LADSON, SC – “It’s probably the number-one multispecies fish catching system there is,” declares Bassmaster Elite Series angler Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson, pointing to his new favorite jig-and-ElaZtech® bait tandem. Gussy, who on downtime between B.A.S.S. tourneys, guides anglers to dream-come-true action for bass, walleye, pike and other species, has recently been pitching a new technical finesse jig from Z-Man Fishing. The results have equaled the impact of a Ned rig, while canvassing whole other segments of the water column.
One half of Gussy’s killer combo, the new Z-Man Eye Strike® Finesse EyeZ™ Jighead gives anglers a sleek and subtle softbait delivery tool, ideal for horizontal swimbait and vertical jerkbait approaches. Designed as the backbone of a total soft plastics system, the Finesse EyeZ is a super-balanced, intelligently designed jighead with some truly ‘striking’ features.
No matter how you look at it, attention centers on the jighead’s captivating, 3D eyeballs. “We’ve long believed in the power and allure of baitfish eyes,” says Dave Fladd, optical engineer, Finesse EyeZ designer and co-owner of Eye Strike Fishing. “The pronounced eyes of shad, shiners, perch, alewives, herring and so many other prey species serve a primary function in predation; they provide an unmistakable strike target for large gamefish. It’s why we don’t use a bunch of fancy jighead colors. We let the eyes do the talking.”
Beyond the jig’s opti-centric façade, Fladd forged the Finesse EyeZ Jighead with a low center of gravity sculpt highlighted by hydrodynamic Stabiltrack™ contours. This innovative grooved underside adds balance and stability, channeling waterflow and keeping the jig tracking true at all retrieve speeds. The base of the jighead also provides a bit of glide on the descent. The Finesse EyeZ lands and sits up like a tripod on the lake bottom, hookpoint elevated at a slight upward angle for optimal hookset positioning. The jig’s balanced 90-degree eyelet to hook-shank angle also presents a lifelike posture with vertical fishing techniques, including Damiki® rigging or moping.
“This is a jighead designed specifically to bring out the best attributes of an ElaZtech bait,” notes Fladd. “By redistributing jig weight, we were able to offset ElaZtech’s buoyancy and keep the bait riding perfectly horizontal in the water at all times. The result is a lure that looks and moves really convincingly in the water.”
Chiseled to match the contours of a minnow head, the Finesse EyeZ jig sports a concave neck that fits its softbait trailer like a hat, creating the illusion of one continuous critter. The neck and Stabiltrack base also make it easy to center the bait on the hook, yielding a balanced, precise presentation as the lure moves through the water. A welded wire keeper adorns the jighook shank to ease rigging and securing of ElaZtech softbaits.
For Gussy, the aforementioned number-one multispecies system merges a Finesse EyeZ jig with 3-inch Z-Man MinnowZ™. Yet because the Finesse EyeZ offers custom needlepoint black nickel hooks in 1/0 or 3/0 sizes (and 5 jig weights), anglers can rig any favorite 3- to 5-inch paddletail swimbait or Jerk ShadZ™ style softbait.
“Put a Finesse EyeZ jig and MinnowZ at the end of your line, drop the trolling motor and just start casting to shallow structure,” Gustafson suggests. “By the end of most days, we’ll have often caught 50 to 100 fish. Smallmouths, walleyes, pike, crappies, lake trout—you name the fish, they’ll bite this killer combo. And quite possibly, you’ll catch ‘em all on the same tough ElaZtech bait you started the day with. That’s a strong statement.”
Beyond casting subtle swimbaits and finessing soft jerkbaits, Gussy and expert angler Drew Reese rigs the Finesse EyeZ jighead for interactive, vertical presentations in deeper water. “Summer and fall, when bass, walleyes and trout migrate to deep structure, I use electronics to find and target the fish, often one-on-one. If I spot a good mark on sonar, say 22 feet beneath the boat, I’ll drop a 3/8-ounce Finesse EyeZ with a StreakZ™ 3.75 and hold it just above the fish. It’s like video game fishing. Some people call it Damiki rigging or even moping, due to the static, motionless presentation.
“Most of the time, bass just want the bait hovering nice and horizontal, right above their eyeballs. Maneuver the jig and bait into the transducer cone and watch fish react to it on screen. Sometimes, you try to take it away from them to entice a strike. The key ingredients are the balanced Finesse EyeZ Jighead and the buoyancy of the ElaZtech bait, which work together and hover in that natural horizontal posture.
Reese, a pioneer in finesse fishing methods, works a similar vertical program, opting for a Finesse EyeZ jig with a Finesse ShadZ™ or Slim SwimZ™. “I’ve dropped this combo on deep lake trout and watched them shoot up 20 feet to bite it,” notes Reese.
“Another totally overlooked approach these days is swimming a grub for smallmouths,” Reese believes. “A Z-Man GrubZ™ fits this jig perfectly, and looks incredible in the water. While the tails of other twister tails get bitten off after a fish or two, the ElaZtech GrubZ just keeps on trucking.”
“There’s certainly a lot more to finesse fishing than dragging a Ned-rigged TRD™ in 6 feet of water,” adds Gustafson. “Combined with your favorite swimbait or jerkbait, the Finesse EyeZ Jighead gives you a solid fish-catching system that assures you won’t miss out on the rest of the water column.”
Arriving at outdoor retailers in July, Z-Man Eye Strike Finesse EyeZ Minnow Style Jigheads are equipped with custom 1/0 or 3/0 light-wire black nickel hooks in 1/12-, 1/8-, 3/16-, ¼- and 3/8-ounce weights and three color patterns. MSRP is $5.99 per 3-pack,. Visit www.zmanfishing.com for more information.