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Drew Reese and Z-Man's Hula StickZ

Drew Reese and Z-Man's Hula StickZ

A stretched, snapped,  and trimmed Z-Man California Craw Hula StickZ affixed to a 1/15-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig.

Customization of soft-plastic baits, such as Z-Man's Fishing Products' Hula StickZ, lies near the heart of Midwest finesse fishing. And Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, has played a significant role in these customization endeavors since the 1960s, when he was a teenager. Back then it revolved around the ingenuities of Chuck Woods of Kansas City and Ray Fincke of Overland Park, Kansas. Reese used to fish with Woods and work in Fincke's tackle shop.

In 2012 and 2013, Reese designed the Hula StickZ for Z-Man, and since then, it has become his most effective Midwest finesse bait.

On an April 1 outing in northeastern Kansas, Reese did some minor alternations to a Z-Man's Canada Craw Hula StickZ that was affixed to a Z-Man's 1/15-ounce unpainted Finesse ShroomZ jig. Because it makes the Hula StickZ a more flexible, pulsating, and alluring bait, he wants other anglers to know about and employ this tactic.

For example, these alternations helped him catch 52 of the 62 largemouth bass that he caught on that April 1 outing. He was afloat for two hours and 10 minutes, and the bulk of the largemouth bass were caught during the last hour and 30 minutes. They were caught at a two-acre farm pond, and he was fishing in a float-tube. (It is interesting to note that fishing in a float-tube on farm ponds in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri has played a significant role across the years in the development of many Midwest finesse tactics, and to this day float-tube fishing remains the most precise way to employ a finesse bait.)

Compared to the radical customization that Midwest Finesse anglers render to a Z-Man's FattyZ, Reese's customization of the Hula StickZ is minor, but he has found this slight customization makes the Hula StickZ more alluring to largemouth bass than a Hula StickZ that has not been customized.

He does it by firmly holding the first three-quarters of an inch of the head of a Hula StickZ between his thumb and index finger of his left hand. He also placed the thumb and index finger of his right hand around the Hula Sticks and next to the thumb and index finger of his left hand. Then he slides his right hand down the torso of the Hula StickZ to the tail, and as his hand slides, he stretches the Hula StickZ. By the time his right hand reaches the tail, the Hula StickZ is stretched between 12 and 15 inches. Once it reaches the apex of the stretch, he opens the index finger and thumb on his left hand, and this allows the Hula StickZ to snap back like a rubber band. Before he stretched it, the Hula StickZ was four inches long. The stretching increases the length about a half of an inch. Thus, Reese usually trims a half of an inch off of the head, which leaves about a quarter of an inch that has not been stretched, and that portion fits snugly onto the bait keeper on the shank of the hook of Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig.

Pat Kehde stretching and preparing to snap a Z-Man's California Craw Hula StickZ.

On his April 1 outing, all of the shallow-water mud flats and shorelines were cluttered with pods of filamentous algae, and if he allowed the Hula StickZ and Finesse ShroomZ jig to plummet all the way to the bottom, it would become enmeshed with a wad of algae.

To remedy that algae plague when he was plying the shallow-water areas, he would start retrieving the Hula StickZ before it fell more than a foot below the surface. Then he employed  a swimming retrieve that was regularly punctuated with what he described as a rapid-shake-and-pause routine. When the Hula StickZ and Finesse ShroomZ jig had been retrieved with the swimming-rapid-shake-and-pause presentation past the pods of filamentous algae, he allowed it to plummet to the bottom, where he would employ a retrieve that replicated the way a crayfish swims.

On Reese's April 1 outing, the surface temperature was 59 to 61 degrees. Area thermometers ranged from a low temperature of 52 degrees to a high temperature of 79 degrees. While he was afloat, the wind howled from the southeast at 15 to 38 mph. . Throughout the day, the barometric pressure dropped from 29.91 to 29.65. And after battling the wind and 62 largemouth bass for two hours and 10 minutes in his float tube, he called it a day

Reese said 52 of the largemouth bass were caught on the same Hula StickZ, and it looked as if it had the wherewithal to catch 52 more before it became too tattered to stay affixed to the 1/15-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig.

Several days after his April 1 outing, Reese fished three other farm ponds. The shallow-water areas of these ponds were also littered with gobs of filamentous algae. Therefore, he employed the same retrieve that he used on April 1  And across five hours of fishing at these three ponds, he caught 102 largemouth bass, and the Hula StickZ inveigled most of them. A dozen of them were three-pounders or bigger.

Not only is the Hula StickZ and Finesse ShroomZ combo, in Reese's estimations, the most effective Midwest finesse bait day in and day out for inveigling vast numbers of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, it also is the best one for alluring big specimens. For example, Reese has caught a 4 3/4-pound smallmouth bass, which would be about 19 years old,  and a 22 1/2-pound northern pike on a Hula StickZ affixed to a Finesse ShroomZ at the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, and Chris Bell of Sioux Narrows, Ontario, who is a longtime friend of Reese and a veteran fishing guide, has caught a seven-pound largemouth bass and a seven pound smallmouth bass on it.


(1) For more information about Drew Reese, Z-Man's Hula StickZ, and Midwest finesse fishing, please examine these stories: (Drew Reese is not named in this story, but it is about him.) . (Drew Reese is not named in this story, but he was the host for this adventure and one of Daniel Nussbaum's guides.)

(2) For more information about customizing Midwest finesse baits, examine the story at this link:

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