Soft plastic tubes still charting year-round hits


All photos Alan McGuckin

The Garland brothers introduced the first tube to bass fishing in 1982, and for about the next 15 years it was used mostly as a finesse lure tied to spinning tackle in clear water, and around spawning beds. Then, Arkansas’ Doug Garrett kinda let the cat out of the bag about the scary good effectiveness of pitching tubes to shallow habitat following his 1997 MegaBucks win with a 3.5-inch smoke red tube on stingy White Rock Lake in Dallas.

The next summer, legendary shallow water pitcher/flipper Denny Brauer won the 1998 Bassmaster Classic using a very similar 3.5-inch tube, and pitchin’ tubes launched skyward to a level of popularity on par with the last seven singles country singer Luke Combs has released.

Brauer actually found his Classic winning fish on a jig the month before the Classic. He caught them around slick logs on a shallow flat. But when he returned on a practice day during Classic week, he couldn’t buy a bite. As fate would dictate, desperate to find out if the highly promising school of fish were still living there, he put down the bulkier jig and reached for a tube.

“I thought to myself, 'I’m gonna see if they’ll eat this goofy thing' — and the first tree I pitched the tube to I got the kinda of good bite I had when I found those fish a month earlier,” reflects Brauer.

Brauer says he’s not sure if it was because shad had moved into that area, and the tube better emulated the shad than a jig, or exactly what the reason was, but using 25-pound monofilament, he even "boat flipped" a 7 pound, 12 ounce fish on a tube that ended up being the anchor fish of his 1998 Bassmaster Classic victory. 

Unlimited seasonal use 

Much like a Senko, along with a tube’s magical way of getting bites when nothing else will, a tube also seems to have no seasonal limitations. Brauer’s win came in early August in the hottest shallow waters High Rock Lake, North Carolina had to offer. Yet, I’ve caught bass recently on a super soft Big Bite Bait Tour Flipping Tube from the frigid winter waters of Northeastern Oklahoma.

“I think it’s definitely a year round bait,” says Brauer. “As anglers, we initially got conditioned to think tubes were a spawning season bait. But shoot, it’s very productive year round. As much as anything, it’s simply a finesse tool to pitch anytime the conditions call for it.”

Hook size and rigging are critical

More often than not, for 20 years now, I’ve always gravitated toward the 3.5-inch tube rigged with a 3/0 Mustad hook. Interestingly, and very intentionally, following his Classic win on the 3.5-inch tube, Brauer had Strike King design a larger 4.5-inch tube so he could match it with a larger 4/0 Mustad hook he felt would put more fish in the boat than the smaller 3/0 hook. 

The bottom line is, pitch the size you’re most comfortable with. But one thing is absolutely certain, it’s imperative you match the tube size to the hook size. In my experience a 3.5-inch tube demands a 3/0 hook, and a 4-inch or 4.5-inch tube marries best to a 4/0 hook.