For years on end, we have noted that scores of Midwest finesse anglers are dedicated customizers of the lures that they use and to catch untold numbers of black bass.
One of the stalwarts of this process is Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, who plies the rivers and streams of West Virginia for smallmouth bass, as well as the other denizens that abide in those waterways.
Until September 19, Myers was a regular contributor to the Finesse News Network and our monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing. His insights have also been featured in our gear guides.
A lightweight and small mushroom-style jig lies at the heart of Myers' presentations, which is the antithesis of what most largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass anglers employ. Most anglers want to feel their lures when they are retrieving them, and in fact, many of them contend that it is discombobulating if they are unable to feel their lures. But Myers finds that a no-feel presentation is more effective by a large margin at inveigling the smallmouth bass that abide in the streams and rivers that he fishes than can be achieved by using a jig that allows him to feel it during the retrieve. In essence, he uses intuition rather than feel to determine what his jig is doing. He also wants the fall rate of his bait to be extremely slow.
To accomplish that task, Myers uses a Z-Man Fishing Products' 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig, which he customizes by removing most of the lead of the jig's head that is below the shank of the hook and its 90-degree eye-bend. It creates a jig that weighs slightly more than one-thirty-second of an ounce.
The Finesse News Network asked him how he customizes them, and in a Nov. 4 email he told us that he began customizing them during the summer of 2016. He said that he places the jigs in a bench vice, and then he sets about removing the lead. The first ones he attempted to customize he did it with a jig saw, but he was not pleased with the results. So he switched to using a Dremel Rotary Tool and blade to remove the lead, but he was not happy with those results. Both tactics, he said, tended to remove too much lead and exposed too much of the shank of the hook, which allowed the head to wobble too much. Ultimately, he found that a course metal file was the easiest and quickest way to remove the correct amount lead from the underside of the jig's head. He did that by gingerly moving the file across the lead, and within two minutes, he could create a Finesse ShroomZ jig that weighs slightly more than a one-thirty-second of an ounce.
He uses the customized 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig with four of Z-Man's Midwest finesse baits: Finesse T.R.D., Hula StickZ, T.R.D. TubeZ, and ZinkerZ.
The ZinkerZ is customized from five inches to 2 1/2 inches. The Hula StickZ is shortened from four inches to three inches. He does not shorten the Finesse T.R.D. He stretches and then soaks the Finesse T.R.D. Hula StickZ and ZinkerZ in water to remove the salt that is impregnated into these baits when they are manufactured. After they are soaked and dried, he marinates them in a concoction of nightcrawler, crayfish, and garlic scent that Pro-Cure Bait Scents mixed for Myers. He does not customize nor soak the T.R.D. TubeZ, but he marinates it in the scent, and before he affixes it to the jig, he attaches another bait keeper on top of the shank of the hook and in front of the bait keeper that is on the bottom of the shank. When the Finesse TubeZ is affixed to the second bait keeper, it is situated in the solid-head portion of the T.R.D. TubeZ, which keeps it from becoming cattywampus and sliding down the shank of the hook.
(1) On Oct. 23, 2015 we published a gear guide about Z-Man's 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig, here is a link to that column: https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/z-man-fishing-products-finesse-shroomz-jig-an-update/. This column also contained an endnote about Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ Weedless jig.
(2) Here is the link to the Oct. 27, 2014 gear guide about the Finesse ShroomZ: https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/z-mans-shroomz/. It includes a significant amount of history about the jigs that Midwest finesse anglers have employed since the 1950s. It also features Drew Reese's work in helping Z-Man develop the Finesse ShroomZ. Reese is from Rantoul, Kansas, and Sioux Narrows, Ontario, and he is one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing, which he calls light-line fishing rather than Midwest finesse fishing. He says he is uncomfortable using the word finesse. But others call it Midwest finesse fishing because it is different than the light-line and finesse tactics that the Japanese and West Coast anglers employ.
(3) Myers noted that he uses the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ during the cold-water months. It is more buoyant than the Finesse T.R.D. What's more, the ZinkerZ undulates more than the Finesse T.R.D. He also uses the Hula StickZ in cold-water situations, and it is retrieved with a dragging and deadsticking presentation in 10 feet of water along the bottom in areas where there is a significant gap between a plethora of boulders and flooded trees. The ZinkerZ is retrieved with a swimming presentation in relatively deep water, and he swims it from six inches to two feet above the bottom. He swims the ZinkerZ rig by turning the reel handle -- not by moving his rod; the only time his rod moves is when he employs a subtle shake of the rod in order to make the ZinkerZ gently quiver and undulate. He suspects that he will employ the T.R.D. TubeZ throughout the cold-water months. The velocity that the river is flowing also effects how and where he executes his casts and retrieves. He said: :If I am facing conditions above 120 cubic feet per second, I prefer to throw the ZinkerZ rig directly into (upriver) current or at a two o'clock angle up and across visible surface current. This allows a better no-feel retrieve than casting directly down current or directly across current, which also raises and lowers the ZinkerZ rig more than I like and provides more feel than I prefer."