‘Yak Strategies: Trolling The Tube & Worm - The Fisherman

‘Yak Strategies: Trolling The Tube & Worm

The seemingly simplistic tube and worm is deadly-effective for heavyweight stripers when trolled behind a kayak.

Trolling tubes from a kayak is a great way to target trophy stripers.

One of my most memorable tube and worm experiences occurred during a teaching opportunity. A buddy asked to learn how to effectively troll structure with a tube and worm. At the time, I was just starting to get into my own comfort zone using this technique and I have to admit, I was a little intimidated to teach someone. What if I didn’t catch?

I was fishing from a Future Beach Angler 144, an Ocean State Job Lot paddle kayak. We planned to meet at a local bridge in Narragansett Bay. Once on the water we deployed our tubes and proceeded to work the bridge piers. I like this location so much that I call it my aquarium. I have caught quite a few species in the target area throughout the years. I was hoping my familiarity would lead to success. On my second or third pass by one of these piers I hooked up and landed a solid 38-inch striped bass. Phew, the pressure was off! I successfully demonstrated how to catch using this proven technique. My buddy had a front row seat and was able to learn how effective the tried and true, tube and worm can be for catching striped bass in our local waters.

The Tube

For me, the tube and worm has proven itself as one of the most productive methods for hooking stripers from my kayak. I don’t just use ‘any’ tube; I have found the best results using the Butchie Built standard tube, made by Butchie Built Custom Tackle. Wine red is my go-to color, although they are made in a variety of colors, I also keep a black on onboard that I will use when I encounter a tough bite.

The Butchie Built standard tube comes in a few weights and sizes, the Standard Tube that I favor, tapes out at close to 24 inches in length. They also offer a Casting Tube that’s a bit smaller at 18 inches in length. These tubes can be purchased in half-ounce or 1-ounce weights. I have used all combinations of color and weights successfully in catching fish throughout the water column. As you become more confident in the method, you may find your confidence colors and weights for your own area, don’t be afraid to experiment.

One of my favorite components of the Butchie Built tube is the Colorado blade threaded onto the wire in front of the tube. When trolling, the blade will spin and vibrate providing constant feedback to the angler. I believe this action is akin to ringing the dinner bell for calling in hungry stripers. But many other species will fall for the tube, I‘ve caught pan-sized scup (porgy), black sea bass and various sizes of bluefish while hunting trophy-sized stripers with these tubes.

At the business end of the tube you’ll find an 8/0 VMC Siwash hook, this is an upgrade over many other manufactures, who use smaller, cheaper hooks. Rumor has it that this upgrade is nicknamed for me after I bent out one of the hooks they used to use on a big fish. I was not the lone ranger as a few other anglers I fish with (Noe and Todd) also managed to match my feat in bending out a hook. But since this upgrade, the new hooks have proven to be reliable, durable and up to the task.

I like to bait my hook with a seaworm. I believe the scent of the worm acts as an attractant in drawing them in and getting them to strike. There are times when using artificial baits can be productive as well. Once again, once you master the basics don’t hesitate to experiment using different baits on your hook.

You’ll really increase your odds of success by using a metered line so that you can know how deep your tubes are trolling.

Gear & Technique

The rod I use for tube and worming is the Ugly Stik Tiger Elite casting rod. This rod measures 7 feet in length, is rated heavy, features a ‘trigger finger’ on the reel seat and a short butt. This makes it easier to handle on the kayak when battling a fish that moves from one side to the other. Most boat rods have a longer butt and can be cumbersome in a kayak. Unfortunately the reel I favor is no longer being produced by Shimano. The Charter Special 1000 is the perfect size for pairing with the Ugly Stik. See sidebar for additional suitable combos. One of its biggest advantages is the ‘line feed’ function, that allows you to let out line with ease. This pays big dividends when fishing the tube at different depths.

Learning where your tube is in the water column is one of the biggest keys to catching fish on them. The line feed, coupled with metered line like PowerPro DepthHunter, can assist in controlling where in the water column you are fishing based on how much line you have out. I do see some anglers having success using spinning rods while trolling tubes, but I have no idea how they can accurately determine how much line they have out to control where in the water column the tube is swimming. The use of a trolling weight, keel, leadcore line and weighted or unweighted tubes will assist in getting lower in the water column; this is why I carry both weights of the Butchie Builts with me at all times. These are advanced techniques to utilize. Start with the basics and master them to control the variables to have fun catching using this effective method.

The summer of 2015 had me transitioning from a paddle kayak to a pedal kayak. To me the Holy Grail of kayaking was the Hobie brand. Hobie introduced the Vantage seat this year and I was ready to pull the trigger and purchase one. The Hobie Mirage drive was already established as the premier drive in pedal kayaks. I participated in a demo day hosted by Monahan’s Marine in Quincy, MA. I put the Hobie Outback and Revolution 13 to the test. Fortunately for me it was a windy day. I favored the handling characteristics of the Revolution over the original style Outback in windy conditions.

The Butchie Built tube features a strong Siwash hook and a Colorado blade that adds flash and vibration to the amazing tube and worm.

Pedal to the Metal

The Hobie Mirage drive transformed my fishing efforts to consistently catching. With the Ugly Stik in my hands, instead of a paddle, and the mirage drive providing propulsion to troll, my catch rate went up significantly. Being able to multitask in a pedal kayak introduced a significant advantage over a paddle kayak. I was able to control my rate of speed and keep it constant, both with and against the tide. Deploying the Butchie Built tube is easier as well, pedaling along while letting line out with my hands. Not to mention the advantages of being able to chase down a drag-pulling striper on the run while fighting the fish on the rod and positioning the kayak to assist in landing a fish. It was clear, right away, that switching to pedal-drive brought only positive enhancements to my fishing and, more importantly, catching.

As noted, the Shimano Charter Special is being phased out, so I tapped in a few friends to offer some alternatives that they use for dragging tubes.

Hardcore kayak fisherman Noe Phommarath prefers the Ugly Stik Tiger Elite, either the 6-1/2-foot MH or the 7-foot H, paired with an Avet LX conventional.

Fisherman author, Todd Treonze prefers a Shimano Saragosa 6000 paired with a Tsunami Trophy 7-foot XH, and for leadcore he uses an Avet MXL paired with a Daiwa Darkwater 6-1/2-foot MH X45.

Dustin Stevens, owner of RI Kayak Fishing Adventures, uses a variety of combos for tubing, he likes the Nexus World Heavy line of rods and pairs them with various reels like Lexa 300, BG 3000 and Saltist from Daiwa, the Vanford 5000 and Torium from Shimano or the Avet LX.

It’s common for the uninitiated to think of trolling as ‘just dragging lures around hoping for a bite’, and that is how some fishermen approach it. But if you want to give yourself the best chances for success you’ll want to find some fishy structure and troll along it. It is important to consider the depth and the direction of the current. Of course, you want your tube to swim right along the structure, as close as possible, but if you don’t take the current into consideration your bait may track into the structure or be swept way out and away from it. The best results come trolling with or against the current so, with the target structure in mind, making long loops along it (down-current and then back against it) will be the best course of action for fishing it thoroughly and will definitely put you in the position to catch more fish.

The Butchie Built Custom Tackle tubes are available to purchase locally in Rhode Island at The Saltwater Edge and The Kayak Centre of RI. Both venues offer online purchases via their websites. If you happen to see me on the water please be sure to say hello and I’d be happy to talk tactics using the tube and worm. See you out there!



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