Z-Man Fishing Products introduced its 3 1/2-inch GrubZ to the angling world at the 2014 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show in Orlando, Florida, on July 15. It was an event that scores of Midwest finesse anglers have been waiting for several years.
Since 2009, these Midwest finesse anglers have found that the ElaZtech material that Z-Man employs to make its soft-plastic baits has no peers. Not only does ElaZtech make the baits incredibly alluring, but they are unbelievably durable. And beginning in 2011, several Midwest finesse anglers periodically sent pleas to the folks at Z-Man, saying that they were in need of a 3 1/2-inch black-bass-style grub made out of ElaZtech.
One of the anglers who petitioned Z-Man was Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas. Reese, who is 67 years old, is one of the primary forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing. He grew up fishing with the great and late Chuck Woods of Kansas City who created the Beetle, Beetle Spin, Puddle Jumper, and several other significant finesse tools and tactics. Ultimately, Reese used some of Woods' baits and original Midwest finesse tactics to finish in seventh place at the first Bassmaster Classic at Lake Mead, Nevada.
Shortly before the GrubZ was unveiled at the ICAST show, Reese was able to purchase a few packages of the green-pumpkin 3 1/2-inch GrubZ and Blue Glimmer Sparkle (which is sometimes called Pearl Blue Glimmer) 3 1/2-inch GrubZ, and he spent much of the late spring and entire summer in southwest Ontario, Canada, catching smallmouth bass, as well as scores of incidental northern pike and walleye, on those two hues.
Reese said that the smallmouth bass fishing that he and his friends experienced during the late spring and summer of 2014 was extremely trying. From his vast perspective, it was the most perplexing fishing that he has seen across the many decades that he has chased the smallmouth bass in the waters of southwest Ontario. He said the water level hit a historic high. Then late in the summer, the water level dropped precipitously. The high water level and the rapid drop of the water level affected the water temperature in the shallow-water and deep-water areas, and it also seemed to affect the behavior and whereabouts of the smallmouth bass and the creatures that they forage upon. Nevertheless, Reese was able to catch 2,993 smallmouth bass, and the 3 1/2-inch GrubZ caught about 25 percent of them. The others were caught on Z-Man's Hula StickZ, Finesse ShadZ, and Finesse T.R.D.
Reese noted that the green-pumpkin 3 1/2-inch GrubZ yielded the best results in the spring, when he wielded it around the shallow-water spawning sites, and he presented it with what he described as a lift-and-reel presentation, which replicates the behavior of crayfish. That presentation is achieved by lifting the rod a foot or so, which moves the rod from the two o'clock position to the one o'clock position, and then as the rod is slowly dropped back to the two o'clock position, the reel takes up the slack line and propels the GrubZ to swim.
As the summer began to unfold and the bulk of the smallmouth bass left their spawning locales, the Blue Glimmer Sparkle became the dominant hue.
By the time his summer in Ontario ended, Reese was regularly declaring that the 3 1/2-inch GrubZ was by far the finest grub that he has ever used. In fact, he called it "a great weapon" and his go-to bait when the wind howled. What's more, his wife, Jeanne, who is usually a casual angler, became nearly an ardent one after she began using it. At times she caught more smallmouth bass while fishing with the 3 1/2-inch GrubZ from the back of their boat than her husband caught in the front of the boat, using a Hula StickZ .
According to Reese, his and his wife's experiences with the 3 1/2-inch GrubZ in southwest Ontario revealed that it worked best when they rigged it on bigger jigs than most Midwest finesse anglers use in northeastern Kansas. The waters that they fished in Ontario are clearer and deeper than the relatively shallow and rather stained flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas and other nearby states. The clearer and deeper water in Ontario necessitates longer casts and retrieves than are needed on most flatland reservoirs. Therefore, the Reeses rigged their GrubZs on either a Z-Man's 1/10-ounce ShroomZ jig or 1/6-ounce ShroomZ, and he also worked with a 1/5-ounce prototype. Reese says they always affix the 3 1/2-inch GrubZ to the jig with the tail up.
In the spring, when the smallmouth bass regularly inhabited shallow-water lairs, they usually opted for the 1/10-ounce jig. But when the bulk of the smallmouth bass left their shallow-water springtime haunts, Reese found that the 1/6-ounce ShroomZ jig was the best option. He noted that the GrubZ is extremely buoyant, and the 1/6-ounce ShroomZ allows the GrubZ to get to the correct depth quicker than a lighter jig. The heavier jig also enhances the way the GrubZ undulates and moves. During the summer, the Reeses made long casts and retrieves. During each retrieve, they swam it around objects, such as boulders. If they were plying summertime lairs that were 10 feet deep, they would swim it so that it was two or three feet above the bottom, and when the GrubZ was two-thirds of the way back to the boat, they would execute a pause and allow the GrubZ to plummet to the bottom. Once it touched the bottom, they would delicately lift it off the bottom and execute two subtle shakes, and then they continued the swimming retrieve back to the boat, allowing it to cruise about three inches off the bottom. In Reese's eyes, this retrieve replicated the behavior of a baitfish that was in the state of distress.
During the initial drop and during the pause phase of the retrieve, Reese discovered that a heavy jig, such as the 1/6-ounce ShroomZ, caused the GrubZ to occasionally fall in a circular motion or wide circle, which is similar to the way the late Bobby Garland of Bass'n Man Lures Company of St. George, Utah, and Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, used to employ Garland's 2 1/2-inch Fat Gitzit. But to Reese's chagrin, some of the GrubZs didn't fall that way. Thus, during the late spring and summer of 2015, he will attempt to solve the mystery why some of the GrubZs do it and why some don't fall in that wide circular motif. Right now he thinks that it might revolve around the placement of the knot on the eye of the jig's hook.
One of Reese's friends from northwestern Missouri, who regularly competes in the Kenora Bass International tournament, has used a well-known three-inch white grub that is enhanced with a scent and flavor for years on end. But in August Reese gave him some 3 1/2-inch Pearl GrubZs to use, and when this angler did a side-by-side comparison or testing of the GrubZ to his old standard-bearer, he discovered that the GrubZ was more effective by a significant margin.
What's more, Reese and another friend fished a three-day bass tournament in September and competed against 123 teams of anglers. The 15 smallmouth bass that Reese and his friend brought to the scale weighed 42.22 pounds, which put them in 17th place. Reese described the fishing as excruciatingly difficult for all of the contestants. During the tournament, 60 percent of the smallmouth bass that Reese and his partner caught were caught on the 3 1/2-inch Blue Glimmer Sparkle GrubZs.
The torso of the 3 1/2-inch GrubZ is 1 1/4-inches long, and it is encircled with a series of minute ribs or rings. When the tail in its curled state, it is 2 1/2-inches long, and when it is stretched to its ultimate length during the retrieve, it ranges from 3 1/2 to nearly four inches long.
It is not permeated with salt or scent. It is extremely buoyant, flexible, soft, and durable, and all four of those elements enhance its action and alluring nature. In fact, it is so durable that Reese caught 104 fish on the same 3 1/2-inch Blue Glimmer Sparkle GrubZ; most of them were smallmouth bass, but some of them were northern pike and walleye whose teeth will decimate most soft-plastic baits. It is interesting to note that the older the GrubZ gets the more effective it becomes, which is a standard feature that Midwest finesse anglers have discovered with all of the ElaZtech baits that they use -- especially the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ.
It is available in 12 colors: Bloodworm, Blue Glimmer Sparkle (which is sometimes called Pearl Blue Glimmer), Chartreuse Sparkle, Green Pumpkin, Motor Oil, Pearl, Pink Glow, Pumpkin, Smoke Hologram, Smoke Pepper, Smoke Purple, and Watermelon Red.
The suggested retail price for a package of six is $4.49. One online retailer sells it for $3.99 a package.