Soft plastic tube baits are one of the most effective lures there are, next to flies, especially and panfish. They can be molded into any shape you can get, or make a mold for, can have any combination of colors added to them, any combination of scents added, and are less expensive than using live bait. They have incredible action in the water, and since they ‘feel’ soft and alive in a fishes mouth, they are slower to spit them out. Tubes also have the advantage of being 100% weedless, depending on how they are rigged. That means they can be tossed right into heavy cover where the fish live.
A Tube Is Born…
Few baits have had more impact on fishing. Tube-baits were invented and marketed by Bobby Garland in the 1970s as the Gitzit Tube. Originally made for bass, the lure was so successful that it was eventually made in smaller sizes for panfish as well. The style was soon adopted by many lure companies, and now, it is the most popular bait for crappie, and many other species. Sadly, Mr. Garland passed away in 2006 at the age of 67, but his legacy will live on for generations. The Gitzit tube is still one of the top fishing lures of all time, even 40 years later. It has caught just about everything that swims, in any water, anywhere. If I could only have one lure (and it not be a fly or a purple worm), then this would be the one.
Essential Tube Equipment
Tubes are very inexpensive, but some people enjoy the idea of making their own custom lures, and the tube is a good choice to the do-it-yourself-er. The equipment is not expensive, and it is relatively safe, especially when compared to pouring lead jigs and sinkers. There are no toxic fumes, and the plastic cools very quickly. The process is not complicated at all. In fact, if you were a child in the 60s, and had a Creepy Crawler Maker, then you already know the routine. One advantage to making your own is that you can create custom colors that may not be available commercially.
Anytime you work around hot stuff, you should use proper safety equipment. You need a pair work glove, goggles, and an apron. Wear long pants, shoes (not sandals), and a long sleeve shirt. Put the pets, and small children in a safe place in another part of the house, or yard.
The nice thing about modern materials is that you can do this easily in the kitchen, using just a microwave oven. You need a microwave oven, a 2-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup, molds, injectors, soft liquid plastic (called plastisol), coloring, and scent if desired, a place to set the tubes once they have cooled, and a little vegetable oil to lubricate the inside of the molds so the plastisol won’t stick. That’s all you need. The equipment is available from Jann’s Netcraft, and my favorite tube molds come from Del-Mart Molds. There are probably other suppliers, but these are who I prefer. Feel free to explore, and find your favorites.
Tubology 101: Step-by-Step How to make a Tube
Now we are ready to begin:
- Start by getting all your equipment and materials organized so that you can reach them easily.
- Lubricate the inside of the molds you plan to use with a little vegetable oil, then clamp the two halves together. There are some molds that have a built-in injector, and these will clamp with wing-nuts, rather than the standard rubber c-clamps.
- It is very important that your plastisol be well mixed. Shake the bottle for at least 1 minute, then remove the cap, get a stir stick, and stir it for another minute, taking care to scrape the sides and bottom well. You can not over-mix, so err on the side of more.
- Now, pour about 1 cup of plastisol in the Pyrex measuring cup. This will make a dozen or more tubes, depending on the size. Place the Pyrex cup in the microwave for 1-3 minutes on HIGH, depending on your oven power rating. Stop immediately if the plastic start to smoke. This means it is too .
- When the plastisol is done. Remove it from the microwave, ad your color, glitter and scent, and stir gently until it is mixed. You can just drizzle color into the plastisol for a marbled effect. For two or more colors, use two or more cups and injectors, each loaded with a separate color.
- Carefully pour some of the plastisol into the injector until is about ¾ full.
- Place the injector tip into one of the fill hole s on your mold. Hold the mold above the injector so that the cavity fills from the bottom-up.
- Slowly depress the plunger on the injector until the plastisol starts to come out of the top hole.
- If your mold has more than one cavity, continue the process with the other cavities in the mold.
- Set the mold aside to cool. You may now repeat this process with any other molds you have, until you have made all you want. Set them aside to cool.
- When the molds are cool to the touch, carefully and gently separate the halves of the molds, and carefully pull the tubes out. Be careful, because they are still not all the way done, yet, and will be a bit fragile. Set the tubes aside to finish cooling, preferably for 12 hours.
- It is important to keep all of your equipment clean. Clean each mold and put them up properly, clean out the Pyrex, the injectors and everything else. Store the plastisol, colors, scents, and glitter someplace where small children can’t get into it.
Now, you can use them just like the commercially made tubes. With a little practice, there are few limits to the colors and effects you can achieve.