The more I learn, the less I know. At least it seems that way lately when it comes to structure fishing for smallmouth bass with tube-jigs. At one time, I was regarded as somewhat of a regional expert on tube-jig fishing among the Great Lakes smallmouth crowd, but as the drop-shot fad hit the Great Lakes, my tube fishing took a back seat. However, as trends in fishing methods usually cycle, the tube-jig bite started coming back on Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and other big northern waters known for producing jumbo smallies.
I was excited to show all these new drop-shot guys a thing or two about old-school tube fishing and the huge stringers of smallmouths that can result. Then a funny thing happened. All too often when I’d get a strike on a tube, a horrifying sequence of events followed: Set the hook, hook the fish, bass pulls, bass is gone. Or else the old classic: Set the hook, fish swims up, bass jumps, bye-bye bass. This sad sequence was repeated over and over again.
I realize everyone loses fish from time to time and every tournament “should’ve been won” by someone else, but this was getting ridiculous. Over the course of two years, I lost so many big bass in major tournaments on tubes and other jig baits such as shakey heads, that I calculated it had cost me over $100,000 in tournament earnings, and that’s a conservative estimate. Baffled, I set out to find the reason for these problems and, most importantly, a solution.
Steve Clapper and Mike Trombly are both friends and competitors of mine across various circuits that visit the Great Lakes, and it’s clear they’re not having the same problems. Clapper won the FLW Detroit River event in 2007 and the Canadian Open in 2006, while Trombly won back-to-back Stren Series events on Erie in 2006 and 2007. Together, they’ve pocketed over $400,000 in two years, and tube-jigs played a vital role in each of those victories. Years of tube fishing have led them to refine their respective tackle and techniques that produce such wealthy results.
A few common characteristics arise when reviewing the tackle and methods of today’s successful Great Lakes deep-structure fishermen. Not surprisingly, long rods and fluorocarbon lines are standard. But actual fishing methods are changing.
Gone are the days of the drift-and-drag method for catching huge smallies on tube-jigs. With today’s powerful Minn Kota trolling motors producing 101 pounds of thrust, and with a 52-inch shaft, anglers can remain stationary while casting at targets, regardless of wave conditions. Holding with the trolling motor was a technique that Clapper and I pioneered, and it’s now common practice with big-water anglers of the region. This aspect of boat control is important to note because, when holding with the trolling motor, removing all slack from your line when setting the hook or fighting a fish is much more difficult than when dragging.
Continued – click on page link below.