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Tube Bait Tactics for Tough Smallies

by Justin Hoffman (c) 2001


    Most anglers across North America would agree - smallmouth can sometimes be darn finicky. Seeing a school of four and five-pounders ignoring our baits is an occurrence each of us has encountered while out on the water. For tough smallies, the one bait to reach for when you want guaranteed success is the tube-bait. This lure is renowned for it fish-catching abilities, yet, trying some different techniques and adapting this bait will have the smallies jumping in the boat this year.

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Tube Baits

Drop Shottin'
    This technique is relatively new on the scene and is making an impact on the amount of smallmouth it catches. The rig consists of a weight tied to the end of your line, with a hook tied directly to the main line, anywhere from one to four-feet up. Attach a tube jig to this hook and off you go. This rig is simple looking and simple to fish, yet succeeds due to the fact that it attracts fish that may not see a "normal" presented tube jig. Since the jig used in drop shottin' is up off the bottom, both active and neutral fish will have a chance to key-in on your presentation, in some cases, doubling the amount of action you receive.

    There are no hard and fast rules for drop shottin', yet there are areas where this bait will really shine. Points, humps and deep edges are areas in a lake where smallies may either be dispersed and actively feeding, or hugging bottom in an inactive manner. This technique will appeal to both of these fish moods and enable you to have a more productive day. When covering points or perhaps a deep edge on a hump you must remember to be thorough and fish the entire structure. This is accomplished by casting the rig out, letting the sinker come to rest on bottom, and slowly jiggling the tube by moving the rod tip slightly. After a few repetitions, and if there are no takers, then move the sinker a foot or so towards you and jiggle the tube once more. Believe me when I say that this technique will not disappoint, and it has accounted for many a large smallmouth that exhibited a case of lockjaw in front of other presentations.

    There are many varieties of tubes on the market today, but a few select ones have proven their worth over the years. The Berkley Power Tube , Kalin Salty Tube and Phoenix Tubes are three outstanding choices in baits, due in part to their choices of colours, feel, scent, and most importantly, texture. All of these tubes will perform well when used with these techniques.

Flippin' and Pitchin'
    Although many anglers think only of largemouth when discussing docks, these man-made structures cough up their share of huge smallies each and every season. Docks over prime rock bottoms, with some lead-in weed cover are the most productive on the lake; however, any dock has the potential to hold a feisty smallmouth.

    In order to target these "hidden" fish, a change to tube baits, flipped and pitched on spinning gear, is the key to success. These small baits, fished on light line, will dramatically increase your hooking percentage throughout the season. The reason for this success is the life-like appearance this bait possesses when used in conjunction with light line, and for a smallie hiding under the shade of a dock, this tiny morsel is perceived as "eye candy" to them.

    Another key when targeting smallies under docks is to choose a natural-coloured bait, namely in a brown, black or pearl hue. This gives the most realistic appearance to a sharp-sighted smallmouth. Couple this up with a scent product in order to reach a positive outcome.

Draggin'
    This technique is especially productive for those fish that are in a neutral mood, and really shines during cold front or post-front conditions. It is an easy technique to master, yet its simplicity is what makes it so effective. The art of draggin' involves casting a to 1/8-ounce tube bait out and dragging it along bottom through the means of the boat drifting. It is a very subtle approach, and resembles a crayfish moving along bottom perfectly. The reason it pulls in fish is due to its lack of action; something that smallies, especially inactive ones, really key in and are not so inclined to shy away from.

    Drifting the bait past fish in this manner will have even the most in-active smallie playing tug-of-war on the end of your line. Hits will be very light and may resemble a spongy or dead weight on the end of your line. A long, sweeping hook set will connect you to the fish, and my advice is to set the hook on anything that feels different.

    Try out these different techniques on the resident smallmouth this coming season and see for yourself why tubes are tops in my book. They may not resemble more than a piece of plastic to us, yet, when they enter the smallmouths world, they look and feel just like the real thing.


 

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