It's tough to argue with the success of FLW Tour and Series pro Dave Lefebre. This Pennsylvania angler has fished the FLW Tour only 4 years, but has made the championship each of those seasons.

It would be easy to peg him as a smallmouth specialist, which he is, but the larger picture shows he's just as strong on southern waters. A win at the 2004 Old Hickory event, and a 3rd in 2003 at the Atchafalaya Basin prove it.

That said, he's beyond doubt one of the best smallmouth fishermen to emerge in recent years. If there's a Lake Erie tournament, he's virtually a lock for a Top 10.

A curious note about his smallmouth tackle is that, even though he's from the North, he never fishes with a spinning rod. He's a casting guy all the way.

Also of note is he was the first pro Setyr rods ever signed to its pro staff. He's been instrumental in the development of their rods – especially the flipping stick. That's because he's always thinking – always analyzing his mechanics and how to improve them.

In this Pro Fishing Tip, he analyzes a key smallmouth techniques that many anglers struggle with – deep tubes – and discusses how to improve your hookup, and strike-to-land, ratios.

The Long Rod

Lefebre lives close to the Pennsylvania shore of Lake Erie, where he's spent years refining his tube technique. He noted that anglers struggle with a few things when tube-fishing for smallmouths.

"It doesn't matter how perfect you are, you're still going to lose fish when you're using this technique," he said. "That means you have to pay even more attention to what you're doing, because every fish means so much."

About 3 years ago, he began an experiment and went to an overtly long smallmouth rod. He eventually settled on the right stick – a 7'10" Setyr casting rod (remember, he doesn't use spinning gear). It's a medium-action rod with a fast tip, but the way he explained it, it fishes more like a true medium after he hooks up, which is key.

"It's not totally a moderate action," he said. "It's just one of those things I can't explain, other than to say that the guys at Setyr really know what they're doing. They call it a fast-action rod, and when you're fishing it seems like a fast-action, but when you hook up, it kind of changes to more of a true medium. That helps soften the runs and lunges smallmouth take."

He likes the long rod because he often hooks up far away from the boat, and aggressive smallmouths have a tendency to swim toward him with the bait. The long rod lets him pick up line both as he reels, and as he steps backward to catch up with the fish.

"The long rod also comes into play when you're hooked up and fighting the fish," he added. "When it jumps, you can get the tip down further, and when it gets to the boat and lunges, the long rod is a lot more forgiving."

Long Equals Lighter

Anglers who might blush at using a smallmouth rod that's nearly 8 feet long might change their mind when it comes to line choice. The longer rod allows Lefebre to step down to 6-pound line, which can be the deciding factor in calm or pressured conditions.

"I've gone down to 6-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon for almost all of my smallmouth tube-fishing," he said. "Yes, I'm always messing with my drag on the baitcaster, but the long rod allows me to fish that lighter line.

"Fluorocarbon is a low-stretch line, and smallmouths run and lunge a lot during the fight, but again, the long rod absorbs a lot of that."

Side Set

In terms of a hookset, Lefebre never sets the hook with the rod straight over his head – he swings to the side. And a quick reaction isn't of the essence.

"When a smallmouth picks it up, I'm not worried about a lightning-fast hookset," he said. "Usually, you have a little time to pick up the slack and really give it a good Carolina-rig-style hookset – sweeping it to the side.

"And it usually involves a little jogging – running back a little to take up the slack as a fish swims toward you. You just want to make sure you don't have any slack at all."

And if he does sink the hook, he'll often set again, just to be sure. "I especially do that if I have to step back and take up a lot of line. Sometimes you don't get the hook all the way in at first. And remember that a lot of times, the biggest fish feel small at first, so make sure you give it an extra pump to button up every single fish."

When You Miss

The final key to setting the hook comes when you miss, which happens quite often. According to Lefebre, too many anglers have the tendency to reel in quickly then throw back out. That's a major no-no.

"If I set the hook and miss, I immediately start peeling off a ton of line," he said. "I want the bait to stay exactly where it was, because 95% of the time they'll hit it again. And if I miss again, 95% of the time they'll hit it a third time. It may be the same fish, or another smallmouth trying to get the bait away from the first fish.

"So when I whiff on one, I don't keep dragging the tube. I just peel off a lot of line and let it sit."


> A selection of Setyr rods are available at the BassFan store. To view the selection, click here. For more information about Setyr, or to order a catalog, call: (541) 956-2086.