June 18, 2020
By Ned Kehde
Halleluiah, alleluia, and hoorah.
Z-Man Fishing Products has resurrected one of the great cornerstones of Midwest finesse fishing. This rock was Gopher Tackle’s Original Mushroom Head Jig, which Conrad Peterson began manufacturing in 1981 in Apple Valley, Minnesota. And during the formative years of our Midwest finesse endeavors, it was one of the tools that several of us relied upon day in and day out.
Z-Man calls this resurrection the OG Mushroom Jighead. And according to Daniel Nussbaum of Charleston, South Carolina, who is Z-Man’s president, OG is what the “Urban Dictionary” describes as being “a quicker way of saying original.” In a June 8 email, Nussbaum said: “I think the name is fitting since this is the original or classic style mushroom jighead.”
Members of the Lindner family of Brainerd, Minnesota, and the staff at In-Fisherman introduced me to the manifold merits of the Original Mushroom Head Jig.
One of the most memorable introductions occurred on an August day at Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota, when Ron Lindner used a 1/16-ounce Original Mushroom Head Jig affixed to a significantly shortened ribbon-tail worm. He used it to inveigle smallmouth bass along the scores of massive rock reefs that stipple the underwater terrains at this gigantic waterway in the Heartland region of Minnesota. Usually, these rock reefs wreak havoc with most jig applications, but Ron Lindner’s jig and ribbon-tail worm glided and skimmed and skated around, over, and across the untold numbers of crevices that litter these rock reefs without becoming snagged.
There have been a significant number of state-of-the-art mushroom jigs created by various manufacturers during the past decade or so. But in our hands, none of them work quite as well as the 1/16-ounce Original Mushroom Head Jig, which works around most of the shallow-water lairs that we probe for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in northeastern Kansas’ waterways.
Besides the 1/16-ounce Original Mushroom Head Jig, we also used the 1/32-ounce model and the 3/32-ounce model, and Z-Man has resurrected all three of them.
After Gopher Tackle gradually closed its doors in 2017 and 2018, a surprising number of anglers contacted Nussbaum and pleaded with him to manufacture a replica of the Original Mushroom Head Jig. Cory Schmidt of Merrifield, Minnesota, was one of them.
Schmidt, who is an accomplished journalist and an In-Fisherman field-editor, emailed us on June 10 and provided us with his astute insights about the Original Mushroom Head Jig.
He noted that legendary Minnesota anglers such as Ron Lindner, Ted Capra, John Christianson, Conrad Peterson, and Royal Karels caught untold numbers of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass and an array of other species by wielding the Original Mushroom Head Jig affixed to a variety of soft-plastic baits. And during the past three decades, Schmidt has become an ardent, astute, and talented angler who can wield the Original Mushroom Head Jig and its successor as deftly as the five legendary anglers that he lauded in the sentence above.
Schmidt bought his first package of Gopher Tackle’s Original Mushroom Head Jigs from Marv Koep’s Nisswa Bait & Tackle store in Nisswa, Minnesota, in 1987. During the summer of 1987, a friend showed him how to rig and use it with to three- and four-inch curly-tailed worms and catch scores of largemouth bass along the outside or deep edges of patches of submerged aquatic vegetation. As a teenager, that combo felt like magic to him. He said: “It put at the end of my line a lure I could fish confidently almost anywhere and always catch fish. On some lakes, such as Gull and Whitefish and many smaller lakes in Minnesota, I used that same jig … to catch hundreds of largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as volumes of walleyes, pike and large sunfish and crappies.”
From his 33 years of wielding this jig, Schmidt is enamored with its ability to be retrieved almost magically and “cleanly through relatively dense pondweed, elodea, northern milfoil and coontail.” He noted that there is “something about the shape of the head and angle of the jighook that [allows] it [to] pivot and roll over plant stalks.” He also noted that he could roll and drag the rig over rocks without becoming snagged. He found that its “pivoting motion activated the soft-plastic tail and oriented the hook slightly upright, so it is always in position to find soft flesh in a biting bass’ jaw. Nowadays, employing the jig with buoyant ElaZtech baits makes it the most unbeatable jig/plastic combination in history.”
And even when it occasionally became entangled with a stalk of aquatic vegetation, Schmidt discovered that he could rip it free by using his medium-fast-action spinning rod to execute a vigorous pull, which caused the rig “to shoot forward, disturbing the plant and creating a commotion of debris in the area.” All of this tumult became an “incredible trigger for inducing following fish to bite.” Schmidt has deduced that the “puff of debris off the plant and the quaking stalk and leaves approximate what happens when a bluegill or other fish kicks its tail and flees …[the] vegetation. Bass and other predators easily recognize this as the natural flight response of prey, and react accordingly.”
Across the years, Schmidt became infatuated with the way the contours and design of the 3/32-ounce Original Mushroom Head Jig – especially its 90-degree eyelet – executes an alluring side-to-side roll when it is affixed to a curly-tail grub or a swimbait adorned with a paddle tail and presented with a straight swimming retrieve.
He has found that by affixing either a Z-Man’s Slim SwimZ or Keitech’s Easy Shiner to a 3/32-ounce Original Mushroom Head Jig and by slowly swimming these rigs across shallow-water environs that are adorned with rocks is a simple and effortless way to inveigle Minnesota’s smallmouth bass galore during the spring and summer.
Schmidt’s favorite jig colors have traditionally been purple and black, which matched the purple and dark-earth-tone hues of Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ grubs and Berkley’s PowerBait Power Worms that have proven to be so appetizing to Minnesota’s black bass. He wrote: “I’ve always liked the idea of melding jighead color with the bait itself, producing one continuous presentation—particularly for clearer Minnesota lakes and Southwestern reservoirs.”
In regard to the design of the back of the head of the Original Mushroom Head Jig, Schmidt wrote that he is not sure if Conrad Peterson “designed the flat backside of the head of the jig to “fit’ grub and worm heads like a hat, but it’s another element I appreciate. Sometimes, I’ll even trim the nose of the worm flat, so it melds onto the flat underside of the jig. It’s one of those little details that gives me more confidence.”
When Schmidt affixes one of Z-Man’s many ElaZtech finesse baits to the jig, he puts a dab of Loctite Super Gel on the back to the jig’s head and its collar. This tactic has allowed him to enjoy donnybrooks with incredible numbers of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass without having to replace the ElaZtech finesse bait, and he rarely has to straighten and adjust it.
He closed his emailed insights by stating that “we’ve mourned the passing of the original Gopher Tackle for some years now, including some of its classic other tackle innovations like the Hinge Twin Spin and Worm Dancer. But fishing with these new [Z-Man’s OG Mushroom Jigheads] for the first time this spring, it feels like having an old friend back at the end of my line.” When he used the OG Mushroom Jighead affixed to a Z-Man’s Finesse WormZ to fish some of the same submerged patches of aquatic vegetation that he plied 30 years or so ago, he said “it’s been amazing to catch bass after bass—like nothing has changed at all.”
To our delight, Daniel Nussbaum provided us with some 1/32-, 1/16-, and 3/32-ounce OG Mushroom Jigheads to work with and thoroughly examine. And here is what we discovered.
On our second cast and retrieve with a red 1/16-ounce OG Mushroom Jighead affixed to a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ at one of northeastern Kansas’ state reservoirs on June 9, we caught a largemouth bass. Straightaway, we began enjoying this resurrection of the good old days.
The head of this 1/16-ounce OG Mushroom Jighead possesses a shape that is similar to the shape of a tiny button mushroom. Some folks might describe it as exhibiting a hemispherical shape. At the back edge of the head, it is five-sixteenths of an inch wide with a height of three-eighths of an inch. Therefore, it is slightly oval shaped rather than round like a button mushroom. It has a circumference of about one inch. The head of the 1/16-ouncer is flatter than the heads of the 1/32- and 3/32-ounce models, and the distance from the back of its head to the tip or crown of its head is slightly less than one-eighth of an inch. Its flatness is often heralded as a virtue by Midwest finesse anglers. The collar of the jig, which surrounds the shank of the hook, is three-eighths of an inch long. At the tip of the collar, there is a triangular-shaped bait keeper, which some anglers describe as a dual-barbed bait keeper. This bait keeper is an eighth of an inch long, and the base the triangle is a quarter of an inch wide. Its flat head virtually melds into the tip of the anterior section of some soft-plastic baits, such as Z-Man’s Finesse TRD and TRD TicklerZ, which helps to prevent it from becoming snagged between the crevices of rocks and boulders and the forks in submerged trees and other kinds of submerged terrestrial vegetation.
The head of the 1/32-ounce model is graced with the same style and shape of the head of its 1/16-ounce sibling. But, of course, dimensions are slightly different. At the back edge of the head, it is three-sixteenths of an inch wide and a quarter of an inch high with a circumference of about eleven-sixteenths of an inch. The distance from the back of its head to the tip or crown of its head is slightly less than three-sixteenths of an inch. The collar of the jig, which surrounds the shank of the hook, is five-sixteenths of an inch long. At the tip of the collar, there is a triangular-shaped bait keeper, which is an eighth of an inch long, and the base of the triangle is three-sixteenths of an inch wide. In shallow-water environs that are adorned with aquatic vegetation or flooded terrestrial vegetation, the 1/32-ounce OG Mushroom Jighead rigged on a Z-Man’s Finesse ShadZ, TRD HogZ , Finesse TRD, or shortened Finesse WormZ is a godsend for Midwest finesse applications, and around these lairs, these rigs can be retrieved with all six of the standard Midwest finesse retrieves.
Even though the head of the 3/32-ounce model is larger than its siblings, it has the same style and shape of their heads. Along the back edge of the head, it is five-sixteenths of an inch wide and three-eighths of an inch high with a circumference of about 1 1/8 inches. The distanced from the back of the head to the tip or crown of the head is slightly more than three-sixteenths of an inch. The collar of the jig, which surrounds the shank of the hook, is about three-eighths of an inch long. At the tip of the collar, there is a triangular-shaped bait keeper, which is an eighth of an inch long, and the base of the triangle is three-sixteenths of an inch wide. Like Schmidt, we like to affix the 3/32-ounce OG Mushroom Jighead to a three-inch curly-tailed grub and swimbait with a boot tail.
The 1/32-ounce and 1/16-ounce models sport a number four hook. The 3/32-ounce model is graced with a number two hook. The distance from the center of the eye of the number two hook to the apex of the round bend of the shank of the hook is one inch. The distance between the shank of the number two hook and its point, which called the gap, is three-eighths of an inch. The distance from the center of the eye of the number four hook to the apex of the round bend is thirteen-sixteenths of an inch, and its gap five-sixteenths of an inch. They are VMC’s needle-point hooks.
Most black-bass anglers possess the mistaken notion that they need to employ large hooks, but during the many years that we have been pursuing black bass with our Midwest finesse tactics, we have discovered that a number two jig hook and a number four jig hook are the most effective sizes. And they catch big black bass, too. For instance, by using a red 1/16-ounce Original Mushroom Head Jig with a number four hook affixed to a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ in northeastern Kansas waterways, we have caught one smallmouth bass that weighed six pounds, 10 ounces and another that weighed six pounds, six ounces and scores more of hefty largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. On every outing, we hope to catch an average of 25 black bass an hour, which we rarely accomplish at the heavily fished waterways in northeastern Kansas. However, our average catch rate throughout the calendar year ranges from eight to 10 black bass an hour, and the way we accomplished that feat was by using the Original Mushroom Head Jigs with number two and number four hooks. And we will continue that tactic with the OG Mushroom Jigheads.
In our eyes, the number two and number four hooks are essential ingredients for allowing our 2 ½- to four-inch soft-plastic finesse baits to function properly.
The OG Mushroom Jighead is manufactured in the following hues: black, blue, chartreuse, green pumpkin, and red. The paint is a durable powder coat.
A package of four costs $4.99.
- Here is the link to Z-Man’s website: https://www.zmanfishing.com/cms/index.php.
- Here is the link to the Midwest Finesse column that explains how we retrieve the Z-Man’s OG Mushroom Jighead affixed to various kinds of soft-plastic baits: https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/six-midwest-finesse-retrieves/153946.
- Here is a link to our Midwest Finesse column that details some of the history of Gopher Tackle: https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/a-short-and-informal-history-and-tour-of-gopher-tackle/153633.