Blurring the lines: Freshwater and Saltwater Tackle

Blurring the lines: Freshwater and Saltwater Tackle
Redfish in thick vegetation are tailor made for a tube jig.
In today's highly specialized world of tackle and gear it seems like there is a bait for every possible situation. Lures have become so refined that the consumer cannot possibly ever catch up unless they have a pocket full of cash and camp out at the local tackle shop. Advertisements hail the latest and greatest most fish-catching lures ever seen by man on every page in the magazines and pop-up ads by the dozens on your favorite fishing website. These ads have a lot of truth behind them; new technology comes along every day as lure manufacturers strive to create the ultimate bait.

I cannot tell you how many times folks on my boat ask - What's your favorite bait? What's your go-to bait? If you could fish with only one bait what would it be? And there are or any number of other queries that probe one's fondness for a particular size, style and brand of offering. The conversation tends to run its course after a few minutes and then invariably it turns into a session of reminiscing baits popular in the past. Endless war stories of big fish caught on the Jumpin' Minnow, Queen Cocahoe, or Jointed Rapala Oh, the good old days.

Now it's one thing to have to worry about saltwater tackle and it's quite another to worry about freshwater tackle, and then there's worrying about both at the same time. Anglers on the upper coast of Texas are both blessed and cursed with this situation by having fresh and salt water so close in proximity to one another. Fishermen who frequent Sabine Lake really have more choices to deal with, thanks to the brackish water that surrounds this coastal hot spot. In an effort to share a little knowledge, that hopefully will allow you to catch more fish, this is what I have found.

Over the years many anglers have been searching for a bait that produces well in both environments and the one that has certainly proven its worth is the tube jig. For many years the tube jig has been a consistent producer for freshwater anglers, particularly in clear water venues where tournament fishermen like to finesse these baits. Tube jigs have been Carolina rigged, Texas rigged, flipped, and pitched for largemouth and smallmouth bass all over the country. Sabine River anglers have been catching striped bass on these lures during the winter for quite some time. Not surprisingly, this array of presentations produces plenty of redfish and largemouth as well. The resemblance between the tube jig and a crawfish or shrimp is as undeniable as the results they provide.

Now we all know the merits of the tube jig in freshwater, what most folks don't know is how good this bait performs in saltwater. During one particular outing in the vast marshes around Sabine while searching for redfish, I became a tube jig convert. My clients were having a terrible time trying to get the redfish to eat. No matter what they tried the redfish would not cooperate. In an attempt to solve the puzzle I rigged a 3" tube jig weedless on a spinning rod and began to absolutely crush the redfish. The subtle presentation of the tube was
entirely more than the redfish could stand, even fish that had been spooked would pick up the tube as they swam off. After that eye opening trip I rarely ever venture out without a supply of these versatile lures.

Tube jigs come in two basic types, hollow body and solid body and each one catches fish. I personally prefer the hollow body style because I can rig it more ways than the solid body. The hollow body tube works great, especially when you stuff the cavity with foam or cotton and soak that with fish attractant.

One of the first guides I ever saw fishing this bait was TSFMag's Dickie Colburn. Dickie took his extensive knowledge of freshwater fishing and applied it to saltwater where he quickly adapted his tube fishing techniques. While fishing light line with tube jigs, Colburn basically rewrote the book on flounder fishing in the Sabine area, and he was using this technique long before other so-called experts ever had a clue.

There are endless ways to rig the tube jig and that is certainly one of the reasons it's such a great bait. It can be rigged with a standard jig head leaving the hook exposed, Texas rigged with a slip sinker, weedless on an offset hook, on spinner baits to offer a bulkier profile, on Florida-style hooks that have weight molded around the shank, or even weedless-weightless for super subtle presentations to spooky fish.

My personal favorite method for rigging the tube is weedless on a Florida-style hook. Rigged in this fashion it is perfect for negotiating nearly any vegetation found in the marshes and back lakes. The weight on the shank helps get the bait down through the grass to feeding redfish that may be oblivious to other offerings that remain suspended overhead. Being able to not only cast the bait a good distance, have it swim weedless, and still be subtle enough to drop on the nose of a redfish without spooking it is a tough combination to beat in my opinion. Also add in the fact that you can keep fish attractants on your lure longer with the aid of foam or cotton inserted into the body of the tube and you can see why this bait performs so well.

For many anglers who rarely venture away from the saltwater, the thought of using the tube jig may sound farfetched and a little off-base but it's far from that. Who would have thought years ago that spinner baits would be made for saltwater and that redfish and trout would eat a frog? Adapting a lure to fit your environment is always exciting because of the new opportunities that are created from the experience. Every angler is looking for an edge and more often than not that edge comes from something simple, something as simple as a stroll down the freshwater aisle at your local tackle shop. Give it a shot next time you go shopping, you may be the one who is telling others about a new way to catch fish next time rather than listening to someone else do the same thing.