November 10, 2014
By Ned Kehde
Z-Man Fishing Products didn't create its BatwingZ for Midwest finesse anglers. In the minds and eyes of its designers, it was created for anglers such as Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Arkansas, who has competed in Bassmaster tournament circuits since 1995, as well as other tournament venues for years on end.
Browning occasionally wields some finesse tactics, but at heart he is a power angler, and he used the BatwingZ throughout the entire 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series, as well as several Bassmaster Open events, as a power bait.
There are two sizes of the BatwingZ: 2 3/4 inches and 3 1/2 inches. Its head and stubby torso replicates a crayfish. The top of the head is endowed with two eyes, and the torso has a carapace ridge and a series of tiny pustules. Instead of claws or pincers, a flat wing radiates from each side of its head and top of its torso. The wings of the 2 3/4-inch model are two inches long and endowed with 19 ribs or ridges. The end of the wings are slightly serrated, and just before the serrated section begins, there is a tiny appendage., which is about one sixteenth of an inch long
Browning employs it as a trailer on a skirted jig. He threads the 2 3/4-inch BatwingZ onto the hook and snuggly on the collar of a 7/16-ounce Jewel Bait Company's Stephen Browning Magnum Casting Jig. To keep it affixed to the jig's collar, he employs a drop of Loctite Super Glue Gel. He affixes the jig to 16-pound-test Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon, which is spooled onto a Lew's Team Gold Speed Spool Casting Reel, and the reel is affixed to a seven-foot, medium-heavy-power, fast-action St. Croix Legendxtreme Casting Rod. Browning calls this his finesse presentation, which, of course, causes Midwest finesse anglers to smile and even chuckle a touch.
For what he calls his pure power presentations, Browning opts for the 3 1/2-inch BatwingZ, which he threads and glues onto either a 9/16-ounce or a 11/16-ounce Jewel Bait Company's Stephen Browning Magnum Casting Jig. And he uses the same rod and reel combination that he employs with the 2 3/4-inch BatwingZ and 7/16-ounce jig, but he beefs up the size of the line and works with 20-pound-test Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon.
Browning says that it is important for anglers to constantly experiment with different sizes of jigs and BatwingZs throughout each outing, noting that there will be spells when the largemouth bass prefer the jig and BatwingZ to fall at a rapid pace, and there will be periods when the largemouth bass like the jig and BatwingZ to plummet relatively slowly.
Browning will pitch and flip his jig-and-BatwingZ combo around laydowns, boat docks, brush piles, emergent vegetation (such as American water willows or lily pads or maidencanes or bulrushes), submerged vegetation (such as Eurasian milfoil or hydrilla or coontail), stumps, and flooded timber. He also spends a lot of time dragging and crawling it through and across a variety of lairs. And there are occasions when Browning utilizes a swimming presentation, which he always employs with the 3 1/2-inch BatwingZ.
Browning lauds the durability of the BatwingZ, saying that he can inveigle scores of largemouth bass on the same one. The durability also helps when he garners a strike but fails to hook the bass. When that occurs with a standard soft-plastic trailer, an angler often has to replace that trailer, but with the BatwingZ, Browning quickly presents it back to the missed bass, and with astonishing regularity, that second presentation engenders another strike and usually a hooked bass.
In addition to the durability of the ElaZtech that is used to manufacture the BatwingZ, Browning also praises its buoyancy and flexibility, as well as the unique gyrations that it creates while an angler retrieves the BatwingZ -- even when it is presented in the deadstick motif, the wings, head, and torso rise at an upright angle from the bottom and quiver alluringly.
But he cautions anglers to always remove the BatwingZ from the jig at the end of the outing, which is because the ElaZtech and the jig skirt will intermingle, and a chemical reaction will occur that will cause the BatwingZ to virtually dissolve.
Since the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City created the Beetle and Beetle Spin in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Midwest finesse anglers have exhibited an uncanny ability to create a finesse bait out of a power bait. And that phenomenon has happened once again thanks to the eyes and hands of Don Baldridge of Springfield, Missouri, who is a regular correspondent on the Finesse News Network and contributor to the monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing.
In an Oct 31 email, Baldridge noted that his first encounter with the BatwingZ occurred when he was perusing Z-Man's 2015 catalog, and he thought it was an interesting looking jig trailer, but the photograph in the catalog didn't provoke him to purchase it. Then about a month ago, he was perusing the shelves at a tackle shop, and his eyes inadvertently focused on several packages of them. Straightaway he was impressed, saying they are far more impressive in the package and in his hands than they were in the photograph, and he was also captivated by their suppleness. Consequently, he purchased both sizes in a variety of colors.
About a week after he purchased them, he created a YouTube video that focused on the buoyancy of the BatwingZ, as well as Z-Man's Finesse T.R.D., Finesse ShadZ, 2 1/2- inch ZinkerZ, Slim SwimZ and CreatureZ. He affixed the 2 1/2-inch BatwingZ to a Z-Man's 1/15-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig, and Baldridge was immediately impressed with the buoyancy and action of the BatwingZ, noting that the jig head was on the bottom and the wings were positioned at a 90-degree angle from the bottom. He called it a slender bait with a flat belly, but when he looked at it straight down into the water, it looked as if it had a wide profile. Here's a link to Baldridge's YouTube video: http://youtu.be/bd-YvSXhnmw .
In his email, Baldridge wrote about his first outings with the BatwingZ, and he said: "Even though the fishing ranged from lackluster to downright onerous in southwest Missouri in October, my initial outings with the BatwingZ was surprisingly positive.
"I fished both sizes of the BatwingZ twice. I caught a goodly number of bass, and at this point in time, I would give the nod to the productivity of the 2 3/4-incher. However, that opinion is quite subjective, considering the differences of the water and weather conditions of the two trips.
"The Z-Man catalog describes the BatwingZ as a jig trailer. But since anything attached to a jig is a jig trailer, why shouldn't these lures work as a Midwest finesse jig? And when I initially looked at and felt the BatwingZ, it looked and felt like a soft-plastic finesse bait, and now I know that it does indeed work well on Midwest finesse jigs.
"What's more, with the success I had in 60-degree water (when nothing else would work), I think the BatwingZ on a Midwest finesse jig will be spectacular in March and April when the Ozark black bass move back onto the shorelines.
"Because of the windy conditions during the first two outings, I used a Z-Man's 1/15-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig and a Gopher Tackle's 1/16-ounce Mushroom Head Jig on six-pound-test Seagaur AbrazX fluorocarbon line. I'm sure the 1/32-ounce jig will work well on the 2 3/4-inch BatwingZ, but it wouldn't work on the 3 1/2-incher, and that is because it is so buoyant that it floats on the surface.
"When I use a chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ, I use nail polish to tone it down with purple accents (and often with a touch of red highlights). On the Gopher jigs, I often use nail polish to paint purple or red on these jig heads, which are wider and flatter than Finesse ShroomZ.
"In summary, I feel fortunate that I stumbled upon the BatwingZ as I was meandering through the tackle shop. I hope other Midwest finesse anglers don't hesitate to give them a whirl.
"Here is a link to a YouTube video of the 2 3/4-inch BatwingZ: http://youtu.be/LBYhkLEzDo8 . It describes the characteristics of the lure and shows its potential as a great fish-catching addition to finesse angling."
It is available in six colors: Black/Blue Flake, Blue Sapphire, Green Pumpkin, Green Pumpkin Blue, Green Pumpkin Red Flake, and Watermelon Red Flake. They are not impregnated with salt, which enhances their buoyancy and their ability to glide alluringly during a variety Midwest finesse retrieves.
The suggested retail price for a package of five 3 1/2-inchers and package of six 2 3/4-inchers is $4.49. And one online retailer sells them for $3.99.