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Saltwater Surprise

Z-Man’s Carter Andrews reveals radical soft plastics patterns across the planet

One earmark of a world-class angler: The ability to recognize and tap into obscure fishing opportunities overlooked by others. Call them lure loopholes (glitches in the matrix). Or, the smart adaptation of one bait into a new or un-thought-of situation, all in the name of fooling fish with something they won’t recognize as unnatural; something they’re likely to bite with pure aggression. 

When you’ve circumnavigated the blue planet in search of the most legendary big fish bites available, your ability to recognize and exploit these opportunities increases on exponential scales. That’s just one way to describe angling explorer Big Boy Carter Andrews. Now into his eighth season of the popular show, The Obsession of Carter Andrews, the world travelled angler recently took the time to share a few of his most astonishing saltwater bites.

Imagine catching thirteen cobia on one bait,” poses Andrews, referring to a recent outing off the Atlantic Coast. “Cobia are notorious for tearing up everything they touch, crushing, breaking and bending all lures, including plugs and soft plastics. So, when I say I caught thirteen cobia on one bait, you understand how crazy that sounds, even now, given we’re talking about a single 7-inch “Houdini” pattern DieZel MinnowZ on an 10/0 jighead.”

Andrews’ selection of saltwater heros (top-to-bottom): 7″ DieZel MinnowZ with HeadlockZ HD jig, 3″ MinnowZ on dropshot, RaZor ShadZ on SnakelockZ jig and ChinlockZ SWS hook.

Several years back, having picked up on scuttlebutt from captains and local anglers about the merits of a distinctive soft plastic material known as ElaZtech, Andrews began experimenting with some of the baits for himself. “Right off, these baits exceeded my expectations,” recalls Andrews. “Just incredibly resilient, durable. But somehow, ultra-soft, buoyant and super lively on the hook, all at the same time. For a softbait, that sounds like an almost impossible combination.”

Carter says the principal reason he’s successfully adapted ElaZtech baits like the DieZel MinnowZ to species that typically destroy other soft plastics distills down to their durability. “A soft, lively bait made from this material just has a unique movement in the water. When you’ve only got short windows to make things happen, it’s essential to show fish something that looks alive; something you’re confident they’ll crush when on sight.” 

Off the coast that day, Andrews and his crew found a few shrimp boats anchored up in relatively shallow water, culling through their catches—a keen opportunity to cash in on prized species like cobia. “We ran side vision sonar around the area and started marking big sharks, with cobia and jacks in the mix. I threw in, let the bait sink and immediately hooked a solid cobia. Soon, everything came to the surface and it was mayhem. Imagine sight-casting for big cobia for two hours, never having to switch baits. That’s a testament to a bait’s toughness.

“One other thing I love about ElaZtech baits is their versatility,” adds Andrews. “When the fish moved up in the water column that day, I could still catch ‘em on the same jig and DieZel. Deep to shallow, you’d swim the bait with a steady retrieve and occasionally give it a little twitch. When a cobia followed, I’d stop the retrieve, provoking the fish to gobble it almost every time.”

More recently and a little closer to home, Andrews ventured into the Florida Everglades in search of a multispecies bonanza. He found it, boating sizeable redfish, jacks, snook and other species—again, all on the same bait. “When I discovered the RaZor ShadZ, which is actually designed to be a ChatterBait trailer, I knew it had the right size, action and profile to match the baitfish most eaten by our favorite species. The RaZor’s slightly thinner profile and deeper body are a great mimic of pilchards and shiners here. 

Andrews has effectively adapted Ned rigs for redfish.

“The bait’s flattened shape also makes it skip exceptionally well way back under the mangroves. I rigged it up on a 6/0 ChinlockZ hook for a snag-resistant presentation I could shoot it into the hideouts of big snook. Also found that a Pearl colored bait showed up really well in the tannic water, so I could see when fish wolfed it down even before I felt the strike.”

Employing a slow, steady retrieve with periodic twitch-twitch-pause maneuvers, Carter said the RaZor ShadZ swam with a highly erratic, darting and juking action that produced almost continuous action. “We spent two days filming in the Everglades,” says Andrews. “I caught every fish, about 25 total, on that same RaZor ShadZ—and that included a 36-inch snook and a bunch of redfish. You just can’t get that sort of efficiency from any other softbait today.”

Andrews recalls another exciting outing in a “back pond full of really big, but incredibly spooky snook. We’re talking 38- to 40-inch fish, all piled together sunning themselves near the surface,” he explained.

“But you could never get close enough to these fish to fly-cast to them. So, I decided to pull out that same Pearl-pattern RaZor ShadZ, this time rigged on a free-swinging SnakelockZ jig. Swam it by the first fish and he absolutely unloaded on it, exploding the water and screaming drag.”

An adaptated Z-Man RaZor ShadZ scores on big snook.

Another fascinating scenario . . . “I’m fishing eelgrass for big redfish, but noticing our baits are dropping down and getting lost in the stuff almost immediately. Having recently caught some jumbo smallmouth bass, I rig up a 3” Purple Demon MinnowZ on a dropshot rig. Position the weight below the hook so the bait rides just above the level of the eelgrass— and it’s money. First redfish I pitch to just destroys it. And I realize, the whole key to the deal is the bait’s natural buoyancy—that even when it’s just sitting there stationary, the MinnowZ actually hovers in the water, doesn’t sink down into the grass or get lost. I keep working this bait, and it’s game-on for redfish the rest of the day.” 

The grand finale of the year, as Andrews calls it, occurred 400 miles off the coast of Chile, for a fish most anglers will never encounter in the wild. “We’re off the coast of Robinson Crusoe Island, 400 feet down, probing for yellowtail kingfish—also known as Hamachi. The anglers we’re with say they catch ‘em on topwater baits, or speed jigging—ripping jigs down in 200 to 400 feet of water. So, everyone laughs at me when I pull out an 8-inch StreakZ XL—an elongated jerkbait that looks nothing like the traditional yellowtail baits.

“First drop on a 5-ounce jighead and metered line, I get bit immediately. Fifteen-pound fish. I land that one. Re-deploy. Slack-line the bait back down. Get bit before I close the bail. Third time, everyone in the boat’s paying attention, including the guide. We start taking turns with the Z-Man StreakZ XL. Especially those anglers who’ve grown tired of speed jigging. We end up boating an 80-pounder and so many other fish. Changes the whole vibe and attitude on the boat, seeing how you can catch fish with this lively ElaZtech bait; that you can slow swim and jig the bait and get so much life and action out of it without having to wear yourself out. Incredible, unforgettable day.”

ATN THOR LT

Adds the larger-than-life Andrews: “I assign the greatest value to multidimensional baits. A single ElaZtech softbait can be fished so many different ways. I’ve taken those same StreakZ XL baits and caught yellowfin tuna in Panama. Or Jerk ShadZ for Amazonian toughies. Or DieZelZ for brawling redfish, bonita and blackfin tuna. Go deep or bust the surface. Either way, that kind of longevity on the hook is the stuff of legends.” 

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. 

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