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What Makes a Tube Tick?

By Russ Bassdozer

Hollowness. I  think of lures as tools. Most of my soft plastic tools (worms, grubs, lizards, soft jerkbaits, etc.) are all solid-bodied baits. A tube bait is not. My opinion is that the hollowness of a tube is really something that makes it different than all my other soft-plastics. I think the hollow core gives a tube some of its attractive "floating" life-like qualities. Therefore, to get the best action out of a tube, I never mess with it by sticking stuff in the hollow core of it (except of course if it an insider style of jig or hook). I avoid putting extra stuff - rattles, fish attractants, floats - inside of my tubes. Yes, I do use attractants on the outside of my tubes, and if I want them to float, I do use cork jigheads or cork bullets on the line, but not usually inside the tube, okay?

Uncut Body Length. I do believe the uncut body length of a tube must be proportioned correctly to its tail in order to create good hydrodynamic action of a tube. Just like the body and tail of a kite both balance to produce its best aerodynamic properties. I look for a good length ratio of about 60% uncut body portion relative to 40% split tail portion. I do believe that the length ratio of the uncut body portion helps to create the desirable wavering, zigzagging, side-to-side waffling or spiraling action which very few other lures except tubes can achieve consistently. Perhaps the only other bait which comes close to the hydrodynamic properties of a tube is a flat-tailed grub such as the Mann's Sting Ray Grub. This style of flat paddle tail grub can also achieve some of the zigzag, spiral, wavering and gliding action of a tube bait.

Cut Tails. Of course, the definition of a high quality tube includes extremely fine cut, quivering tentacles. The softness and separateness of the tube tails creates life-like vibration as each individual tentacle moves in the water. When a tube has many finely-cut tentacles, there is an increased surface area of the bait exposed in the water, hence additional water drag and fluid dynamics against that exposed larger surface of the many tentacles. Because of the large surface area, a tube is actually a "noisier" lure underwater than most anglers envision it to be!

Roundness and Flatness. I try to seek out brands of tubes that will retain their roundness during storage over time. However, I also make special use of tubes that flatten out a bit during storage. In fact, if I do not have any squished ones, I intentionally flatten a few under a pile of telephone books! Just rig the flattened side horizontally to provide more action as you drop and jig it. You will get a sharper zig and zag out of it than a round tube. Think of it more as a flat paddle tail grub than a tube. Sometimes this is what fish want on a light jig head - and they especially like the flat ones rigged horizontal on a weightless offset shank hook about 18" to 24" behind a splitshot or bullet weight.

The combined characteristics of uncut body length, round hollow body cavity, fine cut and separateness of the tentacles tails are what makes a good tube bait great to me! I just leave the body hollow and empty, and leave the tails long and fluid. Don't add any extras, just apply scent to the outside. Focus on the essential lure without the gimmicks and frills! Master it this way, and I guarantee you will have a productive fish-catching tool you can happily use for the rest of your bassin' days!

Name Some Names. Tubes are international. They catch every species of game fish worldwide in fresh or salt water. There are hundreds of brands of tube baits in the market, but not in this article. Let me get right down to three specific brands. Below are baits and colors that are in my bag and on the end of my string when I go bass fishing nowadays. Does not mean there aren't any other good brands and colors of tubes out there...just means that they aren't in my bag. But then again, if I thought anything else was better than these three, wouldn't that be in my bag instead? Don't answer that, just read on if you are interested!

Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits

Yamamoto offers a new, hollow-bodied tube in 3.5" and 4" sizes. Yamamoto also makes a solid-bodied "tube alternative" called the Ika. Both Yamamoto's new hollow tubes and the solid Ikas are great baits, but I fish them differently. For instance, I fish the Ika as a weightless jerkbait but I do not fish hollow tubes that way. That is why I call the Ika a tube bait alternative rather than a real tube bait. They are different baits to me.

The two nicest things about the new Yamamoto tubes are that: 1) they are very soft and supple, and 2) the tentacle tails are extremely well-split. The tail-splitting is sometimes a problem with other manufacturer's tentacles, which may not be so neatly split at times. But not so with Yamamoto! They are VERY NICELY split tails. They quiver nervously even when standing still. Salt on the outside (not impregnated).

Yamamoto tubes come in about ten colors, and they are all good. I have asterisked (*) my favorites:

Electric Smoke* Smoke Pepper w/ Red Flake
Electric Watermelon* Electric Chartreuse
Amber w/ Orange and Green Flake* Pumpkin Pepper w/ Green Flake
Pumpkin Pepper Shimmer Shad (Electric Smoke Body and Electric Clear w/ Green Flake Tail)

I like to use a soft, fine-tailed tube such as the new Yamamoto for relatively snag-free, open clear water with light lines, especially when the fish want a tube to sit there and essentially "do nothing." but quiver.

Canyon Plastics & Garry Garland

I prefer a harder-walled tube such as the Garland Gitzit as soon as I start encountering any cover and bulking up my rod/reel/line size to handle heavier hooks, weights and jigs. The Garland tube simply will not get torn apart by cover or by fish as easily as most other tubes.

These are the world famous original Gitzit tubes that were invented by Bobby Garland over twenty years ago. His brother, Garry Garland came up with the idea to solve how to machine split the tails. The rest is, as they say, history!

Garry is still fishing strong. He offers a complete product line of tubes at his Canyon Plastics web site.

Garry's got an incredible eight sizes of Gitzits for panfish, trout and bass. Some small, some big, some regular width, some fat width. You just cannot get that variety of tube sizes anywhere else. I have used all sizes of Garry's tubes for bass...well, not the two most diminutive 1 1/4" and 1 1/2" sizes except for the incidental small bass bycatch when targeting crappie or trout, but I have used the other six sizes for bass as follows:

  • 2 1/2" Mini Jig: I have used his 2 1/2" Mini Jig which is a thin minnow shape in ultra finesse situations, including for some incredibly spooyk, tight-lipped but huge bass. In fact, the Arizona state record 14 1/2 lb. bass was caught on a 2 1/2" Garland Mini Jig.
  • 2 1/2" Fat Gitzit: Next size, the 2 1/2" Fat Gitzit is a wider-bodied model that imitates shad or panfish hatchlings...and it is the best possible size for crayfish imitations. Studies, as well as my own personal experiences and those of my cronies show that bass prefer 2" to 3" crayfish instead of larger sizes.
  • 3" Finesse Gitzit: Garry's got a brand new 3" Finesse Gitzit model that is destined to be hot especially for smallies and for all Western finesse tactics.
  • 3 3/4" Original Gitzit: is the best model for large numbers of average sized largemeouth and above average size smallies. The 3 3/4" also comes with eyes bonded right into the plastic...or rigged with a thim plastic weedless protector.
  • 5" Magnum Gitzit: Best for big bass, for flipping, in dark water, very cool water, or at night.
  • 7" Giant Tora Tube: I have used Toras for largemouth for about 15 years, and it gets fish within a 4 to 5 lbs. average up here in the Northeast, plus a few 2-4 pounders when the bite is on. If you are from Florida, Texas, or the West, you should have a better average size on the Tora. I have never caught smallmouth or spots on the Tora, but then again I do not recall I have ever tried for these species with a Tora. I do know guys out West who do catch largemouth, big smallies and big spotted bass with Toras. Out West, the Tora is still used secretly to this day to catch sacks of giant bass in tournaments.

Since Garry and his brother Bobby invented tube baits over 20 years ago, I doubt that there is anyone who knows more about making and fishing tube baits than the Garland brothers.

The keys to Garland's tubes are they are made of a harder plastic formulation, allowing the tube wall to be thin but very strong. The thin walls allow Garry's tubes to be "extra hollow" inside relative to any other tube out there. Also, Garry's Gitzits are made of a high flotation plastic formulation, enhancing the tubes buoyancy and reducing its "weight" in the water.The hollowness and lightness of a tube bait is an important key to allow it to come alive in the water.

In general, Garry's years of expertise and experience cause him to tend to want to make his body diameters a bit wider than other brands. The combination of thin wall, extra wide diameter, extra hollowness, and extra buoyancy all add up to allow the Garland Gitzits to generate more erratic, unpredictable living bait action easier than many other tubes.

So, these are characteristics to the Garland Gitzits that have been imitated but never equalled: 1) the combined facets of Gitzit body dynamics results in a great, more erratic drop...and still the best "spiral on the fall" for those who like that tactic, and 2) the plastic composition is durable and rugged while still being lightweight, supple and fluid.

The Garland Gitzits come in an incredibly long list of 90 colors. The Gitzit green craw is a good one. In addition, you might want to try some of the following. My favorites include:

Mean Green Pepper Black/Blue Glitter
Tomato Pumpkin Pepper 2-Tone Smoke Copper Glitter
Brown / Chartreuse Pepper 2-Tone Smoke Sparkle
Pumpkin Pepper Green Glitter Pearl White
Melon/Smoke Red Glitter 2-Tone Pearl White Silver Glitter

Luck "E" Strike

In the eighties, Guido Hibdon had a string of national tournament wins based on sight fishing and bed fishing for bass with the Luck "E" Strike brand of G3 and G4 tubes on light tackle. This helped popularize tubes, but it also stereotyped tubes in most anggler's minds as light tackle bed fishing baits. The in the late nineties, Denny Brauer had his own hot streak winning a number of regional and national championships. Although Denny caught as many fish on spinnerbaits and jig 'n pigs, the most sensational news is that Denny is flipping Texas rigged tube baits into heavy cover during these tournaments. This has currently created a kind of "tube mania" across the country. It seems that tubes top the "best bait" list for many anglers now -- and they also top the production list for almost all soft plastic lure manufacturers in the industry!

Guido's Luck "E" Strike tubes are still among the very best tubes IMHO! What makes the Luck "E" Strikes so hot? The tails are soft, fluid and perfectly formed and separated tentacle tails because they are injection molded rather than machine split!

Luck "E" Strike makes three sizes for bass, the G3, G4 and G5 tubes which are 3", 4" and 5" respectively.

The G3 and G4 come in a whopping 52 colors! My top ten colors in the G3 & G4 are listed below, and I have asterisked (*) my favorites. Some colors, like watermelon pepper, green pumpkin pepper, and black neon are among the most popular across the country. Other colors like Desert Storm Orange or Smoke Sand are relatively unknown but I have been landing mass quantities on these colors on many bodies of water for about fifteen years now! Also, rainbow trout is a real doozy everywhere...even where rainbow trout aren't! And. of course, the pearl white aint too sexy...but it slays them as does the white back/clear glitter belly. You simply must try them.

The following ten colors are my Luck "E" Strike G3 & G4 favorites:

009 Melon Pepper 172 Green Pumpkin Pepper
014 Pearl White 044 Watermelon Pepper*
075 Black Neon (black w/red flake)* 530 White/Clear Glitter
132 Smoke Pepper Neon (smoke w/black & red flake) 473 Desert Storm Orange (green back w/red flake/orange belly w/black flake)*
463 Rainbow Trout green back w/black flake/pink pearl white belly)* 469 Melon Pepper Back/Pumpkin Pepper Belly w/red flake
533 Smoke Sand (dark smoke back/light smoke belly w/copper flake)*  

The bigger G5 comes in a shorter set of 14 colors, including the 009, 075, 469 and 530. I can only describe the G5 as a very squat and sturdy "double-dipped" flippin' tube.

So, those are the best examples of the three kinds of tubes I carry in my bass bag now...a soft, subtle, finely-tailed one like the Yamamoto whenever that extra touch of finesse is in order. A very reactive "mover" like Garry's Gitzits and Garland jigs whenever I need to bring out the most elusive, erratic dart and fall or when I need something slightly less soft and therefore better in cover. Plus the Luck "E" Strike G series in three sizes.

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