Categorized | Tips & Tactics

“How To Fish A Tube”

“How To Fish A Tube”

Author: Jeff Kelbe, the Shenandoah River Keeper….

Jeff K – “You should 100% of the time start out with a 1/4 oz weedless jig head for the average four inch mizmo/Shuberts/Venom/BPS Magnum Flipping tube. I go to 3/8 oz when fishing a “fatass” style triple dipped tube. I’m NOT counting on bites during the drop or just after, rather I’m counting on bites while I’m moving the tube or just after I’ve moved it. A lot of people feel that you need to use the lightest weight possible, and I agree if fish are biting on the fall. That seems most common in the summer or warm water periods. But don’t do that here. And I don’t recommend texas rigging for this retrieve either.

You want the weight in that tube to attach it to the bottom, and I like the round bulbous head that an internal jig head makes. The movement starts with a VERY SLOW tightening of the line using a very slow upward movement of the rod, I start at 60 degrees and go to at least 90 and most of the time my rod will be between 60 and 100 degrees to the water where it is most sensitive – and where movements of the rod tip more or less directly translate into the same amount of movement in the tube. Did I mention it was a very slow tightening of the line, if you dislodge the tube at this point you’ve more than likely blown the first half of the cast and turned any big fish off that was considering the bite. You already got the slack out of the line by shielding the spinning reel spool on the cast with your left hand. This adds enough friction to the cast to slow the tube down so that when it lands the line is straight, this helps with wind too. I shield every cast I make on the river, which requires slight overpowering of the cast and feathering for accuracy, It’s like thumbing a baitcasting reel.

So now you’re just holding mild tension on the tube to feel for a bite while it sits there after the fall. Now It’s important to understand that each retrieve is going to be unique and it’s dictated by what the tube runs into on the bottom while you’re moving it, I’ll come back to this point. I should have mentioned that I use eight pound test monofilament and a very sensitive six foot rod, I prefer St. Croiz Legend Elites and Loomis GLX but I don’t have the money to own those so I use St. Croix Avids (about $140) and i like them. But something on that caliber of rod will help. Anyway, after you’ve cast, shielded, and let the tube fall, let it sit for an unpredetermined amount of time, usually fairly long if the water temp is under 42 degrees and not that long if it’s above 42. Vary it to see what the fish want.

The meat of the retrieve starts by increasing the mild pressure until the tube “breaks free”, this is the critical moment, and I think “breaks free” is too strong, it “scratches free” if done right. If the tube was sitting on sand or gravel it will “scratch free” easily and start moving, if it was sitting up against a rock or piece of wood or ledge feature it will take more mild pressure. It is vital that once you start to feel it scratch free you let off the pressure completely for an instant to keep it from coming up off the bottom. If I’m doing this and I lose contact with the bottom at all, I’ve lost confidence in the cast. The line will sag slightly when you let off the pressure and it won’t tighten again for the remainder of the movement.

So now it’s scratched free and I’ve momentarily let off pressure, now you need to gently but quickly resume pressure to keep the tube moving. It should be floating along the bottom, lightly tapping or bumping the bottom features constantly. Don’t visualize dragging because that’s too much contact with the bottom, it’s more like it’s hovering. Here’s where the bites come.

You’ve moved you’re rod from 60 degrees to 100 degrees and the tube has moved, I don’t know, 3 or 4 feet. Stop moving the rod and HOLD, HOLD HOLD. The tube will usually continue to move and it will slow to a stop. Tap. That’s where you get the bite 75% of the time, when its slowing to a stop. I have my theories why that is, but there must be a lot or reasons because it’s very predictable.

The most successful retrieves are ones that tick tick tick tick objects on the bottom as it goes, the more pronounced the ticks it seems the more often you get a bite.

If you don’t get the bite there, repeat the process for two or three distinct movements separated by pauses, then that seems to be about it. I don’t see many bites after the third movement. Reel in – cast again.

Now along the way here’s what you’ll encounter and how I think you can deal with it.

The tube won’t break/scratch free from mild pressure. Resist the urge to pull harder because when you do the tube will jump off the obstruction and kill the presentation. Instead, do a pull-push-pull. Start with slight pressure, push or throw the rod forward a couple inches and quickly but gently pull it back. That’s usually enough of a change in the pressure of the line on the tube to free it. Be on your toes because when it frees you need to jump right in to that float retrieve without delay. I’ll try the pull-push-pull a few times to get it to move before I go to the next step.

If it still won’t move, I’ll use a light jiggle with mostly slack line, I’ll feel the tube at the end of each jiggle. When it breaks free go right into the movement.

If that doesn’t work use a light “pull the line tight-let go snap-push the rod forward technique” I used to call it the banjo. This time when the lure breaks free I’ll let it settle and take a long pause. The banjo technique makes the tube come unglued too abruptly for my taste, so I want to settle everything down again. Or just reel it in and throw it again.

The next thing you might encounter is solid contact in the middle of your movement, sometimes is stops the tube, this is good. Use the pull-push-pull without delay and finish the movement, lot’s of bites will come after the tube stops here. If the pull-push-pull doesn’t work to keep the tube moving then start the whole process over again like you just cast tube and now you’re starting to apply light pressure again.

The next thing you might encounter is loss of contact with the bottom. This may happen because you’re moving it too fast. If you make it move those three or four feet in less than 4 or 5 seconds it’s too fast. But let’s say that your moving it slow enough, then that loss of contact probably means an elevation drop, you have to react. I react first by stopping the rod tip movement and actually lifting my hand and rod up slightly, this will keep contact with the tube while letting it float or fall down the elevation drop. No movement of the rod tip through the arc here. This is the other place you get a lot of bites. While it’s floating down toward the bottom of the elevation drop. Four out of six of my biggest river smallmouth have come at this point (21 3/4″, 22 1/4″, 22 3/4″ and 23 3/4″) All in the last three years. Big fish are in those depressions or related to those structural features. I watched RichC take a 5#2oz fish on the New River this spring while doing just this. He threw upriver just short of a primary ledge, scratched over a secondary ledge downriver of the main ledge and when it broke free he let off the pressure and the line jumped about two seconds later.

I make sure the tube is rigged to swim straight and doesn’t roll to the side or spin. I check it at the side of the boat before I fish it.

One of the beautiful things about this presentation is that you are almost always in contact with the tube and it’s moving slightly when you get bites so you almost always get a “tap” bite. Rarely do you ever get a mush bite and therefore rarely do you ever gut hook a fish. I use this retrieve year round for that very reason. It seems to work as well as the other retrieves and FEW DEEPLY HOOKED FISH during the warm water periods.

I have gone on long enough but I wanted to describe this thoroughly.

The other technique that seems to be hot (Yakfishes technique) is the “throw and let sit”. Correct me if I’m wrong Yakfish. He prefers lighter weights, on the order of 1/8 to 1/4 oz lighter than I use. Both of our techniques rely on stealthy approach and hopefully knowing where big fish are or where they might be. He always leaves a long pause after the cast, and I presume he’s letting the tube sit and/or do it’s own thing if there’s current. I’ve noticed some limpness in his line while its sitting. He tends to jiggle and or drag. Sometimes in the winter he’ll just let it sit and jiggle it. He has gargantuan rattles in his tube. Then he drags I think? Then he lets it sit. But I know he doesn’t make a very lengthy movement in his presentation. A couple feet and he’s on to the next cast. RichC tends to use both of these or combine them.

Yakfish jump in here dude.

Yakfish catches huge fish with his technique. RichC catches huge fish with his.

If these two techniques don’t work, try a jig and pig. Barry Loupe, Shmang and Lou Giusto are the best jig and pig fishermen I’ve seen. I’d listen to anything they had to say about jig and pig fishing. ”

2 Responses to ““How To Fish A Tube””

  1. DoahRiverRat says:

    Dang Jeff, when did you have time to write THIS?!?!?! Mighty good article though…you just gave away all your best secrets right here.c BTW…his comment about Jeff Little’s (Yakfish)technique is spot on as well. The ‘let it sit’ mantra is absolutely required if you wanna hunt hawg-smallies in cold early spring or mid winter water. They aren’t going to be very aggressive and you need to really pay attention to prvent a gut hook (use a circle hook in winter) but the let it sit technique is deadly on cold water smallies.

  2. waderjon says:

    This is a great article..I will be putting some of this to the test tomorrow.


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