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Tubes have endured as effective fishing lures

A generation or more ago, a new style of soft plastic bait swept the bass world, quickly gaining converts who were as tempted to try the lures as fish were to bite them.

Around the time surfers started peppering their conversations with the phrase “totally tubular,” anglers went off the deep end in adopting soft plastic tubes for a variety of fishing applications.

Tubes were rad in the 1980s. That I went totally tubular in the 1990s is an understatement. Many of us continue to toss tubes in the 21st Century.

That tubes have endured as a vaunted genre of fishing lures is a testimony to their pure fish-catching power.

Nobody can say for sure what a fish sees when it spies a tube. But it apparently is a convincing representation of food. Is it a crawfish? A bluegill? Perch? In the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is fish eat them — often when they aren’t in the mood to eat other lures.

Tube baits are molded soft plastic creations. They essentially are hollow through the length of their bodies, with a closed leading end. The tail portion of the tube bait is shredded or molded into a spread of tentacle-like extensions.

The hollow body itself is relatively stiff and motionless on a hook in the water. The tail end jiggles and flares as the angler moves the bait, creating a lifelike effect that fish find appealing.

Bass aren’t the only fish that are suckers for tubes. They appeal to just about every species of panfish and predator.

For me, tubes have taken largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, saugers, crappies, yellow perch, channel and flathead catfish, northern pike, muskies, white bass, hybrid stripers, rock bass and more.

They also work in saltwater. I’ve caught flounder, speckled trout, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and more on tubes I plucked from my bass arsenal on my way to the salt. Striped bass like supersized tubes, which probably look like eels to hungry predators.

Western angler Bobby Garland is credited with popularizing tubes with his Gitzit brand. Bass anglers quickly learned the fish would respond to three-inch Gitzits when finesse tactics were necessary.

Many of the early adopters of tubes slipped jig heads into the hollow bodies. The set-up was perfect for a spiraling drop into the fish zone. A bass might strike on the drop or during the bottom-dragging retrieve.

By the mid-1990s, many anglers discovered that fatter four-inch tubes were great when Texas-rigged and pitched into willows, buck brush, laydowns and aquatic vegetation.

More recently, small slim tubes became widely used as the lure dangling from a small hook on finesse anglers’ drop-shot rigs.

Tubes are so versatile that anglers continue to tinker with new techniques to get them in front of fish. One of the more effective new tube tricks is to rig them on a weedless hook and skip them weightless under docks and other overhead cover.

It is almost impossible to fish a tube wrong. It’s totally tubular.

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