One-two Chatterbait® and ElaZtech® punch wins big at Hobie Bass Open Series Tourney
by: Leslie Sundahl, Traditions Media
Photo by Z-Man BAITS
Photo by Z-Man Baitsl
(Oct 4, 2020 - Ladson, SC)
– On super-busy bass lakes, kayak anglers continue to prove the value of stealthy vessels and select Z-Man baits that simply get the job done. Again and again, the Z-Man centric bait choices of these resourceful, aerobic anglers continue garnering eye-raising attention, even from the big-boat bass world.
At the recent Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.), held on Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas, September 12 and 13, an impressive field of 112 kayak anglers dodged and weaved among the lake’s abundant bass boat brigade. Following two days of trailering to different launch sites across the 34,300-acre Arkansas River impoundment, Z-Man pro Drew Gregory edged Eric Siddiqi by the slimmest of margins. Gregory, who cast surface baits,Z-Man ChatterBaitsand ElaZtech plastics lipped, measured and released a total of 171-inches of largemouth bass. Third place finisher, Z-Man pro and ‘yak angler extraordinaire Jody Queen, logged just four inches less than the leaders, relying on a one-two punch of Z-Man lures.
Adding an intriguing wrinkle to the standard bass tourney practice of starting all anglers at a single boat ramp, Hobie BOS competitors can choose their own launch locations around the lake. If the ‘yak angler so chooses, they may even launch, load and re-launch at multiple access sties in a single day. Such was the gameplan of Gregory, who arrived at Dardanelle with a second, smaller ‘stealth’ kayak—a Crescent Kayaks 10-foot UltraLite—to drop into more remote locations.
“For kayak anglers, our truck serves as our outboard, quickly transporting us to different sites around the lake,” said Gregory, a full time touring kayak pro. “In prefishing, I threw a Z-ManSlingBladeZ™ Spinnerbait. It’s got a talent for attracting bigger fish and at Dardanelle, the bait really helped me locate some key big bass areas.
“When the tourney started, I’d launch at one site right away in the morning and set out to pop a quick limit with a Project Z™ ChatterBait—a really well-built and underrated bladed jig, in my book,“ noted Gregory, who also notched a 2ndplace finish at the 2019 KBF Championship with theProject Z ChatterBait. “Especially when rigged with a 4-inch MinnowZ, this ChatterBait consistently calls up bigger bites, and I used it to fend off the smaller spotted bass and green sunfish that can really waste valuable time. The Project Z bait pushes so much water. And its tapered skirt gives it the exacting look of a preyfish in the water. I know it’s almost blasphemy to say, but I think the Project Z is even better than a JackHammer.”
While the Project Z ChatterBait produced good numbers of largemouths for Gregory, he boated some of his bigger bass on a skirtless buzzbait dressed with a Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ™. In other scenarios, when fish blew up and missed the topwater bait, he immediately followed up with a Z-ManStreakZ™ soft jerkbait, weedless rigged on a 3/0, 1/8-ounceChinlockZ™ hook.
“One thing I love about ElaZtech baits like the StreakZ is that they’re heavy enough to cast, but their buoyancy counteracts the sink rate of the hook for an almost neutral-buoyant presentation. Gives bass a highly natural look compared to other baits. And for me, the StreakZ nailed down quite a few key bites. I kept the StreakZ rod in a rod holder all the time. When I missed a surface bite, I’d quickly reach back, pull it out of the holster and hook up.”
After logging fast morning limits on the Project Z ChatterBait, Gregory would load back up, drive to another little area that offered a wilder setting and drop in his UltraLite. “Bringing two kayaks to events like this really lets me sneak back into hard-to-reach areas and get baits into the best heavy cover where bass boats and even other kayaks can’t reach.”
The key for Gregory was covering water around abundant shallow water wood, with scattered rock and grass—mostly in 4-feet of water or less. He’d toss a topwater lure around the cover, which produced a key 21-incher late in the second day, helping to cement his total tally. Gregory’s big bass ultimately broke the tie between he and Siddiqi, whose big bass measured 19.75-inches. The difference was enough to earn Gregory his first big win.
“I do a lot of prefishing with Google Earth, sniffing out little micro ecosystems,” Gregory explained. “At Dardanelle, I drove around the whole lake before the tourney started, looking for the right habitat. Big female bass are a totally different animal, and especially in pressured water, they’ll often hunker down in areas that are the most difficult places for anglers to reach. That’s where I like to find ‘em, and where, again and again, Z-Man baits get bit.”
Finishing a very close third, West Virginia angler and artist Jody Queen wielded his two favorite Z-Man baits—a ChatterBait JackHammer and aMag FattyZ™, a 7.25-inch magnum finesse worm. Not coincidentally, Queen also won the 2019 Hobie BOS Tournament of Champions with a JackHammer. “Last year alone, I won almost $40,000 on a JackHammer. You might say I have a lot of confidence in it.”
The Z-ManMag FattyZhas become a go-to big bass tournament bait.
On day-1 at Lake Dardanelle, Queen threw a 3/8-ounce BHite Delight-pattern JackHammer dressed with a MinnowZ™ paddletail. “The area I fished held so many shad, and that smaller 3-inch trailer really mimicked the forage,” noted Queen. “But the MinnowZ also has a full sized paddletail that helped elevate the bait, so I could almost work it like a wakebait. The fish were up on top, but I still had to work the bait really slow to get a reaction. Fish were blowing up on shallow water over points where wind was making current.”
Queen also worked slightly deeper with the same ChatterBait, calling out the lure’s versatility down in 7 to 10 feet of water. “Even when you reel theJackHammerextra slow, the blade is still working, vibrating. For me, the ChatterBait has all but replaced my crankbaits.”
Though he wielded both the ChatterBait and the Mag FattyZ each day, Queen increasingly relied on the soft stickworm on day 2. “The Mag FattyZ is always moving, even when you’re not,” he observed. “The bait’s buoyancy keeps it shaking, vibrating, even in the slightest current. I like to flip the bait into heavy cover, leave it on the bottom and just barely shake the slack in my line, which makes the worm breathe and pulse.”
Queen’s ChatterBait combo of choice, the illustriousJackHammerwith aMinnowZpaddletail.
For pitching into heavy woodcover, Queen rigged the Mag FattyZ on ¼-ounce tungsten bullet weight, pegged with a bobber stop. “I was flipping the bait into logs lying in just 1- to 1-1/2-feet of water. But I found bass were lying in these little holes beneath the wood. All the bigger boats couldn’t get to the inside of these trees. No doubt, these heavily pressured, big fish had responded by dropping way back away from the activity. But I could easily maneuver my Hobie Mirage ProAngler 14 into position and then visually identify and flip to the dark holes beneath the trees.”
A final Hobie Bass Open Series event is slated for the Coosa River in Alabama in early October before the 2020 BOS Tournament of Champions converges on the Tennessee River in Knoxville, Tennessee. The smart money’s on Z-Man, once again.