Smallmouth bass are arguably the hardest fighting fish that swim in freshwater. Although they are typically only a few pounds, they use their bulldog-style shoulders to put a serious bend in the angler’s rod. Just like their cousin, the largemouth bass, smallmouths are also known for their tremendous leaping ability.
One of the best ways to catch these fish is to use a tube. This type of bait can range in size from an inch and a half for crappies to big, eight inch tubes used for pike. An ideal tube for smallmouth is usually between 3 inches and 4.5 inches. Tubes are possibly the most versatile baits an angler can tie on for these beautiful fish. They can be twitched like a jerkbait, dragged on the bottom, fished wacky style, drop-shotted, glided along weed tops, flipped to heavy cover, or simply jigged on a mushroom head. With the diversity of this bait, the fisherman can accommodate any presentation the fish desire on any given day. There are several things to consider when purchasing tubes and the terminal tackle needed to rig them properly. What is the water clarity where you plan to be fishing the tubes? What type of structure prevails on this body of water? What is the average size fish in the lake? What is the main forage in the lake? Once you have answered these questions, you will have a better idea of how you want to rig the tube and what color and size combination is going to be best for your circumstances. As a general rule, road kill camo in a 4 inch version is an old standby that is effective in many angling conditions. The most important part; however, is to determine the most effective way to rig the bait.
In areas with several snags, your best bet is to rig the tube weedless, similar to that of a plastic worm. My personal favorite rig for tubing smallmouth bass is with an insert head. When fishing a typical 10-12 foot rocky area, a quarter ounce head is tough to beat. You can increase the weight as necessary for added depth or windy conditions. When fishing deep, clear lakes, a drop-shot rig can be the ticket. This is an extreme finesse presentation. Just let the rig fall to the bottom and ever so slightly move the rod tip as to move the tentacles of the tube to imitate a crawfish or the tail of a minnow.
Tubes are time-tested baits that can produce numbers and quality fish. They have so many fishing applications that an angler should always have some ready in the boat, especially when smallies are the target species. The key is to remember is that you are trying to make the tube imitate a crawfish the majority of the time. When you get a strike, set the hook, and hang on because you are in for a battle when you tie into a big bronzeback.