May 16, 2012
By Ned Kehde
Since Oct. 12, 2006, either Strike King Lure Company's 2 1/2-inch Zero or Z-Man Fishing Products' 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ has been the primary soft-plastic bait in our Midwest finesse repertoire.
Before we crossed paths withthe Zero and ZinkerZ, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits' three-inch Senko and YUM Bait three-inch Dinger were our mainstays.
The Zero and ZinkerZ are identical lures, and Z-Man manufactures the Zero for Strike King.
We always affix them to Gopher Tackle's Original Mushroom Head Jig with the hook exposed. We employ three sizes of the Gopher jig: 1/32-, 1/16- and 3/32-ounce.
We have noted several times in past blogs that the Zero and ZinkerZ become more effective as they become tattered and torn from bewitching scores of largemouth and smallmouth bass. It is not unusual to catch 100 bass or more on the same Zero or ZinkerZ. What's more, as they age, the salt that is impregnated in the Zero and ZinkerZ dissipates, which makes them more buoyant, and that buoyancy seems to make them exceptionally alluring to the largemouth and smallmouth bass. Eventually they become so buoyant that they will float when affixed to a 1/32-ounce jig. Therefore, we attach the old, tattered and torn ones to either a 1/16- or 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.
During the past five years, a goodly number of finesse anglers have been introduced to the Zero and ZinkerZ and Gopher, and most of them have become as smitten with it as we have.
In most anglers' eyes, however, it's an unattractive and even loathsome bait Consequently, many anglers -- especially those anglers who prefer to employ power tactics -- are reluctant to use it.
Thus, it is usually interesting to read or listen to anglers reactions and impression of the Zero-and-ZinkerZ-and-Gopher combo after their initial outings with it.
Brian Waldman, who is a veteran and talented finesse angler from Coatesville, Indiana, was introduced in March to the manifold virtues of the ZinkerZ and Gopher.
On Mar. 19, Waldman e-mailed me a description of his maiden outing with a
2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ affixed to Gopher Tackle's 1/16-ounce Mushroom Jig Head.
He wrote: "Just a very brief mention that I gave the mushroom head jig/half ZinkerZ bait a try for the first time tonight after work. Only got to fish for 1 hour at dusk, and that time was relegated to the shoreline at the local marina, but caught 13 largemouth bass on it. See lots of potential and can't wait to get out and experiment with it more this coming week. Think the "no feel" retrieve won't be a problem as it reminds me a lot of swimming tubes for open water crappie. Spent more time 'feeling' what bites felt like and developing the hook set, as well as watching what my bait was doing as I tried the different retrieves.
'Swim and glide' and 'hop and bounce' both produced, though I mostly tried to master the former. A couple casts using straight swim retrieves didn't produce.
Surface water temps here have zoomed into the low 60's on many waters, plus we're already seeing algae blooms, so the small hair jig bite is fading fast.
I'll report more when I get more time with it."
On Mar. 21, Waldman sent his second ZinkerZ report.
He wrote: "Another quick update. I continue to be impressed with the catching ability of the half ZinkerZ, especially the multispecies nature of it. Have caught multiple crappie using it both trips now, a 12-inch redear, and also picked up a new species on it tonight, this nice walleye.
Do have one quick question for you though. Have never heard you or anyone else mention fishing this little bait at night. Reason I ask is because my trip tonight was from 8:00 -9:30 PM under cover of darkness (sunset 7:58), but the bass continued to eat it up in the dark. Picked up well over 2 dozen more in those 90 minutes from shore again, mostly fishing one little rock spine in 4'-6' of water using a slightly abbreviated hop and bounce retrieve. Basically tried to imitate a small craw scooting along the rocks, and the bass were feeding on it with a vengeance. Rather fun in the dark when your only sense of detecting a bite is feel, which becomes enhanced in the dark when visual stimuli is shut down. The bait obviously doesn't put out much vibration, but the fish can easily locate it and eat it, still. Hoping to test it from the boat this weekend if weather permits."
In regard to Waldman's question about night fishing with the ZinkerZ and Gopher, we told him that we gave up night fishing back in the 1990s. But we used to spend a lot time in the 1970s and 1980s, using a 1/16- and 1/8-ounce black marabou jig with a black chenille or yarn body. And we caught a potpourri of species and goodly numbers of them on a black jig. Until we discovered the Senko, Dinger, Zero and ZinkerZ, the marabou jig was an important tool in our finesse repertoire, but nowadays, we rarely use it. In my mind, I suspect that a Junebug or black-blue/blue laminated ZinkerZ on a Gopher would be a more effective bait than our old black marabou jig on most night outings.
As Waldman discovered on his first two outings, it is a effective all-species bait. For instance, Dave Schmidtein, who is a consummate crappie angler from Topeka, Kansas, used it throughout the summer and autumn of 2011. He also used it on several of his summertime blue and channel catfish outings in 2011. Moreover, a number of Midwest finesse bass anglers, such as Clyde Holscher of Topeka and Steve Desch of Topeka, call it their potpourri bait. Thus, on the same outing, Holscher and Desch have been known to allure bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, flathead catfish, freshwater drum, green sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, walleye, warmouth, white bass and wipers.
Here's another ZinkerZ initiation story: A few weeks ago, Holscher gave young Dalton Brewer a vintage Billy Westmorland fiberglass spinning rod. Holscher taped a reel to the Tennessee handle and filled the spool with some eight-pound-test monofilament. He also tied a 2 1/2-inch purple-haze ZinkerZ and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig to the line. On Brewer's first outing, he caught the largemouth bass pictured below. Brewer caught this bass on the ZinkerZ while walking the shoreline at a 409-acre community reservoir that lies several blocks from his family's home.
Postscript: It should be noted that the ZinkerZ will experience periodic fallow spells throughout a calendar year. Some Midwest finesse anglers have recently experienced one of those spell. So, instead of dressing their Gopher jigs with a ZinkerZ, they are dressing them with either a Finesse ShadZ or a four-inch Finesse WormZ. But even during these fallow times, these anglers always have a 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ at the ready and periodically test it on nearly every outing, and we average about 125 outings a year.
For more information about the ZinkerZ and the other soft-plastic bait that Midwest finesse anglers employ see: