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Z-Man’s Fishing Products’ Finesse ShadZ; a discourse on its manifold merits

by Ned Kehde   |  March 12th, 2014 8


In the Midwest finesse anglers’ world, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Shad Shape Worm was the precursor to the Z-Man Fishing Products’ Finesse ShadZ. 

We were introduced to the Yamamoto’s 3 ¾-inch Shad Shape Worm by Shin Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Palestine, Texas, on April 1, 2006, at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, and we wrote about that experience for In-Fisherman magazine.

Finesse anglers of all stripes have found the Shad Shape Worm to be an extremely effective bass lure. But in the eyes of Midwest finesse anglers, it possesses one major frailty, and that revolves around its fragility. The primary quest of Midwest finesse anglers is to catch 25 black bass an hour, and if we accomplished that task with a Shad Shape Worm, we would likely destroy 15 or more of them. 

But when Z-Man began manufacturing the Finesse ShadZ, Midwest finesse anglers discovered a soft-plastic bait that has the possibilities of alluring 25 largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass an hour. At the same time, it has the wherewithal to withstand donnybrooks with 100 or more black bass across four hours of fishing without having to be replaced by several new ones. In fact, some Midwest finesse anglers have used the same Finesse ShadZ for days and even weeks on end, and they have caught endless numbers of largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass on the same Finesse ShadZ. 

Besides being more durable than the Shad Shape Worm, the Finesse ShadZ is thinner, a tad longer, more buoyant, softer, and undulates more alluringly than the Shad Shape Worm. 

What’s more, the Finesse ShadZ is not impregnated with salt, which is a great asset in the eyes of Midwest finesse anglers who do not want to feel their bait during the retrieve. The no-feel retrieve is one of the core elements in the way Midwest finesse anglers present their baits. From the perspective of Midwest finesse anglers, salt adds too much weight to a finesse bait, and it fouls the no-feel aspect of the retrieve, as well as inhibiting its softness, subtle undulations and buoyancy. The combination of all of those features enhance the Finesse ShadZ’s ability to render an unparalleled no-feel retrieve. 

A green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ is at the top of this photograph. A green-pumpkin Shad Shape Worm is at the bottom.

Years ago, Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, addressed many anglers’ unfortunate tendency to use too much weight. Back in the 1960s, Hibdon was one of the pioneers of Midwest finesse tactics, and he used a few of those tactics to win the Bassmaster Classic in 1988 and Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year Awards in 1990 and 1991. And in 1991, Hibdon said: “Many people don’t believe that little baits will catch big fish, but they do. Gosh, we’ve proven it for years. And … before the guys out West were proving it.” And he also said, when most fishermen use little baits, they “tend to use too much weight. And, with too much weight, the baits don’t work right.” 

Since Hibdon uttered those remarks nearly a quarter of a century ago, Midwest finesse anglers are using lighter baits than Hibdon worked with in his prime. For example, nowadays several Midwest finesse anglers have discovered that Z-Man’s Finesse ShadZ dressed on either a chartreuse 1/32- or 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head Jig is often the most effective finesse bait for alluring largemouth bass that abide in the flatland reservoirs that stipple the countryside of northeastern Kansas — especially during the cold-water months. 

For a number of years after the turn of the millennium, a three-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Senko, three-inch YUM Dinger, 2 ½-inch Strike King Lure Company’s Zero, and 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s ZinkerZ dominated the soft-plastic-bait repertoire of the Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas, northwestern Missouri and central Missouri, but since the advent of the Finesse ShadZ in 2011, the short-Senko-style-bait phenomenon has begun to wane, and nowadays, the Finesse ShadZ is becoming the nucleus in the repertoire of a growing number of Midwest finesse anglers. 

This particular green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ has done battle with endless numbers of largemouth bass during the fall of 2013 and winter of 2013-14. It is affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head Jig.

The Finesse ShadZ is manufactured in nine colors. A package of eight can be purchased for $3.99, and some Midwest finesse anglers have discovered that those eight baits are durable enough to endure donnybrooks with about 800 largemouth bass. 

Endnotes, photographs and sidebars:

(1) When Fukae introduced us to the Shad Shape Worm, he emphasized that it was essential to retrieve it so that it swam one to two feet above the bottom, saying that it is a mistake if it touches the bottom. Here’s an edited version of our description of the retrieve that he employed on April 1, 2006, with the green-pumpkin Shad Shape Worm affixed Texas-style to a red 3/32-ounce jig: 

Throughout the retrieve, Fukae attempted to slowly swim it a foot or two above the bottom. At times, he preferred it to be as much as three feet off the bottom, depending on the depth of water that he was probing and the location of the bass. When Fukae was executing his retrieves, he occasionally lifted and dropped his rod about a foot, causing the Shad Shape Worm to rise and fall. On some lifts, he paused half way through the lift for a second or two. During the entire retrieve, he shook it about 70 percent of the time by subtly twitching his wrist. Sometimes he shook it when he was lifting the rod, sometimes when the rod was dropping, and sometimes while he was slowly rotating the reel handle to take up slack line. Fukae found that the bulk of the bass were beguiled when the Shad Shape Worm was falling, and the initial fall was regularly most productive. By employing this retrieve with the Shad Shape Worm, Fukae won the FLW Wal-Mart Open at Beaver Lake. 

(2) Midwest finesse anglers describe Fukae’s retrieve as the swim-glide-and-shake presentation. It keeps the bait off of the bottom, and when the largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass are foraging rather aggressively, it is very effective. But when the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass are tentative or unresponsive, the efficiency of the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve diminishes. During the past three years, Midwest finesse anglers have discovered that retrieves which allow the Finesse ShadZ to move and stop on the bottom are often more productive than the swim-glide-and-shake motif. The four bottom-oriented retrieves that these anglers employ are called: drag and shake; drag and deadstick; hop and bounce; and stroll. 

It is interesting to note that during the late fall of 2013 and winter of 2013-14, several northeastern Kansas Midwest finesse anglers discovered that the strolling method and drag-and-deadstick retrieve worked best when the Finesse ShadZ was rigged on a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig rather than a 1/16-ounce one. 

A strolled green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig betwitched this largemouth bass and scores more on Feb. 13, 2014.

In addition to the bottom-oriented presentation with the Finesse ShadZ, there have been numerous occasions when Midwest finesse anglers have found that it was better to cast and retrieve the Finesse ShadZ slightly behind the boat than working it in front or perpendicular to the boat. This back-of-the-boat phenomenon is especially true when the water is cold. 

The rigorous shaking routines that Fukae implemented while he retrieved the Shad Shape Worm became part and parcel of many Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas. But its effectiveness began to peter out in 2011 and 2012, and for some unknown reason that demise corresponded to the arrival of the largemouth bass virus in several northeastern Kansas flatland reservoirs. Even though the shake routine isn’t as bountiful as it used to be, it remains an important ingredient at times. Therefore, during every outing, Midwest finesse anglers spend some time experimenting with various intensities of shakes while they are retrieving a Finesse ShadZ. 

(3) From some mysterious reasons, some Midwest finesse anglers, such as Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, and Dave Reese of Leavenworth, Kansas, say they cannot get the hang of how to allure largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass with the Finesse ShadZ. 

Poe says, for his piscatorial tastes, “it is too light, which makes it difficult to cast, impossible to skip under a tree or dock, and hard to feel during the retrieve. The only largemouth bass I caught on it in 2013 were ones that had shown themselves by feeding on the surface or striking and missing another bait, and in that regard, I used the Finesse ShadZ to catch all of the largemouth bass that showed themselves to me, which might be considered a notable feat.” 

Reeves, who spends most of his days afloat at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, says that he has wielded the Finesse ShadZ and experimented with a variety of jig sizes and shapes, as well as colors and retrieves, and it has not borne much fruit. He said; “It could be one of those bizarre Table Rock Lake things.” 

(4) In a Midwest finesse column that we published on Oct. 1, 2013, which was entitled “Z-Man goes to Canada,” Daniel Nussbaum of Ladson, South Carolina, and who is the general manger and executive vice president of Z-Man Fishing Products, talked about the effectiveness of the Finesse ShadZ for bewitching walleye in Canada. 

We recently asked Daniel Nussbaum about the history of the Finesse ShadZ, and if he uses it during his many saltwater forays. 

He replied: “As far as I know, the Finesse ShadZ was only sold in Australia prior to ICAST 2011. It was sold there under the SnapBack brand name. We sold the baits in bulk, and they were packaged in Australia. When we started establishing the Z-Man brand in Australia, we stopped supplying these in bulk to SnapBack and started selling ElaZtech exclusively under the Z-Man brand in order to focus our marketing efforts and avoid confusion. For some reason, it is no longer a popular bait in Australia. 

I’ve used it some in saltwater but have found the 3.75-inch StreakZ to be a much more effective bait across the board. I think the profile of the StreakZ looks more like the glass minnows (anchovies, silversides, etc.) that we have around here. I think the Finesse ShadZ is a little bit too wormlike when the fish are feeding on glass minnows. This past December I was fishing with one of our inshore pro staffers who was using the Finesse ShadZ, and his hookup ratio with that bait was terrible, and the reason for that I think is the sea trout tend to grab the tail rather than engulf the whole bait. I do think it would be an effective wintertime redfish bait when they are feeding primarily on small worms, but I just haven’t fished it in this situation yet.” 

Here’s the link to the “Z-Man goes to Canada” column: 

(4) For some insights about the effectiveness of the Finesse ShadZ in Canada, please use these two links: and 

(5) For more information about Shin Fukae’s ways with the Shad Shape Worm, please go to this website: ( .

The green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ catches not only untold numbers of small and average-size largemouth bass, but Midwest finesse anglers have used it to tangle with lunkers the size of this one, which was caught during the winter of 2011-12.

  • TCfromKC

    thanks for the articles as always
    The information on retrieves is such a interesting discussion.
    Each day the fish will tell us what will work.
    It is our job to find what works best for that day & or time of year.
    I have relied so much the past 4 or so years on the Senko type baits, cut in half & find they are still very productive.
    The Shad Z , I need to use on every outing to see how it stacks up.
    It seems the Senko bait shape lends itself both as a imitation of a bait fish & or a invertebrates or crawfish.
    Especially when I have seen folks serrate the end of the Senko , which led to the birth of the Hula stick by Z-man lure company.

    • nkehde

      Thanks for posting your insights and comments. We are eager to read about your endeavors with the Finesse ShadZ. So, please keep in touch and tell us about how, when and where you use the Finesse ShadZ.
      Best wishes,

  • Steve Craven

    Hey Ned, cannot argue the durability of Z-Man products. While I have not caught quite the numbers of fish you all have on a single bait, I did catch over 40 largemouth on a single finesse worm and a single 2.5″ Z stick bait. However, the same properties of the Elaztech material that allow for extreme durability and excellent action of the baits also make rigging the baits very challenging. On a recent trip to Florida we used the Minnow Z extensivelly in a couple different shallow salt water applications and caught multiple fish (some of them very toothy!) on each bait, but as a friend of mine on the trip said ” its a good thing these baits catch so many fish because I wouldnt bother with trying to re-rig “. What he was refering to was the very difficult time we had getting the Minnow Z on to a screw-lock swimbait hook and the bait being aligned properly. Once we did get it situated, it was lights out catching fish for a long period of time though. If anyone has any tips to make getting these baits on to a jighead, texas rig or shaky head easier, I would like to hear them. Love the products, love the results fishing with them, just find the rigging a bit challenging. Steve Craven

    • nkehde


      for posting your question about rigging Z-Man’s ElaZtech baits, such as the
      MinnowZ that you and your friends used in Florida.

      As you noted,
      screw-lock bait keepers are not easy to use. But a barbed bait keeper similar
      to the one that is on Z-Man’s JigheadZ works well. Mustad’s has several bait
      keepers on their hooks that might work for you. Please see their Impact Soft
      Plastic and Grip-PIN Swim Hook, and if you try them, please send us a report.

      Z-Man is in the
      process of developing a finesse jig with a bait keeper affixed to the shank of
      the hook. We suspect that it will be available after the ICAST show in July.

      The angler who developed used it in Canada in 2012 and 2013 with the 2
      ½-inch ZinkerZ, Hula StickZ and Finesse ShadZ, and it enabled him to catch
      endless numbers of smallmouth bass and a few other species on the same ZinkerZ,
      Hula StickZ and Finesse ShadZ before those baits became too tattered to stay
      affixed to the jig.

      Luke Clausen of Spokane Valley, Washington,
      who tours on the FLW circuit and works for Z-Man, says he has no trouble
      rigging ElaZtech baits on Z-Man’s Shaky HeadZ. He says that Texas rigging is easy too, and he has no
      trouble hooking bass on a Texas-rig system with a Z-Man’s bait such as a
      FattyZ. (For more information about this, please see the story at this link:

      For an untold number of outings, I have rigged
      the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ, Hula StickZ, four-inch Finesse WormZ and Finesse ShadZ on
      a 1/32-, 1/16- and 3/32-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig with an exposed
      hook. And I have never had any trouble rigging these baits. In fact, I caught
      105 largemouth bass on the same green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/32-ounce
      Gopher jig across three outings that took place on Mar. 12, 13, and 14. What’s
      more, that same rig caught some of the 48 rainbow trout that Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas,
      and I caught on Mar. 12, when we went bass fishing for trout.

      Some Midwest finesse anglers dip their Gopher jig into the
      water before they attach a Z-Man bait onto the hook. The water acts a lubricant
      and allows the bait to slide over the two barbs on the collar of the Gopher

      Some Midwest finesse anglers glue their Z-Man onto the jig,
      which keeps them straight.

      I am not fastidious
      about the alignment of the bait on the jig.
      In fact, I think a bait that is rigged slightly askew catches more
      largemouth and smallmouth bass than one that is perfectly straight. (For more, information about this please see
      the story at this link:

      Hope some of this information helps. Please keep in touch.

      Best wishes,


    • nkehde


      Glenn Young is the National Sales Manager of Z-Man FIshing Products, and he posted the following comments about rigging ElaZtech baits on the Finesse News Network. Here’s hoping that they will help you and others.

      He wrote:

      I would reply with the following: Screw lock keepers were developed to help hold plastisol baits in place because they tear so easily. The idea behind the screw lock is that it tears its way through the plastisol to hold it.

      ElaZtech isn’t plastisol and doesn’t tear, so not only is the screw lock going to be difficult to use, it’s absolutely unnecessary. When rigging baits like the MinnowZ, one of the best presentations is with a 3/0 1/8oz. Gamakatsu EWG weighted hook. Because ElaZtech won’t tear, you can easily rig the bait right over the lead for a weedless presentation and the weighted hook keeps the bait keeled and balanced in the water.

      Another option is an unweighted wide gap hook with a bullet sinker pegged in front of the bait. When rigging ElaZtech on a jig head, a barbed keeper is
      usually best. Sometimes people try to push the bait on to the keeper, but usually pulling the bait up and over the keeper is far more effective. That’s the reason Z-Man came out with its own line up of jig heads that are designed to
      be easily rigged with our material.

      I hope that helps. Feel free to send more rigging questions. We’re always happy to help.

    • nkehde

      Dave Reeves of Lansing, Kansas, and a Midwest finesse devotee posted the following observations on the Finesse News Network.

      He wrote:
      “Super glue and a plain shank head (no collar) will fix many ills.
      “Also keeper tabs for applications like drop shotting and wacky rigging, either something like Bait Buttons, or home made with a clear plastic cup and paper punch.”

    • Daniel

      I just wanted to add a couple of points. The keys to rigging ElaZtech on a jighead are choosing a jig with a pointed keeper and pulling/stretching the plastic over the keeper rather than trying to push it over the keeper. I use the Gopher heads routinely with smaller ElaZtech baits and have no problem rigging them quickly or getting them to stay up on the jig. In fact, they really don’t slip at all.

      For weedless rigging, just use a hook like a Weighted Gamakatsu Superline EWG rather than one with a screw lock keeper. Screw locks were designed because you can’t run the lead weight through conventional plastics. That’s not a problem with ElaZtech – it will stretch right over the weight without tearing. As long as the hook has a Z-shaped bend to the neck, the bait won’t slide down very easily.

  • Steve Craven

    Thanks to all who repiled to my concerns about rigging. I will try some of these tips in the near future. Steve

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