Z-MAN: Fishing Still Matters

Category: article

 Apr 14th, 2020 by Keith Worrall 

Modified Apr 14th, 2020 at 4:05 PM

Brevyn and Brian Latimer recently fished their first father-son fishing derby.

Where the Pros Fish on Their Days Off

Z-Man® Fishing Team recounts recent outings and why fishing now is more important than ever

Ladson, SC (April 13, 2020) – It’s one of the more interesting questions in fishing: Where do guides go on their days off? What do tournament anglers fish for when they’re not casting for cash? While we’re asking, it might also be nice to know what lures they’re throwing when the cameras aren’t rolling and the pressure’s off.

As guide trips and tournament circuits have gone on temporary hiatus this past month, a fascinating though not surprising thing has happened: A lot of us are still fishing. Dads are joined on the water by sons and daughters. Significant others are spending quality time together in the great outdoors. To seasoned anglers, it just makes sense, for there’s simply no more natural way to give each other a little elbow room, no better medicine than out on your local lake, river or ocean.

When we recently checked in with our friends and pro anglers in the Z-Man family, we discovered most of them are doing the same things you’re doing . . . fishing! Let’s touch base and see what Team Z has been up to.

Kristine Fischer – Tournament Kayak Pro, Hobie Bass Open Series:

“I’m surprisingly grateful for the “down time” we’re all experiencing. Right now, in a normal year, I would have been on a five weekend-in-a-row tourney bender, and the last three years, I’ve not only missed spring turkey season because of heavy tourney schedules, but also pre and post spawn musky fishing. I’m super stoked about getting back in the woods to hunt turkeys and for the chance to cast for those big green fish.

Z-Man adventurer Kristine Fischer has been putting big smallmouth bass in involuntary quarantine.

“So, in the absence of a busy tournament schedule, I’ve taken my life on the road and parked it in the mountains within an hour of the New and James rivers in Virginia. It’s really beautiful here and the fishing can be spectacular. The last few weeks, I’ve been on the water most every day, so that hasn’t changed.

“Smallmouth bass here are in that awkward transition, but when you find them, the quality is well worth it, as you’ll note in my photos here and on social media. With a favorable moon phase and warming temps, the bass bite is on the verge of exploding.

“While the muskies are spawning, I’m giving them a rest until late April. But the big smallmouths I’ve been catching have been set up near current breaks and eddies where they’re grabbing easy meals before the spawn. I’m also finding good numbers of bass using sun-exposed wood and mud banks.

“Right now, the smallmouths are biting crankbaits, swimbaits and spinnerbaits. And when the bite gets a little finicky, I’m tossing a TRD CrawZ™ on a Ned rig. If there’s a place this amazing combo won’t work, I haven’t found it yet.

“We’re all looking forward to returning to normal. In the meantime, I’m appreciating the opportunity to slow things down a bit and get back to a little fishing ‘just for fun.’”

Mark Daniels Jr. and sons share a moment.

Mark Daniels Jr. – Major League Fishing Pro:

“Staying on the water has been a therapeutic way to cope during these times. I’ve been doing a lot of fishing close to my home in Alabama. Just got back from a little run out to a local creek—less than a mile from my house— where a buddy and I caught some really nice spotted and largemouth bass while wading up to our waists in moving water. So fun, man, and the fish are crazy strong.

“I’m a big fan of a TRD TicklerZ™ on a Finesse ShroomZ™ jig. Normally, the Hula StickZ™ on a Neko or Ned rig is another go-to. But at this creek, because we had lots of stickups and debris in the water, I went to a Texas rig. I used a fairly light 3/16- or 1/8-ounce bullet weight, and rigged the Hula weedless on offset worm hook. The key was to throw the bait upstream against a bank and let it wash right down with the current, sort of dancing it and following the bait with the rod and picking up slack as it drifted.

“To keep things simple, I carried one rod and another in a backpack and just tucked a few small boxes with weights and hooks into my waders. You’ll need extra stuff because break-offs are common in these creeks.

“Last week, my family and I also launched the boat on Lake Martin, for a little catch-clean-cook crappie fishing. Turns out, a lot of other folks have had the same idea. There’s a lot of boats out there!

“We found crappies suspended around docks and brush and then pitched little shad-shaped plastics on a 1/8-ounce jig. The best part of the deal is the pay-off at dinnertime. At the Daniels’ household, you gotta have the essentials for a good fish fry: a bag of Louisiana New Orleans Style Fish Fry breading, a little Tony Chachere’s Original Creole seasoning, black pepper, garlic powder and because I like a little extra spice, cayenne pepper. But be careful, because it’ll knock your lips off.

These different types of fishing have been a real change-up from my normal competitive bass boat routine. But hey, it just proves, fishing is fishing, wherever you go—it’s all fun.”

Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson – Bassmaster Elite Series Pro:

“We’re holding down the fort up here in Ontario, staying healthy and doing good. My wife Shelby and I have been hanging out around home and ice fishing almost every afternoon or evening, catching walleyes, pike, crappie and lake trout.

It’s easy to self-isolate when you live on the shores of Ontario’s Lake of the Woods, as does Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson.

“We live on the northwest corner of Lake of the Woods, so we have some of the best ice fishing in the world right outside our door. We’re definitely eating well, too! Fresh walleye is some of the best, most delicious freshwater fish on the planet—and we’ve got the grocery store right in our backyard. Substitute Frank’s Hot Sauce for your usual egg wash routine for a kicked up fish fry alternative.

“Spring is coming on fast, but we probably still have another week to ten days of solid ice to keep us busy. Besides walleye, we’re also catching some good lake trout. And one of my

favorite bass baits is also a hot lake trout bait right now— a 5-inch Z-Man Jerk ShadZ™.

Gussy’s ultimate ice rig, the Z-Man Jerk ShadZ.

These trout are focused on eating minnows like herring and smelt, and the Jerk ShadZ makes the perfect imitation. The buoyant Elaztech formula helps the bait sit naturally horizontal on a jig so it looks very realistic in the water.”

David Walker – Major League Fishing Pro:

“Weather’s been pretty nice around these parts (Eastern Tennessee), and I’ve been taking my daughters out for white bass, which are biting like mad right now. We’re having a lot of fun together, catching a ton of these fish as they migrate upstream. Most people like to throw small spoons, spinners or a crappie fly under a cork, but we’ve been smashing the bass on 2.5-inch Slim SwimZ™ rigged on a white 1/6-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jig. We’re getting a lot of bites with the little swimbait, and its ElaZtech composition is so durable that each bait stands up to dozens of bites—and these white bass bite with a tremendous amount of aggression. Tomorrow, if the weather’s nice I’m bringing my wife along, too.”

Ace bass angler David Walker has been enjoying some downtime with his daughters.

Brian Latimer – Bassmaster Open Series Pro:

“I’m really lucky to be the father of two sons, Brevyn and Brooks. They’re cool little dudes. And it’s great because right now my oldest boy, Brev, who’s 7, is into a lot of the same things I was into when I was a kid. He rides dirt bikes. He does karate. He likes to fish.

“Actually, we fished our first tournament together the other day. It was part of an adult-junior trail at Lake Secession, which is right down the road from our house. It’s a lake that I actually grew up fishing as a kid, and our family has a lot of history there. My dad has two bass over 10 pounds from this lake on his wall, and my personal best came from there. Back when I was a kid, my dad would pick me up from school, and we’d go to Secession for a few hours before dark. It’s a special place for us, and I’m proud that Brev and I got to fish our first tournament together on that lake.

“For all you parents out there in a similar place, don’t forget that taking your kids fishing isn’t just about getting them into the junior nationals or trying to land them some pro-staff deal. Fishing is much deeper than just tournament fishing. It’s a much bigger picture. Every kid isn’t going to be a pro tournament fisherman, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them or they can’t still love it. Don’t push so hard. Don’t get too tied up in their success.

A Z-Man SlimSwimZ catches everything that swims.

“That’s why, right now, I’m just taking him fishing. I’m making memories. I’m getting ready for our next tournament together, because no matter how it all works out, the days we spend together fishing are special days for us. He’ll remember our first tournament, just like I remember fishing that lake with Pops. And that’s what really matters.”

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