It’s hard to overstate the versatility of the plastic tube. Few baits function so well in so many fish-catching contexts, and few baits so faithfully deliver!
In spring, the tube jig shines best when it is presented with stark simplicity, imitating some of a bass’s favorite foods.
Atop the list of menu favorites for smallmouth and largemouth bass are crayfish, round goby and sculpin minnows.
All three of these popular forage species are bottom huggers. Crayfish crawl, scuttle and dart along the bottom. Goby and sculpin are benthic baitfish, compelled to hug the lake or river bottom.
An artfully presented tube jig can be a dead ringer for any of the three!
Two ways to work a jig
Tube jigs of 1/4- to 3/8-ounce will carry the bulk of the action in spring. Choose a size that will enable you to work the bait effectively along the bottom.
Although you can work a tube in countless ways, two primary presentations deliver results consistently.
When fishing only moderately windy conditions or water depths of 10 feet or less, try a simple sweep approach.
“Make a long cast, then feed line to get the bait to the bottom,” says Matt Bichanich, national sales manager for Hard & Soft Fishing, makers of the Kalin’s brand of tubes. “I’ll free spool or open my bail so the bait falls vertically. Once it gets to the bottom, just reel the line slowly until it tightens up and you feel the jig. Then pull it and pause. Pull the rod anywhere from a foot to three feet between pauses. Vary your cadence and the length of the pull. The only time you reel is to pick up slack. If you are over-reeling, you are lifting the bait off bottom and killing the action. It just won’t look like a crayfish.”
Fishing for early season smallmouth on the Great Lakes often finds top guides and pros working offshore structure where water temperatures are still in the low 40s. Such conditions call for long casts.
“If I have a breeze, I like to drag tubes because the fish are typically scattered in a pre-spawn condition, and I can cover water more effectively this way,” says Mark Davis, host of Big Water Adventures who seems to make the Buffalo shores of Lake Erie his second home each spring.
“The biggest mistake guys make is putting too much action into the bait. A goby exhibits little action. It stays close to the bottom…practically walks along it. You can’t do any better than just walking a tube along the bottom.”