The first time I saw a tube lure being used successfully–wildly so—it was a setup. It was nearly two decades ago at the local mid-winter boat and sport show, where I stopped to watch a guy fishing up on the Hawg Trough fishing demonstration tank. I almost walked on by, figuring the fella’ was just another bass pro Bubba from down south tossing spinnerbaits while rambling on to us Yankees how many big bass they catch back home.
When I noted the absence of both an accent and an ego and saw the fellow at the top of the trough actually explaining what he was doing instead of telling fish tales, it caught my attention. So did the number of fish he started to catch—and not just the bass in the tank. EVERYTHING was following and striking the non-descript bait he was tossing, from bluegill and crappie to the walleye in the tank.
I waited until the talk was over just to hear what the lure was called. The host referred to it as a tube bait, a term I was not familiar with, and when someone asked what brand, his answer drew some giggles from the crowd:
“It’s called a Fat Gitzit,” he answered, straight-faced as he could be. Funny as it sounded, within an hour of the demonstration, there wasn’t a tube bait—let alone a bona fide Fat Gitzit—to be found in the bins of the tackle dealers exhibiting at the show. They had sold out, and I had a dozen of the soft plastic baits in my own maw as I strolled to my car at show’s end.
I’ve been using the hollow plastic tubes to catch everything from crappie to sailfish ever since. I actually didn’t catch the sailfish that hit my oversized freshwater tube bait, but I did get a strike and momentary hookup, until the sailfish exploded with a classic tail-walk and a head shake that sent the tube flying back toward Key West on the horizon. While fishing a small farm pond I once hooked and landed 11 bass on 11 consecutive casts while using a two-inch yellow tube lure on an unweighted hook.
The baits themselves have come a long way in the 20 years since they caught on with anglers, and now come in a variety of designs, many of which are extremely life-like, sized and colored to match particular baitfish. You can get tiny inch-long tubes for crappie and giant squid-like tubes for saltwater presentations. There are flavored and scented tubes offered now as well, tubes packed in salt, edible tubes made out of fish food and even tubes intended for catching catfish, designed to allow for dipping in catfish-catching scent or packed with paste-like catfish bait, slowly dispersing the fish-attracting aroma..
Many anglers still prefer the basic tube lure to those modeled after a particular bait. A soft, hollow plastic body with a shredded tail, impaled with a weighed hook designed to be matched to the bait and the conditions, the traditional tube is extremely versatile. Fished slowly, along the bottom, a tube mimics a crayfish. Fished fast around cover, the same tube can look like a baitfish. Fished weightless and retrieved across the surface, the tube can fool a fish into thinking it’s a frog. The traditional method for catching crappie employs tube jigs that are slow trolled beneath long, limber poles that bristle off the gunwales of boats that resemble spider’s legs—coining the name “spider rigging.” One of the hottest new techniques for a variety of species, drop-shotting frequently features a tube lure, sometimes in conjunction with a live minnow.
No matter how you fish a tube, once a fish strikes the bait you realize another benefit: because the lure feels soft, the fish will hold onto the fake a little longer than it would mouth a chunk of cedar or a piece of hard plastic, giving the angler a little more time to react and set the hook. And that’s a good thing for those of us who appreciate the benefits of both angling and relaxing.