Classic Winning Bait Gets a Baby Brother

Ladson, SC – A cool half mill’ and a bookcase crowded with shiny bass trophies ain’t a bad haul for a single unassuming softbait. “Over the last six or seven years, the 4-inch Scented Jerk ShadZ has produced some great tournament wins, from 150 boat derbies around my home waters in Ontario all the way to the Tennessee River,” notes Z-Man pro Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson, who boated every one of his 2023 Bassmaster Classic winning bass on the same exceptional softbait. “Crazy to consider I’ve now won well over half a million dollars on the Jerk ShadZ alone.”

But overshadowed by dock-talk surrounding Gussy’s “best bait of all time,” whispers of a little secret have gradually leaked out. “During the 2023 Classic, when the bite got tough, I downsized to a slightly shortened bait to show bass a smaller, sub-4-inch profile,” he divulged. “Over the years, this modified Jerk ShadZ has tricked a bunch of critical smallmouths and certainly helped me secure the Classic win. Actually, whenever conditions get tough, a downsized bait can be a bigtime difference maker.”

So, when Z-Man recently put a new, finesse-sized 3.5-inch Scented Jerk ShadZ in Gussy’s hands, he was understandably excited.

“Really happy about adding the new, fingerling-sized Jerk ShadZ to my bag of tricks,” he admitted. “Many times, a minor adjustment in bait size can spur a major uptick in bites. During cold fronts or heavy fishing pressure, just a small tweak can produce bigtime. Sometimes, bass that hesitate to bite a bigger offering will entirely inhale a slightly smaller bait. It’s like switching focus from one baitfish year class to a smaller or younger one; works because it’s a better match for natural, prevailing forage.

Z-Man’s new 3.5″ Scented Jerk ShadZ – Gussy’s Blue Glimmer.

“Gotta mention, too, that walleyes really like a slightly smaller bait. On a jighead, the new Jerk ShadZ will be a natural ‘eye producer, anywhere you throw it.”

On the surface, a half inch haircut might not sound significant. But shrink and re-scale the entire head, torso and tail proportionally and you’re immediately casting a beautiful little baitfish snack. Decidedly downsized from its 4-inch brethren, the new 3.5-inch Jerk ShadZ appeals to predators keyed on young shad, shiners, smelt and other minnow species.

An optimal match for interactive live-sonar style fishing, Gussy believes the new, subtler Jerk ShadZ will see extended playing time and a growing role in the coming season— from vertically ‘finesse moping’ on a jighead to dropshot rigging to working weedless or pitching docks with a 2/0 weedless hook.

Gussy says the new smaller Scented Jerk ShadZ will see extended playing time for walleye as well as bass.

For saltwater anglers up on the trend toward Ned-rig sized inshore baits, the 3.5″ Jerk ShadZ delivers an intriguing offering. “Particularly in the spring, or after coldfronts, the new runt-sized Jerk ShadZ offers a bite-sized snack for tricking redfish, tough snook and selective trout,” notes Z-Man pro and FlatsClass TV’s Captain C.A. Richardson. “Rig it weedless or Texposed on a 2/0 ChinlockZ SWS™ hook or a free-swinging Texas Eye™ Finesse Jighead for two different looks and actions.

“With the ChinlockZ, you get a nice horizontal fall, and then a cool subsurface walking action when you twitch it and throw slack,” Richardson explains. “Works superb for skipping docks for snook, too. For a smaller soft jerkbait, the 3.5-inch Jerk ShadZ just has some killer moves, including a tail that never stops kicking and quivering, even at rest.”

The new 3.5″ Scented Jerk ShadZ (bottom) offers discerning bass a slightly smaller bite.

To celebrate its inaugural immersion, the Z-Man 3.5-inch Jerk ShadZ will wear two new stunning, forage-matching color patterns (also available in the 4- and 5-inch Jerk ShadZ.) A tip-of-the-hat to one of Gustafson’s all-time favorite patterns, Gussy’s Glimmer Blue hums with a subtle sparkle and glow. “For smallmouths, largemouths and spotted bass almost everywhere I’ve fished, this is a superlative color,” he reveals. “The Jerk ShadZ’ ElaZtech® composition really puts the shine on this pattern. It’s just one of those fish catchers that give me confidence. In slightly stained or tannic-colored waters, too, Glimmer Blue puts out a nice underwater glow that gets eaten consistently.”

Another dazzler, Electric Shad is a proven pattern making its ElaZtech bait debut. “This is a color that’s proven itself in many top swimbaits,” notes Gussy. “It’s a great, natural addition to the family—one of nearly 40 Jerk ShadZ bait colors.”

A soft and lively yet inconceivably durable jerkbait, the new 3.5-inch Jerk ShadZ adds a petite baitfish profile to the ever-popular ElaZtech series, currently consisting of 4-, 5- and 7-inch sizes. Molded with a high-action split tail and belly hook-slot for easy weedless rigging and solid hooksets. Packed with two layers of powerful scent and flavor, the 3.5-inch Jerk ShadZ is both salt impregnated and marinated with 100-percent natural Pro-Cure Super Gel attractant. Slated for release in October, the Scented Jerk ShadZ is made in the USA. For more information, visit

“Z-Man’s Jerk ShadZ has earned a lot of tournament cash. No doubt, it will go down as my personal best bait of all time.”

(Photo by James Overstreet / B.A.S.S.)

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.