Tube Bait Soft Plastics
When it comes to Smallmouth Bass fishing, many would argue that a simple tube bait is the best lure to use. Professional bass anglers use them to win tournaments, and novice anglers can easily learn how to fish them.
A tube bait is a small, hollowed-out rubber bait with tentacles or strings hanging off the end. Their main purpose is to mimic the action of a crawfish. This is likely why they're so effective, as crawfish are usually the main food source for smallmouth bass.
Tubes for Smallies
You can get tube baits as small as one inch long for targeting panfish, but you'll want something larger for smallmouth. The ideal size is a standard tube between three and four inches long. Any larger, and you're presentation may intimidate the fish.
There are many varieties and colors to choose from, which can confuse beginner anglers. As requested, we'll be breaking down the best tube baits and tube colors for targeting smallmouth bass.
Berkely Powerbait Power Tube
The Berkely Powerbait Power Tube is a phenomenal bait for smallmouth. The wide-body design gives it a larger profile in the water and allows it to hold more scent.
The more scent and flavor a tube has, the better it performs. These qualities make baits more realistic, and fish hold on to them for longer. This leads to higher hook-up ratios as anglers have more time to set the hook.
Berkeley offers dozens of sizes and colors for this tube. We recommend choosing between the 3.5-inch and 4.5-inch models. They're both great lengths that will have better results in different conditions. The popular colors, Green Pumpkin and Alabama Craw, best resemble the crawfish that bass feed on.
Zoom Salty Super Tube
The Zoom Salty Super Tube has different qualities than the Berkely Power Tube. These baits will keep their smell for much longer. Zoom Bait Company applies its scented formula by hand to ensure the quality of their baits.
The salt additive to the Super Tube keeps the fish on your line for longer. As the fish bite down on these tubes, the salt pockets burst, releasing a ton of flavor.
You'll have the best results using either the 3.75 or 4.24-inch model on a Texas Rig or Carolina Rig. The While Pearl Silver with Glitter Flakes is a phenomenal pattern for most fishing conditions and stands out well in dirty waters. Rootbeer Pep, Disco Candy, and Watermelon Seed are the best colors for clear water fishing.
Strike King Coffee Fat Tube 2
The Strike King Coffee Fat Tube 2 isn't something you'd expect would work well. Strike King uses actual pieces of coffee beans and coffee bean oil in their tubes.
As strange as this may seem, this additive performs two purposes very well. The first is that it's a natural scent that's actually found to attract Smallmouth Bass extremely well. The second is that the color closely imitates crayfish and makes these tubes even more realistic.
These tubes are infused with salt-pockets and other scents as well, which makes them extremely versatile. They're much shorter at only 2.74-inches long, but this is to balance out their intense smell.
So what are the best colors? Well, Green Pumpkin with Gold Flake, Magic Goby, and Watermelon Candy Green Pumpkin have been the most popular and best-performing varieties. They're natural and have enough flake to give off a great reflection.
Big Bite Baits 4" Craw Tube
The Big Bite Baits 4" Craw Tube is the best combination of a Tube Bait and Craw Bait available. It features a ribbed tube body, with thicker ribbons and claw extensions. You'll want to use this bait if you're going after bigger smallmouth since it has a much larger profile.
Smallmouth hammer this tube when the bite is on. It's not as low-profile as other tubes, which helps it to get noticed. The bait also has a solid head to help your hook stay embedded in the bait.
While the traditional Green Pumpkin and 1099 colors will get bites, the most popular style is the Crawdad color. It's the most accurate crawfish imitation for a bait that's specifically designed to get smallmouth strikes.
Z-Man TRD TubeZ Mudbug Color
Z-Man TRD is known for producing some of the most original and best-performing bass fishing lures. This holds true when it comes to the TubeZ Mudbug Pattern.
We're singling out the Mudbug Color of this bait because it's had so much success. The fade between the light brown and white makes this tube come alive in the water. As it rotates, it almost has a holographic effect that draws fish in from long distances.
You'll notice bumps on the upper body of this tube. This added texture is designed to keep fish holding on longer. The light pink flakes imitate juvenile crawfish, making this bait appear an easy target for smallmouth.
Rigs for Tube Baits
Tube Baits have the same versatility as other soft plastics. Alternating between Football Jig styles, Swing Head Jigs, Texas Rigs, and Carolina Rigs will give you the best results. It's all about honing in on what the fish are interested in and what presentation style they're most accustomed to.
Tips for Technique
One of the most compelling qualities of tube baits is that you can experiment with how you fish them. There's no right or wrong way to approach them, and they're more forgiving than other lures. With this said, we have a few tips that will help you catch more fish.
The most important quality of tube baits is their strong smell. A common mistake beginner anglers make is fishing a tube bait after the smell has worn off. Some brands have longer-lasting scents, while others are meant for short-term use.
If you find your baits are losing their scent quickly, you can always add a commercial craw scent to them yourself to make them last longer. It's not essential that the commercial scent perfectly matches the original scent, but try your best to get a close match. For example, don't use an anchovy paste on a crawfish tube bait.
Smaller vs. Larger Tubes
In general, it's a good idea to start with a smaller presentation when fishing a new body of water. This will help you to understand the feeding patterns of the fish.
If you find that you're getting infrequent but strong attacks from the smallmouth, consider using a larger tube. Using larger Tube Baits in warmer waters or when fish are feeding aggressively will give you far better results.
Even if you're not using a tube as your main lure, having a tube bait rigged up as a backup is a professional-level technique.
Say you're fishing topwater lures, and the smallies are missing strikes and are struggling to commit. This is the perfect time to pick up your tube bait rig and follow-up the cast with a smaller presentation. The same fish will often come back and hammer the tube as it's falling to the bottom.