A Winter-time weapon the “Tube bait”
By C.A. RICHARDSON
When water temps start plummeting during the “dead of winter”, inshore fishing can get very tough. Since fish are cold-blooded, their appetites are generally suppressed during colder periods… this creates quite a challenge for those of us who enjoy throwing artificial baits. In fact, it requires us to painfully slow down our presentations and choose bait profiles that appear natural and easy for game fish to catch. The tube bait has always been my “go-to” lure when confronted with these demanding conditions!
The attributes of the tube bait are numerous because it can imitate bottom dwelling prey like a crawling shrimp or a distressed baitfish trying to flee. If I’m fishing a cold, clear shallow flat for big winter specks or tailing redfish… I’ll Texas-rig my tube with a 3/0 rigging hook and a small 1/16th or 1/8th ounce worm weight. I like to crawl or drag the tube through the grass and add a very slow subtle “lift and fall” movement in the potholes… being careful not to lift the tube more than a few inches off the bottom. Natural colors that match the bottom are good choices for this presentation… green pumpkin, root beer, and watermelon with red flake are some of my favorites. When fishing in warmer residential canals or around the power-plant outflows in the winter months, I opt for an internal jig head presentation. The internal jig head gives the tube more of a slow erratic gliding action… mimicking a dying baitfish. I still like to use as light a jig head as possible because more weight destroys the spiraling and gliding action inherent in the tube’s descent and retrieve. My preferred presentation for imitating a dying minnow in cold water is to let the tube fall on slack line so it spirals down to the bottom… then lift, with rod only, up from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock in three separate motions (9 to 10, 10 to 11, 11 to 12) then let tube fall again, take up slack with reel and repeat. Experiment with color for distressed minnow presentation… I gravitate towards baby trout, pearl, and clear gold flake but darker colors will work better at times. The most important thing to remember is the action has to be slow in cold water!
I’d be remiss not to mention that the hollow cavity of the tube is perfect for holding a scent attractant and greatly enhances catch ratios on slower presentations. Some anglers like to soak small pieces of sponge material in natural fish oils and place it in the tube for scent but I favor ready-to-use products such as (Pro-Cure gel scents) that are easier and less messy to use.
Tube baits have been around for decades in the freshwater arena but they have always been overlooked by inshore anglers. Because of the tube’s “less than popular” following in the salt… the fish rarely see this versatile bait which makes it a deadly winter-time weapon in my tackle bag!
Until next time, keep’em bent!