With either head style, he stresses the need for angler control; particularly as it relates to boat motion. In low to moderate waves, the boat’s rise and fall imparts strategic action on a dead-sticked tube. Just don’t let it become unruly.
“If it’s really wavy and your bait’s moving up and down too much, you have to adjust with your rod,” he said. “Sometimes, you can adjust by pitching your bait farther out so your bait is less vertical. But the problem you run into is that if you’re fishing around snaggy cover, the more likely you’re going to get snagged.
“You want to keep the bait in your control, because if the boat is bouncing up and down 3 feet, that doesn’t look natural. But if you’re dragging it around and every now and then you dart it up, that looks natural because that’s what a goby does.”
Pipkens fishes his tubes on 12-pound Sunline SX braid with a 10-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon leader. This setup facilitates long casts, minimizes visibility, repels harsh bottom interaction and allows for snappy hook sets.
“You gotta get the fish in the boat,” he said. “A tube is not like a drop shot where only the weight is in contact with the bottom; a tube is in direct contact with the bottom. If you’re fishing it around rocks there’s a good chance your line is rubbing on rocks, so you have to check your line often for frays.”
Despite the temptation of horsing big smallmouth on baitcasting gear, Pipkens only tubes with spinning gear. Essential, he said, is a softer rod.
“If you hook a big smallmouth with this big weight, something has to give,” he explains. “With a heavy rod, you’re going to tear their mouth. Also, they have bony mouths, so once I lay into him a couple times, I can back off and let that softer rod do the work and absorb the shock.
“That way, when they give you those big head shakes, the hook’s not going to fall free. We can’t use nets (on the Elite Series), so you might as well let them be tired when they get to the boat. Even if you’re using a net, it’s a lot easier to net a fish when he’s floating at the surface.”