Once winter is behind us, and the ice begins to clear, smallmouth bass will start to move out of their wintering holes, and head for the spawning flats. At that point, often in the very first week of spring, fishing can begin in earnest and its time to get out those tube jigs and go after spring river smallmouth bass.
The ideal conditions for spring fishing are slowly rising water temperatures, coming up between 40 and 50 degrees, with a moderate river flow and reasonably clear water. A sudden cold snap, an increase in the river’s speed, or an influx of dirty water can stop the bass biting but, if conditions are good, you will enjoy some wonderful sport with the fish becoming increasingly aggressive as the water warms up.
In colder water, with temperatures around 40 degrees, you need to fish along the bottom, and a perfect bait to mimic the action of bottom feeding minnows and crayfish is the tube jig.
A tube bait is a soft plastic lure with a closed cylindrical front end and an open skirt of tentacles at the rear. Perhaps difficult to picture if you have never seen one, it can best be described as resembling a squid. Tubes are designed to be used with a specially weighted hook, and come is a wide range of different sizes and colors. Looking just like a crawfish, the tube bait is designed to trigger the smallmouth’s natural reaction to movement among the rocks, and on the sand of the river bottom.
For this reason, the secret to fishing the tube jig lies in getting the weight of your jig just right, so that is sinks to the bottom quickly and then holds in the flow, bouncing gently and swimming along the river bed.
Rigging the tube:
For this early season fishing your tube jig should not be too big and choosing a head and matching the color of the natural crayfish will often bring success. You will need to experiment with weight however so that you can drag, shake and pop your jig gently, without getting it stuck in the rocks.
You can also experiment with color but, this early in the year, you should stick to natural colors such as browns and olive greens and, if the water colors up, try moving to slightly darker, or even black, tubes.
You should also be aware of the fact that in the cold water conditions of spring, bites are generally going to be very light, and often nothing more than a slight pressure on the line. You will need therefore to fish with reasonably sensitive tackle, and concentrate to pick up that tell-tale pull on the line.
As the water temperature warms through the mid 40s, the fish become more active and begin to venture farther from their wintering holes. This means that you can gradually start to come up off the bottom, as long as you still have a reasonable flow in the river to carry food naturally downstream. Do not however simply abandon your bottom fishing with the tube jig too quickly, as those debris strewn deep waters with plenty of rocks, will continue to be hot spots for the tube jig fisherman right through the spring and into early summer. For some tube jig head varieties, check out our affiliate, Tackle Warehouse.