Tenth Anniversary of the Zero

Tenth Anniversary of the Zero

Oct. 12 marks the tenth anniversary of our discovery of the manifold virtues of Strike King Lure Company's 2 1/2-inch Zero.

Straightaway the 2 1/2-inch Zero and eventually Z-Man Fishing Products' 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ  became the standard-bearers in the repertoire of untold numbers of Midwest finesse anglers. And since then, these two baits have spawned a variety of offspring that play a critical role in how Midwest finesse anglers practice their piscatorial tactics.

The Zero is manufactured for Strike King by Z-Man. It and the ZinkerZ are identical twins.

At a media event at Table Rock Lake in late September of 2016, Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, gave me a package of Zeros. At that time, Van Dam and several other anglers were helping me write about the shaky-head-worm phenomenon. And it was on Oct. 12, 2006, when a friend and I first employed the 2 1/2-inch green-pumpkin Zero. The Zero is a hefty five-inch soft-plastic stickbait, which is too much of a piece of soft-plastic for us to affix to the tiny 1/16- and 1/32-ounce jigs that we prefer to use. So, we cut the five-inch Zero in half, and we affixed those 2 1/2-inch Zeros to our red 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jigs. And those two Zero rigs  helped us tangle with 109 largemouth bass in four hours at one of the many community reservoirs that adorn the suburban, exurban, and urban landscapes across northeastern Kansas. It should be noted that this reservoir is heavily fished, and during this October outing, northeastern Kansas was being waylaid by a significant cold front. The low temperature was 41 degrees, and the high temperature was 59 degrees. The sun was shining everywhere, and the wind was howling out of the northwest at 10 to 25 mph.

This is what we did to the Zeros that Kevin Van Dam gave us.

In short, the Zero and ZinkerZ, as well as several of their relatives, have helped us catch more black bass than we could ever imagine catching from the heavily fished reservoirs that we ply throughout a calendar year. So, we are pleased indeed to celebrate this anniversary.

Below are seven photographs that focus on some of the soft-plastic baits that we used before we discovered the many virtues of the 2 1/2-inch Zero and ZinkerZ. The eighth photograph features one of the important relatives of the Zero and ZinkerZ:

At the top is a Chuck Woods' Beetle. Second from the top is Harold Ensley's Reaper. The third one is Chuck Woods' Puddle Jumper, which Woods originally crafted from the tail section of a Reaper. At the bottom, is a generic French fry, and at times, it is called a centipede. We rigged all of these soft-plastic baits on small jigs. Chuck Woods liked to affix a jig spinner to the Beetle and Puddle Jumper, but a goodly number of the first and second generation of Midwest finesse anglers preferred just the jig. In our eyes, the Beetle was the first stick-style or Senko-style bait. And from our historical vantage point, the French fry was another predecessor to the stick-style bait.

Midwest finesse anglers are inveterate customizers of soft-plastic baits. Here is a sample of how we used to customize a seven-inch Stembridge  Products' Fliptail Worm. We removed three inches from the front section of the worm. Most of the time we used the four-inch tail section of the Fliptail Worm, which we affixed to a tiny and unpainted jig. But there were outings when we affixed the three inch front section of the Fliptail Worm to a tiny and unpainted jig. In some ways, the three-inch section was a precursor to a stick-style or Senko-style bait. At the top of this photograph is the three-inch front section of the Fliptail Worm. The one in the middle is the four-inch section. At the bottom is an uncustomized Fliptail Worm. Chuck Woods taught us that one of the most effective colors of a Fliptail Worm was a hue he called root beer. Woods created that hue by mixing some blue Fliptail Worms with some red ink from a Magic Marker.

For a number of years, we wielded a split-shot rig, which consisted of a small split-shot affixed six to 10 inches in front of a No. 2 offset hook and a four-inch soft-plastic worm, such as Berkley's Power Bait Power Ringer. We also rigged the four-inch Power Ringer on an unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jig. Besides Berkley's worms, we used soft-plastic worms made by Creme Lure Company, Mann's Bait Company, and other manufacturers.

These are three creature baits that we affixed to a jig. At the top is a hand-poured Guido Hibdon's Guido Bug. The one in the middle is Gene Larew Lure's Baby Hoodaddy. At the bottom is a two-inch YUM's Wooly Beavertail. Besides these three creature baits, many Midwest finesse anglers used to use Mann's Bait Company's Stingray Grubs and Zoom Bait Company's Mini Lizard, which are not included in this photograph.

Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, taught us about the effectiveness of a tube. Initially,when we used a tube at the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas, we preferred to insert a 1/16-ounce jig inside the tube. But as the years wore on, we rigged it externally with a 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jig. The tube at the top is a generic two-incher. The one at the bottom is a 2 1/2-inch Fishtech Lures' Tube.

For years on end, we used  a variety of three- and four-inch grubs on a 1/16-, 3/32-, and 1/8-ounce jig. This one is a four-inch YUM's Muy Grub.

Before the Zero, we affixed either a three-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Bait's Senko or a three-inch YUM's Dinger to either a  1/32- or a 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jig. The bait at the top is a three-inch Yamamoto's smoke-pearl-blue Fat Senko, and before 2006, it as a very effective color for alluring smallmouth bass in early October in northeastern Kansas. The middle bait is a three-inch YUM's watermelon-seed Dinger. At the bottom is a four-inch YUM Dinger, and we would trim about an inch off of the head of it before we affixed it onto a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig.

In addition to giving us a package of Zeros in September of 2006, Kevin Van Dam gave us a package of four-inch Strike King Lure Company's green-pumpkin Finesse Worms. Nowadays, they are made by Z-Man Fishing Products for Strike King, and they are identical to Z-Man's four-inch Finesse WormZ. And like the Zero and ZinkerZ, these four-inch Finesse Worms and Finesse WormZs have become another standard-bearer in our Midwest finesse repertoire. For more information about the effectiveness of the Finesse WormZ, please see endnote No. 5.


Here are four  links to  columns that focus on the history  of Midwest finesse fishing:

(1) https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/a-short-history-of-midwest-finesse-fishing-for-black-bass-1955-2013/.

(2) https://www.in-fisherman.com/uncategorized/drew-reeses-history-midwest-finesse-fishing/.

(3) https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/drew-reeses-history-midwest-finesse-fishing-part-two/.

(4) https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/legends-of-the-heartland/.

(5) Two links  to Midwest Finesse columns that focus on the Finesse WormZ: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/the-super-finesse-worm/, and https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/the-super-finesse-worm-another-update/.

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