Ladson, SC – Admittedly, bite force is a concept best understood by anglers whose fingers accidently slip into the mandibles of powerful gamefish. With an audible snap—not unlike an angry alligator maw—aquatic predators like snook, tarpon and striped bass can all crush baitfish (or phalanges) with a single powerful chomp. Or, for a whole other world of hurt, try adding the incisors of a bluefish, walleye or pike.
Indeed, bite force is particularly driven home when a fish manages to slice, crunch or otherwise mangle the lure at the end of your line. While electrifying to experience on a rod and reel, such formidable bites often trash and retire lures, even those fresh from the package. Soft plastics? One and done. Despite their name, hardbaits can also succumb to steel-trap jaws and gnashing teeth: balsa cracks in half, screw-eyes rip loose, diving lips come unhinged. Gamefish just grin and go about the business of chomp and destroy.
“But consider an ultra-realistic swimbait that combines the flexibility and vitality of the softest plastics with the resiliency of the toughest hardbait,” poses Carter Andrews, world-travelled big fish adventurer and host of The Obsession of Carter Andrews. “That’s the Z-Man HerculeZ. Tie it on at the start of the day and battle big violent fish until you or the bait gives up. My money’s on the HerculeZ.”
A first of its kind pre-rigged swimbait comprised of 10X Tough ElaZtech®, the HerculeZ presents the perfect bite-sized target for monster fish with an attitude problem. Three bait sizes include 4-, 5- and new 6-inch versions—all armed with heavy-duty, black-nickel, chemically sharpened Mustad UltraPoint hooks.
“That powerful hook is a huge deal,” adds Andrews, “because finding similar sized baits with big, truly die-hard hooks that hold up to monster fish is next to impossible.
“But one little secret is that monster stripers, snook and other large predators target and eat smaller baitfish more often than most of us realize. Same story with freshwater monsters like pike and walleyes. Most 4- to 6-inch pre-rigged swimbaits simply aren’t equipped with hooks big or meaty enough for the task. Yet the HerculeZ’ beefy, wide-gap hooks stay wicked sharp and won’t bend out. A spacious gap and hook exposure allow for easy penetration into broad, bony jaws.”
Andrews calls out another unique advantage: “The bait’s super-soft ElaZtech composition means you can activate HerculeZ’ tail even at slower retrieve speeds. The material and tail design also make it move and kick by merely letting the lure free-fall. This type of free kicking paddletail is almost unheard of among swimbaits made with traditional, more rigid PVC plastics. It’s exactly the type of lure I need in search of the biggest, baddest fish on earth.”
“When our Australian friends threw this bait for barramundi—one of the meanest species, freshwater or salt—they simply couldn’t destroy it,” notes Z-Man President, Daniel Nussbaum. “The value of tying on one swimbait at the start of the day, slinging it for hours for big violent fish—including toothy species like pike and bluefish—can’t be overstated; its durability is off the charts.”
To bolster the bait’s toughness, Z-Man molded its ElaZtech exterior around a rigid zinc jighead and endoskeleton. “Zinc is harder than lead, so it maintains its shape, balance and performance, indefinitely,” notes Justin Willmer, pro angler for Tackle Tactics, Australia’s leading source for hardcore fishing information. “The lure’s zinc interior also provides a rock-solid foundation for its stainless-steel eyelet. This extra hook hanger allows you to add a split ring and belly treble hook, valuable for fishing in open water or around lighter biting fish. The extra hook aids in connecting with powerful implosion feeders, like giant barramundi.
“Another cool tip—and an overlooked feature of the eyelet—is to add a single Colorado blade amidships. The auxiliary blade emits extra vibration and flash and allows you to slightly slow your retrieve, when necessary.”
Yielding bonus advantages, notes Willmer, is the HerculeZ’ natural buoyancy. “First, ElaZtech is so soft and flexible that it provides extra tail action. The bait’s buoyancy means the tail is always working against the weight of the zinc jighead, bringing it to life in the water. It also keeps the lure running free and clear, even through vegetation or other cover.”
Tackle Tactics’ Vinny Versfeld, an exceptional barramundi angler, offers another tip for maximizing HerculeZ success. “Where the hook exits the lure, just behind its dorsal fin, you’ve got a small opening and pocket. It’s a perfect place to add a few drops of Pro-Cure or other scent. For extra sound, you can also insert one of those little glass rattles, encasing it in the soft, tacky material. The resilience of ElaZtech opens up all kinds of cool fish-attracting possibilities.”
At the opposite end of the equator, expert angler and fisheries scientist Jeff Matity has adopted the HerculeZ as his new-favorite swimbait for the goliath walleyes and pike swimming in Saskatchewan, Canada’s Last Mountain Lake.
“This little swimbait has lot going for it, both above the surface and below,” says Matity. “Its unique curved, keeled paddletail kicks with a beautiful tight swimming action, while the head and body track continuously forward, without excessive body roll—that’s a key, somewhat rare distinction among the best swimbaits ever made.”
Matity further points to the lure’s buoyant ElaZtech material over its internally balanced zinc weight. “This creates an alluring nose-down attitude as the lure creeps and slow-swims along rocky bottomed structure,” Matity explains. “The HerculeZ’ resilient head bounces over rocks and boulders and roots out big, big walleyes, while its buoyant qualities nearly eliminate snags.
“While my brother Jason and I typically snag and lose six or more traditional, lead-anchored swimbaits a day while fishing in rocks, we have yet to lose a single HerculeZ in these same spots. Incredible.
“Actually, the only way to end this lure’s service is to lose it!” he exclaims. Casting a single 5-inch HerculeZ (Houdini pattern), Matity caught over fifty fish, including a 10-pound walleye, a 20-pound pike and a 5-1/2-pound largemouth bass. That original lure is still alive and kicking today.”
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.