January 18, 2012
By Ned Kehde
Some readers of our January 11 blog entitled "A Month-by-Month Guide to Midwest Finesse" were intrigued by this section:
"Our best ever October catch occurred on October 12, 2006, when we caught 109 largemouth bass by employing a four-inch worm with a red 1/16-ounce jig, a tube on a 1/16-ounce jig, and a 2 ½-inch Zero affixed to a 1/16-ounce red jig. We were buffeted by a major cold front; the low was 41 degrees; the high peaked at 59 degrees. The wind angled out of the northwest at 10 to 25 mph, which made us rely on a drift sock for boat control. The surface temperature was 66 degrees. All of the bass were caught along rocky shorelines in two to five feet of water with a shake-swim-glide retrieve. This was our initial outing with the Zero, and from that point forward, the Zero and its sister the ZinkerZ became our most effective baits. Before we crossed paths with the Zero and ZinkerZ, we used Gary Yamamoto's three-inch Senko and YUM's three-inch Dinger on 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigs. The Senko and Dinger inveigled score of bass for us, but our bass fishing improved markedly when we began wielding the Zero and ZinkerZ.
In our eyes, the ElaZtech material that Z-Man Fishing Products uses to make the Zero and ZinkerZ, as well as the Rain MinowZ, Finesse WormZ and Finesse ShadZ, is why these baits are more effective than the traditional soft-plastic finesse baits.
It is interesting to note that as the Zero and ZinkerZ age from catching multitudes of bass, they become are more flexible than the Senko and Dinger, and in our eyes that flexibility seems to make them more alluring to our bass. As they age and become more flexible, they also readily absorb Gulp! Alive! nightcrawler scent and Pro-Cure's Nightcrawler Super Gel, which we have found to be another alluring attribute. On top of that, the Zero and ZinkerZ are extremely durable; in fact, we have caught more than 175 bass on the same Zero or ZinkerZ. Consequently, several devotees to Midwest finesse fishing often declare: "The older the Zero and ZinkerZ become the better they become." And for the past four years, the Zero and ZinkerZ have helped us surmount some of the difficulties that October's fickle weather creates."
Some of these readers say that the 2 1/2-inch Zero and ZinkerZ are so unattractive that they they can't bear to use them. Therefore, they wonder how we got the gumption to make our first cast with the 2 1/2-inch Zero.
We must confessed that initially it looked unattractive in our eyes, too, and we didn't think that it would yield many dividends.
Our introduction to the Zero occurred in August of 2005 when we were working on an "In-Fisherman" magazine story about the jigworm.
Here's how it unfolded:
During 2004 and 2005, the shakyhead jig and worm played a major role on the tournament circuits -- even power anglers such as as Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, and Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, used them.
In late August of 2005, we spent some time talking with Clunn and Van Dam at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, about the shakyhead phenomenon.
Some of Van Dam's insights were featured in the story, focusing primarily on how he used a shakyhead rig to win the Bassmaster Elite-50 tournament at Lewisville Lake, Texas, on June 1-4, 2005. At this event, Van Dam used a Bite-Me Tackle 3/16-ounce jig. His jigs were adorn with three soft-plastic lures that Z-Man Fishing Products manufactured for Strike King Lure Company. They were a four-inch Finesse Worm, a five-inch Zero and a seven-inch Finesse Worm, which Van Dam made five-inches long by trimming two-inches off the head.
On June 1-2, 2005,Van Dan fished the riprap along Lewisville's dam, plying depths of five to 15 feet. Here he caught 45 bass, including a goliath that weighed 11-pounds, 13-ounces, which he caught on a Finesse Worm in nine feet of water.
Van Dam also revealed that he used these same three shakyhead rigs throughout the 2005 tournament season.
Van Dam gave us several packages of the Finesse Worms and Zeros for In-Fisherman's art department to photograph for illustrations for the story and for us to test in our northeastern Kansas reservoirs.
When we started using the four-inch Finesse Worm, it immediately became our favorite worm. For years, we never had a favorite worm. In our eyes, every four-inch finesse worm that we employed worked well for us. But for some explainable reason, the four-inch Strike King Finesse Worm, which is manufactured by Z-Man, was substantially more effective than the scores of traditional soft-plastic finesses worms that we had used across the years. Since then, we have concluded that the ElaZtech material that Z-Man uses to manufacture the worm is what makes it superior to other plastic worms. It also appeals to our frugal nature because we have caught more than 100 bass on the same worm.
We rarely used the customized seven-inch worm. Even though it was trimmed down to five inches, it was and still is too big for the type of finesse fishing that we prefer to do. Eventually, we trimmed it down to a four-inch worm, and it has worked well for us. What's more, until Z-Man created the Rain MinnowZ in late 2010, we used the top three-inches of the seven-inch Finesse Worm as a skinny Senko-style bait.
The five-inch Zero, however, completely overwhelmed our 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom Jig Head. For months on end, we couldn't find a way to use the Zero. It was not until 13 months after Van Dam gave us a few Zeroes to test that we decided to cut them in half, making them 2 1/2 inches long. When we used it for the first time on October 12, 2006, we did it half-heartedly, thinking that it would be a lesson in futility.
Back in 2006, we were content to use a three-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits' Senko or three-inch YUM Dinger. The Senko and Dinger inveigled a lot of bass for us. In our eyes, their only short-coming was their fragility; many of them would become torn to smithereens after a donnybrook or two with a mediocre-sized bass. But by the time we made our last casts of the outing on October 12, 2006 and had tangled with 109 largemouth bass, we realized that the 2 1/2-inch Zero was on the path to becoming our primary Senko-style bait. Now the Zero and ZinkerZ catch the bulk of our bass throughout a calendar year.
As we noted in the January 11 blog, the Zero and ZinkerZ become more effective as they age --even when the become faded, tattered and torn from catching bass after bass. The durability of the ElaZtech material that is used to manufacture the Zero and ZinkerZ is a miraculous substance. From our experiences, it is why an abused and almost spent Zero or ZinkerZ is able to catch such incredible numbers of bass. In sum, ElaZtech's durability is what makes the Zero and ZinkerZ the best Senko-style bait that we have used. To our amazement, however, several persnickety and fastidious anglers have told us that after Zero or ZinkerZ tangles with 20 or more bass that it becomes a touch unsightly and difficult to keep affixed to a jig, and these anglers mistakenly toss these extremely bass-alluring baits into the trash. We have found that most Zeros and ZinkerZ have the wherewithal to allure more than 100 bass.
It is interesting to note that some members of the Finesse News Network, who are also practitioners of Midwest finesse tactics, soak their Zeros and ZinkerZs in warm water before they use them. This removes the impregnated salt and makes them more supple. It also makes them more buoyant and allows them to more readily absorb scents.
In regard to the ugliness quotient, some bass anglers have recently said that a well-worn Zero or ZinkerZ that hangs limply onto a 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom jig is as ugly as an Alabama rig. Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and a long-time devotee to Midwest finesse tactics responded to the ugliness factor by saying: "From the viewpoint of the bass, ugliness obviously is in the eyes of the beholder because the bass have shown that they find the Alabama rig, Zero and ZinkerZ to be extremely alluring." But Desch also noted that the Zero and ZinkerZ are a lot easier to employ than the unwieldy Alabama rig. (For more information about the Alabama rig, please see the December 22, 2011, post http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/12/22/alabama-or-umbrella-rigs-in-the-missouri-ozarks/)
For additional insights about the Zero and ZinkerZ, please see the short piece that we wrote a year ago for Travis Perret's website. Here's the link to that story http://www.felixfishing.com/2011/01/the-magic-of-the-zinkerz-by-ned-kehde/ Then on October 20, 2011, we posted a short blog about the Zero and Zinker; here's the link to that blog http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/10/20/zinkerz-and-zero/
Another ElaZtech insight
The durability of soft-plastic jig trailers made a quantum leap when Z-Man developed ElaZtech in 2005. Besides being many times more durable than most soft-plastic trailers, it contains no PVC, plastisol, or phthalates. Moreover, it's extremely soft and pliable. One of the trailers that Z-Man makes with ElaZtech is Strike Kings' Denny Brauer Chunk. Brauer, who is from Camdenton, Missouri, and tours on the Bassmaster circuit, says its the trailer that he employs in cool- and cold-water situations. Brauer notes that ElaZtech is an amazingly buoyant material, which allows the supple pinchers of the Chunk to subtly rise up when the jig is on the bottom.
Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, says the buoyancy factor of ElaZtech is another reason why the Zero and ZinkerZ are the best Senko-style baits. Reese, by the way, is one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing. He spent many years fishing with the late Chuck Woods who was the pioneer of Midwest finesse fishing. Reese also use Woods' finesse tactics at the first Bassmaster Classic at Lake Mead in 1971.