On June 18, 2013, we published a brief gear guide that featured Z-Man's Fishing Products' Scented LeechZ, which was introduced to the angling world at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades exhibition on July 9, 2013, in Las Vegas.
Initially, we thought that it would quickly become one of the standard-bearers in the repertoire of Midwest finesse anglers. But for some unbeknownst reasons, it has not become one of the mainstays. In fact, it has been mentioned only a few times on the Finesse News Network and in our monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing, and most of those words and observations were made by Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, and Rick Allen of Dallas.
Despite its lackluster beginnings, we still think that it should be one of the key baits that Midwest finesse anglers wield. So, eight weeks ago, we started to rectify this situation by catching largemouth bass and smallmouth bass with the Scented LeechZ and reporting about it on the Finesse News Network.
We also talked with David Walker of Sevierville, Tennessee, on Sept. 26 about the Scented LeechZ's history and manifold merits.
Walker is a veteran and accomplished professional bass tournament angler on the Bassmaster Elite circuit, and he played a major role in Z-Man's creation of the Scented LeechZ.
Walker said he has never employed Midwest finesse tactics. Therefore, he has never affixed a Scented LeechZ to a small mushroom-style jig, and, of course, a small jig has been the mainstay of Midwest finesse fishing since its conception in the 1960s. Instead, Walker wields it on a drop-shot rig, and he only uses it when he is fishing for smallmouth bass at waterways in the northern states, such as Bay de Noc on Lake Michigan at Escanaba, Michigan, where he used the Scented LeechZ on a drop-shot rig throughout the entire Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship tournament.
At the Angler of the Year Championship, the water temperature was in the upper 50s. His drop-shot rig was weighted with a quarter ounce sinker that was situated from 12 to 18 inches below a No. 1 drop-shot hook. And the Scented LeechZ was nosed hooked. After he executed a lengthy cast, he pulled the rig along the bottom, which was as shallow as three feet and as deep as 14 feet. He pulled it with the rod while reeling up the slack line with the reel. Along the bottom, there were patches of submerged vegetation, and as the sinker traversed through the vegetation the Scented LeechZ swam and glided alluring above the vegetation. During this very wind-plagued and trying two-day tournament, this presentation allowed Walker to tangle with as many as 20 smallmouth a day. The bulk of them were caught in three to five feet of water. His biggest 10 smallmouth bass across those two days weighed 38.2 pounds, which garnered him 12th place and $14,000.
When Walker employs the Scented LeechZ in deeper applications, his drop-shot rig is anchored with a 3/8-ounce sinker. And occasionally when he is dealing with heavy current or probing exceptionally deep smallmouth bass lairs, he will use a 1/2-ounce sinker. At these deep-water and current situations, he will present it with a vertical presentation, as well as with his cast-and-drag motif.
Before the advent of the Scented LeechZ, Walker used to use an artificial leech that was bottled in a liquid-scent concoction, but it was a tad difficult and messy to use. In addition, it was not as buoyant, lifelike, supple, and durable as the Scented LeechZ.
According to Walker, the buoyancy of the nose-hooked Scented LeechZ on a drop-shot rig allows it to float and quiver the way old-time walleye anglers, such as the late Bill Binkelman, used to use air-injected nightcrawlers, which they made buoyant by using a syringe to inject air into the nightcrawler around its clitellum.
The suppleness of the ElaZtech material that is used to manufacture the Scented LeechZ allows its tail to dance subtly but provocatively. When Walker employs a deadstick presentation with a touch of slack line, Walker says the Scented Leech moves so exotically that it is almost a magical bait.
Another one of its incredible virtues is its durability. Whereas other leech-style baits are quickly torn to smithereens during a donnybrook with a feisty smallmouth bass, one Scented LeechZ can often endure a couple of dozen or more significant donnybrooks before they are rendered unfit to use again.
Walker is a scent advocate, which is why he used to use the artificial leech that was bottled in liquid scent before he and Z-Man worked together to create the Scented LeechZ. Thus, as one can readily surmise, Z-Man's leech is scent impregnated, and it is infused with Pro-Cure Inc.'s Leech Super Gel, which is a scent concocted from ribbon leeches and amino acids. Walker also supplements the impregnated scent by applying a touch of Leech Super Gel to the exterior of the Scented LeechZ before he is afloat and while he is fishing.
It is not impregnated with salt, which delights Walker and a goodly number of Midwest finesse anglers. The lack of salt enhances its buoyancy and suppleness. And for Midwest finesse anglers, it also heightens the no-feel aspect of the retrieve, and across the decades, Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas and west-central Missouri have discovered that not feeling what a finesse bait is doing and where it is are important ingredients in executing an effective retrieve. As Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, and one of the early practitioners of Midwest finesse fishing, used to say: "With too much weight, the baits don't work right." According to Hibdon, it was always best to err on the side of lightness rather than heaviness. In short, Midwest finesse anglers develop an intuitive feeling for what the bait is doing and where it is in the water, and this intuitive perspective accentuates their ability to concentrate on what is transpiring below the surface of the water.
When it is affixed to a lightweight mushroom-style jig, the lack of salt makes it more difficult to execute long casts, and this seems to frustrate some anglers who like to wield long casts. (We will address the virtues of short casts in the third paragraph below this one.)
Walker has found that the black-gold-flake Scented LeechZ and green-pumpkin one have been his two most fruitful colors, and recently those two hues have also been fruitful ones at several flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. We were surprised, however, to learn he has never used it to catch the smallmouth bass, as well as the largemouth bass and spotted bass, that abide in the reservoirs and streams in his home state of Tennessee. In his eyes and hands, it is a bait to be used only in northern waterways. But since we began our crusade about eight weeks ago to show and tell other Midwest finesse anglers about the effectiveness of the Scented LeechZ, we have quickly seen that it is an exceptionally effective bait for alluring the largemouth bass and some of the smallmouth bass that abide in the shallow and relatively stained flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas. These reservoirs, of course, are markedly different than the smallmouth bass waterways of the north.
When we ply the northeastern Kansas reservoirs, it is not necessary to execute long casts and retrieves. In fact, we have learned across the years that short casts and retrieves are usually more effective than long ones. On our recent northeastern Kansas outings, when we have affixed either a black-and-gold-flake or green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Jig, we have made short casts and retrieves, ranging in length from 15 to 30 feet, which are similar to the flips and pitches that our power-fishing brethren make. These short casts have allowed us to implement retrieves that were more alluring than we could execute with long casts. One reason for that is the wind, which is difficult to hide from in northeastern Kansas, and that wind creates a lot of bow in the line, and that bow impedes our abilities to execute effective and subtle retrieves. The most effective Midwest finesse retrieve that we have employed by making short casts with the Scented LeechZ and a 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig has been the swim-glide-and-shake presentation. During that presentation, the Scented LeechZ exhibits a distinctive quiver, and its tail displays a unique wobble, which we have not seen with any of the other soft-plastic baits that we affixed to a jig across the years.
On these recent outings, there were spells when the Scented LeechZ inveigled as many as 17 largemouth bass in an hour. And even when the largemouth bass fishing was extremely trying in northeastern Kansas from mid-August into late September, it had the wherewithal to eke out from five to eight largemouth bass an hour.
In regard to its durability, one green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ has tangled with 42 largemouth bass, and it looks as if it can tangle with 42 more before it becomes too tattered to use.
As the fall of 2014 unfolds and eventually melds into the winter of 2014-15 and then blossoms into the spring of 2015, we will continue working with the Scented LeechZ and report about its many virtues on the Finesse News Network and our monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing.
Here's hoping these FNN reports will spawn other Midwest finesse anglers to use it and send us their observations about how, when, and where it worked or didn't work for them.
(1) In an Oct. 8 email, David Walker wrote: "think I'll try the mushroom jig head on one myself." When he does, we will post a report on how, when, and where he used the Scented LeechZ affixed to a mushroom-style jig.
(2) While we were fishing for largemouth bass with the Scented LeechZ on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig on Oct. 7 and 8, we inadvertently caught several hefty black crappie and big bluegill. These catches provoked us to alert several northeastern Kansas crappie anglers, who have been using the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ for the past several years and catching an impressive array of crappie with it. If and when these crappie anglers commence using the Scented LeechZ, we will publish some reports about how, when, and where they employed it in our Midwest finesse column.