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The Wacky Jig Debate

by Ned Kehde   |  January 1st, 2014 4

A wacky rigged Z-Man's Hula StickZ

A wacky rig and wacky jig hasn’t played an important role in the repertoire of Midwest finesse anglers that ply the flatland reservoirs that stipple the countryside of northeastern Kansas.

We addressed one of the limitations of using a wacky jig in a blog entitled “The Wacky Jig,” which we posted on Nov. 2, 2011.

In that blog, we wrote: “During the late winter of 2007-08 and early spring of 2008, we gathered a lot of information about the wacky jig. Some of it Steve Quinn used in an In-Fisherman story.

“Back then we and many other anglers and observers thought that the wacky jig was on the threshold of becoming a major tool with finesse anglers. But as of yet, it has not become the lure we thought it would be. One of the factors that has kept its popularity at bay is that it necessitates an extremely slow presentation. In fact, it’s so slow that those finesse anglers who want to catch at least 10 bass an hour say that it prevents them reaching that 10-bass-an-hour average. Nevertheless, when the bass are extremely tentative and catching them is a trying ordeal, the wacky jig can be a useful tool.”

In an Aug. 8, 2012, blog entitled “Finesse News Network’s Gear Guide: Shin Fukae’s Wacky Head, an update,” we wrote about the trying fishing some of our children and grandchildren encountered during our annual vacation in Minnesota. During this vacation, we partially solved some of our piscatorial frustrations by dressing Shin Fukae’s 1/16-ounce Gamakatsu G-Finesse Series Wacky Jig Head with either a four-inch Z-Man’s Fishing Products’ green- pumpkin or watermelon-red Finesse WormZ.  But since that vacation, we haven’t worked with a wacky jig or any kind of wacky rig.

This is the wacky rig we used in Minnesota.

But on Nov. 24, Ron Yeomans of Overland Park, Kansas, reported on the Finesse News Network about two strip-pit outings in November, when he and a friend used wacky jigs to inveigle 157 largemouth bass. Yeoman closed his report by saying that he thought there might be some interest among other Midwest finesse anglers in trying this technique. And many anglers on the Finesse News Network agreed.

Yeomans said the largemouth bass bite initially was extremely intermittent. They caught a few largemouth bass on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ and Z-Man’s PB&J Hula StickZs that were rigged on a 1/6-ounce Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head Jigs. They also caught a couple of largemouth bass on a 1/8-ounce red Road Runner dressed with a two-inch white grub. The lackluster bite, however, motivated Yeoman’s friend to wacky rig a five-inch ZinkerZ on one rod and four-inch Hula StickZ on another rod, and straightaway, he began eliciting strikes and catching largemouth bass, which prompted Yeomans to commence wielding a wacky jig.

Yeomans used a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a No. 4 hook for his wacky presentation. His friend used two different jigs: a 1/8-ounce Cabela’s Round Jighead and 1/8-ounce Gopher Jig.  Yeomans said the size and style of their jigs were inconsequential.

They worked with two different ZinkerZ colors: PB&J and purple haze, and they used a PB&J Hula StickZ.

A purple-haze ZinkerZ rigged wacky-style on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Yeomans says he normally uses a blue 1/16-0unce Gopher jig rather than the red one in this photograph.

Yeomans’ report spawned a minor debate on the Finesse News Network. It began on Nov. 25 when Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, wrote about his experiences with wacky rigging a ZinkerZ on a jig, noting that he has wacky rigged the same five-inch rendition of the ZinkerZ that Yeomans and his friend used. Poe has also wacky rigged a half of a ZinkerZ, and he said that the 2 ½-incher is “one ugly bait.” He also noted that the wacky rigged 2 ½-incher did not generate any more bites than the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ rigged the normal or straightway on a Gopher jig.

Poe also pointed out that one of the woes that confounds anglers who wacky rig soft-plastic baits is that they are fragile and a donnybrook with one bass can tear them asunder or easily jettison them when it jumps and summersaults in the air. Poe suggested that frugal Midwest finesse anglers might want to put an O-ring around the middle of a ZinkerZ, and that is because he has found that a wacky rigged ZinkerZ is as fragile as a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Senko, which is an extremely fragile soft-plastic bait. Some anglers, however, are reluctant to use an O-ring on a ZinkerZ or Hula StickZ because they are made out of ElaZtech, and an O-ring that is made out of PVC would deform the ZinkerZ and Hula StickZ. But Poe said the O-rings he used didn’t disfigure his ZinkerZs, but he removed the O-rings from the ZinkerZ at the end of each outing.

Gord Pyzer of Kenora, Ontario, agreed with Poe, saying on Nov. 25 that he uses “O-rings, shrink wrap, and various other rigging techniques with Z-Man products, and they have had no immediate affect on them.” But he noted the O-rings and shrink wrap would deform the ElaZtech baits if an angler left them on the baits for an extend period.

After Poe and Pyzer’s comments circulated on the Finesse News Network, Yeomans responded, saying that he and his friend did not encounter any problems with the bass tearing up the ZinkerZ and Hula StickZ. In fact, they landed 157 largemouth bass and tangled with scores more that they failed to land on these outings, and after all of those donnybrooks and strikes, Yeoman and his friend used only four Z-Man baits, which in their eyes was a smashing testimony to the durability of the ZinkerZ and Hula StickZ.

Yeomans noted, however, that they were catching small largemouth bass, and he thought if the bass were larger they might have had to use a few more ZinkerZs and Hula StickZs. The major obstacle that confronted them was that they were having some problems getting the hook set with the wacky-jig rig compared to what they normally experience when they use the straight-jig rig. As 2014 unflolds, Yeomans will experiment with wacky-rigging a four-inch Finesse WormZ to see if it improves his hooking ratio.

On Nov. 27, Daniel Nussbaum of Ladson, South Carolina, and general manager of Z-Man Fishing Products, posted his observations on the Finesse News Network about the fragility of wacky-rigged ZinkerZ and Hula StickZ. He wrote: “I’ve never heard of anyone having to use an O-ring with ElaZtech baits. I saw the other day that someone made a comment on the FNN about having wacky-rigged ElaZtech baits tear just like with regular Senkos, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. I’ve wacky rigged the ZinkerZ a fair amount and have never had any problems, and I’ve always seen that as one of the big advantages of ElaZtech. If the hook hole gets a little bit torn or enlarged, just move the hook over a hair into a new spot on the bait. I’m copying Glenn [Young] about this; he’s done a fair amount of wacky rigging and not just with the ZinkerZ but with some of our other baits as well. Thus he might have some insights.” In a postscript, Nussbaum wrote:  “As for the O-ring melting the ElaZtech plastic, it could if you left it on there for an extended period of time, but I doubt it would cause any issues during the course of a day.”

Soon after Nussbaum posted his observations, Glenn Young of Blythewood, South Carolina, and Z-Man’s national sales manager, wrote: “If the O-ring is made of PVC, I could see that happening. Otherwise, I’ve fished a lot of wacky-rigged ElaZtech baits, as recently as last weekend in fact. I’ve never had one rip on me and have never used an O-ring to rig my bait. I use a ZinkerZ in demos at consumer shows all the time and wacky rig it, then I pull on it to show how it won’t rip off of the hook. You do, however, need to hook it through the meat of the worm.”

“One other wacky-rigging tip I can offer is to wacky rig the seven-inch Finesse WormZ on a Finesse Wide Gap Gamakatsu hook and then put a split shot about four to five inches in front of it. The split shot will sink the worm to the bottom, and when it reaches bottom, the Finesse WormZ will suspend just above the bottom. It was a very effective tactic last weekend on some very finicky fish. I have attached a diagram of how I rig it. I also use the wacky rig on drop shot rigs.”

 

 

 

Nathan Parker of Tulsa, Oklahoma, posted a comment on the Finesse News Network,  telling Yeomans: “We’ve been using his technique in northeastern Oklahoma with great success this season.”  Parker also stressed that his wacky jigs allure bass year-round in northeastern Oklahoma. Yeomans placed somewhat of an  ironic punctuation mark on this wacky-jig discourse and debate by revealing that on his next outing, which occurred during the first week in December, his wacky jigs failed to inveigle a largemouth bass, but the straight rigged Hula StickZ and 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ caught nine.

We are eager to read comments and insights about wacky rigging and wacky jigs from other anglers. So please write them and post them in the comment section below this blog. In addition, we hope to have more Finesse News Network reports and In-Fisherman blogs about wacky jigs and rigs as 2014 unfolds.

End notes

For more information about wacky jigs and rigs, please see the following links:

(1) http://archives.in-fisherman.com/content/wacky-jigwakin-bass/2.

(2) http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/11/05/damikis-kaiser-jig/ .

(3) http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/11/05/the-wacky-jig/ .

(4) http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/08/08/finesse-news-network-gear-guide-shin-fukaes-wacky-head-an-update/

(5) http://www.bigindianabass.com/big_indiana_bass/a-better-wacky-rigging-method.html

 

About Ned Kehde

Field Editor Ned Kehde has been writing for In-Fisherman since the 1980s. His recent finesse bass tactics and findings have been influential throughout the Midwest and beyond. He writes the online column Midwest Finesse for In-Fisherman.com

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  • Grant W

    I’ve been wacky rigging ZinkerZ for 2 years and find that in certain situations, it DOES out perform the ZinkerZ on a mushroomhead jig and dropshot. I usually use an o-ring when rigging ZinkerZ, but you have to be careful about sliding the ring. If you are using the tube tool, try to line the worm up to exactly where you want the ring to sit. Sliding the ring will stretch the worm and weaken the salt infusion significantly. This can be a problem as if you are using a weightless wacky rig, the ZinkerZ will eventually start to float after the infused salt dissolves from being soaked too long. i will usually change the worm when this occurs, as it slows the presentation down too much, even in shallow water. The action of the worm also changes; it tends to stand straight up and down, eliminating the seductive shimy. Using a wacky jig head does help combat this problem, but from my observations, the action is much better when there is still salt infused.

    I will use the wacky rig when the mushroom head jig and dropshotting fails to garner strikes. The wacky rig seems to get the fish fired up after seeing the other 2 presentations for so long. I do try to limit wacky rigging to just shallow water though, no more than 10 ft and ideally 3-5ft. The reason for this is although it is a slow finesse technique, I do like to cover as much water as possible with the limited time and areas I have bank fishing. I’ve found the best presentation to use is to cast out the worm, allowing it it sink to the bottom, then deadstick it for a few seconds. Slowly twitch it upward off the bottom anywhere from a few inches to a couple feet and let it sink back down. I usually get bigger bass to strike when it is laying on the bottom while deadsticking. You can use aggressive twitching or drag it back to you if you are on the bank. My experiences have taught me to almost always fish the lure right back to your position on the bank, especially in muddy waters. I would suggest starting out with short casts if you choose to employ this method. On longer casts, you can save time by bringing the worm to the point where you began your initial short casts. You have already covered the water before that, so you can bring it right back in without dragging it all the way in, which will allow you to cover water quicker.

    Surprisingly, I’ve noticed that the smaller bass do more damage to the worm than bigger bass. The small bass just seem to be more aggressive than the larger ones. To prevent the worm from tearing too easily or being thrown during a fight, I pierce the hook right thru the center of the worm within the o-ring. The Elaztech does hold up better than senkos, but it does get torn up easier because the hook is in a smaller surface area than when rigged on a mushroomhead jig. I almost never run the hook just under the o-ring because the actual worm will be thrown too easily if you have a fighter.

    The hooks I have used with wacky rigging ZinkerZ are the Gamakatsu G-Finesse wacky heads, 1/0 Gamakatsu red Octopus hooks and Jackall Wacky jigheads. This coming season, I hope to try out the Damiki Kaiser 2 wacky heads and CHT’s double wacky hooks with the attached o-rings.

    • nkehde

      Grant:
      Thanks for writing about you pmploy Z-Man’s ZinkerZ on a wacky rig.
      Please keep sending us your insights about this tactic throughout 2014.
      Best weshes,
      Ned

  • Nathan Parker

    I’ve wacky rigged the wormz on a dropshot, and the zinker and hula stick on a jighead, and done really well with all of them. There are times when the straight rigging will be better, and times when the wacky rig will be better. As with colors, jighead weights, etc. it pays to experiment.

    • nkehde

      Nathan:
      Thanks for providing us with your wacky-rig insights.
      Please keep us informed about all of your finesse endeavors in northeastern Oklahoma.
      Best wishes,
      Ned

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