October 27, 2014
Z-Man Fishing Products created their Finesse ShroomZ for Midwest finesse anglers, and it was introduced to the angling world at the 2014 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show in Orlando, Florida, on July 15. Since then, it has garnered much applause from anglers who are devotees to wielding mushroom-style jigs.
A small jig lies at the heart of Midwest finesse fishing, and it has been that way since the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Back in those bygone days, we wielded our small jigs on 5 1/2-foot or shorter spinning rods. We dressed those small jigs with Nick Creme's Scoundrel worms and Chuck Woods' Beetles, which were made by Bass Buster Lure Company. Some of our jigs were embellished with skirts made from bear hair, bucktails, or marabou, and these skirted jigs often sported a small pork trailer. There were spells, however, when we wielded either a split-shot rig or a tiny slip-sinker rig dressed with a short plastic worm. But as time went by, we gradually discovered that a jig had no peers.
The Finesse ShroomZ is the creation of Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, who garnered some of his insights about creating jigs from Bill Ward of Warsaw, Missouri. Back in the early 1970s, Reese used to work for Ward at the Bass Buster Lure Company in Amsterdam, Missouri. And to this day, Reese and Ward still converse about fishing, and nearly every spring, they spend a week together in southwest Ontario, Canada, where they use jigs to catch hundreds and hundreds of smallmouth bass. And to this day, Reese often calls Ward one of the world's preeminent jig anglers.
Reese, who is 67 years old, is one of the 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. During the spring of 2011, Reese discovered the many merits of several of Z-Man's ElaZtech finesse baits, and since then, he used them incessantly and introduced them to a goodly number of smallmouth bass anglers in southwest Ontario. Besides designing the Finesse ShroomZ, Reese designed the Hula StickZ for Z-Man, and since its creation in 2013, it has become one of the most effective smallmouth bass baits in southwest Ontario. Reese also helped with the development of Z-Man's Finesse T.R.D. (Here are links to several stories about how Z-Man's baits work in Canada: Z-Man Goes To Canada; Finesse Smallmouth; Z-Man Saga Canada; 3-1/2-inch Grubz.
In the 1980s, we slowly came to the conclusion that a mushroom-style jig was the best one for Midwest finesse applications, and when we plied the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas and the eutrophic-stage natural lakes in the Arrowhead and Heartland sections of Minnesota, we found that a 1/32-, 1/16- and 3/32-ounce size mushroom-style jigs were the most effective sizes. During the formative years, we occasionally wielded 1/8- and trimmed-downed 1/4-ounce jigs, but too often they had a propensity to become snagged, and what's more they were too heavy to allow our small soft-plastic baits to glide subtly and slowly, which in our eyes is a critical element in our Midwest finesse presentations. We always used spinning tackle to cast and retrieve these light and small finesse baits, and it looked as if we were crappie or white bass anglers rather than black bass anglers, and consequently, when we crossed paths with traditional black bass anglers, they would often ask us how the crappie or white bass fishing was. Even though Midwest finesse fishing has gained a touch of notoriety during the past several years, many power-fishing black bass anglers still ask us how many crappie or white bass we are catching.
The water clarity at most of the flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas is usually stained, exhibiting 12 inches to 30 inches of visibility. What's more, we primarily probe shallow-water lairs, ranging in depth from one to eight feet of water, year around. Because most of our waters are relatively stained, we discovered that we do not need the stealth-factor of making long casts, and therefore, we make short casts and retrieves with the light jigs. Across the years, we also found a 1/16-ounce or lighter jig creates what we call a no-feel retrieve, and that means we cannot feel where the bait is and what it is doing, but we do develop an intuitive sense of what it is doing and where it is. In some ways, this no-feel retrieve is similar to the way the smallmouth bass anglers in Tennessee work with their float-and-fly rigs, or in other words, our baits are gliding as if they are hanging, dangling or suspended. We have also determined that short retrieves and light jigs, such as the 1/15-ounce Finesse ShroomZ, allow us to implement more alluring moves and gyrations with our baits than can be achieved with long retrieves and heavier jigs. Furthermore, short casts and retrieves allow us to more thoroughly dissect an area than we can achieve with long casts and retrieves, and in some ways, it is similar to the short flipping-and-pitching routines that power anglers employ when they dissect a boat dock or laydown or brushpile. One level of measure of the effectiveness of these short casts and retrieves can be seen by the fact that we have been able catch an average of 9.6 black bass an hour throughout a calendar year during the past six years.
Although Reese grew up in northeastern Kansas, he has spent most of his adult days fishing the deep and crystalline highland reservoirs in the Ozarks and natural waterways in the north. Consequently, long casts and retrieves have become his forte, and on most of his outings, he prefers to work with the 1/10- and 1/6-ounce Finesse ShroomZ. For instance, during the summer of 2014, when he was in southwest Ontario, Reese discovered that Z-Man's Blue Glimmer Sparkle 3 1/2-inch GrubZ worked better on a 1/6-ounce Finesse ShroomZ than it did on the 1/15- and 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZs. He noted that the GrubZ is extremely buoyant, and the 1/6-ounce Finesse ShroomZ allowed the GrubZ to get to the correct depth quicker than the smaller Finesse ShroomZs. The 1/6-ouncer also enhanced the way the GrubZ undulated and moved. During each long cast and retrieve, he swam it around objects, such as boulders. If he was plying summertime lairs that were in 10 to 12 feet of water, he 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, he would execute a pause and allow the GrubZ to plummet to the bottom. Once it touched the bottom, he would delicately lift it off the bottom and execute two subtle shakes, and then he 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. Because the water was clear enough that his retrieve would attract the attention of a smallmouth bass that was milling about a goodly distance from the spot that he began his retrieve, Reese didn't need to dissect areas as thoroughly as Midwest finesse anglers usually have to in the relatively stained flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas. During the initial drop and during the pause phase of the retrieve, Reese discovered that a heavy jig, such as the 1/6-ounce Finesse ShroomZ, caused the GrubZ to fall in a circular motion or wide circle, which could not be duplicated with a lighter Finesse ShroomZ.
But Reese does use the 1/15- and 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZs, and during late spring and summer of 2014, he used the 1/15-, 1/10-, and 1/6-ounce Finesse ShroomZ to catch 2993 smallmouth bass, as well as countless numbers of walleye and northern pike. Whenever the smallmouth bass were in shallow water in the spring, he often used the 1/15-ouncer. Then as they moved deeper, he worked with the 1/10- and 1/6-ouncers. He dressed these Finesse ShroomZs with Z-Man's Hula StickZs, Finesse ShadZs, 3 1/2-inch GrubZ s, and Finesse T.R.D.s.
From Reese's perspective, Z-Man has created a better jig than the prototypes that he created. He called the bait keeper that graces the shank of the hook "as a state-of-the-art bait keep." Therefore, fastidious anglers, such as those who need to have every soft-plastic bait perfectively aligned on the jig, no longer need to use super glue to keep a bait exactly aligned and snug to the head of the jig. Reese says the bait keeper does it without a hitch.
Like the Hula StickZ, Finesse ShadZ, 3 1/2-inch GrubZ , and Finesse T.R.D., the three sizes of Finesse ShroomZ jigs are extremely durable. For instance, he caught 101 fish on the same bait and jig.
The 1/15-ounce Finesse ShroomZ sports a No. 2 premium, high carbon black nickel hook, and the 1/10- and 1/6-ouncers are poured around a No. 1 premium, high carbon black nickel hook.
They are available in four colors: Black, Chartreuse, Green Pumpkin, and Red.
A package of five can be purchased from one online retailer for $4.99, but this retailer does not sell the red and chartreuse ones, which are the ones that many Midwest finesse anglers use in the flatland reservoirs across the nation's heartland. The red and chartreuse Finesse ShroomZs can be purchased for $5.99.
(1) Z-Man is in the process of creating a 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ, which the Midwest finesse anglers who employ the no-feel retrieves will relish.
(2) They are also working on a series of Finesse ShroomZs with weed guards, which the finesse anglers who ply timber-and-snag-infested waterways are petitioning for.
(3) In addition to the Hula StickZ, Finesse ShadZ, 3 1/2-inch GrubZ , and Finesse T.R.D., Z-Man's four-inch Finesse WormZ and Scented LeechZ are ideal baits to use with the Finesse ShroomZ. In fact, anglers can affix a variety of different styles and kinds of soft-plastic finesse baits to the Finesse ShroomZ.
(4) When a Hula StickZ, Finesse T.R.D., Finesse ShadZ, or Finesse WormZ are affixed to a Finesse ShroomZ, a largemouth bass or smallmouth bass will occasionally make what we call a pretzel out of those baits, which means the bait is twisted and folded over the hook. And some anglers say that they have a difficult time straightening out the pretzel-effect.
We have never had a problem straightening our baits. We merely place the sides of the bait between our thumb and index finger at the spot where the bait keeper is on the ShroomZ's hook, and then we pull the bait until it is straight. Once it is straight, we push the bait back up the hook until the head of the bait is flush with the ShroomZ's head.
Sometimes the bass twist these baits to the point that we have to take the bait completely off of the hook. Then we put it back on. The Hula StickZ, Finesse T.R.D., Finesse ShadZ, and Finesse WormZ are so durable that we have taken then off and put them back on scores of times. In fact, we have caught as many as 180 largemouth bass on one Finesse WormZ, and during that ordeal, the largemouth bass made a pretzel out of that Finesse WormZ a number of times., and we took it off and put it back on the hook more than a dozen times.
(5) The photograph below is one of the prototypes that Reese made and religiously used.