by Mike Hogan
Usually a new design starts with an attempt to solve a problem. It could be any problem ranging from how to attach a circle hook to a soft-bait so it doesn’t go flying off to how to weight a small sand eel so you can fish it deep.
In this case, the problem I needed to solve was a little case of nostalgia. One day about a couple of years ago, I was reflecting of my old tube and worm days.
As a young angler, I was blessed to get jobs on many of the local charter boats and party boats. I spent a lot of time at the mouth of Falmouth Harbor. The owners of Patriot Party Boats were my second family. I put in a lot of days working on those boats. So many in fact, at the end of first summer as first mate, my tips amounted to enough to buy a 13’ Boston Whaler.
The next summer I spent all my free time bouncing off every rock in Woods Hole. One of my greatest fishing memories was the day John Christian, a local charter captain legend (and giant to me) was fishing in the same spot as I was. At that point, I had spent a lot of time working on boats so I knew my place in the pecking order and did my best to stay out of his way. He was working and I was not.
To my surprise, he came toward me in his boat. I thought I was in his way, so I kept driving away from him, but he kept coming. My first thought was that I did something wrong.
“Hey Mike, you’re fishing everything all wrong!”
(Holy crap, he knew my name! He must have met me Eastman’s Sport and Tackle.)
“The tide is so strong right now, your tube is practically water skiing from the tide.
(Damn, I know that didn’t seem right, man am I embarrassed. I continued to say nothing)
“Here, take one of my tubes, troll down tide, hug the edge of the channel. Keep a short line when you’re shallow, let more out when it drops off. If you get a hit, DON’T set the hook for heaven’s sake. Let it take some line and reel it. When you get to the red can, reel in and start all over.
(Double holy crap! I just got a lesson for the tube n’ worm master.) I was crawling out of my skin with excitement. He did his pass and I followed suit. About half way through the run, I hooked up with about a 40-inch striper, easily my biggest fish ever by a lot that I caught truly all by my self. I can still remember my leg shaking uncontrollably. It wouldn’t stop. (Man I love fishing) I managed to compose myself and looked up, and there was John Christian in his famous and now vintage Aquasport.
“Nice job kid. Go do it again.”
It’s memories like that one that make fishing such a wonderful sport. While I’m not even sure he would remember that morning, I’ll never forget it. I learned how to fish both a spot and a fishing lure. Each technique has its own time and place. And on here in Cape Cod, the tube and worm is a go-to lure for the dog days of summer.
My latest design started a couple of years ago at Pie in the Sky, a local bakery/coffee shop in Woods Hole that opens at 3 a.m. I saw John and I enjoyed hearing him talk about tubing and I recalled my lesson. It had been over a decade since I fished a tube and I had a craving! And those who know me, also know I can’t leave well enough alone! So I got to work.
I was amazed at how many different reactions I got to the tube and worm when I queried my friends about what made good tube design. Some would make fun of the lure saying that it is too easy to catch fish on them. Others would complain that the gear was too heavy to be sporting while others loved the tube. Most interestingly, almost all my friends had a good fishing memory in there somewhere.
The other thing I noticed was how little the tube has evolved since it was first trolled. To the uninitiated, the tube and worm can appear to be a very elementary lure. It still has the same basic elements as it did when it was invented: Tube, swivel, hook and wire. (Some have lead weights.)
However, there are indeed some nuances that can improve its effectiveness. A tube must have a great action that entices fish. It must also be constructed of components that will handle big fish.
I started with perfecting the perfect bend, which is essential. After all, a tube isn’t any good if a fish won’t eat it.
The perfect bend: The tube must have the perfect sinuous swimming action to work at its peak level. There are plenty of people who claim that it’s all about the worm. I wholeheartedly disagree. To those naysayers, I ask: Why is there always one tube in the bunch that out-fishes the rest? In my opinion, it has to be the action.
Goal #1: Design a tube that swims perfectly, right out of the package. So every tube can be that “perfect” tube.
Solution: Make the perfect shape and send it off to be replicated. We also thought it should be 200-pound test!
Notes: It took a while to perfect the bend. One of the things I noticed was how the length of the tube impacted the action. The shorter the tube, the faster it spun. We tinkered and tinkered to find the right combination of length and bend. We settled on 24.5 inches. At that length combined with the perfect bend the tube moved in the slow, deliberate way we wanted, almost appearing to be flexing (but of course it wasn’t!). After watching underwater video of the tube swimming, we were really pleased at how much the tube looked like an eel.
The perfect hook: In my opinion, almost all commercially available tubes have a hook with not enough gap. If you’ve fished tubes, you know that fish can easily shake the hook with all that rubber dangling in front of them. You need a hook that allows a shake or two. Stripers often hit in the head, so you are counting on the fish sliding down the tube and finding the hook. And that hook needs to be “lazer sharp”!
Goal # 2: Crazy sharp hook, with enough gap to keep a hooked fish, hooked!
Solution: Use our top shelf Standard Issue 10/0 Assist Hooks made with Mustad Hoodlum series.
Notes: We tried all kinds of hooks. We wanted a hook that was strong enough for a world record striper, but not so thick that penetration would be an issue on medium sized fish. (We’re quite happy to miss the small ones!) On the day of our latest trial, our SI Assist Hooks came in. Five minutes later the 10/0 Assist Hook was crimped on. We tested it, and landed fish all day.
Components: Tubes often have inadequate hardware. This is problematic because tubes are known to cause line twist, due to the very nature of how they swim. They get used hard and catch very big fish. Not to mention lobster pots, bottom and other stuff. Plus, they often are put away wet without being rinsed off with fresh water.
Goal #3: Design a tube that can take the abuse.
Solution: All ball bearing, rust resistant 200-pound test components.
Notes: We started by attaching our stinger hook with 1.9 mm crimps and 200-pound mono to the wire form. Worked fine. That is… until I hooked my tube to the metal lure hanger on the butt of my rod. The two dissimilar metals had a reaction and the hook began to rust very quickly. While many black nickel finish hooks are very sharp out of the package, they don’t re-sharpen well once they get exposed to abrasion and are exposed to salt water. We also attached the 225-pound test ball bearing swivel in the nose. The hook was fine, but the overall look was too “home made.” I wanted to swap it out. As a result, I added a Backlash 150-pound test snap. This would allow the hook to be changed quickly and easily while still retaining both strength and durability. Lastly, we hog clipped the tube to the swivel to mitigate any slipping. The ball bearing swivel was obvious to me. I can’t believe how many tubes are out there without one. Got line twist any one?
And there you have it. As they say, nothing new under the sun these days. But we can make things better! I’m sure my design will evolve; just about everything in our line-up has over the years.
Time to get back to solving the head strike issue on my casting tubes that are next on the drawing board… We’re missing fish on the proto-type! Ah, R an’ D. The hardest part of my job…