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Monday, 27 May 2013 20:10

Tennessee’s Tubular & Topwater Transition

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I’ve only recently switched over and dedicated myself to fishing lures instead of live bait. I’ve also recently partnered up with a masterful angler who is willing and able to share years of knowledge with me that I’m delighted to be able to pass along to anyone who will listen. After only this spring learning to love and appreciate the versatility and functionality of the jig, and with water temperatures warming to over 70°F here in middle Tennessee it’s time to set the jig aside and switch technique.

Time for soft plastics and more specifically, the tube.

black neon tube rig

People laugh when they see the size of the rigs I pull out to fish the river. They think anything over 2” is absolutely obscene and should be reserved for the lake. My time with fellow river rat Joey Monteleone (who has pulled up many, many 5lb + bass from the river) has taught me to believe… and to equip my arsenal with “monsters baits” such as the 4.5” Strike King “Flip N’ Tube” (shown above in Black Neon, with a 3/8oz slip sinker and a 4/0 Daiichi “Copperhead) hook), which is absolutely stellar in water ranging from very to moderately stained. A red bead between the slip sinker and bait helps protect the knot, and adds color and subtle sound. Lighter, more natural colors like watermelon red flake are good choice for clearer water conditions. People generally stop laughing when they see the size of the fish I’ve managed to coax from the river using a few simple techniques.

A brief primer:

  • How – Better to let the slip sinker truly ‘slip’ – when the fish takes the tube, instead of feeling the weight of the sinker (if it were pegged or knotted in place), the fish can move off with the bait, which gives a more natural feel and increases the odds of getting a good hook set. Braided line gives a big advantage, as with most “feel” baits, in its ability to transmit all underwater sensation directly from line to angler (in addition to being able to wrest the bait through the rough stuff).
  • Where – Weed growth is explosive right now, presenting the opportunity to work newly formed secondary structure. Tubes excel under, in, and around the kind of cover that gives crankbaits and other treble-hooked devices the quakes.
  • When – Water temperatures above 70°F.
  • Technique – Look for edges and run the bait parallel. Cast, flip or pitch to cover and let the bait drop. Instead of a “puff-puff-puff settle” technique as with the jig, the tube is more of a “dancing” motion. Keep the rod at the 10 o’clock position and pop more sharply on the bait than you would with the jig. Create a more vertical presentation, work through the rough stuff, and don’t be afraid to get into the nasty stuff.



The crawfish have emerged; when you see these pillars of dirt, you know it’s time to hang up the cold water techniques (no matter how entrenched in them you might be) in favor of soft plastics and buzz baits.

I caught my first buzz bait bass of the season working (surprise surprise) the edge of weeds, right along the shoreline. The explosive nature of the topwater bite is a beautiful thing. Be sure to lift your rod just as your bait hits the water to take slack out of the line and get your lure in motion – creating that initial motion with the reel can wreak all manner of havoc on your gear. Now that the bait is in motion, KEEP IT in motion! A retrieve steady enough to maintain position just above the surface and worked along edges will absolutely drive bass mad and bring strikes from heavy cover.


Additional Random Tips: What you see - a bass moving off structure in a straight line. They’ve seen something they don’t like. Can still be caught. A bass moving off erratically? They’ve heard something they don’t like. Much harder to catch. Lesson? Always be ninja. Bridgett in her (stealthy) bright yellow kayak will catch more fish than Thunderous Thom in his camo’d up kayak.

Here in middle Tennessee rivers where the water is over 70°F, the crappie bite in Stones River is slow. They’re post-spawn, sulky, scattered, and have moved to deeper water. I think a lot of our river bass will be on bed next moon. Bluegill are becoming more active and ready to spawn within the next month.

The window is narrow for the pre-spawn bass bonanza - GO GET BIT!

Little fish lie. Big fish hold the secrets.


Read 7072 times Last modified on Monday, 27 May 2013 20:25

Bridgett Howard

Smallmouth of south-central Pennsylvania and salmon of upstate New York stimulated a lifelong love of fishing in me. River-bound year-round, I'm a huge fan of middle Tennessee’s Stones River and an unabashed River Rat. I love to prove that big fish live in skinny water, and crappie & largemouth are among my favorite quarry.

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+2 # Ken Blake 2013-05-28 10:30
Thanks for the lesson. Planning to head out later this week & will give the rig and technique a try.
+1 # FishinChix 2013-05-28 10:37
Love your writing style Bridgett! I hope to read more of your article on here!
+1 # smj190 2013-05-28 15:44
Great article! Get's me excited to do some river fishing!
+1 # klmccllg 2013-05-28 22:20
Awesome article. I have been a fan of Joey for a while from both TN Wildside and the Nashville Boat Show. Sounds like y'all make a great team. Maybe I'll see y'all on the Stones sometime.
# Iyaoyas 2013-05-29 02:23
Great article!
+1 # TennCreekBridges 2013-05-29 12:57
Aw, thanks guys! Glad you're going to try out new techniques Ken, that's what it's all about! I'm ALWAYS excited to do some river fishing, personally, and Joey is an INCREDIBLE fisherman and steward of the outdoors. I can't say enough good things of him, and his lessons are absolutely invaluable.
# FishinChix 2013-05-30 05:58
What a wonderful article, very well written! When can we expect more from you? :-)
# Jugbutt 2013-06-10 11:02
Thanks for the info!! :lol:
# Matt Trucks 2013-07-02 22:00
Very cool Article Bridgett!! Nice work!
# Westwindmike 2013-08-12 13:33
Thanks for the tips! See you on the Stones!

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