Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, is an ardent and extremely talented smallmouth bass angler who has played a pivotal role in customizing and developing a variety of Midwest finesse baits and tactics. He has also provided the folks at Z-Man Fishing Products with information about the kinds of soft-plastic baits river anglers need to allure vast numbers of smallmouth bass. Since 2015, Myers has been an extremely active member of the Finesse News Network and contributor to our Midwest Finesse column, and we are told by scores of readers that he is their favorite FNN reporter.
He is a longtime tube devotee, and several FNN anglers have said that they were eagerly waiting to read Myers' insights about Z-Man's Fishing Products' new T.R.D. TubeZ. He is also eternally grateful for the many soft-plastic finesse baits that Z-Man has created.
On Aug. 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 20. Travis Myers wrote a series of emails that were filled with his initial observations about the T.R.D. TubeZ.
Here is a condensed and edited version of his many observations and the thousands of words that he wrote:
Myers commenced by saying "it will no doubt always be rigged" on one of my rods throughout the calendar year. What's more, he was especially impressed with the Mudbug T.R.D. TubeZ, calling it a great clear-water hue. He thinks the Black/Blue Flakes one will be effective in November, which is when the crayfish in the rivers that Myers fishes become extremely dark. He also likes the hue that is called The Deal, and in Myers' eyes, it is similar to Z-Man's Mud Minnow hue, which is an effective color for alluring West Virginia's riverine smallmouth bass.
He said, "Rigging options will be many. I suspect in extremely low-water conditions, which is when I will need a very slow drop speed, I will be rigging it internally with a Gopher jig. In slightly deeper-water environs or when I need a faster drop speed in high-water conditions, I will be rigging it with an exposed Gopher jig."
Late in the afternoon on Aug. 1, Myers went to a spot on the river that he called his "testing ground." It is located behind a bridge piling near his house. He says it is where he tests new baits, and during these testing episodes, he does a lot of customizing and tinkering.
The T.R.D. TubeZ is 2 3/4 inches long, and for years on end, a two-inch tube has been Myers' mainstay. During the test, Myers worked with the 2 3/4-inch T.R.D. TubeZ and with ones that he customized and shortened to be two inches long. And at various times in the days, weeks, and months to come, he will compare the effectiveness of the 2 3/4-incher to a customized two-inch rendition of the T.R.D. TubeZ.
His initial test with the T.R.D. TubeZ was just a 90-minute affair, and the reason for that was because the river was high and stained. He noted that the river's watershed had been walloped with two massive rainstorms on July 30 and 31. And on Aug. 1, the river was flowing at 331 cubic feet per second, and the water clarity exhibited two feet of visibility, whereas it was flowing at 71 cubic feet per second, and the visibility was ten feet on July 28.
But even when the river is high and out of sorts, Myers is usually able to catch smallmouth bass around this bridge.
During his first test, he caught 19 smallmouth bass and four big rock bass, and he said I "saw what I came to see."
On Aug. 2, he conducted another 90-minute testing session at the bridge. And he tangled with 12 smallmouth bass, two largemouth bass, and four rock bass.
During the tests, he used two sizes of jigs, two rigging methods, and three different colors of the T.R.D. TubeZ. He worked with three identical spinning rods and reels. One reel was spooled with four-pound-test Gamma Touch line. Two reels were spooled with six-pound-test Gamma Torque line. This allowed him to test the drop rate with the different jigs, riggings, and lines. He also wanted to see how it compared to his heavily customized version of a Z-Man's EZ TubeZ, which is a four-inch tube that Myers customizes into a two-inch tube, and since May of 2015, it has become one of his most effective baits.
To create a two-inch T.R.D. TubeZ, he customized it two ways.
One way was achieved by cutting it where the cylinder or hollow portions of its torso joins the solid portions of its head. Then he removed a segment of the cylinder or hollow portions of its torso. He used Loctite Super Glue to reattach the tentacles to the hollow portions of the torso. He also shortened the tentacles and made them an inch long. This created a two-inch tube.
During the testing, he rigged them on two sizes of jigs. One was a 1/32-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head, and the other one was a 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom Head. He did not use Gopher's TJ jig, which he often inserts into his heavily customized EZ TubeZ, saying that it possesses "a different weight distribution," which would affect the presentation or the way the T.R.D. TubeZ is retrieved.
But he did insert a 1/32-ounce Gopher Mushroom Head jig into both customized versions of the T.R.D. TubeZ. He also affixed the 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs so that the head of these jigs were exposed on both customized versions of the T.R.D. TubeZ .
To insert a Gopher jig into the T.R.D. TubeZ, he cut a slit into the solid portions of the head, and threaded the hook and head into the slit. He applied a couple drops of Loctite Super Glue to the slit and sealed it. The only visible portion of the Gopher jig was the line tie. This rigging allows the T.R.D. TubeZ to have an extremely slow spiral drop, and when it rests of the bottom, the head is down and the tentacles are almost at a 90-degree angle from the bottom. He wants the bend of the hook to be at the junction of the torso and tentacles. To facilitate this, he will employ 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs with a No. 4 hook.
From his two tests, Myers likes the tentacles of the T.R.D. TubeZ. He said they are rounder, and they separate much better than those on the EZ TubeZ. They also seem to be stiffer, which he thinks should accentuate the durability factor of the T.R.D. TubeZ. They undulate or gyrate better than the EZ TubeZ tentacles do while Myers is executing a deadstick presentation. He noted that he has to customize the tentacle section of the EZ TubeZ by removing every other tentacle, which helped the tentacles to separate and flare and undulate.
Myers says his customization procedures revealed that the T.R.D. TubeZ is not impregnated with as much salt as the EZ TubeZ. (According to the folks at Z-Man, an EZ TubeZ contains 15 percent salt by weight, and a T.R.D. TubeZ contains 10 percent salt. What's more, the EZ TubeZ contains a blend of coarse- and fine-grain salt, and because the tentacles of the T.R.D. TubeZ have a slightly thinner diameter, it is impregnated with just fine-grain salt.)
Because the EZ TubeZ is completely hollow, the drop speed is painfully slow when it is affixed to a 1/32-ounce jig. And that is an asset, when Myers is dissecting riffles that are two and three feet deep. But he rarely used it around deep-water lairs, and that is because the 1/16-ounce Gopher jig is too heavy and the hook is too big. He has tried to use Z-Man's 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jigs, but the hook is too big, which created too many snags and lost baits. He thinks the T.R.D. TubeZ's solid head will accelerate the drop speed a touch.
(In regard to the Finesse ShroomZ, he said, "As much as I want to use those jigs, the hook is too big, making it shark-like to me. I know that I would be lucky to make five casts with it without wedging in rocks." But during his tests, he is seeking away around that problem.)
When Myers learned that Z-Man was creating a finesse-size tube, he wanted them to make one with a solid head that was at least three-quarters of an inch long and a short hollow section between the solid head and junction of the tentacles. And the only problem with the T.R.D. TubeZ in Myers' eyes is the solid head is too small and the hollow portion of the torso is too long. But he will remedy that failing by filling part of the hollow portion with a piece of a well-used Z-Man's Finesse WormZ or Finesse TRD. If the solid head was longer, it would be easier for Midwest finesse anglers to shorten it, and shortening soft-plastic baits is a primary proclivity of scores of Midwest finesse anglers. It might make it more durable, too.
Other than that one failing, he concluded: "It is the best tube for my uses I've ever seen, and it will always be rigged on one of my Midwest finesse rods."
In his Aug. 7 email, he reported about his third round of tests.
He wrote that the "water levels are ridiculously high." From Aug. 5 the river's flow escalated from 128 cubic feet per second to 427 cubic feet per second on Aug. 7. The water visibility decreased to four inches or less. He described the conditions as being "absolutely abysmal."
The third test took place at the same bridge piling that he conducted the first test and the second one.
On the third test, he used an unshortened Mudbug T.R.D. TubeZ. It was affixed to a green-pumpkin-orange 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig. (He added the orange paint to the head of the jig.)
He also inserted a half of an inch of a tattered torso of a Z-Man's ZinkerZ inside the hollow cavity of the T.R.D. TubeZ's torso, and he inserted it until it was snug to the head of the T.R.D. TubeZ. The tattered ZinkerZ was salt-free and extremely buoyant.
After he threaded the T.R.D. TubeZ onto the Finesse ShroomZ, he pulled on the shank of the hook, which caused the head of the jig to become partially encased by the ElaZtech head of the T.R.D. TubeZ.
The tube was lathered with Myers' customized Pro-Cure's Super Gel scent.
During this 45-minute test, this T.R.D. TubeZ rig caught eight smallmouth bass, which ranged in size from nine to 15 inches, seven rock bass, and three little green sunfish.
All of these fish were caught while he executed a swim-glide-and-shake presentation that was retrieved a few inches above the bottom. All of the fish engulfed the rig on the glide phases, and each strike radiated a telltale tick.
During this testing session, he discovered that the T.R.D. TubeZ with the inserted piece of ZinkerZ on a 1/20-ounce Finesse ShroomZ was buoyant enough that it did not become snagged in the boulders that litter the bottom of the testing area. What's more, by having the head of the jig partially encased by the head of the T.R.D. TubeZ helped to keep the jig from being snagged in the rocks and boulders. He accomplished this task by holding the body of the T.R.D. TubeZ between his thumb and index finger and grasping the bend of the hook with his other thumb and index finger and pulling the hook until the head is partially encased.
He noted in his Aug. 8 email that the diameter of the head of Gopher's 1/16-ounce Mushroom Head jig is too large, which prevents it from becoming encased. What's more, the head of the 1/16-ounce Gopher does not lie flush to the head of the T.R.D. TubeZ, which is a problem around the river's rocks and boulders. But the 1/32-ounce Gopher Mushrrom Head jig works well.
When the river is back to its normal flow, Myers said, he will shave some of the lead off of the Finesse ShroomZ, and this will make it a tad more buoyant and snag-free when the water is shallower and its pace is slower.
(1) Here is the link to the first gear guide about Z-Man's T.R.D. TubeZ: https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/z-mans-trd-tubez.
(2) Here is a link to a Midwest Finesse column that features Z-Man's EZ TubeZ and how Travis Myers customizes it: https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/z-man-fishing-products-ez-tubez/.
(3) On Aug. 20, Travis Myers posted a photograph on the Finesse News Network of a Z-Man's Mudbug T.R.D. TubeZ that had caught 75 smallmouth bass. It is affixed to a 1/32-ounce Gopher Tackle's TJ jig. As of Aug. 20, Myers has come to the conclusion that inserting the 1/32-ounce TJ jig is an effective way to rig T.R.D. TubeZ for pursuing riverine smallmouth bass in West Virginia during the middle of August.
He wrote: "I thread it on the TJ head as one would any other plastic offering. Then I pull the TubeZ head over the lead. The hook's eye is the only thing visible as it peeks through the ElaZtech. The hook's eye anchors the offering superbly and never needs readjustment."
(4) In the weeks and months to come, we will publish more of Myers' work with the Z-Man's T.R.D. TubeZ on the Finesse News Network and our monthly guides to Midwest Finesse at https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/.