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Optimize Your Bait Techniques

For years anglers within the northeast regions of the United States have stated you only need two baits after ice-out in early spring...A jerkbait and a jig. Needless to say these two baits are indeed excellent choices. Which by the way have and continue to catch and win their share of tournaments! (Example: Z-Man's CrossEyeZ Jigs!!!)

However, with the increase of sonar technology coupled with the advancement of televised bass tournaments exposing angler's techniques and tactics such as witnessed within the recent Bassmaster Elite and Classic tournaments. A wide variety of different baits/techniques have expanded the list of choices now available and effectively productive during early springtime cold-water conditions! One item that has been consistently utilized by these expert professional anglers rotates around one specific thing...A Blade!!!

Rather than list multiple baits, I have chosen to share multiple ways to optimize your techniques with Z-Man's ElaZtech Jerkbaits the StreakZ and Scented Jerk ShadZ. Lets concentrate on the 5" and 3.75" models as we target bass during the cold-water early spring transition. The New England average water temperature on larger lakes ranges from 40 to 46 degrees, while smaller lakes and ponds are registering water temperatures in the high-forties to low-fifties.

Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ, StreakZ & Under Spins:
The 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell was won by impelling a soft plastic jerkbait unto an under-spin jighead. In 2018 Bassmaster cameras revealed these same techniques continued to produce! The truth is Crappie anglers have been utilizing under-spin jigheads for years. Many times landing quality largemouth bass when targeting Crappie! Not to mention the secret activity of savvy bass anglers.

While there are many quality companies producing under-spin jigheads I prefer Fish Head Spin for several reasons; the lifelike head design, narrow pointed head with holographic 3-D eyes, Mustad hooks and a wide variety of models. Paired with Z-Man's ElaZtech plastic Scented Jerk ShadZ or StreakZ the combination swims through the water column with a non-threatening realistic natural baitfish pulsating vibration. Best of all Z-Man ElaZtech baits stay pegged without being glued!!! (www.FishHeadSpin.com)

Color Choices:
Match the prevailing forage, shad, perch, smelt, alewife's etc. Then do the same with your Under Spin. One of my favorite colored 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ is Pearl the addition of scent encourages bites through a bass's sense of smell.

5" Scented Jerk ShadZ™ 5" StreakZ™

3.75" StreakZ™

I spool my spinning/bait casting reels with Seaguar 10 lb. ABRAZX fluorocarbon whenever throwing a 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ or StreakZ. Due to dragging the bottom ABRAZX is more forgiving. However, always check your line for nicks and re-tie. The 3.75" StreakZ is secured with 8 lb. Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon spooled on a spinning reel. My choice of rods for Z-Man under-spins 1/4 oz. or less is St. Croix's 7'1" Medium Fast Mojo Bass spinning rod. Z-Man 5" ElaZtech jerkbaits rigged on 3/8 or 1/2 oz. under-spins are worked with St. Croix's 7'1" Medium Heavy Mojo Bass bait-casting rod. (www.stcroixrods.com)

Z-Man 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ and 5", 3.75" StreakZ
This is when your sonar comes into play big-time! Side-Scan allows you to scan across points and humps covering varying depths at the same time. In turn locating the depth range and location of both bass and baitfish. When bass are suspended make long cast, counting down your Z-Man rigged under-spin so that it runs at or slightly above your target. Do not impart any additional action just continue reeling, when a bass hits keep reeling and set the hook with a sweeping motion. Base your retrieve speed on the water temperature, cold-water slower retrieve water that is warming increase retrieve speed.

Important: You will be able to keep a lighter weight rigged Z-Man under-spin in the strike zone longer and work it slower. The high buoyancy of ElaZtech plastic also adds assistance for keeping your bait in the strike zone. The heavier 3/8 and 1/2 oz. Z-Man rigged under-spins allow you to slowly crawl and feel your way across the bottom detecting bottom cover. Try hopping or stroking your bait every now and then letting it fall back to the bottom, pausing before re-starting your retrieve. Although, the smaller 3.75" StreakZ produces great in shallow water, especially for spooky bass, it also shines for deeper bass on calm days or when bass stop taking your larger offering!

Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ, StreakZ & Fish Head Shaker:
Combining an oscillating realistic swimming wobble with the addition of flash and vibration, Z-Man Elaztech Jerkbaits rigged on the Fish Head Shaker become outstanding tools for scanning flats and covering all water depths. The Shakers fluorocarbon urethane vertical bill imparts the natural baitfish movements upon retrieval. While, adding deflection paired with weedless abilities.

Color Choices:
On overcast conditions I prefer darker colors such as Bad Shad or Smokey Shad. Under brighter conditions and especially when Smallmouth Bass are available I prefer bright colors like Z-Man's Scented Jerk ShadZ Pearl, Laguna Shrimp or Bubble Gum Z-Man StreakZ in 5".

5" Scented Jerk ShadZ™ 1/4, 3/8,1/2 oz. Fish Head Shaker

When employing ElaZtech Jerkbaits on the Shaker Spin head I use bait-casting equipment for all three sizes 1/4, 3/8, 1/2 oz. Seaguar 10 lb. ABRAZX or INVIZX fluorocarbon whenever throwing a 1/4 oz. and Seaguar 12 lb. for the 3/8 or 1/2 oz. model. My rods of choice; St. Croix's 7'1" Medium Heavy Mojo Bass rod or Legend Tournament Bass 6'9" Medium Heavy Mod/Fast bait-casting rod (www.Seaguar.com)

Z-Man 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ and 5" StreakZ
Covering water and making long cast is when I'll utilize my 7'1" Medium Heavy Mojo Rod, the extra length allows for moving more line during deep water applications. Slowly swimming either of the 5" ElaZtech Jerkbaits just above the bottom, or over deep vegetation can be very productive. The same holds true for suspended bass. When bass are busting baitfish on the surface try waking this rig around the outside edges of the school, many times larger bass linger here waiting for an easy meal.

With the weedless ability to work shallow cover, and boat docks the shorter 6'9" Medium Heavy rod allows for more accurate casts to specific targets. Remember to always bump the cover deflecting your Z-Man rigged Shaker for additional bass bites. (www.stcroixrods.com)

Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ, StreakZ & Stand-Up Fish Head Spin:
Contact, contact and more contact with the bottom, along with bumping and deflecting off cover is the key to enticing bass to inhale your baits! Log unto The Bass University TV, and the one word repeated constantly by these elite professional instructors is the importance of making contact, especially with the bottom. Add in flash, vibration; scent of Z-Man's Scented Jerk ShadZ and suddenly you are appealing to every bass in the area. (www.TheBassUniversity.com)

With a weight forward head design, paired with Fish Head's tapering realistic hand painted life-like head and holographic 3-D eyes. Z-Man's ElaZtech Jerkbaits come alive while either swimming seductively on the bottom or when stopping allowing the enhanced buoyance of Z-Man's ElaZtech properties to slowly raise mimicking baitfish feeding on the bottom.

Color Choices:
I stay with all baitfish colors such as Bluegill, Bad Shad, Smokey Shad, Ralph's Shad, Smelt and Pearl. All of these Z-Man colors match perfectly with the four available Stand-Up Fish Head Spins. (Note: I use the 5" size ElaZtech Jerkbaits, but will turn to the 7" Scented Jerk ShadZ during warmer weather conditions. This setup is too large for the smaller 3.75" StreakZ.)

As with my Z-Man ElaZtech Jerkbaits on the Fish Head Shaker, I utilize the same set-up with my ElaZtech Jerkbaits rigged on the Stand-Up Fish Head Spin. Bait-casting equipment for all three sizes 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 oz. Seaguar 10 lb. ABRAZX fluorocarbon whenever throwing a 1/4 oz. and Seaguar 12 lb. ABRAZX for the 3/8 or 1/2 oz. model. My rod of choice is St. Croix's 7'1" Medium Heavy Mojo Bass rod. (www.Seaguar.com)

Z-Man 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ and 5" StreakZ
The weight forward head design of the Stand-Up Fish Head Spin allows for extra long casts, while the tapered Fish Head design mimics a baitfish swimming towards the bottom. Upon entering the water engage your reel, this will impart a pendulum effect adding to the realistic life-like head down swimming action of the ElaZtech Jerkbait. The flash of the Under Spin blade and vibration encourages fish attracting qualities.

Although, the Stand-Up Fish Head Spin is not weedless, it will blast through vegetation when ripped out with a sudden stopping motion allowing the blade to rotate as it falls back to the bottom. Another productive technique is to apply a stop and go retrieve along the bottom, with hopping or stroking actions. Allowing the Z-Man ElaZtech Jerkbaits to stand-up nose down. This technique has been very productive over gravel, stone and sand bottoms for smallmouth bass.

Z-Man Spy-Baits Scented 5" Jerk ShadZ, 5" & 3.75" StreakZ:
One of the most productive new techniques involving blades or in this case a prop has been the introduction of a Japanese trend called 'Spy-Baiting'. Most notability this technique is achieved with double prop hard baits. However, with the introduction of prop jigs from Fish Arrow, anglers now have the ability to utilize a wide variety of ElaZtech plastics expanding their bait presentations. And, with a very low reasonable monetary investment!

Utilizing Z-Man ElaZtech the 'Spy-Baiting' or 'Prop-Baiting' technique is one of Finesse. Requiring light line paired with spinning tackle. Those that excel at this technique recommend anglers choose ElaZtech soft plastic baits that are straight verses those that have swimming, curly or ribbon style tails. One reason why ElaZtech Jerkbaits, Scented Jerk ShadZ and StreakZ work so well!

3.75" & 5" Z-Man StreakZ Fish Arrow Whicky Head

Color Choices:
I favor staying with Scented Jerk ShadZ, and StreakZ baitfish colors such as Bluegill, Bad Shad, Smokey Shad, Ralph's Shad, Smelt and Pearl. As I feel this technique mimics baitfish. However, colors along the line of reptiles may also be productive?

Two rigging methods have been suggested; 1. Nose hooking your
ElaZtech Jerkbaits. 2. Texas rigging your ElaZtech Jerkbaits unto the hook shaft of your Fish Arrow Prop Jig. The 'Whicky Head' has a wide hook, which may also be used for 'Wacky Rigging', while the 'Wheel Head' has a round bend style hook. The 5" ElaZtech Jerkbaits work best when nose hooked on the 'Whicky Head'.

Spinning tackle is a must for this technique! I spool my reel with 10 lb. Seaguar Smackdown braid secured to a seven-foot leader, either 6.2 or 7.3 lb. Seaguar Finesse Fluorocarbon. My spinning reel is saddled on a St. Croix Legend Tournament Series 6' 10" Medium-Light X-Fast rod. (www.stcroixrods.com)

Z-Man Spy-Baits Scented 5" Jerk ShadZ, 5" & 3.75" StreakZ:
Patience is a requirement with this ultra light rig, and attention to line movement will telegraph bites more often than not! Making long cast and allowing your bait to work its prop will impart subtle combinations of pressure waves, vibrations and flash as the prop spins on the fall. This technique has been proven extremely effective for tight-lipped and finicky bass. While, cruising bass have been known to fall victim to the 'Prop-Baiting' techniques non-threatening natural movement.

Side Note:
The 'Prop-Baiting' technique has been proven to be an outstanding stream and river method for smallmouth bass. Due to the moving water the following Z-Man ElaZtech baits are highly recommended: 3.75" StreakZ, 4" Diesel MinnowZ, 3" MinnowZ, 3" Slim SwimZ, 2.5" and 3.5" GrubZ. The swimming tail sections of these Z-Man ElaZtech baits, slow the baits movement in the current adding additional vibrations and longer flashing time of the prop.

Remember 'Just Have Fun'
Billy 'Hawkeye' Decoteau

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