Monthly Archives: June 2019

Bladed Jig

Unmasking the Unnamed Bladed Jig
from The Fishing Wire

Bladed jigs catch big bass for Luke Clausen


In bass circles, it’s become a something of running wise-crack. You might think of it along the lines of that secret spot your buddies call Lake X—so hot for big fish you simply can’t let the cat out of the bag. Except, this one’s a lure, not a lake.

Conspicuous by the absence of an actual brand name, something called an unnamed bladed jig has recently racked up mega bucks on the FLW, BASS and Major League Fishing tours. In a pastime rife with pseudo-hype and over-exaggerations, this one stands apart as the real deal—a lure that’s lived up to the propaganda, even exceeded it.

Consider the following intel from recent tournament coverage:

Referring to the bait cast by the 2019 Bassmaster Classic champion, tournament coverage included the following excerpt: “A key lure on Championship Sunday was a 3/8-ounce unnamed bladed jig, chartreuse white, with an unnamed pearl white, fluke-style trailer.”

In the days following the Classic, press and fan commentary had all arrived at the same conclusion: the unnamed bladed jig was a Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer. One article focused specifically on the “mystery lure” and the far-from-uncommon phenomenon of anglers glossing over certain successful, non-sponsor lures, while on stage.

In tournament circles, the Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer has become known as the “unnamed bladed jig.”

At the 2018 Classic, a rare candid moment unfolded when Gerald Swindle announced: “I caught every bass this week on a half-ounce ChatterBait, the JackHammer. I’m not sponsored by ‘em; I paid fifteen-ninety-nine a piece for ‘em, just like y’all do. I got about eleven-hundred dollar’s worth of them; I won’t lie to you.” Swindle wasn’t alone, as numerous other Classic contenders wielded what had become the hottest unidentified bait in bass fishing circles.

And in February 2019, Stage One winner of the MLF Bass Pro Tour at Lake Kissimmee, FL used an unnamed “bladed jig.” Once again, fans and fishing pundits speculated the lure to be a ChatterBait JackHammer.

“A Different Way to Make a Lure Wiggle”

It all started when Ron Davis, a creative lure designer from Rock Hill, South Carolina, added high-level action and vibration to a larger-profile, weighted jig. Davis drew his inspiration from the Walker Special, a vibrating lure resembling the pull-top on an old aluminum can, circa 1960. His original, admirable intent was to create “a different way to make a lure wiggle.”

Finally, in 1998, Davis engineered a unique way to attach a hex-shaped blade directly to a jig. Things began to click. Davis and his son Ron Davis Jr. sold 5,000 of their new “ChatterBaits” under the Rad Lures brand. After winning tournaments in 2005 and 2006, Bryan Thrift divulged his secret, chosen baits for the first time. ChatterBait sales skyrocketed to 25,000 lures, and when orders eclipsed six figures and projections exceeded 2 million, the Davises decided to sell its designs to Z-Man Fishing in 2008.

Perhaps it was inevitable that ChatterBait reproductions arrived, slowly at first, then en masse, as numerous tackle companies attempted to cash in on the success of a truly original and stunningly effective design.

Major League Fishing pro Luke Clausen details subtle differences between bladed bass jigs.

The Critical Connection

Recognizing the lure’s exceptional engineering early on, Davis successfully attained patent protection for his ChatterBait—a patent that has been preserved by Z-Man Fishing to this day. The key to the lure’s action, vibration, sound and ultimately, its efficacy, points directly to the blade-to-jig connection. According to the Davises, the lure’s driving force remains a thin, hex-shaped, bent blade, attached to a weighted hook in such a way as to restrict the blade’s oscillation.

“I’ve been throwing ChatterBaits since 2004,” says Thrift, a talented touring pro with ten FLW tournament wins and over $2.5-million in career earnings. “When I won at Okeechobee in 2006, the fish had never seen (the ChatterBait) before; it was just unimaginable the big fish I caught with the bait down there.”

Thrift and others believe the key to the ChatterBait’s big bass allure points directly to Davis’ design. “The direct connection between the blade and the jig restricts the blade’s movement and provides a side-to-side stopping point,” notes Thrift.

“I think most anglers know, by now, that if you put a split ring between the blade and the hook, it’s going to change the action dramatically, and drastically reduce the bait’s vibration,” believes Daniel Nussbaum, president of Z-Man Fishing. “In essence, a lure with a split ring isn’t a ChatterBait.

“A ChatterBait simply generates a totally different sound and vibration that you feel up and down the rod,” says Thrift. “Bass respond to it like no other vibrating bait you’ll fish.

“The other key thing that happens is the sound the lure makes as the blade repeatedly collides with the head. After a while, you get a unique paint wear pattern and the sound changes to a lower frequency, duller thud. Each ChatterBait version, from the original to the Project Z to the JackHammer all give off slightly different action and frequency vibration.”

The JackHammer, for example, is built with a flat-bottom, low-center-of-gravity head with a specialized channel groove for blade protection. “The JackHammer and the Project Z ChatterBait are both super-tuned lures that start vibrating and pulsing with the very first turn of the reel handle,” says Thrift.

The direct blade-to-jig connection is key to the success of the ChatterBait bladed jig.
Project Z

Interestingly, while the JackHammer continues to garner “unnamed” headlines and tournament wins, both Thrift and Major League Fishing Tour angler Luke Clausen rely on an alternative Z-Man bait, the Project Z.

“People see the price tags of the two lures and think the JackHammer must be better, which isn’t necessarily the case,” believes Thrift.

“The Project Z is maybe the first perfect ChatterBait ever made,” he asserts. “It’s got a high-level Mustad UltraPoint hook, and an awesome skirt and keeper. Also allows me to quickly and easily change the skirt if I need to. I can even mix and match blade colors so I can fish white/chartreuse with a gold blade in dirty water or green pumpkin with a gold blade in other conditions.

“What separates the lure from other ChatterBaits is that I can slow roll it past cover and then burn it back. It moves with a darting, hunting action, back-and-forth. I also use it a lot on offshore structure or ledges. Let it go to bottom and then rip it with the rod and let it flutter back. I’ve caught lots of bass on the Project Z bait down to 25 feet of water.”

Meanwhile, Clausen prefers the larger profile of the Project Z ChatterBait, and the fact he can fish it faster, burning it across shallow cover. “In clear or cold water, I’ll sometimes remove the skirt and replace it with a Jerk ShadZ for a realistic baitfish profile.

“The blade swings wide and wobbles a little more slowly, producing a nice deep, low frequency vibration. The blade doesn’t contact the jighead, but doesn’t have to, because the lure thumps so much. The Project Z bait is sort of a hidden gem among Z-Man’s ChatterBait line. It’s my favorite ChatterBait, hands-down— versatile enough to mimic a bluegill, shad or a crayfish.”

Big bass magic. Money winner. Unnamed bladed jig. Whatever you choose to call it, there can be but one original ChatterBait.

Bladed jig master Bryan Thrift believes the Project Z ChatterBait is the most underrated lure in the category.

Odd Couple Lives On My Pond

The odd couple lives on my pond. Last spring a pair of Canada geese raised some young there and I enjoyed watching them for several weeks. Then all but one disappeared. I was not sure if it could fly or not since I never saw it fly. It would just swim around on the pond.

A few days later I noticed a female mallard duck had started staying with the goose. They were always side by side swimming around the pond or out of the bank feeding. I found out the goose could fly one day when I scared them, both took off flying across the pond and landing together.

They are still together. If I scare them and they fly off in different directions, the mallard will quack until the goose joins her. They do not stay apart very long. I wonder how long this strange relationship will last.

This pair really look strange since the goose is at least four times as big as the duck. Yet they never leave each other’s side. Next spring when geese return to the pond to nest I wonder how the goose will react. Will it take up with others of its kind or stick with its duck friend? Only time will tell.

Angling Action in Florida’s Northernmost Keys

Angling Action in Florida’s Northernmost Keys
from the Fishing Wire

The Florida Keys are famous for many things, from pirates and sunken Spanish treasure galleons to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West home with its pride of polydactyl cats. But for anglers, it’s best known for fishing. While the middle and southernmost Keys garner most of the good press, the upper Keys offer some of the most diverse fishing opportunities in the entire island chain. The winter sailfish season provides the opportunity to catch a billfish a scant few miles off shore, while the ocean reefs are home to tarpon, jacks, blackfin tuna and a variety of grouper and snapper species. On the other side, the backcountry of Florida Bay is a shallow water playground where bonefish and permit hunt the skinny water, and a variety of mackerel, snapper, grouper, jacks and ladyfish are found in the slightly deeper holes.

Whether you’re a diehard angler looking for hot action, or an occasional fisherman in the area on a family vacation, the often-bypassed upper Keys has a lot to offer in piscatorial pursuits. The region stretches from Key Largo, the northmost Key, to Islamorada. Team Yamaha spent a day and a half with Captain Tim Arce of Native Conch Charters exploring the area. To add to the fun, the team fished aboard Regulator Marine’s hot new 26 XO powered by a Yamaha F300 outboard. The model represents a new direction for a company renowned for building offshore center console fish boats. The difference is denoted by the “XO” branding in its name. It stands for crossover, and this nimble 26-footer combines the shallow water accessibility of a bay boat with a slightly deeper hull design and a bit more freeboard to make it flexible enough to fish the ocean beaches and reefs further offshore. For the purposes of this outing, the boat was a perfect fit.

During the first trip, Captain Tim loaded on some light tackle and bait, did a quick systems check. Once we were out of the marina, he ran the boat south paralleling the Overseas Highway, winding through several miles of narrow channels, through mangrove-lined cuts between small islands and across shallow flats headed toward Snake Cut, where we left Florida Bay and made our way out onto the Atlantic side of the island chain. Captain Tim is a fifth generation Keys native, and has been addicted to fishing since he was old enough to walk to the end of the street with a fishing rod in his hand. He was a deckhand on charter boats by the age of 14, working for some of the most famous Keys charter captains sailing out of the legendary Buddy & Mary’s Marina in Islamorada. He got his license at 18, and split his time between running charters and a commercial tow boat. He has run offshore and back country boats for more than 25 years, and knows the vast and varied waters of the Keys like most people know their commute to work every day.

Once through the Cut, he followed the channel markers to deeper water, the Regulator making quick and comfortable work of some rather large swells and waves, until the team reached Davis Reef about six miles offshore. Tim tied off to one of the mooring floats, and started a chum slick in hopes of catching some tasty yellowtail snappers for dinner.

“The fishing in the upper Keys varies with the seasons,” Tim explained, “So here’s a little of what a visiting angler can expect. The bluewater fishing is best in fall and winter when sailfish, wahoo, kingfish and blackfin tuna are available as close as the edge of the reefs – often right where we are sitting now.”

Just to punctuate his narrative, a large school of ballyhoo shot into the air roughly 150 feet away, with a sailfish in hot pursuit. Sailfish chased bait schools, the bait sheeting from the surface sounding like rain, their sides reflecting the bright sunlight like mirrors, only to disappear below the surface as fast as they appeared. Unfortunately the team had neither the right tackle nor the live bait to tempt a sail. They were after the bottom species.

“In the spring, the bluewater action moves a bit further offshore, where the Gulf Stream is filled with migrating gamefish,” Tim continued. “Early spring is the best time for limiting out on mahi, there are still good numbers of sailfish around, bluefin tuna are heading north, and you can catch swordfish deep dropping during the day or fishing shallower at night. Summer is the slowest offshore fishing, but there is a major spawning migration of yellowtail and mangrove snappers on the reefs along with a variety of other species.”

The team continued to fish, catching a few mangrove and yellowtail on light tackle but with so little current, the conditions were not conducive for a good bite, though they did manage to put together enough of a catch to make for a great dinner back at the dock. Along the way Tim took a sightseeing detour, which only reinforced that the Upper Keys is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The next morning, the team met early at Yacht Works to set out on the second trip. This time Captain Tim brought along 23-year old college student and friend, Lexi Hang. A native of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Lexi was along on a family vacation. As luck would have it, the family rented the house next to Tim’s on Islamorada. Tim’s plan was to head west well out into Florida Bay to search out some shallow water spots to try some of the specialized equipment adorning the XO, specifically the remote control operated Minn-Kota® electric trolling motor on the bow and the Power Pole® shallow water anchoring system on the transom. Tim took an hour run through miles of shallow flats and winding channels, past small uninhabited islands and finally out into open expanses of the bay. He used the GPS to guide the boat to some spots where he had good fishing earlier in the week.

When we arrived, he deployed the trolling motor and quietly moved the boat up onto a bank in about five feet of water. Putting the motor into “auto anchor” mode, it used the GPS and a computer brain to keep the boat in position in the ten-knot breeze. We started casting live shrimp on light jig heads using seven-foot light actionspinning rods. Lexi was quick to hook up, the first fish taking line off the reel before it jumped several times revealing itself to be a bright silver ladyfish. Long, sleek and fast, ladyfish are common throughout the upper Keys, they fight well and jump like a baby tarpon. After a spirited battle, the fish was unhooked and released.

Tim pinned another live shrimp on the jig, and Lexi made a long cast back into the slick that was developing nicely from the chum bag Tim had secured from the springline cleat. Her offering didn’t hit the bottom before something grabbed it and headed toward the Marquesas at speeds faster than the ladyfish, but this scrapper didn’t jump or show itself until it was much closer to the boat. It turned out to be a bonnet shark, a small member of the hammerhead family that only grows to 15 pounds or so. Great fighters, Tim grabbed it behind the head and lifted it for a picture before gently releasing it.

As the chum slick continued to do its job, more species came looking for the source of the fishy smell and the team started to hook up with regularity. For the next few hours there was barely more than a few minutes lull between hook ups, frequently with two fish on at once. They caught a variety of snappers including mangroves, lanes and grays, some incredibly fast and hard fighting cero mackerel, a small king mackerel (the big ones are found on the ocean side) and a variety of jacks. The weather was typical Florida Keys, hot, sunny with beautiful fluffy clouds drifting by overhead to break up the blue of the water from the blue of the sky. Even though it was late winter, the temperature was hovering in the low 80s by midmorning.

Florida Bay is a huge expanse of shallow water, most rarely exceeding 10-feet deep, with areas of sandy flats that, at certain tide stages, have barely a foot of water on them. Those truly skinny spots are where bonefish and permit prowl, but the team was on a short leash and had to get back to the marina in time for Mike to show the new Regulator to a prospective buyer early that afternoon. The big Yamaha outboard quietly pushed the XO over the areas of sand and bay grass for the hour ride back to Yacht World and the marina. On the way back, Captain Tim explained he was sure the team could catch sailfish from the skiff with nothing more than some live bait and 20-pound class spinning rods. He also knew where some early tarpon would be held up that might be tempted by a well-placed live mullet. With a little more current out on the reef, he felt confident the team could also limit out on yellowtail snappers.

The Upper Keys are every bit as magical as the middle and lower Keys, and a whole lot closer to Miami or Fort Lauderdale airport. If you’ve got a day or two to kill and would like to get out on the water to fish, sightsee or just soak it all in, contact Captain Tim Arce. You can find him at www.nativeconch.com
or call (305) 395-1691.

Sandwiches I Have Eaten

A post on “fazebook“ about pineapple sandwiches got me hungry for one, and also got me to thinking about sandwiches I ate growing up. Basically, we would put just about anything between two slices of loaf bread and eat it. They were a lunch staple as well as a snack for a growing boy that was always hungry.

My preference for pineapple sandwiches was crushed, sweetened pineapple. Slather one side of a piece of bread with mayonnaise and pile the fruit on the other, making that side nice and soggy. The only time I ate sliced pineapple on bread was at family reunions and church gatherings. Folks brought the less messy ones there, but I did not think they were as good.

Banana sandwiches were eaten often, too. A banana sliced lengthwise and cut to bread length, on bread with lots of mayonnaise, was delicious. Although a piece of banana almost always skidded out due to mayo lubrication, it could be picked up in fingers and stuffed back in.

I discovered spun honey a few years ago and adding it to the banana sandwich makes it sweeter and better. And someone suggested mashing up the banana with a fork and putting it on the bread. Solves the problem of chunks sliding out.

Mayonnaise seems to be a common ingredient in my sandwiches, and if I was in a hurry, nothing but it made a good sandwich. Put on so thick it oozed out of the bread slices with every bite, it was quick and filling. Catsup sandwiches were the same, just squirt plenty on bread, mash them together and enjoy. And I liked them soggy, too.

I really don’t remember many ham or turkey sandwiches, but I am sure we ate them more often than I remember. I put catsup on ham and mayo on turkey or chicken.
`I was an adult when I first had a ham sandwich with cheese and mayo and mustard and I really like it, especially with a dill pickle. The same goes for turkey with lettuce and mayo and the pickle, I eat both now fairly often.

But store-bought meat like bologna, pickleloaf and liverloaf made good sandwiches with catsup added back then. And I put both Vienna sausage and potted meat with catsup on bread for a good sandwich. I still eat them, too.

Do they even make pickleloaf anymore? I don’t remember seeing it in a long time, may have to look for it! I’m sure it is not healthy, but it sure did taste good.

As a young adult I found out the liverloaf I loved growing up but is hard to find now, with its rim of fat on each slice, is the same as braunschweiger or liverwurst available in some grocery stores. And I buy it and make sandwiches with catsup on them, but I miss the rim of fat!

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a favorite of many youth, were not a favorite of mine but I ate a few. Mom even came up with the idea of mixing the peanut butter and jelly together in a Tupperware bowl for quick, easy spreading. I see it in stores not premixed for you.

Loaf, or plain white bread, was the only kind we ever ate. All the brown breads, with all kinds of healthy grain in them, are ok, but just don’t taste as good to me.

I ate a lot of sardines and some of my friends said they made sandwiches with them, but I never tried them. I liked them too much with saltine crackers.

I’m hungry, I think I will make a pineapple sandwich. Or banana, or potted meat or Vienna sausage. Or maybe my first sardine sandwich. So many choices!

Boating Etiquette

The last bullet point at the bottom is most important, in my mind, and the one fewest people follow.

Coast Guard Reminds Mariners of Boating Etiquette
from The Fishing Wire

As the summer heats up and boaters take to the water, the Coast Guard is responding to an increased number of preventable incidents and Good Samaritans are lending a hand.

“Most drowning and near-drowning incidents are preventable, if people used proper precautions,” said Capt. Olav Saboe, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Bend. “To reduce the risk of drowning, it is important for boaters to wear a life-jacket at all times. You may not have a chance to put it on, if and when a sudden emergency strikes.”

This comes in response to a recent incident in which a halibut angler fell overboard without a lifejacket while fishing alone, 14 miles west of Newport, Ore., May 29.

He was forced to tread water, fully clothed, in frigid conditions, until help arrived and without a life jacket, his chances of survival were extremely low.

Luckily, the man had a handheld VHF radio attached to his person. He used it to contact the Coast Guard as well as a nearby vessels.

The Coast Guard launched all available assets just minutes after the MAYDAY call came in. However, it was a Good Samaritan that reached the angler first and pulled him from the water before he succumbed to the disastrous situation.

“That case highlights the importance of the Maritime Rescue Doctrine,” said Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Molloy, commanding officer of Station Yaquina Bay. “Good Samaritans are very often the first to arrive on-scene and the Coast Guard encourages responsible action.”

A Good Samaritan is the operator of a private vessel who renders voluntary aid, without compensation, to a person who is injured or to a vessel in danger.

Good Samaritans are expected to exercise reasonable care, to avoid negligent conduct which might worsen the position of the victims, and to avoid reckless and wanton conduct in performing the rescue.

“It is extremely important, that if you hear a MAYDAY call over the radio, that you remain silent, listen, and write down or record any information you hear,” said Molloy. “The most important information is going to be location, location, location. Coordinates, latitude, longitude, geographical reference points. If the initial call is too weak to reach Coast Guard watchstanders, you may have to relay everything you just heard.”

Some recent search and rescue cases that the Coast Guard responded to have involved solo boaters.

Taking to the water in any craft alone is extremely dangerous and the Coast Guard recommends never going out without a partner.

Along with using the buddy system, it’s always safer to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

The Coast Guard makes this easy by offering a free application which you can download onto your mobile device.

Use the mobile app to file a float plan. It also includes navigation rules, contact information, buoy information, vessel requirements, and lifejacket recommendations.

The Coast Guard recommends keeping a waterproof marine radio on you, in case your mobile device runs out of battery, service range, or if you accidentally drop it into the water while trying to take a selfie.

A VHF radio may also help mariners stay informed of Urgent Marine Information Broadcasts (UMIB).

A UMIB is used to alert potential Good Samaritans, in an area where there is a vessel in distress.

Federal statute, 46 USC 2304, requires a master to render assistance if the master can do so without serious danger to master’s vessel or individuals on board.

“Good Samaritans save lives,” said Saboe. “But responsible boating saves more. Mariners need to remember their safe boating etiquette.”

SAFE BOATING ETIQUETTE

• Make sure your craft and all safety equipment are in good working order before you get on the water. That includes your lifejacket. Make sure it fits well, and wear it at all times.

• Do not consume drugs or alcohol when operating a boat. Not only is it against the law, but it is one of the most common causes of boating accidents.

• Plan ahead so everyone in the boat knows what their roll will be in case of an accident.

• Make sure that everyone in the boat is on the lookout for potential dangers, not just the driver. Let the driver know if you see anything of concern. Do not assume he has spotted the coming danger.

• Anyone operating a boat in Oregon or Washington is required to have a state-issued, valid boaters-operator card.

• Learn the “rules of the road” and when on the water, follow them.

For more information, visit the Oregon Marine Board Safety page at: www.oregon.gov/osmb/boater-info/Pages/Safety-and-Education.aspx
For the Coast Guard Mobile App visit: https://uscgboating.org/mobile/

Potato Creek Bassmasters June Oconee Tournament Details

Last Saturday 21 members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our June tournament at Oconee. Fishing from 5:45 AM to 2:00 PM, we landed 21 bass weighing about 43 pounds. There were two five-fish limits and nine people didn’t have a 14-inch bass to weigh.

Doug Acree won with five bass weighing 9.72 pounds. Niles Murray was second with the other limit and it weighed 9.12 pounds. Lee Hancock placed third with three weighing 6.82 pounds and fourth was Kwong Yu with three at 5.17 pounds.

I hoped for a good day after having 9.46 pounds in the Flint River tournament the Sunday before, but within five minutes that changed. I hooked a good bass on a spinnerbait cast to a seawall. The second time it jumped in the dark it came off. That told me it would be one of those kinds of days.

Over the next 5 hours I landed several short bass but had no keepers at 11:30. I finally landed a 2.27 pound largemouth from a brush pile in front of a dock. I was fishing a point and remembered the dock with brush on the other side of the cove.

Before I could idle over to it, another boat stopped just past it and started fishing. It did not look like they fished the dock, so when they left I went to it and caught my only keeper that day. It hit a shaky head. I was very thankful the other fishermen didn’t fish the dock and catch it.

Although I fished hard the next three hours, including some more deep brush, I never caught another bass. It was a very frustrating day.

One of the most frustrating things was how rough the lake was. Oconee is crowded with big boats and wake boats are the worst. They are made to go slow and produce a big wake, and they can knock me out of my boat if I am unbalanced.

For some reason wake boarders seem to like to circle right where I am fishing. I swear I heard a guy in one yell “there is one” as they passed me on the other side of the creek. Of course, they stopped, a boarder jumped in and they started circling.

That is just one of the hazards of summer bass fishing.

Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ

Modern Swimbait Miracle: the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ
from The Fishing Fire

Modern Swimbait Miracle: the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ


It’s one of the great mysteries of our time . . . or, at least, a bit of an angling enigma: How exactly can a single swimbait be so supernaturally soft, full of energy and fish-appeal, yet so tough and long-lasting at the same time?

Thankfully, you don’t have to solve the secret of Z-Man’s extraordinary ElaZtech material— or a bait like the new-classic DieZel MinnowZ— to catch fish with it. The easy-to-activate swimbait does that pretty much by itself. And it’s been so good to so many anglers that recently, Z-Man cut new molds for two larger sizes, in order to meet demand.

Originally crafted around a multipurpose 4-inch framework, the DieZel MinnowZ now comes in larger 5- and 7-inch body sculpts. “The DieZel MinnowZ is our most versatile swimbait, a bonafide fish catcher, and certainly a top seller,” notes Daniel Nussbaum, President of Z-Man Fishing. “The upsized profiles and increased thump of the new 5- and 7-inch sizes make them super-appealing to virtually all large predators, from striped bass in the Northeast, all the way to barramundi in Australia.”

“I’ve been really stoked to put these bigger DieZel MinnowZ in the water,” says Major League Fishing Tour angler, Luke Clausen. “Upsizing this proven profile means all the bait’s action and other great attributes get amped up another notch.”

Among a host of talents and fine-tuned traits, Clausen points out one key to the bait’s winning ways. “Z-Man spent a lot of time shaping and tweaking this bait so the tail would self-activate at any retrieve speed. The DieZel MinnowZ has a slightly flattened, narrow profile that transitions to an oversized paddletail; this, in part, makes the bait swim with high energy. Getting the tail to kick and vibrate requires very little forward momentum, or speed. The harder you pull it, the more aggressively it thumps.”

Clausen’s quick to pin down his favorite application. “Rig a 5-inch DieZel on the back of a swimjig or ChatterBait® for a bigger profile and bolder action that attracts 8-pounders,” he says. Clausen also calls out the bait’s performance on a 6/0 HeadlockZ HD™ jighead or ChinlockZ SWS™ weighted swimbait hook, or even an umbrella rig.

“One swimbait can easily hold up all day long, crush a dozen or more fish, and keep on ticking.”

Though the DieZel MinnowZ has emerged as an archetypal swimbait for bass, its original fans throw it in the shallow salt. “Put a DieZel MinnowZ on the back of aHeadlockZ HD jighead and everything chews on it.” says Captain C.A. Richardson, Z-Man fan and exceptional inshore guide. “The 5-inch size is money for big redfish. Its slender profile moves cleanly through vegetation, such as turtle- or eelgrass on skinny water flats.

“You’d never believe how fish can get so tuned in to the mere 1-inch increase in bait size,” asserts Richardson, host of Flats Class TV. “It’s about matching prevailing baitfish size, for sure. But the 5-inch DieZel will be a big player for me, too, because it throws more water and gives off a larger silhouette. It’s also a key presentation in heavy current, rigged with a heavier Redfish Eye™ Jighead. The Redfish Eye jig has a longer hook-shank that produces exceptional hook-ups.”

For tarpon, cobia and big snook in “the passes,” Richardson confidently wields the big 7-inch DieZel Minnow. “Rigged on an 8/0 HeadlockZ HD jig or ChinlockZ SWSweighted hook, the bait really announces its presence with authority. Big angry predators don’t like it in their neighborhood,”

Sharing the same meticulous traits as its original 4-inch counterpart, 5- and 7-inch DieZel MinnowZ employ a hook-guiding belly slot that greatly eases weedless rigging. A split dorsal fin aligns the hook where it exits and partially hides the hookpoint. The bait’s true-to-life preyfish profile and molded scale patterning intimate a wide spectrum of forage species. A slightly flattened body enhances the illusion and makes the swimbait move with an accentuated rolling action—all driven by its oversized paddle tail.

Composed of Z-Man’s soft, durable 10X Tough ElaZtech, the new 5- and 7-inch DieZel MinnowZ swims at all retrieve speeds and withstands the abuse of the toughest fresh- and saltwater predators—an exceptional alternative to traditional plastisol swimbaits that fail or fall apart after just a fish or two. Made in the USA, the DieZel MinnowZ feature over 30 expert colors and three sizes. Four-packs of the new 5-inch size are priced at $4.99 MSRP; 3-packs of the 7-inch DieZel MinnowZrun $6.99 MSRP – both new sizes arrive in stores in mid July.

For more information, visit www.zmanfishing.com.

June Oconee Tournament Details

Last Sunday eight members and guests of the Flint River Bass Club fished our June tournament at Oconee. In nine hours, from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM, we landed 17 keeper bass 14 inches long or longer. There were two five-fish limits and three zeros.

Chuck Croft won with five at 9.76 pounds and my five weighing 9.46 pounds was second. Alex Gober had three weighing 5.45 pounds for third and had big fish with a 3.29 pound largemouth. Brent Drake placed fourth with two at 3.70 pounds and fifth was Don Gober with two weighing 3.10 pounds.

I started on a main lake riprap point and quickly caught two good fish. A two-pound blue cat hit a buzzbait then an eight pounder ate my shaky head worm. I have caught cats on topwater baits but never on a fast moving one like a buzzbait. I found a good catfish hole; I could see a lot of fish on it on my depthfinder. I guess they were all cats.

I finally caught a keeper bass on a buzzbait at 7:00 on the second place I stopped, then a keeper bass on a shaky head worm there. The rest of the day was a struggle. I landed three more keepers, spaced out about two hours apart, on the shaky head.

It rained a bit on us. I think my bilge pump ran more than it was off.

Niles Murray skipped the club tournament to fish the ABA Classic he qualified for on that trail.
they fished Sinclair Saturday and he had about 12.5 pounds, putting him in eighth place out of about 37 fishermen.

On Sunday they fished Oconee, like we did, and Niles followed up with another 12.5 pounds, moving him up to seventh overall for the two days. That is a great finish fishing against some of the best bass fishermen in the area on those lakes.

Lew’s, Strike King, and Sale to A Private Equity Firm

Lessons from Lew’s, Strike King, and Sale to A Private Equity Firm

Lews and Strike King


(Here’s a commentary from Ken Duke, editor of our sister publication, Fishing Tackle Retailer, on the continuing trend of private equity funds buying out legacy brands in the fishing industry.)

By Ken Duke, Editor
Fishing Tackle Retailer
from the Fishing Wire

Last week we published a press release announcing that Lew’s Holdings Corporation (Lew’s, Strike King, Hunters Specialties, et al.) has “partnered” with BDT Capital Partners — a “merchant bank that provides family- and founder-led businesses with long-term, differentiated capital.”

Apparently, BDT will not own Lew’s Holdings outright, but will control a majority of the company and “fund its next phase of growth.”

Peak Rock Capital, the private equity firm that owned Lew’s Holdings, is out. But Ken Eubanks, the CEO of Lew’s Holdings, and his current management team will continue in their roles. Business as usual.

How private equity firms typically work

Phase 1 – To anyone who follows the business side of the fishing industry and the way that private equity firms (PE) operate, the sale was not a surprise. It’s what PE firms do. They buy companies which they believe have growth or efficiency potential. That’s Phase 1.

Phase 2 – involves the core proficiencies of each PE firm. Some fashion themselves marketing gurus. Others see themselves as efficiency experts. And still others hold themselves out as masters of manufacturing or distribution. Ideally, they’re really good at this thing and use this skill to advance the new holding.

Phase 3 – occurs after the PE firm has worked its Phase 2 magic. They take the business — hopefully — to a better place with better marketing, cheaper manufacturing, stronger distribution … or whatever it is they do. Once that’s complete — and it invariably takes two and a half to five years — they sell to someone else. Usually it’s another PE firm with a different set of core competencies. In fact, that’s part of the sales pitch. If the first PE firm is strong on domestic distribution, they look for a firm that’s great at overseas distribution. They tell them, “You know, we’ve got the U.S. market covered with this company, and we’re killing it! With your strength in Europe and Asia, there’s no telling how far you could take it!”

And the process begins anew.


What can we learn from BDT and Lew’s?

Quite a lot, I think, and it’s right there in the press release.

But first, let’s take a look at the Peak Rock Capital website. It describes the firm on the homepage, as follows:

Peak Rock Capital is a leading middle-market private investment firm. We make equity and debt investments in companies in North America and Europe. Peak Rock’s equity investment platform focuses on opportunities where it can support senior management to drive rapid growth and profit improvement, with expertise in corporate carve-outs and partnering with families and founders seeking first-time institutional capital. Peak Rock’s credit platform focuses on providing bespoke primary financings and making investments in secondary loans for corporate debt and commercial real estate. Peak Rock’s principals have deep expertise in complex situations and cross?border transactions, with the ability to provide tailored capital solutions and close transactions quickly where speed and certainty are priorities. [Emphasis added.]

Did you catch that? “Expertise in corporate carve-outs,” “partnering with families and founders seeking first-time institutional capital,” “secondary loans for corporate debt.”

Now let’s take a look at how BDT is described in the press release on the Lew’s Holding purchase:

BDT Capital Partners provides family- and founder-led businesses with long-term, differentiated capital. The firm has raised more than $15 billion across its investment funds and has created and manages an additional $4.7 billion of co-investments from its global limited partner investor base. The firm’s affiliate, BDT & Company, is a merchant bank that works with family- and founder-led businesses to pursue their strategic and financial objectives. BDT & Company provides solutions-based advice and access to a world-class network of business owners and leaders. [Emphasis added.]

Some complementary references to what we saw from Peak Rock Capital: “provides family- and founder-led businesses with long-term, differentiated capital.”

It’s obvious that one of the things driving this deal is capitalization and its various manifestations.

And here’s what BDT’s managing director said about the situation:

Led by industry veterans, Lew’s has a strong following among avid and enthusiastic anglers, a broad distribution network, high-quality products and an impressive innovation track record. Our investment in the company represents an opportunity to partner with an outstanding management team in a growing and dynamic industry. We view this as an attractive platform investment in a sector with significant opportunity for organic growth and consolidation, given the number of founder- and family-owned companies in this expanding category. [Emphasis added.]

She’s complimenting Lew’s Holdings’ management team, and BDT is looking to grow by acquiring other founder- and family-owned fishing and hunting companies. There are a lot of those, and many will grab the cash if offered.

So, what does this mean to retailers?

Not much, really. Lew’s and Strike King will continue to turn out high quality products that are sought-after by anglers. I’ll continue to use their stuff!

OK, but what does it mean to the industry?

That’s a tougher, more nuanced question. One on hand, that PE firms are showing interest in our industry is encouraging. They wouldn’t be here unless they thought they could make a buck — or several million of them.

On the other hand, the PE firms that are not savvy enough to leave a talented leadership team alone run the risk of losing the edge that made the company attractive in the first place. We’ve all either seen it or heard about it from friends. A small company is acquired by a larger company, and the first thing they do is destroy an attractive corporate culture and replace a quality leadership team. Before you know it, the small company that was so attractive becomes a cautionary tale.

I could give examples … but I digress.

Fortunately for my friends at Lew’s Holdings, that doesn’t seem to be the plan here. BDT knows a good thing when they buy it, and they’re content to let it keep doing its very successful thing.

Nevertheless, stay tuned for the next sale of Lew’s Holdings in 2023 … give or take a year.

St Croix Avid Casting Rod Review

What is the best all-around casting rod for bass fishing?

Some of my St. Croix rods


In my opinion, the best all-around casting rod for bass is the St. Croix Avid Series seven foot medium fast action rod. I fish spinnerbaits, topwater, jerkbaits, swim baits and crankbaits on that one series and action rod. The Avid Series is reasonably priced for a quality product. If I could have only one rod, that would be it.

I like a little heavier rod for shaky heads and small jigs, so I use the same rod, but in medium /heavy fast action. My hook-up rate with baits that require a strong hook set is better with this rod than with the medium action rod.

The seven foot rod gives plenty of length for long casts and for fighting fish. It is light weight enough to fish all day without tiring me too much.

If all my rods were destroyed in a fire or some other catastrophe, I would start out with two medium heavy rods and three medium rods. I could rig a shaky head and a jig on the heavy rods and a spinnerbait, crankbait and topwater on the medium rods to cover almost all situations i am likely to face on Georgia and Alabama lakes.

St Croix offers a good warranty, with repair or replacement of any rod with a defect. Even if you damage and break your rod, they will replace it for a low price. I have never had a problem with defective rods but I have broken them. It is easy to hit the side of the boat when working a topwater or jerkbait, and they can crack them. The damage may not show up until later when you load the rod up landing a fish but that is the most likely way to break one other than something stupid that shows up immediately like slamming the rod in a car door. Even that is covered.

A St. Croix rod will last you a life time with no problems.