We pulled up to the first spot we wanted to fish. We had caught them there before, almost always on a tube, so I picked up my tube rod, rigged and ready. As I retrieved the first cast, I looked at the small plastic bait covering the jig head, tentacles waving behind. Who dreamed up this bait? What were they thinking? Who was it that decided that something that resembled a tiny shredded condom would be a perfect bait for bass?
It turns out, that back in 1964, the Garland brothers, Bobby and Garry, were working on a new soft plastic lure in Bobby’s home in Utah. Bobby had the idea for the hollow body while Gary had the idea as to how to cut the tentacles. They created a little 2 1/2-inch hollow plastic body with
35 or so tentacles which they put on a specially designed jig. The hook of the jig was exposed amongst the tentacles. To these inventors, the design was intended to resemble an injured shad or dying bait fish because of its slow, circling fall. They believed this death fall would trigger an instinctive predator response. Fish would see the bait spiraling down as an easy meal, triggering an immediate bite. They called it the “Gitzit”, and that original little tube with the insert jig and exposed hook, is still catching bass today due to the hard to resist, horizontal, spiraling action. The brothers circulated their little bait amongst their friends in the west, and it made a name for itself on clear, deep western reservoirs, but it didn’t really get a lot of attention until Guido Hibdon drew Bobby Garland as a partner at a tournament on Lake Mead. Hibdon, often labeled the “Father of Finesse”, learned fast about the Gitzit. He took this new lure back east. Anglers who saw it joked that the small lure wasn’t a “finesse” lure, but rather, a “sissy” lure. Guido was undeterred. He
studied every aspect of the 2.5 inch tube and started bringing the lure to his local lakes, making impressive catches on Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Lake of the Ozarks, and placing well at several tournaments. People were taking notice, and that “sissy” lure was starting to look tough. Before long, Hibdon was winning tournaments with the Gitzit, taking advantage of the fact that this tube jig was good for hopping, dragging, bouncing, flipping, and skipping under docks and hanging brush. As a result, the versatile lure started to catch on as one of the most effective bass baits ever invented. Much to the Garlands’ surprise, when it comes to imitating a variety of freshwater bass forage, it’s hard to beat the tube. It mimics many types of forage in lakes, rivers and ponds, including crayfish, perch, bluegill and a variety of other “match the hatch” baitfish. Hibdon’s followers, and western anglers kept the Garlands busy producing Gitzits, but it still did not enjoy the national reputation it has today. That was when Shaw Grigsby fished with Guido on the St. Johns River in Florida and got a quick lesson in Gitzit fishing.
Shaw’s recollection was that they were sight fishing, and Guido was catching bass after bass using an original 1/16-ounce version of the Gitzit, Guido caught everything he tossed it to. Shaw was a fast convert, and soon used the Gitzit to win two tournaments. From that day forward he’s also been hooked on tubes, often fishing them rigged weed-less, with an internal weight system instead of a jig head. It just goes to show how versatile this bait has become. Shaw likes a 1/16-ounce weight, but sometimes will go up to 1/8-ounce if it is windy. Clear water, tough weather conditions, finicky bass- you will find Shaw fishing a tube. With his popularization of the bait, it is rare to find a modern bass angler who doesn't have some tube baits on his boat or in his tackle bag.
Despite the success of the Gitzit, today’s tubes are a far cry from the original. Modern tubes feature specialized construction sized for fish of all sizes. Tackle makers have developed tubes shaped like frogs, baitfish, lizards and eels, as well as some that require special "rigging", including unique hooks, internal weights and sinkers, and even accommodating a Texas-style setup. I was fishing the tube in strong current and opted for a relatively heavy, half-ounce jig, fatter at the head to resemble a goby. The heavier weight also allowed for longer casts and made sure I quickly was in contact with the bottom. Key areas to fish tubes include secondary points, deep humps, and main lake points and weed edges.
Tubes will often be successful where bass make that “pit stop” to refuel when moving from deep water to shallow and vice versa. In the summer months tubes find success around boat docks, as well as in deep grass beds. Tubes shine in the fall because they imitate so many different types of forage, Whether they are feeding on crayfish, yellow perch, smelt or alewives, bass will hit a tube, so you need to have a variety of sizes and colors. I have used pumpkin and smoke gray, both with a blue to purple flake, as well as a color called “Gobylicious.
Each year, dozens of new soft-plastic tubes hit the market touting unique profiles and fish-catching features. Only a few have become tackle box mainstays. I have had success with Strike King’s Coffee Tubes, but Guido Hibdon’s success was translated into the Luck "E" Strike's G3 and G4 tubes. The late nineties saw Denny Brauer winning regional and national championships flipping Texas rigged coffee tube baits into heavy cover, creating a "tube mania" across the country. Both the Strike King Coffee Tubes, and Guido's Luck "E" Strike Tubes are still among the best tubes on the market.
When it comes to making tubes, there are three factors that make a good one successful. The first is its hollowness. Most soft plastics are solid bodies. A tube is not. Fish are always looking
for something different, and the hollowness of a tube makes it different than other soft-plastics, giving an attractive life-like quality. I don’t add rattles or fish attractant inside my tubes. I want the advantage of the natural fall and the design-intended action. The body/tail relationship is important to give that action. Most baits use a 60% body 40% tentacle tail proportion to achieve the desirable wavering, zigzagging, side-to-side and spiraling action. When it comes to the tentacles, the better tubes have extremely fine cut, quivering tentacles. The softness and
separateness of the tentacles creates life-like vibration in the water. Finely cut tentacles increase the surface area of the bait that is exposed in the water making it "noisier" and increasing the chance of attracting a fish’s attention. Last, but not least, is Roundness. You should look for tube brands that retain their round shape when stored over time. This increases
the chance of getting that natural action that makes tubes so desirable.
Tubes are one of those baits that have been around a long time. Tried and True. Whether you go with the original Gitzit, or adopt one of the later, more refined designs, make sure you have a variety of sizes, weights, and colors to help you #LiveThePassion