. Simply pop it along in short hops of 8 to 12 inches at time. Don’t give the rod tip to much action. The rod is used to maintain slack line. As far as weight is concerned, the bait needs to get to the bottom, not hang up. Use as light a weight as you can get away with.
For largemouth bass, smoke blue flake, commonly called bluegill can’t be beat. Smoke black flake, black red flake and Shad colored tubes work well also. Smallmouth bass have a preference for Pumpkinseed and Crawfish colored tubes. Black has also given me great results. The new Road Kill color has been taking bass fishing by storm and is a great color that looks like a craw. This is an all year fishing lure. It will work in all seasons. Remember to use light line and gear for maximum results. One interesting modification an angler might try is stuffing the hollow tube cavity with a double tail grub or a crawfish imitator. Secure this with some super glue and a new bait is born. Rig this on a weedless head and use it around heavy cover when bass won’t hit a jig and pig.
I’ve been hand dipping my own tubes which I affectionately call the El Gordo. This is a triple or quad dipped tube that features heavy salt and even heavier scent. This tube is downright durable. Although bulkier than standard 4" tubes, you can still fish it on 8lb test. I really like to use 10lb Sea King Ultra line and a M 7ft Kistler Helium LTA bait casting rod for this bait. This set up is like a S.W.A.T. team with a battering ram. The bulky bait can be crashed through thick cover while a strong TTi 3/0 EWG hook will securely extract fish from the thick sanctuary. El Gordo is a big easy meal and it appeals to big fish. This tube can be Texas rigged and flipped or pitched and you can slide a tube head into it as well. The mass of this bait is so much more than standard tubes. It is a mouthful. The bait itself does not need to be weighted as it has extra heft due to the thickness of its plastic that will help sink it.
I started off using a 3X strong hook but quickly realized that a thinner hook would penetrate both the plastic and the bass much easier. Initially I was landing about 60% of the fish that struck the bait. The thicker diameter hook was simply too much trouble and obviously the cause for my lost fish. Once I scaled down to a standard EWG, my catch ratio soared. It will help a bit if you bend the hook outward slightly to increase the gap. This thick tube is best fished on bait casting gear. The 7ft ML set up I use makes everything more fun yet handles the biggest bass around and provides the crunch necessary when I need to set the hook sharply. These tubes feature salt impregnation and heavy scent. Once a fish hits this bait, it doesn’t let go. It has a ton of salt and scent and I think bass are forced into holding it for extremely long periods of time.
Gear Breakdown: Fat Tubes
Rod: Kistler Helium LTA Spinning rod M 6-6 or 7ft He66MS or He70MS
Reel: Shimano Sustain FB 2500
Line: 8lb Yo Zuri Hybrid
Hook: Sugoi EWG 3/0 or TTi EWG 3/0
Tube: El Gordo or Fat Tony by Micro Munch Tackle
When I decided to use tubes in my favorite largemouth haunts, I realized quickly that I would need to modify my offering in order to bypass some of the snags I would encounter. I opted to throw the bait on a Texas rig. I had long been using a brass and glass set up for worms so I decided to stick with it and employ it with the tube. I teamed up a 6-6 medium action spinning rod and Stradic Sustain FD 2500 with 8lb Yo Zuri Hybrid. The triple dipped salty El Gordo tube is perfect for crashing into heavy cover. This tube is put through a serious scenting process by Micro Munch Tackle. The results have been fantastic for me.
Still another large diameter tube and possibly the most outrageous is the Fat Tony, made by Micro Munch Tackle. Here is a standard triple dipped El Gordo size tube that is re dipped another 4 or 5 times to create a tube with an obscene diameter of a thick broomstick. This tube is no joke. 14lb line is about the minimum anyone should ever attempt to use with it. Despite the tremendous size of the tube, the way to fish it may surprise you. Most anglers I know take a 2/0 circle hook and nose hook the bait weightless. You just can’t find an EWG hook with enough gap to handle the extreme diamter of the bait. The tube features an extremely heavy salt and scent combination that forces bass to hold on to it. In my experience with it, I can’t say I’ve ever had a fish drop the tube once it has it in its mouth. This leads to solid set ups usually meaning a big fish for the angler.
The bait was made for a dedicated group of smallmouth anglers who wanted to target big fish exclusively. It’s almost hard to imagine a smallmouth getting the whole tube in its mouth but they surely do. These anglers would rather wait all day for one or two bites than catch smaller fish consistently throughout.
Circle Hook Madness
I had heard of people using circle hooks with soft plastics a few years ago, but never saw a need to use them on tubes. I figured that the smaller fish would grab the tail of the nose hooked bait, pull it off, and I would have to re thread the bait on the hook. I also liked the feeling of my rod meeting resistance upon hook set. After experiencing tremendous light tackle success with a wacky rigged worm, my mind switched into gear about attempting to rig a tube on a circle hook.
I have found that you can use just about any size tube for this method. From little 2.75" nuggets to the big 5+" El Gordos and Fat Tony tubes, the circle hook does handle all comers. By adding a drop of super glue, the tube is less likely to be pulled off of the hook by a fish that can not fully inhale the rig. You could actually slip in a small weight that can be held in place on the hook shank to give the bait some extra sinking ability in current. A small casting weight with a wire loop is the easiest one to rig.
As with the wacky rig, this is a pressure bite in which you must simply reel in while lifting the rod. When you feel a fish hit, point the rod tip at the fish and reel steadily at a medium speed while you lift up. The rod will load up and the hook will find a spot to dig in. Once I have a fish hooked, I lower the rod and fight him by using sideways leverage rather than having my tip high in the air. I just feel that this gives the fish less ability to throw the hook.
There are several obvious advantages to using the circle hooks. The hook always ends up at the jaw. This just about eliminates the chance of gut hooking fish. The technique is easy, I taught it to my 4 ½ yr old daughter and she picked up on it right away. I learned this method on a suggestion from one of my friends in Virginia. This guy was using a circle hook rigged on a super thick El Gordo tube for river smallmouth. He told me that he only gets 3 or 4 bites per trip while fishing this way. The bites are always from big fish and the photos he sent me prove it. I have since adopted this method for my local largemouth bass fishing practices and it really does work.