When most anglers hear the words tube jig, they think of some clear, rocky, smallmouth infested lake. Yes this is the perfect bait for those conditions, but a tube jig can be used in any type of cover and conditions, to catch some pretty hefty largemouth bass. The reasons being, is that it is not a common lure for fishing timber or vegetation for largemouths, and the fish are not used to seeing a tube.
A tube jig is extremely versatile, in both rigging and the bait it imitates. When you alter the color of the tube, you change what it is supposed to be. A brown or green tube looks very much like a crayfish, with all its tentacles to give it motion. If you use a blue back/silver belly tube, it looks like a baitfish such as Alewifes or young shad. And perhaps one of my favorite colors is a bluish green tube with red, blue, and orange sparkle to imitate a sunfish. With three basic colors you can match all of the forage a bass could eat.
There are several different rigging methods and techniques for fishing a tube, to help you cover all the different situations we encounter when on the water. The most common is an open-end tube rigged on a jig head. I prefer 1/8 oz, and 3/16oz weights depending on the density of the submerged vegetation. As a rule, the denser the grass the lighter the head I will use. To rig the lure, simply insert the jig head into the back of the tube and push it all the way to the front of the lure, and than pop the eye of the head out of the tube. This will create the tube to spiral as it sinks. If you want to get real technical, leave a little bit of space between the front of the tube and the jig head, and you will get a tube that glides and spirals even more, which is productive when the weeds are at a minimum. I use this rigging method when the fish are active and feeding above the grass, or they are extremely inactive and suspending near the top of the vegetation. Either way, the fish need to be near the top of the grass, not buried in it, for this technique to work properly.
If the fish are active simply cast it out, and the minute it hits the surface, begin jerking the rod with quick short movements. Use a 6'6" spinning rod with a limber tip, such as the Lamiglas XT660 in 3 power, which also has some backbone to it with 10lb. test line. It is best to keep a slight bow in the line and actually jerk the slack, without feeling the lure too much. This will cause the tube to dart erratically above the grass, for a hungry bass to inhale. If the fish aren't cooperating as much as we would like, simply do the same process, except let the lure fall between jerks, and increase the amount of time between jerks. What this does is cause you to rip the lure out of the grass, getting a reaction strike from the inactive fish. Each time you pause, the bait will fall into and on top of the vegetation, and when you jerk the lure it will rip free of the grass, causing the bass to react and bite it. Similar to if someone throws a baseball at your head; you react and catch it. It's pretty much the same principle. This technique secured me a check during a New Jersey Bass Federation tournament when everyone else was fishing worms and jigs in the vegetation. The reason being, the fish are not accustomed to seeing this bait presented in such thick cover.
If this does not work, than the fish are most likely buried in the bottom of the vegetation and inactive, requiring you to use a slow deliberate approach. For this you need to texas rig the tube jig, like you would a plastic worm. One thing I like to do is peg the sinker. Some slip sinkers come with a screw or some mechanism to hold it in place against the plastic. Lunker City Fishing Specialties and Gambler are two companies that I know of that make such products. Or you can simply stick a toothpick into the hole on the bottom of the slip sinker and break it off, keeping the lead stationary. The reason I do this is so the weight will pull the tube to the bottom, and it won't get hung on a weed, while the slip sinker goes to the bottom. I also employ a larger weight, somewhere between a 1/4 oz and a 3/8 oz for the lure can push through the weeds and make it to the bottom where the fish will be. I prefer a 2/0 Texposer hook to rig the tube texas style for a complete weedless setup. My personal favorite is a Lunker City Toob, which has about a 1/4 in of solid plastic at the head, to help keep it on the hook. It also features a enclosed body, which traps air inside it, causing the bait to sit on the bottom with the tentacles pointing straight up, adding to the action. If the water is stained to muddy, or light conditions are minimal adding a rattle to the hook shank will increase the number of strikes. With this method, simply work it like a plastic worm. Use short 6" hops, or lifts to impart the action, and allow it to settle back to the bottom after each one. This compact bait will work when a plastic worm or jig-n-pig will not. It offers the fish a smaller presentation when they are inactive.
The tube jig is my go to bait, my money bait. The reasons are simple. It is extremely versatile. It can be fished in deep water, the shallows, clear water, muddy water, open water, cover, and any situation I can think of. When I'm on the water, I always have at least one rod rigged with a tube bait, you should too.