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Midwest Finesse Knows Best


Most people in the bass fishing world probably don’t know who Drew Reese is, but they should.  Perhaps the best angler with whom I’ve ever shared a boat, the Kansas native competed in bass tournaments as a young man and actually finished seventh in the inaugural Bassmaster Classic on Lake Mead in 1971.  Drew worked for Bass Buster lures, the company that developed the original Beetle (an early predecessor to our Ned Rig) and Beetle Spin, which are still being sold today.  For the last 50 years, Drew has spent his summers at Lake of the Woods in Canada, where he has essentially perfected the art of finesse fishing for smallmouth.  While he no longer competes in tournaments, Drew is a rabid recreational angler.  He fishes daily each summer, and last summer alone, he landed over 5,000 bass!


Several years ago, I met Drew through Ned Rig namesake and finesse fishing guru Ned Kehde.  On a recent fishing trip, Ned had exposed Drew to our ElaZtech® material, and Drew was intrigued, particularly because Ned had out-fished him by a long shot using ElaZtech baits.  Since then, Drew and Ned have both helped open my eyes to the virtues of ElaZtech for finesse fishing, and Drew in particular has spent countless hours helping us develop and perfect a line of Ned Rig finesse baits, including the Hula StickZ, Finesse TRD, and Finesse ShroomZ jigheads.  We are currently consulting with Drew on several new bait styles and colors to add to our product line in the next few years.


Several years ago, I traveled to Lake of the Woods and spent a few days fishing with Drew to learn more about finesse fishing and northern fisheries, as well as to test prototypes of our Ned Rig baits.  This past Monday, I had the opportunity to return the favor on my home waters here in coastal South Carolina.


While Drew has likely caught more fish than anyone else I’ve met, he has not spent much time fishing saltwater, and Monday was his first time targeting seatrout and redfish.  I offered Drew a Trout Eye jighead and MinnowZ or TroutTrick like I was using, though I was not surprised when he refused and tied on a 1/6 ounce Finesse ShroomZ jighead and Hula StickZ.



We first targeted seatrout in 4 to 6 feet of water, and I was sure that Drew would soon be scrambling for that TroutTrick he had turned down.  What happened next surprised me; Drew caught 8 quality trout in a row (including several in the 20” range) from the back of the boat, while I failed to get a bite on the MinnowZ , TroutTrick, and StreakZ 3.75, my three staple trout baits.



At the next few stops, we quietly poled and drifted across several flats in search of schools of redfish, and Drew proceeded to boat several quality redfish, while I struck out using my go-to Scented PaddlerZ.  Even though the reds were all in the 24 to 29 inch range, Drew expertly played the fish on his light gear (6 lb Fireline and 10 lb fluorocarbon leader), and the diminutive (by saltwater standards)  light wire hooks on the Finesse ShroomZ held up fine.  By 1:00 pm, I was still fishless using my conventional saltwater baits, while Drew was putting on a clinic using Midwest finesse tackle and tactics!


As the afternoon wore on, the water warmed up, and the fish weren’t quite as choosy.  I began to pick away at some trout and reds, while Drew continued his catching at a steady pace.  By the end of the day, we had tallied nearly 40 fish, but Drew had badly out-fished me using his finesse techniques by a count of 24 to 15.



In talking with Drew throughout the course of the day, it became clear to me why his baits and presentation were so effective.  Drew typically slowly and gently raises his rod three times before allowing the Hula StickZ and Finesse ShroomZ combo to settle to the bottom.  He always allows the bait to reach the bottom at least once on each retrieve, noting that the bait standing up off the bottom and moving ever so slightly accurately mimics a small minnow dying or feeding tail-up on the bottom.


According to Drew, the Finesse ShroomZ head, equipped with a much smaller hook than anything I have used for saltwater fishing, is critical to the success of this rig because it allows the Hula StickZ to float more easily and move more naturally as it is not encumbered by a larger, heavier hook.  The slightly rounded top of the Finesse ShroomZ jighead, Drew says, is critical because it causes the bait to rock ever so slightly on the bottom at rest.  Before rigging each bait, Drew stretches the bait to remove some of the salt and give it a spongier texture and more flexible feel, which drastically improves the action of the bait in his eyes.  Between the small hook size, head shape, buoyancy, and flexibility of this combo, the bait never stops moving when it’s deadsticked on the bottom.


In my mind, the key to Drew’s success, particularly early in the day when the fish were more sluggish, was his slow presentation coupled with the unique behavior of the buoyant Hula StickZ paired with the small Finesse ShroomZ heads.  Even when I slowed my presentation with my MinnowZ and TroutTrick to mimic what Drew was doing, the bait did not behave the same way at rest and did not move as freely on the bottom as Drew’s.  As the day wore on and the fish got more fired up, Drew’s advantage was neutralized somewhat.  However, I definitely learned more about fishing in my own backyard from a Midwestern bass fisherman on his first Lowcountry trip than I ever thought possible – and you can bet I’ll have plenty of Hula StickZ and Finesse ShroomZ on board next trip!


-Daniel Nussbaum

President, Z-Man Fishing Products

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