"Raw Thumb" article, As Prepared by Armstrong Outfitters Professional Guide Service.

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Kirk R. Armstrong

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"TU-BE or not tu-be, are you using them, that is the question?!"

Kirk R. Armstrong

March, 2002

Old man winter is backing up to the push of Spring and with that comes BIG BASS FEVER. You know it is here when you turn you’re A/C on in the truck just to take the edge of the heat off when the truck has been sitting in the parking lot of Bass Pro Shops and you just spent $35.00 on spinner baits and flipping tubes. The flipping tube is probably one of the best pre-spawn and spawn baits there is. It can be fished Texas rigged, Carolina rigged, weightless, as a jig trailer, on a spinner bait head, as a jerk bait, stuffed with Styrofoam and fished as a top water, the uses are almost endless. These baits not only catch fish they catch big fish! Tubes can be fished anywhere any other flipping bait is used and in some cases can be rigged and fished like no other bait. Two of the hottest tubes on the market are the MIZMO tube company’s 4 and 5-inch mega Bass tubes and the Mad Man Mooneyham Craw Tubes. Both of these baits present the versatility of a tube and the uniqueness to present something different to the fish. Something different presented to the fish is very important in today’s industry as fish WILL become conditioned to the same ‘ole offerings over and over again.

First Stop - Spring time brings the big females in to stage at the mouths of the creeks and coves as the water temperatures rise to the low to mid 50’s. This is when the Mizmo tubes in the 5 inch size in white / pepper, rainbow and baby bass can be fished along the timber or rocks of that first break line. I like to use a Lake Fork Trophy Tackle tungsten weight in 5/16 or _ and push a rattle up inside the bait and pack behind it some cotton. This will keep the rattle in place and can also be used as a scent reservoir. I think the rattle is important as it allows the fish to find the bait easier and the small tick from a tube weight resembles the snapping of a crawfish tail or flicking of a shad tail. If I am not using a rattle it is because the water may be clearer than normal and then I will rig the Mizmo tube on one of their "insider" hooks. These hooks are awesome, very strong, and have the weight built onto the shank right between the 90 bend and the hook eye. This way when the fish eats the bait it’s all bait and all hook. No weight for the fish to feel because it is inside the tube. The big Mizmo 5 inch tubes in the aforementioned shad colors are just what these bigger fish are looking for to beef up on before they nest. This first break line will usually be from 5-10 feet depending upon the impoundment and as the water warms up it will take at least 3-7 days before the fish will pull into shallower spawning flats. This is due to the fact that many times the fish are looking for consistency in the water temps before they commit themselves to the shallow spawning waters. Many times here in the North Texas areas the many cold fronts that pop up on us affect our spawns. The safety of this first break line allows the fish to retreat to deeper water and suspend if necessary and then as the front passes through and the water warms again, they start the whole process over again. For best results flipping tubes I use braided line exclusively, Power Pro 30 or 50 pound test. Why chance a break off on mono or fluorocarbon when this is the best time to catch that lunker!? I will also beef up my hooks to the Gamakatsu or Owner heavy weight super line hooks. This time of year you are only as good as your equipment and you never know which bite will be a double digit.

On lakes like Ray Roberts, I have seen the spawn last well into the late May or June months due to weather related circumstances. I have also seen cold fronts drop the water temperatures as much as 7-10 degrees in a 24 hour period. As much as these weather circumstances irritate us and disrupt our fishing the also affect the fish themselves. However, suspended cold front bass are another story and another time. As for the rods, use a SENSITIVE rod! You need one that if the fish breathes on it you will know it. The Allstar Titanium AST 787 series rods are awesome and very light and strong. They also have titanium line guides that allow that Power Pro braid to ZIP through the eyes.

Second Stop – As the water warms from the mid 50’s to the low to mid 60’s you will notice the fish pull from the first break line into the edges of the flats and shoreline coves. Here the fish will have a voracious appetite and the Mixmo 4 inch tubes in dark greens, blues, and pumpkin colors will really work well. I like to tip the tassels of the green shaded baits chartreuse, as it will mimic a blue gill or perch. The brown shaded baits or pumpkin baits I will dip the tassels orange or red as it resembles a mini-lobster dinner to the bass. The Mad Man Mooneyham tubes will work great here as well. I like to rig these on a jig head with a WIDE GAP hook on it and stuff the head if the jig inside the MMM tube and poke the eyelet out the top of the tail. I will then skin hook it and flip it just like a jig. If the water is stained heavily, then each bait gets an internal or external rattle and I will predominately fish black and blue or chartreuse pepper. This is when and where your biggest fish can be caught. I like to add a scent attractant to all my soft plastics, but the Mizmo tubes have such an abundance of salt in them it may not always be necessary to use an attractant.

In the beds – Anyone that has "gotten into bed with a double digit bass" will admit it is a religious experience. Not to mention a true test of patience and angling skill. As the water temps further increase, usually into the high 60’s, these big fish will move onto the beds and sit until they drop their eggs and fertilization takes place. This is where sight fishing and patience and SKILL come into play. At this point I usually have changed my line to fluorocarbon, 20-25 pound test and use the insider hook I mentioned before. All I want the fish to see and feel is the bait itself. This insider hook will work on any tube bait and it works exceptionally well on the MMM tube. I also like the way a tube releases air bubbles when first pitched upon the bed and you lightly shake it. Many times I will stuff a piece of alka-seltzer into the tube and pitch it on the tube and just let it sit. The bubbling and fizzing is usually to much for the big girl to handle and she sucks it up to remove the problem.

When planning to fish the spring spawn, plan well ahead and transition your fishing with the fish. As you feel the weather warming and your fishing itch growing so do these big females. They are getting the itch to get shallow find a boyfriend and dump some eggs. Transition your fishing with them and you will be amazed at what you can learn in a very short period of time. Not to mention possibly catch the lunker of a lifetime while you are at it. Keep in mind that these fish are procreating to make baby bass so please do not harvest a trophy bass this time of year, photos and measurements will get you an awesome replica that will last forever and look GREAT!

Until next time, be safe, smart, and God Bless, "Raw Thumb"

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