Tantalizing Tubes

Ridiculously effective, a tube lure is essentially very simple. It is a hollowed-out, cylindrical soft plastic bait with a tentacle-encased opening and rounded head. No eyes, no fins, nothing fancy. While quite ordinary, tube lures produce savage strikes from a variety of inshore predators. They have for decades.


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Redfish are one of many species that will inhale a properly presented tube. Photo: Steve Dougherty

Like most soft plastics, tube lures can be fished under a variety of conditions. However, when the water is clear and shallow water game fish are extremely finicky these tantalizing baits really prove their worth. Why? Because a tube lure’s hollow body cavity and soft tentacles allow the bait to land on the water’s surface much softer than other, similar sized offerings. Experienced sight-fishermen are well aware that the softer a bait lands the closer and more effectively it can be presented to a target.

For maximum results, fishing tubes requires an abrasion resistant, ultra-thin braided super line—often as light as 6lb.

It’s also important to note that besides cushioning the impact upon hitting the water’s surface, a tube lure’s tentacles provide another advantage—strike-inviting appeal. The thin, tentacle-like strips dangling from a tube provide subtle action that requires little effort to present effectively. In fact, the tentacles are so responsive that even a mild current will cause them to flutter. This is particularly useful when the situation dictates allowing the bait to sit on the bottom as a keen-eyed game fish approaches. The irresistible waving of the tentacles is enough to ring the dinner bell, yet not so drastic as to spook skittish trout and redfish.

Stroll the aisles at Bass Pro. Shelves are literally jammed with row upon row of tubes, with virtually every soft plastic manufacturer offering a tube lure design.
Although available in a variety of sizes, 3 and 4-inch tubes are perfect for Florida’s backcountry. Color selection should also be considered. I prefer natural hues with a hint of glitter, though loud chartreuse and bright white patterns also produce.

Weight is important, as it’s imperative you maintain constant contact with the sandy pothole, lush grass bed or jagged oyster bar you are fishing. The most popular weights when rigging a tube lure on a jighead are 1/16, 1/8, & ¼ oz. depending on the depth of water and velocity of current. Hooks—jigs or Js—should be wide-gapped and super sharp, allowing for easy penetration when looking for a solid connection.

Tube lures effectively mimic crabs and shrimp, so get your lure to the bottom by allowing it to fall on a completely slack line. When your bait has made contact with the substrate, reel up the slack. Now it’s a simple matter of rod lifts and snaps, twitching your jig upwards 6 to 12-inches, allowing the bait to come to rest before repeating the process. Continue this rhythm until you have worked the tube back to the boat, paying close attention for taps or irregular movement that may signal a strike. Slot-size snook can inhale a tube and spit it out in a fraction of a second, so concentration and a clear understanding of what is occurring below the surface are critical.

Replicating the natural movement of a crustacean by “dragging” a tube lure across an oyster bar can also produce explosive results. Cast your tube out, let it flutter to the bottom and then proceed to pull your bait horizontally in the same 6 to 12-inch intervals. After each “drag,” reel up the slack and repeat. Big trout are notorious for grabbing a tube while it is stationary or moving so be prepared to set the hook with authority.

For maximum results, fishing tubes requires an abrasion resistant, ultra-thin braided super line—often as light as 6lb. Sensitivity and hooksets will be greatly improved. Because tube lures are so light, most find light spinning outfits the most efficient means for presenting these proven enticements.

Soft plastic tube lures, often mistakenly considered nothing more than freshwater bass lures, certainly have an application to fit almost any saltwater, shallow water arena. Perhaps it is the lack of familiarity or the lure’s methodical and irresistible action, but whatever the reason, aggressive inshore game fish can’t resist taking a swipe at a tantalizing tube.

Rig It Right

The most basic rigging method with 3″ and 4″ tubes involves inserting a jighead into the lure’s hollow body cavity. With the jig tucked inside the tube, the lure works great as a finesse bait. It also twitches exceptionally well, making it a solid choice when fishing docks and mangrove shorelines with overhanging branches. The action of a tube can be greatly affected by the precise position of the jighead inside the lure. With the jighead pushed all the way forward, tubes tend to fall more vertically. Position the jighead a third of the way back from the nose and the tube will flutter slower with an increased amount of spiral. The open hook of a standard jighead does have some obvious drawbacks when twitching tubes across shallow grass beds.

When faced with heavy vegetation, a good choice is to rig with weedless wide-gap worm hooks with or without weight. The latter allows the bait to land with a minimal amount of disturbance and fall excruciatingly slow. However, due to their hollow body design and small stature, tubes can be difficult to cast without added weight.

An effective trick utilized by many experienced backcountry anglers is stuffing a tube lure’s hollow body cavity with some sort of scent. Pro-Cure manufacturers an inshore flavored super-gel that is perfect for the application. The enticing aroma just adds another level of fish-catching appeal to an already productive presentation.