November 27, 2022

Z-Man® pro Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson’s go-to jig and ElaZtech® tricks

Ladson, SC (March 23, 2021) – It’s the jighead and ElaZtech® bait combo Jeff Gustafson calls “the number one fish catching system in my arsenal.” The lure’s so good, in fact, so versatile that it blurs the usual boundaries of depth, retrieve or any one particular species of fish. Fish it deep or shallow. Go vertical. Swim it horizontal. As the Z-Man pro and newly minted Bassmaster Elite Series champion concedes, “Wherever I take it, the thing just sort of catches fish.”

The little device driving Gussy’s ‘thing,’ an ultrasubtle Z-Man jighead known as the Finesse EyeZ™ strikes a visually stunning pose. Precisely balanced and sculpted to fit your favorite ElaZtech baitfish, the Finesse EyeZ features sleek curves and physical assets an eye doctor would appreciate.

Actually, the jig’s anatomy comes from the mind of an optical engineer. And most days, Finesse EyeZ Jighead designer Dave Fladd does what optical engineers do: deals with lenses, microscopes and the sciences of light and vision. But Fladd also brings his smarts to his other job as co-owner of Eye Strike Fishing. In short, Fladd concepts some of the coolest jigheads you’ve ever seen, including several designs for his friends at Z-Man. When you understand his profession and see the Finesse EyeZ in action, everything clicks.

“The accentuated eyes of many preyfish species provide a compelling strike target for predatory gamefish,” notes Fladd. “It’s why we chose to let the eyes do the talking with this design. When the bait swims through the water, the oversized white-to-black eyes are the first and most compelling visual you notice.”

Beyond the jighead’s optically stunning facade, you’ll note the Finesse EyeZ’ hydrodynamic, low center- of-gravity profile. “By redistributing jig weight, we’re able to offset ElaZtech’s buoyancy and keep the bait riding perfectly horizontal in the water at all times,” Fladd says. “The result is a lure that looks and moves really convincingly in the water.”

The jig’s innovative Stabiltrack™ contours include a grooved chin that adds balance and stability, channeling waterflow and keeping it tracking true at all retrieve speeds. The jighead’s concave underside and refined ‘wings’ also make it glide slightly as it descends. The Finesse EyeZ lands and sits up like a tripod on the lake bottom, hookpoint slightly elevated for optimal hookset positioning. The jig’s geometric 90-degree eyelet to hook-shank angle postures its trailing softbait naturally, particularly key with Gustafson’s vertical fishing techniques.

Gussy’s a pretty nice guy, so if you ask, he’s happy to tell you about his previously under-the-radar, tournament-winning trick— a deepwater, vertical cat-and-mouse game known up north as ‘moping.’

“We use it in fall on Canadian lakes like Rainy and Lake of the Woods,” says Gustafson. “But as I found out a few weeks ago, it works just as well on southern reservoirs during the winter.

“First, make sure your knot is positioned right at the top of the eyelet. This further promotes a natural, horizontal bait position. Drop it directly below the trolling motor and watch it descend on your sonar screen. Hold the bait a foot or so above bottom or the bass’ depth. Don’t jig or get twitchy with it. Just let it soak in place. Pretty soon, you’ll feel something like a punch in the arm as a big smallmouth fins over and gobbles it like a live little morsel.”

Riding the back of his jig and creating an authentic baitfish mimic is Gussy’s favorite ElaZtech minnow, a 4-inch Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ™. But the bait could just as easily be a StreakZ™ 3.75 or the underrated Finesse ShadZ™. The power lies in the baits’ ElaZtech composition—impossibly soft yet wicked-tough, and buoyant enough to make it elevate and sit straight as an arrow.

The Finesse EyeZ Jighead with (T to B) DieZel MinnowZ, Jerk ShadZ, Finesse ShadZ, 3“ MinnowZ, StreakZ 3.75, Slim SwimZ.

Having proved his point and wrenched enough tank smallmouth bass for the day, Gussy might turn back toward the bank and swim the same jighead across shallower water. His only adjustment is to quickly swap the soft jerkbait with a paddletail swimbait—a MinnowZ™, Scented PaddlerZ™ or Slim SwimZ™. Up in the bow, firing casts to boulders and cabbage and cruising brown blurs, Gussy initially sets hooks on walleyes, which absolutely engulf the bait. Eventually, largemouths, pike, and big crappies all take cracks. And then, more smallmouths. So many smallmouths . . .

“This is a jighead designed specifically to bring out the best attributes of an ElaZtech bait. Perfect for moping with a soft jerkbait or swimming a small paddletail. Awesome. Just wish that jig would quit staring at me,” Gustafson laughs.

Available at outdoor retailers now, the 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 four refined head colors— each a seamless match for different ElaZtech baitfish patterns. MSRP is $5.99 per 3-pack,. Visit www.zmanfishing.com for more information.

Finesse EyeZ jigs and ElaZtech softbaits forge a versatile array of baitfish.

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.