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Z-Man’s T.R.D.

by Ned Kehde   |  August 7th, 2014 4



The T.R.D. at the top is the Canada Craw hue. The middle one is California Craw. The bottom one is Green Pumpkin.

On Oct. 12, 2006, a pair of Midwest finesse anglers began using one of the forerunners of Z-Man Fishing Products’ Finesse T.R.D. or The Real Deal, which was introduced to the angling world at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show on July 15 at Orlando, Florida.

On that fateful outing in 2006, these two anglers caught 109 largemouth bass from a 55-acre community reservoir in northeastern Kansas. And ever since then, the forerunners to the T.R.D. have been one of the principal baits in the repertoire of Midwest finesse anglers. The T.R.D. and its forerunners are short stick- or Senko-style baits, which Midwest finesse anglers attach to a lightweight mushroom-style jig.

Here is an abbreviated history about Z-Man’s most recent work with Midwest finesse anglers and the evolution of the TRD:

Since the fall of 2011, Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, has been politely cajoling the folks at Z-Man to create a retail package of at least six baits that focuses on Midwest finesse applications.

Reese is one of the pioneers of Midwest finesse fishing. As a youngster in the 1960s, he fished a lot with the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City, who is deemed by some historians of angling to be the father of Midwest finesse fishing. Woods created the Beetle and Beetle Spin, as well as the first Texas-style jig-worm rig (which is called a shaky-head jig nowadays), Puddle Jumper, and several other innovative baits, which he always employed on a spinning rod. Ultimately, Reese competed in the first Bassmaster Classic at Lake Mead in 1971, where he finished in seventh place by employing Woods’ Beetle, Beetle Spin and jig-worm rig, and like Woods and every Midwest finesse angler, Reese wielded those baits on spinning rods.

Reese says he cajoled Z-Man to the point that they finally humored him by introducing the Hula StickZ at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show in 2012. The Hula StickZ, which Reese designed, is a four-inch stick- or Senko-style bait with four tentacles. It was designed to be affixed to a mushroom-style jig. Since 2012, it has allured untold numbers of smallmouth bass, as well as scores of largemouth bass, in a variety of waterways in the Midwest and Ontario, Canada.

It is important to note that in the eyes of a few veteran Midwest finesse anglers, the soft-plastic body of Woods’ original Beetle, which he whittled out of a frayed Creme worm, was the first stick- or Senko-style bait, and some of the early practitioners of Midwest finesse tactics used to affixed the Beetle to either a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig, and they employed the Beetle-and-jig combo the same way the T.R.D. and the Hula StickZ are used today.

Before Reese began his campaign to convince Z-Man to develop a more comprehensive finesse package, their four-inch Finesse WormZ , Finesse ShadZ, Rain MinnowZ, and customized 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ were the key baits that Midwest finesse anglers used. In 2013, Z-Man stopped manufacturing the Rain MinnowZ, which was initially designed for saltwater applications, but Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas used it to catch endless numbers of largemouth bass. All these baits are made with a soft-plastic material that Z-Man calls ElaZtech.

In some ways, the 2 3/4-inch T.R.D. is a 2 1/2 ZinkerZ, but its body has a slightly different configuration. Its epidermis is not as porous, and it consists of three sections: one section that is about 1 1/8-inches long is graced with a series of dimples, a short middle section that is similar to an earthworm’s clitellum, and a 1 1/4-inch section that is encircled with minute rings. It also possesses a softer ElaZtech formulation and different salt content than the ZinkerZ, and straight out of the package, it is softer than the ZinkerZ. To get a ZinkerZ as soft as the T.R.D., some Midwest finesse anglers used to submerge it in hot water for a spell. Like all of the Z-Man’s ElaZtech baits, the T.R.D. is extremely durable. (One of the photographs below focuses on the durability of the T.R.D.)

In the eyes of some Midwest finesse anglers, the T.R.D. might possess some of the virtues that they relished in the now defunct Rain MinnowZ. For instance, after anglers use the T.R.D. for a while, it will  become almost as buoyant as the Rain MinnowZ was, and buoyancy plays a critical role in the no-feel retrieve that Midwest finesse anglers like to employ.

Since the fall of 2013, several Midwest finesse anglers have worked with several prototypes of the T.R.D., and they have been impressed with its effectiveness at inveigling largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, as well as a variety of other species. (See the photographs below of two of the smallmouth bass that were caught on the T.R.D.) These anglers have found that either end of the T.R.D. can be affixed to a jig, and when one end becomes too tattered to stay affixed to the jig, the jig can be affixed to the other end, which extends the durability almost twofold.

It is available in eight colors: California Craw, Canada Craw, Copperteuse, Green Pumpkin, Junebug, Mud Minnow, New Money, and PB&J.

One online retailer sells a package of eight for $3.99.


In the days to come, we will publish several more gear guides that will feature  Z-Man’s new Finesse ShroomZ jigs, 3 1/2-inch GrubZ, and 2 1/2-inch Slim SwimZ.

For more information about the T.R.D., read Ethan Dhuyvetter’s review at this link:

For more information about Drew Reese and Z-Man’s efforts to create ElaZtech baits for Midwest finesse applications, please examine the following links:;;;

For more information about Chuck Woods and Drew Reese, see this link:

Here is a link to Don Baldridge’s YouTube feature on the T.R.D.:



Drew Reese with a northeastern Kansas smallmouth bass that was bewitched during a field-testing endeavor on Oct. 2, 2013.


A smallmouth bass that Natalie Myers of Lawrence, Kansas, caught on a Canada Craw T.R.D. in the Northwoods of Minnesota on July 30.

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This photograph focuses on the durability of the T.R.D.  Drew Reese caught 44 Ontario smallmouth bass on this Coppertreuse T.R.D. before it became frayed enough that the shank of the hook was separated from the T.R.D.’s torso.


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