Captain C.A. Richardson says next-gen ElaZtech baits yield remarkable advantages—including oodles of redfish in the boat.A Tricked-Out System for Big Redfish, Snook & SeatroutGuide staple Z-Man® TroutTrick® expands its attraction across the inshore universe
Great baits often share in common a certain “it” quality. Might be a shape, texture or action that seems dead-on, even if you can’t quite put your finger on the why. When you see one, you simply find yourself thinking things like, Man, that bait’s going to be a fish catcher.
More often than not, such angling intuition is dead-on.
Still, you study Z-Man’s TroutTrick and can’t help wonder what about the bait makes redfish, snook and big seatrout wolf it so willingly. During the past decade, the remarkable soft-slinky has earned a reputation for enticing tough trout, particularly among inshore guides who earn their keep by consistently putting arcs in rods . . . even if the bait doesn’t imitate anything in particular.Trout Trick (Green Lantern)
“It’s all in the material, man,” exclaims Captain C.A. Richardson, legendary inshore guide, referring to the TroutTrick’s unique ElaZtech® composition. “ElaZtech’s a radical softbait material that lets me do things that aren’t possible with traditional plastics. Example? How about catching several dozen toothy trout or other species on a single TroutTrick bait?”
Originally adapted for use in saltwater by ex-FLW bass tournament angler and distinguished saltwater guide Bob Sanders, the TroutTrick became an inshore player almost by accident. “Whole thing just sort of happened, almost a decade ago, the day I was working a big school of surface-feeding seatrout,” recalls Sanders. “I’d thrown every bait I could think of; the trout simply rejected and ignored every single one of them. Finally, I grabbed this shad-shaped worm from my bass box, and, inexplicably, it flipped a switch. After three or four aggressive strikes, though, I knew I was on to something pretty interesting.”
News of Sanders’ trout trick spread fast, and within a few years, the presentation had become a near-miracle cure for guides pursuing super-selective seatrout, particularly in cold water. “Show an angler something that catches trout during those cold dormant periods or in the heat of summer when most folks resort to livebait and you’ve got a fan for life,” Sanders says. “That alone explains the TroutTrick’s popularity—the main reason the bait and the method have spread from South Carolina’s fertile estuaries all the way to Texas.”
Several years later, Sanders met Daniel Nussbaum, topnotch inshore angler and president of Charleston, South Carolina based Z-Man Fishing. “I knew we needed to take this bait to the fishing world in a big way,” Sanders recalls. “And Z-Man was the perfect company to partner with. Without question, by taking the bait’s proven profile and sculpting it from Z-Man’s ultra-soft, new age ElaZtech material, the TroutTrick benefitted big time, with huge upticks in action, buoyancy and durability.”
Nussbaum considers the meeting a watershed event, not only for the tackle company he helped build, but for his own personal fishing. “Every fall and winter, I fish ElaZtech TroutTricks religiously, and always marvel at how many big trout I catch,” Nussbaum acknowledges. “One key to catching fish with the TroutTrick is to rig it with a Trout Eye™ jighead, which perfectly fits and holds the bait tight to its collar with dual keeper barbs. In my mind, the jig’s oversized eyes allow predators to detect and hone in on the bait from a good distance.
“What’s also cool about the Trout Eye jighead is that it was homebrewed by great South Carolina angler Ralph Phillips. When you thread it on a TroutTrick, the jighead produces a perfectly balanced presentation; gives the bait a sweet little side-to-side shimmy; it swims and darts beautifully without rolling over.”
Nussbaum describes the archetypal TroutTrick retrieve: “Let the bait sink to the bottom and give it two sharp jerks of the rod, allowing it to fall vertically on a semi-slack line—enough slack to let it fall without resistance, but tight enough to feel the slight tick of a trout inhaling it. I’m convinced the presentation triggers a primal reaction from trout—it’s caught more big seatrout for me than any other soft plastic bait, and it’s not even close.” Few inshore combos have proven more universally effective than an ElaZtech TroutTrick threaded on a Trout Eye jighead.
Proving the TroutTrick had legs far beyond Coastal Carolina, Captain C.A. Richardson took traditional TroutTrick methods and adapted new ways of catching fish with the bait in a diversity of habitats.
“I use the TroutTrick all the time, and catch everything from tarpon and snook to trout and big reds on it,” affirms Richardson, who each year travels and fishes from Texas and Louisiana all the way to Florida. “I like to put it on the lightest jighead possible—1/4- to 1/16-ounce— and fish the bait around docks and little potholes. A huge key is the TroutTrick’s extra buoyancy— makes the bait stand tail-up on the bottom. Fish can see it. I can work it really slow around docks and small trenches, knowing the bait’s always shaking and moving with the current. Let it hit bottom, lift with the rodtip and let it fall back. Anytime you feel extra weight, drive the hook home.
“Another approach I use on shallow grass flats is to rig the bait on a weighted rigging hook, such as a 2/0 or 3/0 Mustad Grip-Pin. Usually, I fish the 1/16-ounce size. I impale and slide the TroutTrick right over the weight. You can’t do this with other softbaits because the material will tear. But ElaZtech is almost indestructible. Finish the rigging by hooking the bait through the belly, up and out the grooved hook channel. The result is a super weedless presentation with plenty of hook gap left to stick a big fish. The bait’s slender profile slides right through the grass so you can work it into the fish zone without hanging up.
“People look at the bait and wonder what the heck it imitates,” Richardson laughs. “Actually, I can make it look exactly like a needlefish, pipefish, or even a seahorse. Holding my rod at 10 to 11 o’clock, I simply shake the tip while reeling slowly. It’s not a twitch or a straight swim. More like a little head wobble, imitating a pipefish darting among the vegetation.” In Florida’s shallow grass flats, he prefers Z-Man’s Green Lantern pattern, while Fried Chicken or Redbone excel in darker water.Shrimp Po BoyRalph's Shad
Richardson adds that although anglers view finesse baits like the TroutTrick as silent and subtle, the underwater world sings a different tune. “See all those little ribs? These aren’t just there for show. They help hold scent like Pro Cure, while the ElaZtech material absorbs it way better than traditional plastic. The ridges serve as little sound-makers, too, giving off vibration and nice lively pulses—predators detect them like baitfish signatures. Actually, the bait’s a lot less silent than you think.”
Questioning convention has also led Richardson to redefine his tackle, such as leader material. “We’ve been programmed to believe fluoro is tougher than mono. Ain’t true. I fish fluoro in super clear water situations when fish turn line shy. Otherwise, I run 15- to 20-pound test mono leaders for abrasion resistance. Mono takes a lot more abuse.
“Reminds me of the way anglers have been trained to fish the same plastic baits forever, even though ElaZtech is a softer, livelier and exponentially more durable alternative. Crazy, right?”
About Z-Man Fishing Products: zmanfishing.com