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Soft Surface Snacks from Z-Man

Ladson, SC – “When you’re working with such a unique material, you can build baits nobody else can build,” asserts Glenn Young, an innovative angler and sales manager for Z-Man®Fishing. “It’s funny to sit back and watch the reactions of anglers who’ve never fished an ElaZtech bait before. When they realize they can make a topwater lure out of almost any ElaZtech creature, swimbait or jerkbait, a light ignites in their eyes.”
For Young, the adrenaline-buzz of a softbait surface explosion extends the entire calendar year. Imminent ‘surface tension’ explains why he consigns at least one rod to full-time topwater duty, no matter where he fishes. But Young isn’t casting your typical hardbodied, mechanical surface popper; or dog-walking some inflexible plastic cigar. Instead, he’s wielding a soft-bodied baitfish capable of carving Vs and traversing gnarly terrain like an Argo.
“Because the soft ElaZtech material floats and exhibits seemingly impossible combinations of flexibility and toughness, it unlocks the ability to rig and fish a lifelike surface popper, weedless or with a treble hook. Good luck doing that with traditional soft plastics.”
Soft Popper Supreme
A physical and functional marvel, the Z-Man Pop ShadZ™ strikes a natural baitfish pose, possessing the talents of both a soft jerkbait and surface popper in one. Rather than a two-dimensional feathered treble hook, the Pop ShadZ sports a tapered, free-flapping fish tail that swims, kicks and adds visual realism and vibration— attraction elements that complement its bubble-inducing popper head. While imparting various rodtip moves, Young says it’s possible to work the lure as a walk-the-dog style jerkbait, or as a traditional stop-and-pop chugger.
“People who fish with me laugh when they see that same Pop ShadZ rigged on one of my rods—pretty much all the time,” admits Young, referring to his favorite surface trick. “Truth is, it works almost everywhere. We’ve gone out to the California Delta, where the whole thing is nasty grass and sticks and the Pop ShadZ out-fishes everything else—and that includes all the different hollow bodied frogs.
Two-Way Rigging
To rig the bait weedless, Young ties on the hook first. He then pierces the bait right through the little hook-indicator molded into the lip. “Push the hookpoint all the way back and out where the belly slot begins. Then, once you rotate the hook into the offset and out the top of the bait, the hook eye is completely tucked away inside the head. Protects the knot and prevents debris from clinging to it. The hook slot helps align the bait, makes it weedless, yet allows the hook to effortlessly slide up and into the jaw of a biting fish. And again, the material’s so durable you can re-rig and re-position the hook dozens of times without doing any real damage to the bait.”
When Young moves away from heavy cover, such as when bass blast suspended shad, he can instantly convert the same Pop ShadZ into an active open water tool. Young’s unique rigging hack merely requires a line clipper and a 1/0 or 2/0 round bend treble hook.
Pop ShadZ Rigged
“Keep the bait tied on and pull the weedless hook through the Pop ShadZ’ body. Leave enough of a tag end hanging from the belly to tie your favorite knot. Clip off the single hook and tie on the treble with an improved clinch or other knot. Finally, impale the bait’s belly with a single hook tine, leaving the two other tines exposed. To make the bait ride slightly nose up—ideal for slashing retrieves— hook it closer to the tail. Or, pivot its head downward by moving the hook forward for a louder surface disturbance. Either way, you’ve got a superior hooking bait that fish engulf.”
Swimbaits on the Surface
Another alternative topwater trick, totally overlooked by most anglers, a 3-inch Z-Man MinnowZ™ yields a subtle-swimming wakebait action. Young says it’s a sneaky-good option for inducing surface savagery, even when fish are slightly off the bite.
MinnowZ weedless
“Put a weightless 3/0 EWG or 4/0 G-Lock hook into this subtle paddletail bait, and give it a nice slow, steady retrieve. The bait’s tail will waddle and spin just enough to pop and get noticed. It’s a heart attack waiting to happen, though,” Young laughs. “Fish form these wicked wakes behind the bait, and you just sort of hold your breath until it happens.
“What’s cool is the bait’s got a nice split dorsal fin that acts as a hook pocket. You can sneak it through anything and go where other baits can’t and yet always get good hooksets. Last year, I had just pulled the bait over a rock when a bass leapfrogged it and chowed the lure on the way down. That’s when you know they want it.”
Part jig-, buzzbait- or ChatterBait trailer, part swimming grub, Z-Man’s multipurpose GOAT™ baits exhibit the same benefits and buoyancy as its other ElaZtech brethren. To Young, that means exactly one other thing: topwater time.
“The big 4-1/4-inch Billy GOAT is a perfect ‘pad bait,” he suggests. “It’s flat body glides right over the thickest lily pads while the GOAT’s twin kicker legs move and thump with even the slightest forward momentum. Rig it weedless just like the Pop ShadZ. Swim it over the pads and when the bait hits an open spot, pause it and give a little twitch. Imagine what can happen next.”
Young hears it all the time. You can’t do that with a soft plastic bait. “Actually,” he’ll reply. “You can.”
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, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide.

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