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Bass and BugZ

It was a case of logic. For years, I just couldn't understand why manufacturers were making so many "beaver-style" flipping baits, but so few finesse plastics of the same design. The profile and principle were winners; this much we already knew. So why not apply to more options?

Specifically, I realized that smallmouth - especially northern smallmouth living in clear water - loved "buggy" lures. Years ago, hellgrammite-imitating plastics were all the rage, but the trend came and went. Certainly, a modern, buggy creature bait would be smallmouth candy.

After sharing the concept with Z-Man, my ideas came to fruition with the design of the TRD BugZ. And, let me tell you, they hit it out of the park.

The basis of the TRD BugZ concept has everything to do with the way it falls. Rigged on a light jighead, the lure slowly spirals and glides on descent. I've come to realize that this motion perfectly imitates a crayfish falling through the water column, with its tail tucked in. Craws are naturally buoyant, and they will spiral down after they kick away from a predator. A cruising smallmouth picks up on this and will slurp up the defensive craw in no time.

To achieve the same action, I rig the TRD BugZ on a Finesse ShroomZ jighead weighing 1/6 of an ounce. I just can't get away from this little jig, as it features an incredibly effective welded wire keeper that holds my TRD BugZ on for the duration of the day.

I tend to fish this combo in very clear, often cold water, where long casts are a key. The lighter hook in the Finesse ShroomZ jighead allows for easy pull-sets with spinning gear at any length, and the fish stay hooked, fighting against a moderate rod and drag. A seven-foot, medium power G. Loomis rod is my favorite, spooled up with 10-pound braid and 8-pound leader. About 70% of my strikes on TRD BugZ come on the initial fall. For that reason, my retrieve consists of high strokes and hops, to get the bait up off the bottom, and visible to a nearby bass. The lure's subtle decent does the work.

Here, we need to talk about this "nearby bass" principle. You see, in cold clear water, it may take a bass a long time to get to my lure. Think about it: because the water is clear, a smallmouth may see my TRD BugZ from 20-30 feet away. But, because that same water is cold, and the metabolism of the fish is slow, it may take that same bass ten seconds to come investigate.  For that reason, I space my hops out a little. I like to know that, if a bass was nearby and wanted to look, I've given him enough time to come to the bait. The warmer the water, the more frequently I hop the lure, with shorter pauses.

Like any soft-plastic fishing technique, certain colors seem to excel. We all know Green Pumpkin works everywhere. Bama Bug is great when there's a slight stain to the water, and Hot Snakes is a pre-spawn sleeper. There's something about chartreuse when it comes to fishing for smallmouth - something in that color fires them up. The subtle flash of chartreuse in the belly of a Hot Snakes TRD BugZ may be the key.

One more thing about this bait: don't be limited to my pet methods. Sure, I mainly use the TRD BugZ when chasing smallies in the North, but it makes a killer spotted bass bait throughout the country's midsection and plays well for pressured largemouth across the South, especially in winter. Here, it may be wise to increase your hook strength a bit - go with the NedlockZ HD jighead, as it features a recessed eye that slides through cover, and a beefy Mustad hook.

This spring get buggy and try my subtle sleeper. The TRD BugZ will make you a believer in the power of finesse.

Z-Man Pro-Staff

Luke Clausen

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