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Z-Man's TRD TicklerZ

Z-Man's TRD TicklerZ
A Canada Craw TRD TicklerZ.

Across the years, we have noted that Midwest finesse fishing is a manifestation of immaculate simplicity and frugality. And Z-Man Fishing Products’ recent creation of the TRD TicklerZ is an exemplification of those proclivities.

This new creation was spawned by the behest of Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas. He also played a significant role in the creation of Z-Man’s Finesse TRD, Hula StickZ, Finesse ShroomZ, and several color combinations of Z-Man’s baits.

Reese is one of the pioneers of Midwest finesse fishing. During his youth in the 1960s, he was coached by the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City, Missouri, who we herald as the original architect of Midwest finesse fishing. And he worked in the late Ray Fincke’s tackle shop in Rosedale, Kansas, which is where the early beginnings of Midwest finesse fishing were spawned.

Daniel Nussbaum of Charleston, South Carolina, is the president of Z-Man Fishing Products. He has been a member of the Finesse News Network since 2011 and is a periodic contributor to In-Fisherman's Midwest Finesse column. Beginning in the fall of 2011, Reese began to politely cajole Nussbaum to create a few soft-plastic baits for Midwest finesse applications, and ultimately Reese’s cajoling has paid dividends for Z-Man and Midwest finesse anglers. Since those early days, Nussbaum and Reese have become friends. The nature of this friendship is epitomized in this sentence that Nussbaum wrote about Reese on Feb. 27, 2016: “Perhaps the best angler with whom I’ve ever shared a boat.”

Reese spends his summers at the Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada, where he catches thousands of smallmouth bass on a variety of Z-Man’s Elzatech baits. He has recently spent his Februaries in Florida in pursuit of a variety of saltwater species that he inveigles with Midwest finesse tactics and Z-Man’s Midwest finesse rigs.

In essence, the TRD TicklerZ is an offspring of the Hula StickZ, which Z-Man introduced to the angling world in 2012.

The Hula StickZ is exactly 3 15/16 inches long, and its torso is encircled with a clitellum and a multitude of minute ribs or segments. Many Midwest finesse anglers customize it by using a pair of Fiskars scissors to remove an inch or so from its anterior section.

The TRD TicklerZ is exactly 2 3/4 inches long.

Its torso is cylinder shaped. Its epidermis is embellished with two dozen or more tiny bumps or pimples, which are similar to the bumps that bedizen the exoskeleton of a crayfish. Except for those pimples, its epidermis is smooth.

The tip of the anterior portion of its torso is flat, and it is three-eighths of an inch wide with a circumference of 1 3/16 inches. The center of this tip is embellished with a small and round indentation, which is where a hook is inserted.

The dimensions of the torso decrease in size as it approaches the junction with its four tentacles. At that junction, the torso possesses a width of a quarter of an inch with a circumference of 1 1/16 inches.

The torso is solid, but some anglers say that it is so soft and flexible that it feels as if it is hollow.


Each tentacle is seven-eighths of an inch long and an eighth of an inch wide. The inside edge of each tentacle in flat, and the dorsal or outside area is convexed. Their epidermis is smooth. These four tentacles are slightly larger and more pronounced than the four tentacles that grace the Hula StickZ. What’s more, they do not cling together as readily as the Hula StickZ’s tentacles do, and that allows them to readily undulate and gyrate, which in the eyes of many Midwest finesse anglers is an alluring feature.

At this time, it is manufactured in the following colors: Canada Craw, Green Pumpkin, Hot Snakes, and The Deal. More colors will be added in the months to come.

It is exceptionally buoyant. Fifteen percent of its body weight is impregnated with salt, and that is 10 percent less salt than is impregnated into the Hula StickZ. In the eyes of many Midwest finesse anglers, less salt is a virtue, and no salt is a greater virtue. But for some unknown reason, most black bass anglers are infatuated with salt-laden soft-plastic bait, and therefore, Z-Man has to cater to those infatuations, too.

Z-Man uses a product that they call ElaZtech to manufacture the TRD TicklerZ, and it astonishingly durable. In fact, we used the same one, which was a green-pumpkin prototype of the TRD TicklerZ, from Aug. 7 to Nov. 30, and when we lost it in a brush pile on Nov. 30, it looked as if it had the wherewithal to endure donnybrooks with a multitude of largemouth bass for several more months. For some unfathomable reason, we failed to tabulate the number of largemouth bass that the prototype inveigled, but it was a significant number. And during this 115-day spell, it earned a prominent spot in our Midwest finesse repertoire of soft-plastic baits.

The prototype green-pumpkin TRD TicklerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/20-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig

On every outing in 2018, we affixed it to a chartreuse 1/20-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig with an exposed hook. As we worked with this combo, we experimented with all six of the standard Midwest finesse retrieves and slight variations of those retrieves. And we caught largemouth bass on all six of those presentations.

One of the many largemouth bass that we caught on the prototype TRD TicklerZ.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for a package of eight is $4.49. Initially, they will be available only in DICK’S Sporting Goods stores.

In short, we have found the TRD TicklerZ to be a very simple and effective bait. What’s more, it is two baits in one; it is part tube and part stick-style bait; and those two styles of soft-plastic baits lie at the heart of Midwest finesse fishing. Its effectiveness was quickly revealed to us on Aug. 7 at a northeastern Kansas’ community reservoir when our youngest grandson caught a largemouth bass with it on his first cast of our family outing. And since a package of eight is likely to last for months on end, it is an extremely frugal way to fish. Thus, it is an ideal tool for Midwest finesse anglers to employ.

As Drew Reese worked on creating the TRD TicklerZ in 2018, he caught 56 species on versions of it. The bulk of them were saltwater species, which he caught during his days in Florida, but he also tangled with vast numbers of specimens that abide in the Lake of the Woods.


  1. Here is a link to Daniel Nussbaums’ blog about Drew Reese’s piscatorial genius
  2. Here are links to some of the many Midwest Finesse columns that feature Reese:;;;;;
  3. Here is a link to a Midwest Finesse column that explains how to retrieve the TRD TicklerZ that is affixed to a small mushroom-style jig with an exposed hook:
  4. Here is a link to DICK’S Sporting Goods’ website:
  5. Some Midwest finesse anglers -- especially newcomers to this method --are prone to having their rigs become snagged on various kinds of underwater objects. When the TRD TicklerZ is rigged to a small mushroom-style jig with its four tentacles situated around the collar of the jig, one of the tentacles can become a weed guard. The photograph below illustrates how the TRD TicklerZ’s torso is affixed to the jig and the tentacle is affixed to the point of the hook.

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