Heavy cover

To humans, hollow pieces of plastic vaguely resemble squid, but come in colors that Jacques Cousteau never imagined in his undersea adventures. However, these colorful bits of plastic ring dinner bells in bass brains as they slip through brushy cover. During the spring spawn, bass move into thick cover in shallow waters. Frequently, overlapping branches make patches of flooded brush virtually impregnable. Few lures can slip through such entangling cover to penetrate where bass hide. Spinnerbaits hit the edges, but forget working crankbaits through those woody jungles. Even jigs and Texas rigged worms and lizards might snag.

 However, streamlined Texas rigged tubes penetrate to the lair of the lunker. Chunkier than worms, they give bass with big appetites tempting targets in shorter, more compact packages. With their stout bodies, they create bigger silhouettes than worms, a plus when fishing stained water. Although they don't really look like traditional bass food, erratically falling tubes can imitate natural prey."The key to the bait is the fall," says Alton Jones, a Bassmaster Classic veteran from Waco, Texas. "The action it has from the time it hits the surface to when it hits the bottom is what triggers a strike. When it falls, a tube glides from side to side and spirals down very much like a wounded shad that had been attacked by another fish. A tube also imitates a crawfish, but it's not a bait that I like to drag along bottom."

 A skilled flipper can vertically drop a tube into the middle of a flooded brush clump where no other lure can reach. "With a tube, I can reach places where I can't put a worm or similar bait," Jones says. "It gives me access to fish that other people aren't going to throw at. It's a matter of looking at available cover, imagining where a bass might be and putting it on its head very softly. Fish tubes on a slack line and try to drop the bait right in front of a bass. If I pitch it into a piece of cover and a bass doesn't hit it quickly, I'm going to pull it out and put it somewhere else."Thoroughly work nearly every twig or branch in a fallen tree or flooded bush. "I flip a brushpile or blowdown and let it fall to the bottom," says Scott Rook, a bass pro from Hot Springs, Ark. "I yo-yo it up and down four or five times before pulling it out. It will dart to the right one time and the left another time. That gives it a real erratic action. Bass can't stand it when it's darting around. Anglers not paying attention may never detect strikes from lunker largemouth. Usually, anglers see line moving or twitching without really feeling a strike. "Bass hit tubes very softly," Rook says. "Fish normally hit it when it's falling, and anglers can't feel the bites. It's different than a worm or a jig. Most of the time, I don't even see the bite. All of a sudden, it just feels mushy. Sometimes, a bass runs off with it. And most of the time, bass don't let go. They hang on to it. I set the hook when I feel something heavy."Don't rely on the same tube for every situation. Mix up color selection, tentacle length and diameter until you know which bait tempts bass the most.For added attraction in murky water, stuff rattles or squirt scent into hollow tubes. Some weights come already equipped with fish-calling rattles. To keep sinkers and baits together, peg weights."I like to use a 4-inch Mizmo tube with a 5/16-ounce pegged slip sinker," Rook says. "To peg it, I stick a toothpick up through the bottom of the weight and break it off. Then, I peg the top of the sinker to keep it in place. That keeps it from separating. I like to keep both weight and bait tight together. I peg it because I want the tube to follow the sinker down and not separate. If it separates, the line might cross over a log and hang up. I like it to fall together with erratic action."Heavier than lead, a tungsten sinker penetrates thick cover better than larger leads weighing the same. Generally, use small weights to avoid spooking shallow fish. However, in thick vegetation, some pros upsize to 1-ounce weights. Slight changes sometimes make big differences."At the 2001 Classic in New Orleans, I used a 1/4-ounce weight and wasn't getting any bites," Rook remembers. "I changed to a 5/16-ounce weight and started catching fish. Just 1/16 of an ounce difference made the bait fall faster. In hot water, fish were sitting in the shade and not being very active. They had time to look at a slow falling bait. They didn't have time to look at fast moving baits. They just reacted."Although they finesse tubes into tight places, anglers need backbone to pull big fish from thick cover. Many anglers use braided lines, such as SpiderWire or Power Pro. Others use 17- to 30-pound monofilament attached to heavy rods."It's a technique that allows me to have a finesse look while still using heavy tackle," Jones says. "If I get a fish way back in the cover, I need heavy stuff to get it out. I use 30-pound-test SpiderWire to get fish out of bushes quickly."Flipping tubes near heavy cover works best in the spring, but could entice fish all year long. In most lakes, some bass always stay shallow. Most anglers use tubes in water less than 5 feet deep, but tubes may work in water deeper than 10 feet wherever cover visibly protrudes from the surface.