There is a mistaken notion among many folks in the angling world that the art of Midwest finesse fishing revolves around one soft-plastic lure.
But the fact is that we employ nearly a score of different kinds of soft-plastic lures. In my boat, for instance, there are 18 of them and several more in my tackle closet. And when I am afloat, I regularly have five to seven spinning rods rigged with different Midwest finesse rigs. From hour to hour, day to day, and even week to week, one of them might be the dominant one, and there are spells when two or three of them vie for being the most effective ones.
Since 2010, one of the soft-plastic baits that has been in play for being a predominant one for me and several of my colleagues who ply the heavily-fished flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas is Z-Man Fishing Products' Rain MinnowZ.
To our dismay, however, Z-Man elected to stop manufacturing them in 2012.
We reported about the death of the Rain MinnowZ in our July 11, 2012, Midwest Finesse column. We wrote: Even though finesse anglers, such as Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, have caught untold numbers of largemouth bass by employing the Rain MinnowZ on a 1/32-ounce and 1/16-ounce mushroom-style, including some lunkers that weighed eight pounds, we and other anglers failed to buy enough of them to merit Z-Man to continue manufacturing them.
Fortunately, the Rain MinnowZ is such an incredibly durable bait that I still have some, and I have used them often during the past six years. I wish I had kept an exact total of how many largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and other species that the Rain MinnowZ has caught since 2010, but because of laziness, I failed to do that task. I hazard to guess, however, that it has beguiled thousands of fish.
On June 19, some Midwest finesse anglers enjoyed a hallelujah moment, which occurred when Traditions Media circulated an 885-word story by Cory Schmidt of Merrifield, Minnesota, entitled "The Bait from Another Planet." The gist of Schmidt's story focused on Z-Man's announcement that it is resurrecting the Rain MinnowZ, and upon its rebirth, it has been renamed the TRD MinnowZ.
The TRD MinnowZ is more than a traditional stickbait, which Midwest finesse anglers have been using since the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City, Missouri, the Virgil Ward family, and the Bass Buster Lure Company of Amsterdam, Missouri, created the Beetle more than a half of a century ago.
In our eyes, the TRD MinnowZ also exhibits the attributes of a short plastic worm and a Mar Lynn Lure Company's Reaper. In other words, it is three baits in one body.
The TRD MinnowZ is 3 1/2-inches long. Its head and torso are round. Its tail is small, flat and fan-shaped. Its tail is five-sixteenths of an inch wide and a quarter of an inch long. Its torso is three-eighths of an inch wide at it widest spot, and at that spot, it has a circumference of 1 1/8 inches. The tip of its somewhat bullet-shaped head is flat, and it is about a quarter of an inch wide at the tip.
We always rig it on a small mushroom-style jig, such as a 1/20-ounce or 1/15-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ. The hook is always exposed, and most of the time, we prefer to affix it to the jig so that its flat tail is in a horizontal position rather than a vertical one. The horizontal-tail rigging is the way Midwest finesse anglers used to employ a Mar Lynn Lure Company's Reaper and a Mann's Bait Company's Stingray Grub back in the 1960s and 1970s.
Because some of the TRD MinnowZs are embellished with laminated colors, some anglers are too persnickety to rig a laminated one with a horizontal tail, saying that the dark color should be on top or be the dorsal area, and the light color should be on the bottom or be the ventral area.
But for many years, we have been rigging the laminated ones sideways with a horizontal tail, which the persnickety anglers describe as a catawampus rigging.
We are sorry to say that we have not been able to employ the scientific method to measure the effectiveness of the horizontal tail versus the vertical tail. In fact, we have never been able find a way to definitively prove causality in any our angling methods and why black bass do what they do when they attempt to engulf one of our Midwest finesse presentations. Instead, we merely describe how, when, and where we catch black bass, and we never say why we caught them.
In short, horizontal-tail riggings with the TRD MinnowZ and several other classic Midwest finesse rigs are part of our history. Thus, our eyes have grown to like the looks of it, and across these many years, we have impressionistically (but not scientifically) concluded that the catawampus and horizontal-tail rigging has not adversely affected our abilities to elicit strikes with the TRD MinnowZ.
We have also found that a TRD MinnowZ rigged on a small mushroom-style jig with a small exposed hook works well with all six of the standard Midwest finesse retrieves. And as it is being retrieved, it glides, darts, undulates, and pirouettes eloquently and alluringly. It abstractly replicates the looks and behaviors of a multitude of small creatures that abide in our various waterways.
It is manufactured in the following colors: Bad Shad, California Craw, Green Pumpkin, Hot Snakes, Junebug, Meat Dog, Pearl Blue Glimmer, Smelt, and The Deal.
A package of eight costs $4.49. Since July 24, it has been available at one large Internet retailer, and anglers will soon be able to purchase it at a variety of venues. To find those venues, anglers can search for the TRD MinnowZ on Google.
Here is hoping that the TRD MinnowZ will catch the fancy of many more anglers and their quarries than it did in 2010 to 2012, and Midwest finesse anglers for many years to come will be able to wield and enjoy its ability to beguile vast numbers of black bass.
(1) Here is a link to Z-Man's website: https://www.zmanfishing.com/cms/index.php.
(2) Here is a link to Cory Schmidt's Traditions Media story about the TRD MinnowZ: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/16418353823cade4.
(3) Here is a link to the Midwest Finesse column that describes how to employ the six standard Midwest finesse retrieves with the TRD MinnowZ: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/six-midwest-finesse-retrieves/.
(4) There is a myth in the angling world that finesse tactics are best suited for crystalline waterways rather than stained ones. But for many decades, the Midwest finesse anglers who ply the rather stained waterways in northeastern Kansas, which often exhibit 10 to 18 inches of visibility, have found that employing a Junebug Rain MinnowZ or TRD MinnowZ affixed to a chartreuse mushroom-style jig is a very effective tool for catching 10 to 25 black bass an hour. And the pearl Rain MinnowZ has been a very effective stained-water rig, too, but pearl is not part of the new generation.