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ZinkerZ and Zero

ZinkerZ and Zero

Immediately after the FLW Outdoors TV show aired on September 16, Dwight Keefer of Phoenix sent an e-mail to some of the anglers on the Finesse News Network describing what he witnessed.

The show featured FLW National Guard College Fishing Series Northern Regional Championship on Sayers Lake, Pennsylvania, which was won  by Jeff Voss and Joseph Zapf of Ramapo College of New Jersey who used a black three-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits' Senko rigged on a 1/8-ounce and 3/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Jig Head. The lineage of this jig-and-soft-plastic combo stretches back to Keefer's teenage years.

Keefer grew up inKansas City in the 1960s and became a disciple of the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City, who was the forefather and mastermind of finesse fishing for bass. Woods was a master of developing and employing soft-plastic bodies on a jig. He was the creator of the Beetle, Beetle Spin, Puddle Jumper, and several other finesse lures.

Keefer employed what he learned from Woods to win the World Series of Sport Fishing atLong Lake,Wisconsin, in October of 1967. Keefer also used Woods tactics on the Bassmaster tournament trail in the early 1970s and competed in the 1972 Bassmaster Classic.

Nowadays Woods' methods are called Midwest finesse, which differentiates it from the finesse tactics that are used inJapanand in the Western states.

Shortly after the turn of the millennium, several practitioners of Midwest finesse began using a either a three-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits' Senko or three-inch YUM Dinger on Gopher Tackle's  1/32-, 1/16- or 3/32-ounce Mushroom Jig Heads with an exposed hook. In the eyes of today's Midwest finesse anglers, Woods' Beetle on a 1/32-ounce jig was the jig-and-Senko of his day. In fact, some of these anglers call the Beetle the first Senko.

Even though some finesse anglers have been know to catch as many as  25 largemouth bass an hour with a Senko or Dinger on a jig, it hasn't garnered the attention and affection of anglers who fish tournaments until Voss and  Zapf  won the FLW event at Sayers Lake.

Since October 12, 2006, many Midwest finesse anglers and members of the Finesse News Network have taken a step beyond the Senko and Dinger, and they are using Strike King Lure Company's five-inch Zero and Z-Man Fishing Products' five-inch ZinkerZ. Both baits are manufactured by Z-Man and made with a soft-plastic substance called ElaZtech. The finesse bass anglers cut them in half, making them 2 ½-inches long.  Then they are fastened to a Gopher Mushroom Jig Head the same way a worm or grub is attached.

Three of the great virtues of the Zero and ZinkerZ are its buoyancy, durability and suppleness.  What's more, as they age and the impregnated salt gradually dissipates, they become even more supple and buoyant. Finesse anglers contend that bass are allured by the exceptionally supple and buoyant nature of the Zero and ZinkerZ.

As for their durability, it is not unusual for the same Zero or ZinkerZ to catch more than 100 largemouth bass.

Shortly after Keefer's observations were circulated on Finesse News Network, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, responded, saying that he watched FLW event on TV.

He described it as an extremely trying tournament for all of the contestants, but Voss and Zapf won it by a substantial margin, catching 14 smallmouth bass that weighed 27-02 pounds, while the second place team caught 10 bass that weighed 19-06 pounds.


Poe suspected that Voss and Zapf might have a caught a few more bass if they had been using a Zero or ZinkerZ.

Poe went on to say that the next tournament venue where the Zero-and-jig or ZinkerZ-and-jig combo might shine is at a tournament lake that this dominated by pier and dock fishing. He wrote that he recently fished some docks with it, and a 2 ½-inch Zero or ZinkerZ rigged with the narrow end affixed to the collar of a 1/32-ounce jig "is absolutely the best skip bait ever invented."   He closed by saying: "Glad you Midwes tguys were so eager to share. I have had a ball with it."

The Zero and ZinkersZ are more than a black bass bait

 During the past year, the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to either a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce jig has become the primary crappie bait for Dave Schmidtlein of Topeka, Kansas.

He also customizes them by cutting four tentacles at one end. He places it on the jig with the tentacles adjacent to the head of the jig or on the jig's collar. He says this rigging creates a slower descent and makes it virtually snag-free when he is plying a rocky terrain. When he is plying a brush pile, he uses one of the tentacles as a weed guard.

Schmidtlein has also been experimenting with the ZinkerZ-and-jig combo as a blue and channel catfish bait. He uses a ZinkerZ that has had all of the salt leached out of it, which makes it porous. Then he soaks in the juice from his homemade punch bait.

A Kansas channel catfish that was caught on a Junebug 2 1/2-inch ZingerZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Jig Head. Photograph by Pok-Chi Lau

A white 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce mushroom jig is the favorite white bass bait for Steve Desch of Topeka,Kansas. In Desch's white bass repertoire, it replaces the time-honored marabou jig, as well as the two- and three-inch twister-tail grub on a jig.

They even extend beyond the domain of freshwater anglers

About five winters ago, Capt. C.A. Richardson of St. Petersburg, Florida, who is a guide, a savvy inshore angler, and host Flats Class TV show, began wielding a 2 ½-inch Zero on a 1/8- and 3/16-ounce jig to inveigle sea trout and redfish in shallow water in January and February.  Like the Midwest finesse anglers,Richardson lauds the durability, suppleness and buoyancy of the Zero and ZinkerZ.   On October 10, Z-Man announced that Richardson  will work with them "to help educate fishermen on the advantages of €¦ ElaZtech® soft plastic fishing lures."

  For information about the Zero and ZinkerZ , please see the blogs on October 2, September 16, September 11, and August 11.

Here's a link to a story about Clyde Hoslcher of Topeka, Kansas, using a peanut butter and jelly ZinkerZ and 1/16-ounce jig to bewitch a variety of species:

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