Smallmouth bass with a soft plastic tube bait in it's mouth.

How about the tubes? As far as overall fish caught, I bet the tube numbers would be a little surprising. It has a bit of an advantage over the others. Though still primarily thought of as a bass lure, it has effectively expanded to target other species. It’s now a popular option from panfish to lake trout, and its applications continue to grow due to its natural, lifelike appeal. Somehow though, the tube got pigeonholed for a bit, into the position of a Great Lakes deepwater smallmouth bait. It’s understandable, as it absolutely shines in this application. But even in this capacity, it fell out of favor for a bit due to the popularity of the drop shot but has justifiably returned to a leading role.

I think everyone would agree on the effectiveness of soft plastic lures in their ability to catch fish. And among the countless shapes and sizes of plastics, it would probably be a difficult task to pick a particular lure as the all-time reigning champion of fish caught. A simple action-tailed worm would be tough to bet against. With the soft plastic stickbait craze not showing any signs of ending anytime soon, I’m sure its numbers are pretty impressive.

I’ll confess to being a bit of a tube junkie. Tubes never lost my interest, and whether I’m fishing crappies, smallmouth, largemouth, walleyes, or lake trout, I almost always have a tube rigged. I’ve recently added the Northland Mimic Minnow Tuff Tube to my tube toolkit, for good reason. Due to its construction, it has some unique qualities.

For starters, it’s not plastic. It’s constructed of silicone, which offers several advantages. For one, silicone makes a unique canvas for color, so there are some color options available that you won’t find in other tubes, with a dozen colors total. Included are a couple of perch patterns, including glow, that those of us up in the north country love. There are plenty of traditional colors as well, like a perfect green pumpkin, and some killer fluorescents – lookout walleyes. A few of the colors just scream lake trout. Silicone also means “clean” tails. I don’t even want to think about how much time I spend separating plastic tube tails to get the proper action. The silicone tails are all cleanly disconnected from one another, and there are far more of them for additional action. Possibly the biggest benefit of the Mimic Minnow Tuff Tube is its crazy durability. On a preseason trip to Rainy Lake this spring, I was catching dozens of smallmouth, some bonus walleyes, and the occasional pike on a single tube. Even when you eventually lose a few tails, there are so many of them that the action and profile are unaffected.

Tuff Tubes come rigged with a Northland Inner-Tube Jig, and its four available sizes cover a multitude of species. The 1-1/2 inch panfish size is becoming a favorite crappie bait of mine. I still get a kick out of catching a limit of crappies on one bait without having to change a body. The 2-1/2 and 3-1/2-inchers are both perfect for smallmouth and walleyes, and I love the 3-1/2’s and 4-1/2’s for weed line largemouths. The 4-1/2 also serves well in lake trout applications.

In a time when application-specific baits and techniques are extremely popular, the tube’s simplistic action and versatility remain their strong point. As mentioned previously, it excels in deep water, yet is equally effective in shallow water. It’s a go-to of mine for covering water on rock flats for smallmouth, particularly when they refuse to look at a hard bait. It works regardless of flat depth, and on all moods of fish. It’s the ultimate soft search bait and a staple on my deck for pre-fishing bass tournaments. I often opt for a heavier than normal head in this application for two reasons, with the first being speed. With more weight, I can fish the bait faster at any depth, and cover more water in search of fish. The second reason is versatility. With a heavy tube, I can crack it quickly across a shallow flat, rifle it a distance at an isolated target, parallel it along the edge of a break, and allow it to fall down the break to the base if I graph a fish. A tube does so much so well, I can effectively fish an entire piece of structure top to bottom, without ever picking up another rod off the deck.

Due to the extreme durability of the Mimic Minnow Tuff Tube, I can be more efficient than ever. Less rerigging and retying, and if I want to add a heavier or lighter Inner-Tube Jig, I simply wet the bait and pull the old jig out, and pop the new one in. It’s easily done without the slightest tear to the tube.

The Mimic Minnow Tuff Tube is an effective new twist on one of the greatest fish catchers of all time and has earned a place in my tube trays.

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