March 13, 2020
By Ned Kehde
Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, posted his first fishing log on the Finesse News Network on April 10, 2015. And for many months after his initial contribution, he posted a number of detailed logs about how, when, and where he used Midwest finesse tactics to catch smallmouth bass on the streams that he fishes in northeastern West Virginia.
During the past two years, however, he has focused on other piscatorial endeavors, and his contributions to the Finesse News Network have been sporadic.
On Jan. 26, he began sending us detailed emails that described how he uses Z-Man Fishing Products’ TRD TubeZ, TRD BugZ, TRD HogZ, TRD TicklerZ, and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and how he affixes these five ElaZtech baits to a 1/20-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig and a 1/15-ounce TT Lures’ NedlockZ HD jig.
Here is an edited version of his emails:
Since I stopped contributing logs to the Finesse News Network, I have had a substantial number of river smallmouth anglers contact me, asking if I have been doing anything differently from years past. Those requests provoked me to share with my fellow finesse anglers a rigging method that I have yet to see written or spoken about.
There is not an ardent river smallmouth fisherman in the eastern states that has not either in the past or the present fished with a tube bait.
Since 1964 when Bobby and Garry Garland created the Gitzit, the number of various tube rigs that river smallmouth anglers use is almost bewildering. I have seen trends come and go. Some have lasted, some have not. Some tubes are single or double or triple dipped. Some are impregnated with salt and scent. There are various lengths of the tentacles. There are different dimensions and configurations of the hollow body and its head. These factors affect how an angler presents the tube to their quarries.
I know of vast numbers of anglers who have manufactured their own jigs, which have various shapes and weights. Most of them were created to allow an angler to drag the tube rig across rock- and snag-laden river and stream bottoms without becoming snagged.
Across the years, I have worked with a variety of tube rigs. Ultimately, I have determined that rigging the jig inside the tube is more effective than rigging a tube with the head of the jig affixed to the outside of the tip of the tube’s anterior section.
In my estimation, this internal rigging of a tube allows it to display its best attributes.
One of those admirable traits occurs as this rig plummets from the surface to the bottom of a river or stream. And as it falls, it exhibits an erratic demeanor that cannot be replicated again. In my eyes, this unique trait seems to catch the eyes of a goodly number of riverine smallmouth bass and provokes a significant number of them to engulf it.
What’s more, I have noticed that when a smallmouth bass engulfs a tube, it will not spit a tube rigged with an internal jig out of its mouth has readily as it will spit out a tube that is rigged with an external jig.
I have also discovered that rigging the tube with an exposed hook rather than a Texas rig or Texas-posed rig simplifies the hook-setting procedure. In fact, it is almost automatic.
Moreover, when the head of the jig is inside the tube, the rig becomes relatively snag-free. It seems to subtly bounce or ricochet off of underwater obstacles, such as piles of rocks and boulders or sunken trees rather than becoming wedged between the rocks and boulders or snagged to a trunk or limb of a tree. Of course, I am not saying that it is hundred-percent snag free.
Nowadays, I work with a 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig and 1/15-ounce NedLockZ jigs. And I insert the Finesse ShroomZ jig or NedLockZ jig inside a Z-Man’s TRD TubeZ differently than the way anglers normally insert a tear-drop-shaped or cylinder-shaped tube-style jig inside the hollow torso or cavity of a traditional tube.
In several ways, the TRD TubeZ is also different than other tubes. It is 2 ¾ inches long. It possesses 10 round tentacles, which are 1 1/2 inches long. Its cylindrical torso is 1 1/4 inches long. Its torso is pimpled, replicating the pimples on the carapace of a crayfish's exoskeleton. One-half of an inch of the front portion of the torso is solid, and the rest of it is hollow.
Because the head portion of the TRD TubeZ is not hollow, I grasp the tip of the head between my thumb and index finger on my right hand and I grasp the section of the torso immediately behind the solid head between my thumb and index finger on my left hand, and then I significantly stretch the head to make the head pliable enough that I can completely insert the entire head and eye of the hook inside the TRD TubeZ’s head.
Before I begin to insert it, I dip the head of the jig and head of the TRD TubeZ into the water. As soon they are wet, I insert the hook of the jig into the tiny cylinder-shaped indentation on the head of the TRD TubeZ. Then I affix the head and torso of the TRD TubeZ onto the shank of the hook. When the tip of the TRD TubeZ’s head is flush to the back of the head of the jig, I grasp the head of the TubeZ’s between my thumb index finger of my right hand and my thumb and I grasp the shank of the hook between the index finger on my left hand and then I pull the head of the TRD TubeZ over the eye of the hook and the entire head of the jig. Some anglers might want to hold onto the shank of the hook with a pair of pliers rather than with their index finger and thumb.
Once the entire head and eye of the hook of the jig is encapsulated inside the solid head of the TRD TubeZ, I use my fingernail to scrape the thin layer of ElaZtech that covers the eye of the hook. After the eye of the hook is slightly exposed, I tie the tube onto my line. After the knot has been tied, a thin layer of ElaZtech covers the eye of the hook and knot, which protects the knot from being damaged.
The head and eye of the jig keeps the TRD TubeZ perfectly aligned, making them an ideal bait keeper. Thus, no glues or special bait keepers are needed.
It takes me about two minutes to accomplish this task.
The durability of this rigging system is astonishing. And since I do not have to regularly readjust the alignment of the TRD TubeZ on the jig and retie the line to the eye of the hook, I can execute more casts and retrieves per outing, which often results in more donnybrooks with smallmouth bass.
After my many successful endeavors of internally rigging the head of the TRD TubeZ with a 1/20-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig and a 1/15-ounce TT Lures’ NedlockZ HD jig, I began rigging those jigs inside the heads of Z-Man’s TRD BugZ, TRD HogZ, TRD TicklerZ and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ. And I accomplish this task the same way that I do it with the TRD TubeZ. When the head of the jig is placed inside the head of these four ElaZtech baits, these rigs plummet from the surface to the bottom of the river as alluringly as the TRD TubeZ, and the speed of the drop is slower than it is when the jig is affixed externally to the head of the TRD BugZ, TRD HogZ, TRD TicklerZ and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ . Like the TRD TubeZ rigging, these rigs are extremely durable and do not need to be constantly realigned. Moreover, the knot that affixes the jig to the line is protected by a thin layer of ElaZtech, and the knot rarely needs to be retied. This rigging style with the TRD BugZ, TRD HogZ, TRD TicklerZ and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ is relatively snag-free, and most importantly, it inveigles an impressive array of smallmouth bass.
- Here is a link to a Aug. 23, 2016, Midwest Finesse column that features Myers’ first observations about the TRD TubeZ, which was introduced to the angling world at the International Convention of Allied Sportsfishng Trades show on July 12-15 in Orlando, Florida : https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/z-mans-t-r-d-tubez-for-river-smallmouth-bass-according-to-travis-myers/156179.
- Here are the links to our Midwest Finesse gear guides about the TRD BugZ, TRD TicklerZ, and TRD TubeZ:
https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/z-man-trd-bugz/364174; https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/z-mans-trd hogz/156150; https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/zmans-trd-ticklerz/330380; https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/z-mans-trd-tubez/156167;
- In a Feb. 17 email, Myers wrote that it takes him from seven to 10 seconds to internally affix the head of a 1/20-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig or a 1/15-ounce TT Lures’ NedlockZ HD jig inside the head of a TRD BugZ, TRD HogZ, TRD TicklerZ, TRD TubeZ, and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ.
Before he rigs them, he soaks the baits that are impregnated with salt in water until all of the salt is removed. Then he allows these baits to dry. When they are dry, he coats them with his customized version of Pro-Cure Bait Scents. After they are coated with the scent, he stores them in their original packages.
He rigs them on a jig before he leaves his house. Once the baits are affixed to a jig, he never removes it. And because the baits are salt-free, the hooks do not become rusted or weakened.
When he is afloat he regularly uses an Eze-Lap Diamond Hook Sharpener to keep the points of the hooks sharp.
In order not to cause too much harm to the fish that he catches, he removes the barb from every hook.
He ended this email by saying that it took him a couple of years to learn “the subtle nuances of this method of rigging.” It has made him a better and more efficient angler, and he hopes others will realize its merits. Even though thousands of words have been written and thousands of minutes of videos have been created about Midwest finesse tactics and rigs, he has “never seen this style of rigging touched on anywhere.”