The soft plastic tube bait has been a staple in anglers' tackleboxes ever since Denny Brauer won the 1998 Bassmaster Classic at High Rock Lake, N.C.
Actually, the tube was developed long before that, stereotyped as a sissy bait for years until Brauer proved that a Texas rigged version fished on stout tackle was deadly in heavy cover.
As anglers expand their knowledge of these tentacle-tailed baits, they're discovering more tricks for making them more effective. Here are five that will help you do the same:
1. LARRY NIXON: SWIM IT
During the 2004 Dardanelle Elite 50, Larry Nixon was looking for something to entice bass that were feeding in shallow grass along the shore.
"The bass were chasing shad that were spawning there," recalls the veteran pro.
The emergent grass grew from shore out to 2 1/2 feet of water. Nixon tried the obvious stuff — worms, spinnerbaits, jigs and buzzbaits. Except for a knucklehead or two, they weren't getting the job done.
He had a tube rigged for flipping, but needed to keep distance between himself and the grass or the fish would spook.
He started making long casts to the shallow grass, swimming the tube among the stalks. He kept a steady retrieve, twitching the rod tip to pop the lure free as it banged around the grass.
And the bass ate it.
"I missed a few because most of them were just swatting at it," he explains. "But those that missed often came back and hit again."
The tube swimming technique, he adds, emulates shad flitting in shallow grass where they like to spawn on some lakes.
Shad colored flipping tubes that have more bulk and size imitate the small shad perfectly and it's a technique that works well when bass are feeding close to shore.
Nixon rigs swimming tubes with a light sinker, 5/0 hook and fluorocarbon line on baitcasting gear.
2. JEFF KRIET: YO-YO
When bass are suspended in deep grass, Oklahoma pro Jeff Kriet turns his tube into a jigging bait.
He rigs the lure with a 1/4- or 1/8-ounce jighead that has a light wire hook. He casts it into the deep grass, lets it go to the bottom and starts ripping it free.
"That's a good way to catch fish that aren't real active," he describes. "If your graph is marking schools of shad over grass and you can't get bass to bite other lures, this will catch them."
Kriet fishes 3 1/2- to 4-inch tubes with the jig hook exposed. White and watermelon are his favorite colors for this technique.
When the tube catches in the grass, he jerks, forcing the bait to pop, then lets it fall back on slack line. The sudden change of direction causes the bass to react and most strikes occur as the bait falls.
"If they're active, you can snap it along the top of the grass like you would a jerkbait," Kriet explains. "When they load up the rod, sweep the tip and start winding."
3. CHAD BRAUER: SHED SOME WEIGHT
The next time the fluke or Senko bite starts to fizzle because of fishing pressure, throw the fish a change-up — a weightless tube.
That's a trick that Missouri's Chad Brauer has discovered to work exceptionally well when fishing shallow cover.
"You can work a flipping tube like a Zara Spook, either on the top or just beneath the surface," he advises. "I rig it weightless, let it fall and then start twitching the rod tip so that it walks from side to side."
Also, Brauer notes, you can simply let it sink slowly in holes of shallow grass for a more subtle action. The tentacles flutter slightly; just enough to arouse the interest of a curious bass on-looker.
"You see a lot of the strikes, so you have to be careful to not set the hook too soon," he explains. "Wait until you feel the fish. If you miss, let the bait sink and the fish may come back and hit it again."
Brauer says larger flipping tubes with a solid head, like the Strike King Flipping Tube, provide enough weight for casting and enhance the action as the bait slowly free-falls.
"That 1/2-inch solid nose also helps make the bait work more erratically when you twitch it," he adds. "It's a technique that really works around spawning bass, too."
The weightless tube works best on 12-pound line or light braid. Brauer rigs it with a stout Mustad 4/0 hook. The heavier hook helps distribute weight throughout the bait. If you want the bait to sink slower, use a 3/0 hook, and if you want a faster fall or if fishing in wind, add a tiny screw-in sinker to the nose.
4. SCOTT ROOK: CHANGE WEIGHTS
If you're flipping a tube and not getting any takers, don't change baits.
"It doesn't have to be a drastic change, either," says Elite Pro Scott Rook. "Sometimes a slight change is all you need to make the fish bite."
He learned that valuable lesson during the 2001 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans. The water temperature was in the low 90s and he suspected the fish were burrowed beneath the thick grass along the shallows of a canal.
"I pulled in there with two rods rigged with identical tubes except one had a 1/4-ounce sinker and the other had a 5/16-ounce weight," he recalls.
He got a bite on the tube rigged with the 5/16, but when he set the hook, the line broke.
"I grabbed the other rod (rigged with the 1/4-ounce sinker) and started flipping again," Rook says. "I flipped for two hours and never got a bite."
Rook was baffled and never gave the weight difference a second thought until he had to readjust the tube after it got caught on a snag.
"That's when I realized I had a different size sinker," Rook explains. "I re-rigged the other rod with the 5/16, and within an hour of fishing the same area, I caught a limit."
Rook says the heavier tube fell faster and that slight difference triggered a reactionary strike from the lethargic bass under the grass.
Does that mean a heavier weight is always better? Not necessarily, he adds. He's seen the opposite occur, especially in the spring when the water is cooler and bass are cruising.
"At Santee Cooper one year I was flipping a tube with a 1/4-ounce weight and the guy in the back of the boat was kicking my butt with the same bait on a 1/8-ounce sinker," says the Arkansas pro. "I switched and wound up catching 15 pounds that day and 23 the next — with the smaller weight."
5. MIKE WURM: TUNE IT
Did you ever notice how a flipping tube can twist your line? Arkansas pro Mike Wurm has a solution.
"Sometimes you have to tune a tube just like you would a crankbait," he offers. "It's a simple procedure that can prevent a lot of headaches during the day."
Wurm tests every tube he rigs before making a cast or flip by pulling it alongside the boat to make sure the bait doesn't roll over.
Tuning basically involves cinching the line knot directly off the end of the hook eyelet and keeping the bait straight on the hook during the rigging process.
"If the knot is off to the side of the hook eye, the bait will twirl as it comes through the water," he describes. "That will cause line to twist. And heavy line, like we use for flipping, will twist badly."
The hook also must be aligned evenly within the tube. To Texas rig it, run the hook point through the head of the bait, then rotate it so that it can be poked through both walls of the bait just above the tentacles.
Once the hook is through the second layer, bury the point in the top side of the plastic to protect it from snagging. If not done properly, the line will twist.
"Hold the bait in front of you and make sure the hook point is aligned with the eye of the hook," Wurm says. "If the bait still doesn't run straight, reposition the barb slightly to one side or the other and try it again."
A NEAT WAY TO PEG
Pegging a tungsten sinker to the nose of a tube is not as easy as it is with a lead weight.
Larry Nixon says you can solve that problem with tiny rubber "stops" that panfishermen use to adjust their slide bobber depth.
Simply thread the tiny bobber stop on the line before you add the sinker. The rubber stop fits snugly against the line, yet not so tightly the sinker can't be adjusted.
Tru-Tungsten now offers a Smart Peg System that does much the same. The tiny rubber stop will hold the sinker in position without damaging the line (www.tru-tungsten.com). Here's how to use it:
1. Thread main line through loop on the end of pegging system and double over.
2. Slide peg from the original line to your main line.
3. Pull tag end through peg, freeing pegging system.
4. Slide a tungsten weight to the keeper and twist the weight until it is tight.
5. The weight is now pegged and will stay put without damaging your line.