Ladson, SC – Imagine a seemingly infinite inshore angling playground; a sight fishing dream destination; a place where covering water is best accomplished in a pair of waders. You’re right in there with your quarry, knee deep among the shrimp and the stingrays, plus nervous packs of roving redfish, snook and trophy-sized seatrout. Tension buzzes the back of your neck as you detect multiple piscine targets, jetting around and marauding bait amid a labyrinth of mangroves and turtle grass and the little sand clearings—or potholes— that function as dinner tables.
Stretching its legs for 130 miles between Corpus Christi and the mouth of the Rio Grande, Texas’ Laguna Madre offers littoral zones in abundance, enough shallow water habitat to explore and constantly discover new hotspots. Shielded from the Gulf of Mexico by Padre Island—the longest barrier island in the world—the Mother Lagoon serves as a vast sanctuary, with endless fertile feeding grounds for gamefish. Here, the “water column”— what amounts to the Laguna’s 4-1/2-foot average depth— encompasses just enough aquatic real estate for saltwater predators to operate and silently sneak bites of shrimp, finger mullet and mudminnows—often by rooting right down in the substrate.
It’s why tailing redfish here remain such a frequent, blood-pumping visual. And why hooking up consistently leans on stealth, polarized eyewear and artful casts with artificial lures. To optimize success in skinny water, however, elite local anglers are increasingly selecting softbaits of a different stripe.
Led by legendary Texas inshore guides, Captains Ernest and Aaron Cisneros, a movement toward tossing select superplastics is on the rise. “The shallow water nature of the Laguna Madre means it’s absolutely critical to keep your bait in the strike zone where fish can see it for as long as possible,” suggests Captain Ernest, a retired schoolteacher and 30-year pioneering angler on the Lower Laguna.
The “Hover” Factor
“For the couple seasons, I’ve been experimenting with ElaZtech® superplastics and have been constantly amazed by the unique, incomparable properties of these futuristic baits,” says Cisneros. “While regular PVC plastic baits sink fast to the bottom and often disappear in soft substrates, ElaZtech baits like the Kicker CrabZ™, Mulletron™ and Scented PaddlerZ™ actually float. That means when I put one of these baits on a jighead, my presentation profits from a slower rate of fall—maximizing every inch of the water column— gliding and hovering longer in the strike zone, and greatly increasing the chances a redfish or trout will see the bait from a distance and eat it.
“What’s even cooler,” notes Cisneros, “is what happens when you let the jig and bait sit and soak on the bottom. The buoyant ElaZtech material rises out of the substrate and stands tail-up. Looks exactly like a feeding minnow or a shrimp. In effect, even when you let the bait sit still, it’s still working for you, attracting fish with its buoyant, stand-up posture and subtle tail sway, activated by waves of current.” When fish approach baits like the Scented PaddlerZ and Jerk ShadZ™, which are infused with Pro-Cure gel, the fish-attracting oils and flavor help close the deal. Hard to imagine a more powerful set of advantages for shallow, spooky, clear water predators.”
Interestingly, the very nature of saltwater—and of the Laguna Madre in particular—provide a perfect environment for casting ElaZtech baits. Due to low rainfall, a lack of incoming freshwater and high rates of evaporation, salinity in the Laguna Madre regularly exceeds even that of the adjacent Gulf of Mexico. As salinity rates and subsequent water density increase, solid objects with lesser densities begin to float.
“ElaZtech baits, which float in any water conditions, glide even slower and more naturally in the Laguna Madre,” notes Cisneros. “These factors let you get away with a heavier jighead, while maintaining the bait’s overall reduced rate of fall. So, I can benefit from the casting distance of a heavier ¼-ounce Texas Eye™ Jighead, but maintain that seductive, slow sink rate due to the buoyant ElaZtech and high water salinity—as if I’m actually working an eighth ounce. I’m leaning on the bait’s buoyancy to maximize every cast and every inch of available water.”
Yet, as Cisneros notes, buoyancy and bait action are merely a fraction of the superplastics story. “Not only do these extra buoyant softbaits provide a slower-sinking action and an attractive glide, they’re also incredibly durable,” he observes. “One bait alone can last for weeks and catch dozens of fish. Earlier this year, I fished a single pearl-colored StreakZ 3.75 for three weeks, catching countless trout and redfish before a tiny 3-millimeter tail section finally tore off. The bait still worked, too.
“What’s crazy, though, is the softness and resulting vibration and action of these baits,” Cisneros explains. “You’d assume such a durable bait would be stiff, rigid and lifeless. Actually, ElaZtech baits are even softer than traditional plastics. I’ve now got so much confidence in their vibration, buoyancy and softness that I can’t fathom a single reason for reverting to old school stuff.” . . .
About Z-Man Fishing Products
A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech® softbaits, among the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide.