Sonar Science Meets Next Level Lure Design

Sonar Science Meets Next Level Lure Design

Jul 10, 2024

New Z-Man® Graph ShadZ™ paints strong forward-facing signals, swims with unhinged action

Ladson, SC (July 11, 2024) – Our fascination for forward-facing sonar (FFS) tracks straight back to the reason we fish, or more to the point, the reason we love to sight-fish. It’s incredible technology, a tool that extends the adrenaline rush of sunglassing the shallows, expanding that euphoric feeling way beyond the banks.

Over two years ago, Z-Man embarked on its most ambitious lure project to date, melding the science and art of fishing into a singular, essential FFS lure. We’ll leave deep dives into acoustic waves and echolocation to the sonar engineers. Suffice to say, the new 3.8-inch Graph ShadZ™ was created to reflect a vibrant sonar signal, leading with stunning realism and an array of high-performance underwater motions that appeal to the most challenging bass, walleye and other species.

“At the start of this project, we were already digging deep into sonar science, consulting with some of the best engineering minds in the business,” reflects Z-Man Director of Product Development Jose Chavez. “We knew this new concept would require some against-the-grain innovation, but the goal never wavered from giving anglers an easy-to-fish lure that showed up consistently on sonar while appealing to the predatory impulses of freshwater gamefish. The Graph ShadZ is a different animal, an amazing lure designed to bring the adrenaline rush of sight-fishing to the sonar screen and beyond.”

Graph ShadZ

The new Z-Man Graph ShadZ is power-packed with forward-facing sonar science.

“All elements of the Graph ShadZ exist to reflect a solid sonar return signal and to move and react in ways that coerce strikes from today’s toughest bass—suspended and cover-oriented fish that see tons of lures and constantly surround themselves with clouds of bait,” suggests Z-Man pro Luke Clausen, an FFS fan since day-one.

For Z-Man, the two-tiered design equation posed an interesting challenge: How to make the lure answer the ping of sonar while also freeing it to move organically and erratically and to stick perpetually in the strike zone?

Graph ShadZ

The Graph ShadZ' innovative line-through jighead provides knot protection and aligns the lure perfectly horizontal without needing to reposition the knot.

Radical Line-Through Design
Addressing lure mechanics and action first, Z-Man sculpted the Graph ShadZ’ head with a groundbreaking line-through design. “Among the biggest obstacles anglers face with interactive sonar presentations—moping, Damiki or hover rigging— is having to reposition the knot on the eyelet after every cast to maintain a natural lure angle,” explains Chavez. “Our objective was to give anglers a perfectly balanced lure that hovers horizontally, rather than unnaturally nose- or tail-down.

“By reorienting the eyelet, we devised a killer solution for addressing multiple key issues beyond bait posture, he explains. “Not only does our minimalist through-head channel and chin line-tie eliminate the need to reposition the knot, but a special non-abrasive conduit also protects the line from damage, hiding the knot entirely beneath the head. The result is a clean, streamlined baitfish clone that performs a powerful, eminently repeatable presentation—and reduces the need to frequently retie.”

To rig the Graph ShadZ, simply run the line through the tubular opening, out and back through the eyelet. Commence tying your favorite knot (we suggest an improved clinch, Trilene, uni or San Diego jam knot.) Before cinching up, moisten the knot and pull tight, rotating the knot on the eyelet until it’s recessed inside the jighead. Ready to rock.

Graph ShadZ

Precision Powered Head
Providing greater balance, action and sonar reflectivity, the Graph ShadZ’ exacting baitfish head features a flattened, tapered profile featuring fishy 3D eyes and chiseled jaw and gill anatomy. “By sculpting the head to taper outward from the nose, you get a solid sonar return from various angles, which shows up slightly better than a ball-shaped jig,” notes Chavez.

The Graph ShadZ’ agile, color-matched head marries seamlessly with its durable, buoyant ElaZtech® body, bolstering the lure’s horizontal balance and visual appeal. “Although the lure comes in three weights (3/16-, 1/4- and 3/8-ounce), each head is molded from a different formula of precisely alloyed metals for a uniform side profile,” notes Chavez. “In other words, while the 3/16 is the lightest in weight, it marries perfectly with the Graph ShadZ’ durable ElaZtech body—as do the 1/4- and 3/8-ounce heads—for the same consistent presentation, action and sonar reflection.”

Arming each jighead is a 3/0 medium-wire, black nickel, sickle-shaped needlepoint hook. To enable quick re-rigging, the body features a molded hook channel, while the hook shank
sports a dual molded split-grip and wire bait keeper, creating a tight cohesive jig-bait connection. A notch in the body’s chin aligns with the jighead eyelet, assuring perfect bait alignment, every time.

Graph ShadZ

Motion-Driven Body
Empowering its erratic, random range of motion, the lure’s soft, flexible ElaZtech body frees the tail section to move and kick in a natural, uninhibited range of motion.

An unconventional, action-driven departure from traditional paddle or split tails, the Graph ShadZ’ vertically forked tail shudders and darts in tantalizing fashion. A thick lower lobe produces an accentuated quivering motion. “To predators, it’s a non-threatening, familiar baitfish silhouette and a fluid yet erratic swimming action that communicates a green light to eat,” notes Clausen. “Fish it like a hover rig, swimbait, jerk minnow or various combinations, all during the same retrieve.”

Graph ShadZ

FF Sonar Science
To achieve optimal sonar reflectivity and on-screen visibility, Z-Man consulted with leading sonar engineers. “We’ve applied a lot of sonar science to the design, including the exact lure attributes needed to create positive user experiences in terms of actually tracking the lure on the display,” says Chavez.

Foremost among key sonar precepts, the Graph ShadZ body features a hollow “air bladder,” which sonar interprets as a live fish, producing the strongest signal possible. To augment its sonar visibility, the Graph ShadZ baitfish torso bears textured scale patterning, which traps air and releases bubbles, easily detected by the transducer.

Creating greater on-screen visibility, the Graph ShadZ’ flat-sided head and body provide an expanded surface area for detection from any angle.

Graph ShadZ

How to Fish It
Z-Man pros Luke Clausen and Seth Feider each extol the lure’s ability to descend rapidly to fish depth. Here, the Graph ShadZ leans on its buoyant ElaZtech body, jighead profile and optimized line angle to pendulum, swing and ultimately, loiter in the strike zone for extended looks from discerning bass.

“On freefall, the lure does a really cool death spiral,” notes Bassmaster Elite Series angler Seth Feider. “It falls fast to depth, but does so in a random quick-darting motion that’s way more realistic than the straight do-nothing drops of most other lures.”

“What’s really cool is what happens to the lure when you give it little shakes of the rod,” suggests Clausen. “Those signals transmit straight to the chin eyelet, which provides a different pull point and a lot of body roll and flash. You can also make the lure slash and walk-the-dog, using longer rod pulls during the retrieve.

“When you pick up tension on the lure, the Graph ShadZ pendulums and hovers at that precise depth,” he adds. “That’s a key consideration with live sonar—to keep your bait in the strike zone, or just suspended directly above the fish.”

Graph ShadZ

Blending the “Science and Art of Fishing” into a single potent FFS lure, the new Graph ShadZ is already leaving A-level impressions— on forward-facing sonar screens and livewell weights alike. Available in October, the 3.8-inch Z-Man Graph ShadZ dons ten tournament-tailored patterns and three weights (3/16-, 1/4- and 3/8-ounce), each with color-matched heads and bodies. MSRP $6.99 per pack (includes one spare body). For more intel, visit or see it in action at the 2024 ICAST show, booth #4808.

Z-Man Fishing Products