How to Drag Tubes for Hefty Spring Smallmouths

Drag your way to a trophy prespawn bronzeback

Just because you’re fishing a tube doesn’t mean you need to jig it up and down. Prespawn smallmouths can be sluggish in colder water and are sometimes more interested in slurping a sculpin or crayfish off the bottom than in chasing fast-moving forage up into the water column. This dragging technique has scored some of my heaviest smallies, especially in deeper water with soft bottom where these fish often stage before moving shallow to spawn. Green, brown, and gray tubes work particularly well, as they most closely match the forage species that like to hang out in areas of soft bottom. Squirt some liquid attractant into the tube to make it doubly deadly.

tubes smallmouths
Bumper Bait: A dragging tube stirs the bottom like a spooked crayfish. Steve Sanford

1. Play the Long Game

Position the boat so it will drift over the slope or deep flat you want to target. Make a long cast and let out an extra 20 to 30 feet of line once the tube hits bottom. If there’s no wind, use the trolling motor to create a drift.

2. Kick-Start the Bite

Keep the rod tip low to the water and let the tube drag along the bottom as the boat moves. As the tube bumps across the bottom, it’ll kick up sand and mud like a fleeing crayfish or sculpin.

3. Keep It Tight

When a fish eats, don’t expect a hard slam, but rather a soft bump, then resistance as if you’re snagged. Keeping your line as straight and tight as possible will make strike detection easier.