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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.

20140710_210113-1 (3)

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.


  • Steve Craven

    Ordered a selection of Z Man baits from, including the new 3.5″ grub and the T.R.D. Have not come in the mail yet, but soon. In the meantime I was at a local water-supply resevoir 2 days ago and wanted to share some details. Recently purchased a 5’6″ ultralite Carbonlite rod from Bass Pro Shops and paired it with a Shimano Symetre 1000 reel spooled with 4lb. mono. A Z Man 4″ finesse worm in green pumpkin on a 3/32 oz mushroom jig was the bait of choice. Hop and bounce, straight swim, swim, shake and glide and straight drag. All produced bass fairly evenly and fairly consistently. Numbers: 23 fish ( no big ones, all 6″-15″ ) all largemouth in 5.5 hrs of fishing. Also lost 3 others. One worm and one jighead only. Don’t know if Z Man products will catch more fish than other high quality soft plastics, but the durability is truly amazing. On a different trip to the Chesapeake Bay, caught flounder, redfish, sea trout and a few bluefish, yes BLUEFISH, they of razor teeth and nasty dispositions, using only three Minnow Z in Houdini color. Blues finally destroyed/ate all three minnowz. Again astounding durability in a harsh enviroment. Still having some trouble rigging the Elaztech baits but results worth the effort, once bait is secured to my admitedly anal satisfaction it stays secure for a long time. Good to talk to you, Steve Craven

    • nkehde

      Thanks for the report from the East Coast. We are eager to read more of them as the months unfold.
      Best wishes,

  • Travis

    I have this tied on despite season on one rod. Every time every day. I own mass tonage of them in 3 colors though I don’t even need that many. Coppertreuse for early spring when my water is “stained with only 5 feet of visibility, Canada craw anytime the water is wet and green pumpkin when my river smallies are down to a summer trickle and in VERY clear water. Durability is superb of course as is the case with all z man but for me drop rate is a huge factor (or I am getting wedged in granite). Z Man nailed it. The reduced salt content is a winner for skinny river water and am done dropping baits in hot water and as sir Ned touched on the buoyancy gets greater with use.

    This is ready to go out of the bag. I’ve taken numerous river smallies 18 or better on it. Last July (got my hands on a few right after ICAST) I fished a total of 9 times over two weeks and used ONE bait on a 1/32 Gopher (reversing it eventually). Looking back at my logs it lasted 117 river smallies with numerous rock bass and big gills in the mix.
    ps: at times I reduce it even shorter (it begins to float a 1/32 after an hour at full length) and mine are sitting in Pro Cure as I type this ready for spring.

    best regards, Travis

    • Ned Kehde

      Thanks for writing about how, when, and where you use Z-Man’s Finesse T.R.D.
      Please keep us informed with more of your observations as 2015 unfolds.
      Best wishes,

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