How to Rig and Fish Tube Baits - One of the Most Versatile Softbaits

Written by: Pete Danylewycz
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I have to admit it: I haven't been giving tubes the love they deserve.

In my tackle arsenal, tubes have definitely taken a back seat to creature baits like the Rage Tail Craw, Yum’s Wooly Bug, and the Zoom Brush Hog.

And if you’re anything like me, and I’ll bet you are, it’s been a while since you’ve pitched or flipped a big tube or rigged a Ned head with anything other than a minnow.

But I think that might be a mistake.

If there’s one truth on the tournament trail, it’s that differences win. The top anglers in each tournament are typically doing something a little different than everyone else, offering presentations that the bass aren’t seeing regularly.

And to me, that signals the re-birth of the tube.

Do you want to know more about rigging and fishing tubes?

Keep reading!

What is a Tube?

what is a tube bait

A tube is a soft plastic bait with a cylindrical head and an octopus-like skirt of flailing tentacles.

This design combines several really desirable traits.

It’s the right shape for bass to identify as a prey item, and it mimics the body shape of bait fish and crawfish. Those tentacles move even in cold water, and they create a spiraling, erratic descent that bass can’t get enough of. And tubes can be rigged for a wide variety of techniques, including Damiki rigs, Ned rigs, Texas and Carolina rigs, and on jig heads, just to name a few.

Rigged for punching heavy cover or set up for hard bottoms, tubes are as versatile as they are effective.

Widely available, they don’t enjoy the popularity they once did, but don’t let that dissuade you.

On the smaller end, tubes like the 2 ¾-inch Z-Man TRD TubeZ are ideal trailers for small jig heads and finesse presentations. This tube definitely punches above its size, and it’s nothing short of murder on everything from smallmouth to crappie, including monster bass.

Z-Man TRD TubeZ

Take a look at Z-Man’s EZ TUBEZ as well. These 4-inch tubes sport round tentacles that won’t stick together, providing tons of flutter on the fall, as well as lots of action as you work them.

Z-Man’s EZ TUBEZ

Another awesome option is the 4-inch Yamamoto Fat Ika. This is a secret weapon, especially if you rig the hook through the tentacle end rather than through the head as you normally would.

4-inch Yamamoto Fat Ika

I like to Texas or Carolina rig these, or Damiki rig them for the thick stuff. Whichever technique I choose, they deliver the strikes!

Yum’s tubes are more traditional than the Z-Man or Yamamoto, but no less effective. Their 4-inch tube summons monsters for a closer look, and it’s a great option to sweeten a jig head or rig Texas or Carolina style.

4-inch YUM tube

A final tube I encourage you to try is Yum’s Vibra King. These 4 ¼-inch beauties can be very hard to find, but they’re worth the hunt!

Yum’s Vibra King

The ribbed body traps bubbles that impart a unique action to this tube, and the tentacles are just maddening to hungry bass.

How Do You Rig and Fish a Tube? Weedless Options to Consider

Tubes are a snap to rig, and I’ll cover some of the best options for weedless rigging.

Texas rigs

Texas Rigged Tube Bait

Texas-rigged tubes are deadly, especially when the water is colder. Because that skirt is made up of tiny strands of soft plastic, it stays pliable in cold water, wiggling more and creating more vibration than the appendages common on creature baits.

Most of us rig worms, beavers, or creature baits like the Rage Tail Craw. And while you won’t find a bigger fan of the Rage Tail, a 3- to 4-inch tube in a craw color can draw more strikes, especially when the water is cold.

When used in and around live weed beds or thick cover, a Texas-rigged tube can be amazing. 

The trick is to work it slowly.

When I want to keep contact with the bottom, I’ll drag my tube very slowly, keeping a tight line. I’ll leave my forefinger under my line as it comes off the reel, as I want to really feel what’s going on. 

A slow, side arm drag works best for me, with pauses every now and then.

Another technique that I like a lot is the pop and fall. I’ll use my rod tip to lift the tube off the bottom. A quick crank later, I’ll let it fall, fluttering its way down.

That wriggling descent results in a lot of strikes!

The vast majority of the time, I’m fishing Texas-rigged tubes with a heavy-power, fast action rod, a relatively fast reel, and 20- to 40-pound braid. When a leader is needed, I reach for 12-pound Stren original.

My preferred rod is the Dobyns Champion XP DC704C. At 7-feet, this rod casts well and delivers good accuracy for heavy cover. The blank provides plenty of sensitivity as well as hard hook-setting power. And when you’re fighting a big bass in thick vegetation, it’ll help you win the fight before things get bad.

I pair this rod with a fast reel with a gear ratio above 7:1, typically either a Daiwa Tatula 200 HS or a Shimano Curado K. The Tatula is slightly faster, offering 32.2” per turn to the Curado’s 31”, and both come equipped with smooth, consistent, powerful drags with a maximum rating of 13.2 pounds and 11 pounds, respectively.

Setting up a Texas-rigged tube is simple:

  1. Slide a bullet sinker, tip first, onto your main line.
  2. Using a Palomar Knot, attach an EWG hook. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  3. Pass the point of your hook through the tip of the tube’s head. 
  4. Push the tube up and over the eye of your hook. You want to get the tube to lay straight, using that offset to your advantage.
  5. Rotate the point back toward the tube. 
  6. Measure the bottom of the curve of the hook on the tube’s body. That’s where you want to bury the point in the next step.
  7. Push the point back into the tube, bringing the tip through to the opposite side. 
  8. Push the point of your hook back into the tube - just a bit - creating a weedless rig.

You can make a Texas-rigged tube more efficient on the hookset by bending the hook out a bit and cutting the tube to open it up:

Carolina rigs

carolina rigged tube bait

The Carolina rig is a great choice for deep water and hard bottoms. Because a heavy sinker can be used without deadening the action of your tube, you can make long casts, get to the bottom in a hurry, and still have outstanding action from your soft bait.

I’ll use a 2/0 or 3/0 EWG hook in conjunction with a 1-ounce sinker. That gives me great distance and water column penetration, and when the bass are feeding aggressively, a big tube is nothing short of money.

And it bears repeating that tubes move better in cold water than creature baits like craws, making them super-effective pre-span choices.

But a Carolina-rigged tube doesn’t need to be equipped with a big hook and trailer, and when the bite is slow, downsizing to a finesse presentation can really make a huge difference.

In situations like this, I’ll drop my hook size to a #1, and downsize to the 2 ¾-inch Z-Man TRD TubeZ. That gives me a true finesse presentation that really gives pressured or spoked bass a lot more confidence.

I fish my Carolina rigs with the Dobyns Champion XP DC704C, and it works just as well for this technique as it does for my Texas rigs.

I’m perfectly fine with the fast reels I use for heavy cover, and if you've had trouble keeping a tight line, they’re probably the best bet for you. But I tend to fish a Carolina rig too fast, and so I prefer a slower reel to keep my pace lethargic.

For me, the Shimano Curado DC geared for the 6.2:1 gear ratio is just right. Retrieving 26 inches per turn, it’s fast enough to keep my line tight without encouraging me to burn my Carolina rigs across the bottom.

My Carolina-rigged tube techniques are the slow drag and pop and fall, and I’ll try both to see what the bass like.

Rigging a tube Carolina-style is pretty easy:

  1. Slide a bullet or barrel sinker onto your main line.
  2. Follow this with an 8mm plastic bead to protect your knot.
  3. Attach a barrel swivel using an Improved Palomar. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  4. Cut approximately 18 to 24 inches of leader.
  5. Using a Uni Knot, attach your leader to the barrel swivel. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  6. Using an Improved Palomar Knot, attach an offset shank hook to the end of your leader. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  7. Pass the point of your hook through the tip of the tube’s head. 
  8. Push the tube up and over the eye of your hook. You want to get the tube to lay straight, using that offset to your advantage.
  9. Rotate the point back toward the tube. 
  10. Measure the bottom of the curve of the hook on the tube’s body. That’s where you want to bury the point in the next step.
  11. Push the point back into the tube, bringing the tip through to the opposite side. 
  12. Push the point of your hook back into the tube - just a bit - creating a weedless rig

Rigging and Fishing Tubes with Jig Heads: Finesse Applications

Damiki rigs

damiki rig jig head

When cold temperatures drive bass deep and leave them sluggish, finesse presentations that verge on dead sticking can be your best bet.

The Damiki rig is at its finest in this situation, and typically, bass anglers are looking to mimic bait fish like shad by sweetening a Damiki jig head with a paddle tail or fluke.

That makes a lot of sense, and there’s nothing wrong with that approach.

But consider for a moment that one of the strengths of the tube is that it flutters even in very cold water, with hardly anything required to get those tentacles dancing. Doesn’t that sound like a dead-stick winner to you?

While you can use swimbait jig heads, I prefer Damiki-specific jig heads for this technique, as they pair weights with hook sizes that are ideal. You don’t want a massive hook for this technique: the bass are going to have all the time in the world to study your tube, and a big hook isn’t going to do you any favors.

My tackle choices reflect the finesse needed for this technique, and spinning gear is definitely the way to go when you’re casting 1/9-ounce jig heads.

I really like the 7’1” St. Croix Mojo Bass. Its medium-power, fast-action blank is just what you need to feel a lethargic strike, while still providing plenty of hook-setting backbone. It loads easily with light jig heads, too.

I pair this rod with a Shimano Vanford, which casts and fights like a dream. This is an excellent spinning rod for all finesse techniques, and it’s just very hard to beat for the price.

You don’t need or want heavy line for your Damiki-rigged tubes. 10-pound braid and an 8-pound leader are more than sufficient.

But as any veteran angler will tell you, Damiki rigs demand that you pay attention to the details of setting them up. Any bend in your tube on the hook will result in little to no attention, and I recommend that you use a tiny bit of superglue to lock your tube in place on the hook.

Fishing a Damiki-rigged tube is simple. 

You need to find bait fish schooling where bass are actively feeding. This will demand good fishing electronics, and Damiki-rigging is heavily dependent on tech. Once you’ve identified bass preying on bait fish, you want to present your Damiki rig above those bass, near or in that schooling bait. And that means keeping a constant eye on your fish finder so you know exactly what’s going on down deep.

Cast your Damiki rig and let it flutter down to the school, keeping it above the bass at all times.

Get your line tight, keep your rod tip low, and let the tube do the work. You want to keep your rig still, just floating neutrally.

Bass that have never seen this presentation before will often rush to hit it, but if that doesn’t happen, give your rod the gentlest of vibrations. Don’t pump your rod tip! Just shimmy your rod to set the tentacles of the trailer dancing.

If a strike still doesn’t come, you can try a quick pop of your rod tip followed by a full turn of your crank. That will cause your tube to dart away, imitating a scared or injured baitfish.

Then let your rig sit absolutely still for a while and see if a bass comes to get it.

Ned rigs

ned rigged tube bait

In the late fall, and when I’m fishing lakes that have been worked over by anglers for months, I know that finesse wins the day.

And for me, perhaps the most effective finesse presentation is a Ned-rigged tube. This combo really doesn’t receive the love it deserves, but where vegetation is sparse, it just slays wary bass.

A Ned rig is nothing more than a small, light, mushroom-shaped jig head.

So what’s the fuss?

Ned rigs are really small: I’ll often throw a Z-MAN Finesse ShroomZ that weighs just 1/10-ounce!

Z-MAN Finesse ShroomZ

With a small tube like the Z-Man, you get a presentation that looks like a small craw, enticing bass to take a chance on a strike that larger lures or flashier presentations would scare off. It’s a true finesse technique that catches bass when the bite is just awful.

Of course a Ned-rigged tube demands finesse tackle, and the rod and reel I use for Damiki rigs is just perfect for this technique as well.

I prefer 10-pound braid connected to an 8-pound leader for my Ned rigs, as stealth and subtlety are critical for this presentation.

Fishing a Ned-rigged tube requires patience.

After the cast, you need to wait for your tiny jig head to drag your tube to the bottom. That takes time, but its fluttering fall is pretty darn effective at picking up bass suspended in the water column.

If your Ned rig manages to hit the bottom, pick up most of the slack and creep the Ned head across the bottom. Keep some slack in your line as you work your rig.

If you do this right, you’ll be keeping constant contact with the bottom, letting the Ned head drag and hop across any tiny features it encounters. Your tube should be more or less head-down the entire time, keeping those wriggling tentacles up high.

That’s a deadly presentation that won’t spook pressured fish, and if you work it with real care, it’s devastating in late fall with slightly larger trailers like the Vibra King.

But the Ned rig isn’t a Texas rig, and fishing these two very different presentations as though they were identical is a big mistake!

You want to keep your rod tip at about 10 to 11 o’clock, much higher than most worm techniques. That’ll encourage your tube to stay head down and provide a bit more feel. I like to keep my index finger on my line, too, for just a bit of added sensitivity. 

And when the time comes for a hookset, don’t jerk your rod overhead to drive your hook home!

Instead, you want to treat the Ned like a circle hook: start retrieving and take up the slack from your line. The hook will drive itself home, and you’ll land a lot more fish.

Final Thoughts

Tube just don't garner the respect they once did, and that’s entirely the fault of fickle anglers looking for the next great thing. But as tournament winners will tell you, throwing something a little different than everyone else will often result in more - and bigger - fish.

That’s certainly true of the humble tube. And whether you weight it to punch grass Texas-style, or rig it for finesse with a Ned head, a tube can be just the thing you need to turn a bad day into a great one.

Are you a hard-core tube fanatic? Did we ignore your favorite tube or rig?

Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

About The Author
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. Whether he's casting a line in a quiet freshwater stream or battling a monster bass, fishing is his true passion.
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