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Snook Spaghetti

In crystalline inshore environs, natural bait movement and silhouette count bigtime toward the endgame of eliciting strikes. Rigid, wooden, mechanical actions get you exactly nowhere amid big fish that put prey movements under a microscope. But retrieve something that articulates, swims, and panics like a living thing and muscular inshore bullies won't leave you alone, screaming drag and jolting casting arms until you've had enough fun for one day.

Enough fun, though, is never enough for legendary saltwater angler, Captain C.A. Richardson. So when his longtime collaborators at Z-Man Fishing asked Richardson to help homebrew a new "live" bait made from ElaZtech®, he answered in the only way he knew how: climbing up on the poling platform and casting to cruising aquamarine missiles.

"You know you've got a special bait when you jump the first few tarpon that see it swimming past their snouts," confesses Richardson, an exceptional inshore guide and host of Flats Class TV. "It's not like we necessarily designed the 6-inch DarterZ™ to fool tarpon. But the bait is such a dead ringer for the needlefish and ballyhoo they eat that, well, let's just say no one's complaining about 100-pound bonus fish."

As anglers of Richardson's ilk recognized early on, Z-Man's otherworldly ElaZtech material perfectly embodies all the most coveted traits in a soft plastic fluke or swimbait. Molded from the super-soft, buoyant and impossibly resilient substance, the DarterZ melds the two aforementioned bait styles into a single, slender preyfish mimic.

The bait's fishy, hydrodynamic head slims down toward the tail, meeting two fine swim-segments that articulate like well-oiled hinges as water plays across the DarterZ' rear flank. A thin, flat wisp of ElaZtech separates the bait's posterior from its broad, flappy fish tail. The tail itself is horizontally oriented—like a dolphin, rather than a fish—to slow the bait's rate of fall while adding extra glide between rod shakes. The bait's buoyant ElaZtech construction enhances its tendency to soar or slowly sink, depending on the added weight of a jig or hook. Z-Man has also endowed the bait with belly and dorsal hook slots to simplify and streamline weedless rigging into a 5-second process.

"Put the DarterZ on a 4/0, 1/12-ounce ChinlockZ SWS™ hook, and you can glide and swim this thing through some pretty skinny water—places you can't throw anything else except topwater," notes Richardson, "That's a big deal.

"When you pump the bait, the flat tail flops up and down, almost gives it a shrimp-like look. On a straight swim, you get a nice tail-wagging action—the nose of the bait slides straight through the grass while the tail hard-kicks like an escaping baitfish. What's also cool about this presentation is that a keel-weighted ChinlockZ hook makes the bait slowly sink in a natural, horizontal posture."

Bring together the DarterZ' slender profile, soft, malleable texture and subtle fish-like movements and it's easy to see why impressive redfish, trout and snook mistake it for their favorite snacks. To match smaller-sized baitfish, Richardson will occasionally trim the bait's head, leaving its active tail section intact to deliver the goods.

"Depending on how you rig and retrieve it, the DarterZ instantly resembles a needlefish, ballyhoo, sand eel or even a shrimp."

The new Z-Man DarterZ conjoins the best traits of both a fluke and a swimbait into a single, slender preyfish mimic.

"We call it 'snook spaghetti,'" Richardson laughs. "Big linesiders get really mad at it. But the DarterZ is so tough and resilient that snook and other fish just can't tear it up. And like other ElaZtech baits, the more fish that chew it, the better it gets."

To allow for speedier retrieves that get snook cranking, Richardson likes to rig the DarterZ on a Redfish Eye™ jighead, the weight of which yields greater casting distance. "You can just as easily crawl the same combo near the bottom for big seatrout," he instructs. "I've even put the DarterZ under a popping cork on a 1/8-ounce jighead for bull reds in Louisiana. Love the Smoky Shad color for this. Give it some really violent rips and hang on for dear life."

Homebrewed in the inshore waters where Richardson and other fanatical anglers ply their craft, the Z-Man DarterZ can be rigged weightless on a ChinlockZ SWS hook, or on a HeadlockZ HD™ or Redfish Eye jighead to cover the entire water column. Available in December, the 6-inch DarterZ shows off ten exclusive Z-Man colors. For more information, visit www.zmanfishing.com.

Rigged DarterZ, top to bottom: with Z-Man Redfish Eye Jig, HeadlockZ HD Jig and Texas Eye™ Jighead.

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