Z-Man's Mudbug Hue

At the top of this photograph is a mudbug T.R.D. TubeZ. The second one is a mudbug Finesse T.R.D. The third one is a mudbug Hula StickZ. The fourth one is a mudbug Big T.R.D. The fifth one is a mudbug ZinkerZ.

Across the years, there have been many debates about the importance of the color of a soft-plastic bait.

Some professional bass anglers have said that there is not enough time during a tournament week to experiment with a variety of colors in order to discover the most effective one. One of their mantras is: "anglers catch fish, not lures."  Thus, it is not unusual to hear some of the top-of-the-line professionals say they primarily use a green-pumpkin hue day in, day out.

On the other hand, some Midwest finesse anglers, who are ardent recreational anglers, have found that the color of a soft-plastic bait can be a critical element.  For example, these anglers have contended for years on end that by dipping the tail of a green-pumpkin soft-plastic bait into a bottle of chartreuse dye seems to help them to elicit more strikes and catch more largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass.  There are, however, some soft-plastic baits that these anglers cannot dye. Ultimately, these anglers discovered that using a jig with a chartreuse or red  head seems to help them elicit more strikes and catch more largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass with a soft-plastic bait that they cannot dye.

By using the verb seems, these anglers are readily acknowledging that cause and effect are difficult factors to accurately measure in the piscatorial world. Because empirical evidence is difficult to come by in the dark and watery world of the black bass, intuition seems to lie at the heart of the ways and perspectives of many successful anglers.  Therefore, these Midwest finesse anglers rely on their intuition, and for many years, they have been experimenting with subtle and some significant color variations. And they have sensed or intuited that color -- even the color of the lead on the head of a tiny jig -- can render a positive affect on the number of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass that can be caught during a four-hour outing.

Recently several Midwest finesse anglers have crossed paths with a new color that they are excited about. It is called mudbug, and Z-Man Fishing Products introduced it to the angling world at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show in Orlando, Florida, on July 11-15.

Daniel Nussbaum of Ladson, South Carolina, is president of Z-Man, and in an Oct. 3 email, he said that they worked with Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, who is one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing, to create this new hue.  Nussbaum said Drew explained to us "that in many cases, [crayfish] have a brown back and a lighter [colored] belly, and that is what we tried to emulate with this color. So far, this color has been very well received by anglers across North America and has quickly become one of our better selling finesse bait colors."

Z-Man manufactures the mudbug in five of its soft-plastic finesse baits: Big T.R.D., Finesse T.R.D., Hula StickZ, T.R.D. TubeZ, and ZinkerZ.

The brown backs of these five baits are highlighted with a few black flakes and an occasional copper flake.  Its gray belly is highlighted with scores of copper flakes and an occasional black flake.

For many years, Reese has resided at the Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada, from the middle of May into early September. In mid-July, shortly after the ICAST show, Reese obtained packages of mudbug Hula StickZs, Finesse T.R.D.s, and T.R.D. TubeZs, and from that point on, the mudbug hue was as effective for bewitching smallmouth bass as the Canada craw hue, and until this summer, the Canada craw hue has been the most effective smallmouth bass hue for the past several years at the Lake of the Woods. In fact, he used to describe the Canada craw as the gold standard. Now, the Canada craw and mudbug are the gold standard.

Besides replicating the hue of a crayfish, several Midwest finesse anglers have  noted that the mudbug hue also replicates the coloration of  other aquatic invertebrates and  some small fishes, such as the central mudminnow, brook stickleback, and male fathead minnow dressed in its breeding hues. (See endnote No. 1.)

When Midwest finesse anglers use these baits, they affix them to a mushroom-style jig with an exposed hook.  Z-Man manufactures a mushroom-style jig for these baits, and they call it the Finesse ShroomZ.  There are two models of the Finesse ShroomZ: one with a hook guard and one without a hook guard.

Before Midwest finesse anglers affix the Big T.R.D., Hula StickZ, and ZinkerZ to a jig, many of them shorten these baits. For example, they create a 2 1/2-inch or shorter bait out of the ZinkerZ.

Once these baits are rigged on a jig, Midwest finesse anglers can execute a variety of presentations, such as the ones described in our Midwest Finesse column entitled "Six Midwest Finesse Retrieves." Since we published that column, anglers have devised several variations and modification of these retrieves. (See endnote No. 2.)

These baits are so durable that one bag can endure donnybrooks with 300 or more black bass.  What's more, these baits often become more effective the more they become tattered and torn from scores of entanglements with black bass.   An example of their durability was revealed in a report and photography that  Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, contributed to the Finesse News Network on Aug. 20.  In that report, he noted that he caught 75 smallmouth bass on a mudbug T.R.D. TubeZ, and it looked as if it could tangle with another 25 or more.  (See endnote No. 3.)

In an Oct. 4 email, Myers said that the mudbug T.R.D. TubeZ, Finesse T.R.D., and 2 1/4-inch ZinkerZ have been his most productive baits since he received his first ones in August. He noted that he will use a shortened mudbug Hula StickZ in November and December.

And in an Oct. 5 email, he expounded further about the virtues of the mudbug hue, and here is an edited and condensed version of his email:

Upon getting some mudbug T.R.D. TubeZs, Finesse T.R.D.s, ZinkerZs, and Hula StickZs, I immediately began to use them.

During the first three weeks of throwing that hue exclusively,  I caught more than  270 smallmouth bass  on the T.R.D. TubeZ and nearly 225 on a combination of the 2 1/4-inch ZinkerZ and Finesse T.R.D.. They were rigged on my modified 1/20-ounce  Finesse ShroomZ  jig.

All of them were caught in extreme low-water conditions, which I would label as tough conditions. Eight of them were 20 inches or larger, and many of them were slightly under the 20-inch mark.  Those are large

specimens for my waters.

In the late spring, throughout the summer, and into the early fall, when we turn over  almost any rock in the rivers and streams that we fish in West Virginia, my eyes see crayfish galore that exhibit Z-Man's mudbug hue. However, from late October through early spring, when the photoperiod is short, the crayfish that abide under those same rocks exhibit a spot-on-match of Z-Man's green-pumpkin-goby hue.  Moreover, by keeping a keen eye on the river's floor, one will witness three- and four-inch sculpin, which go through a similar color change as our crayfish population. In other words, they exhibit a lighter hue, matching Z-Man's mudbug, during the hottest months, and during the colder and darker months, they become darker and match Z-Man's green-pumpkin-goby hue.

I do not think that one has to match the hatch to catch river smallmouth bass.  But in the crystal-clear waters that they inhabit, they are an easily spooked, and it certainly helps being in tune with the predator-prey relationship and using every available advantage.

I have often stated in my reports that laminated colors such as Z-Man's  dirt and mud minnow hues excel in the waters that I fish.  The mud minnow is a baitfish hue in my hands.  And now with the advent of the mudbug, I would place it as an equal to my long beloved dirt hue as a bait to replicate crayfish hues.

I have long contended that I am not a color guy.  I believe fish location and mood, depth control, speed control, and confidence in what one is doing trumps all. But with all of the above boxes checked,  I have the upmost confidence in the mudbug hue just as I have had for the dirt hue.

River smallmouth fishermen have long contended that anything green pumpkin is the Rosetta Stone of the color chart. In my estimation, mudbug trumps it. That is a bold statement , but I will stand by it.

Anglers can purchase a bag of six of each of these mudbug baits for $4.49.


(1) Joe Tomelleri of Leawood, Kansas, is the greatest illustrator of fishes the world has ever seen. His and Mark Eberle's book entitled "Fishes of the Central United States" provides us with scores of colored illustrations of minnows or other  fishes from which we can use to create different color combinations in our Midwest finesse rigs. It was published by the University of Kansas Press in 1990. Here is a link to Tomelleri's website: https://www.americanfishes.com/.

(2) This is the link to the column about the six basic Midwest finesse retrieves: http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/six-midwest-finesse-retrieves/.

(3) To see a photograph of the mudbug  T.R.D. TubeZ,  please see the gear guide at this link:  http://www.in-fisherman.com/gear-accessories/z-mans-t-r-d-tubez-for-river-smallmouth-bass-according-to-travis-myers/.

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