Tube Jigging Basics

By Rick Levick

Increasingly popular with bass pros and amateurs, the tube jig is a slow, subtle presentation that can accurately imitate a darting minnow or a scurrying crayfish, depending on how it’s fished.

Tube baits consist of a round-headed hollow plastic tube ending in streamers. It’s mounted on a type of lead head jig, with a large hook, that’s specially designed for holding tubes. The jig head is inserted in the tube body with the hook protruding from the open end by the streamers. The hook eye, which is located about half way along the jig head, can be easily pushed through the soft plastic body.

The lead jigs are usually available in one-eighth and quarter ounce weights. When fishing in calm conditions, a light jig lets the lure drift slowly to downward. When drift fishing in a light breeze, the heavier jig can drops more quickly and can be jigged along the bottom where it does a credible imitation of a crawfish.

Most often, you’ll want to use tube jigs on those calm days when other presentations aren’t working. To do so, there’s a special casting technique that makes the most of the lure’s unique action. A spinning reel, spooled with six or eight-pound test line, on a light to medium action rod, is the best presentation rig.

Once you’ve located a structure or weedline that’s likely to hold bass, position your boat close to the targeted area. Simply flip the lure about 10 to 15 feet from the boat so that it will fall at the edge of the structure. Once the lure hits the water, close the bail and hold the rod tip up at a 45 degree angle. As the tube descents, it will swing in one direction until the slack is taken up and then swing in the opposite direction. This vertical zigzagging action continues until the lure hits the bottom.

Don’t be in a hurry to yank the lure off the bottom once its hits. Leave it there for a few moments in case a curious bass has followed it down. If you don’t detect a pickup, don’t reel in yet. Simply raise your rod tip as high as you can to lift the lure back towards the surface. Once it’s come up as far as possible, reel in the slack and let it begin drifting back down.

Since bass will hit tubes from almost any angle, be alert for a hit or pickup at any time the lure is in the water, even right when it’s right beside the boat.

Tubes can also be jigged along the bottom in the same way that you would use a jig and twister tail combination.

Some anglers prefer to use tubes as a "do nothing" presentation and simply cast it out and let it drag along the bottom where it’s likely to be mistaken for a tasty crayfish by an unsuspecting smallmouth.



A variation of this presentation is a tube bait used with a Carolina rig. This rig consists of a sliding sinker, a glass or plastic bead, a swivel, a monofilament leader 18 to 36 inches in length, an offset worm hook and the plastic tube (no lead jig). Brass sinkers and glass beads are best because they make a crayfish-imitating "clicking" sound when they bump together. Choosing the length of the leader depends on whether the fish are hugging the bottom (short leader) or cruising two to four feet above it. The tube can be rigged Texas-style with the hook point buried in the tube body to make it less likely to pick up weeds.

Many pro bass anglers always have spinning rod rigged with a tube bait ready as a follow-up presentation for bass that miss or back off a faster-moving spinnerbait or crankbait. When they see a bass follow their spinnerbait but not strike, they’ll change rods and pitch a tube right back at the spot where they saw the bass. The change to this slower, vertical presentation will often entice a strike.

The plastic tube bodies come in a bewildering array of colours and colour combinations, may of them flecked with sparkles in accenting or contrasting colours. Choosing which colour or combination to use depends on weather and water clarity conditions. Generally speaking, the old rule of light colours on bright days and dark ones of cloudy on overcast days also holds true for tube jigging.

When fishing the sand flats in clear water conditions, light-coloured tubes in white, off-white, pale pink and salt and pepper work well on clear or partly-cloudy days. On overcast or foggy days, dark colours such as purple, dark green, pumpkinseed (brown) and blue can really produce in both clear or stained water conditions. Two-colour tubes are particularly effective when the water is murky because the contrasting colour seems to give the striking bass a target to zero in on.

When crayfish seem to be the prime bait, dark green and pumpkinseed are the best colours to use for a dragging or Carolina-rig presentation.

Many tube baits are also impregnated with fish-attracting scents or salt crystals that are intended to not only entice a strike, but get the bass to hold on to the lure a bit longer. Both of these enhancements can make a real difference when bass are being finicky about hitting a plastic imitation.

For Long Point Bay, a selection of tubes in white, light pink, salt and pepper, dark green and pumpkinseed would be a good starting point for experimenting with this versatile artificial bait.


Rick Levick




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Last modified: January 25, 2009