Wired for Aquatic AcousticsNew Z-Man® SlingBladeZ™ spinnerbait engineered for exceptional sound and stability
There’s nothing conventional about the way Bassmaster Elite Series pro Luke Clausen wields a spinnerbait. “I almost never just throw a spinnerbait out and wind it straight back to the boat,” says Clausen, one of only four anglers to win both an FLW Tour Championship and a Bassmaster Classic.
Clausen’s individualistic approach to his blade game goes far in explaining the radical new spinnerbait he spent the last year designing and perfecting, in concert with the luresmiths at Z-Man Fishing. “I actually won a lot of tournament money last season while testing and tweaking prototypes of the SlingBladeZ,” Clausen recalls. “It’s probably the coolest spinnerbait I’ve fished.”
Armed with a collection of subtle yet super-intelligent features, the Z-Man® SlingBladeZ™ spinnerbait boasts two primary talents: deep, palpable vibrations and exceptional lure balance across the full spectrum of retrieve speeds.
“First thing that will wow anglers about the SlingBladeZ is its intense vibration,” notes Clausen. “You’re going to feel that rhythmic thumping right up the line, through the reel and into your hands. Fished on fluorocarbon, you can almost hear it.”
Rather than going the easy route with cookie-cutter blades and off-the-shelf wire, Clausen and Z-Man approached the design process with a completely clean slate.
“We worked with expert metallurgists who guided us toward 17-7 stainless steel wire,” says Z-Man president Daniel Nussbaum. “Initially, everyone told us to use ‘piano wire’ because of its purported vibration transmission. Turns out, piano wire is not stainless, so it’s fairly useless in water, and it’s also quite brittle.
“We discovered the 17-7 wire delivers superior reverberation. It’s a high grade stainless steel wire with excellent strength and resiliency, as well. (Clausen caught over 30 big smallmouths on a single bait last year before the wire finally succumbed.) Also, our wire is intentionally not electroplated, giving it a muted, neutral finish that blends in rather than standing out.”
Riding on the SlingBladeZ’s low-vis LiveWire™ frame, double willow or tandem willow-Colorado blades are each stamped from custom dies and electroplated with a jeweler-quality finish. “Z-Man cuts the blades and stamps them with a lower pitch than conventional blades,” says Clausen. “I love these blades, because they swing nice and wide on the retrieve, vibrating harder and offering just enough water resistance to let you know they’re doing their job. I think they also flash a bit more than other blades I’ve used.”
Equally impressive, says Clausen, is the bait’s balance, moving through the water in an always-upright, keel-straight stature. “The bait’s head is fully customized. It’s the first spinnerbait I’ve seen with a grooved underbelly that eliminates the frustrating rolling-over habit of other baits.”
Z-Man’s StabilTrack™ head design channels water across the underside of the bait, playing along special side flanges and providing total stability, even when retrieved at higher speeds. “This bait even lets me do an extra-slow-roll retrieve in which the wide base of the head sits right on the bottom without snagging or rolling over. Try that with your standard spinnerbait.”
Closer dissection of the SlingBladeZ spinnerbait reveals more subtle refinements. Just forward of the StabilTrack head, the wire takes a decided though slight turn, entering the nose at a parallel angle.
“Seems insignificant, right? Actually, this little tweak gives the lure even more stability,” notes Clausen. “And it works to effectively push grass away from the hook and move the bait back to straight after contacting cover.”
Creating the perfect flare effect, the SlingBladeZ’s 100-percent silicone skirt adheres tightly to the head with hand-tied copper wire (unlike flimsy rubber bands, copper doesn’t break). Beneath its vigorous skirt, a wire trailer keeper pins soft ElaZtech baits and traditional plastics securely to the lure’s 5/0 VMC® O’Shaughnessy hook. Clausen says hook selection also occurred only after extensive testing.
“No doubt in my mind, a premium O’Shaughnessy hook tags and keeps more fish buttoned down that a standard round bend. It’s one detail that’s easy to overlook, but that will also yield more bass in the boat.”
Still, the question remains: if he rarely retrieves a spinnerbait straight and steady, how exactly does Clausen fish the SlingBladeZ? “I’m a big fan of dressing this spinnerbait with a Z-Man Swimmin’ TroutTrick. It’s a nice streamlined trailer with less bulk. Lets the skirt lay back and flare naturally, while the bait runs true. Love burning a ¾-ouncer for big smallmouths. But I always add in random stops and quick-starts, which can produce different vibrations. At the 2017 Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River, every big smallmouth I weighed absolutely stomped on this bait.”
Clausen adds that he prefers the tandem willow-Colorado blade configuration in dirty water, especially in spring and during shad spawns. Into the summer, as water warms, Clausen opts for the double willow blades and goes with dramatic boosts in retrieve speed.
Debuting at the 2018 ICAST show, the Z-Man SlingBladeZ Spinnerbait hits tackle stores in mid-October. Offered in double-willow leaf or tandem willow-Colorado blade versions, the SlingBladeZ debuts in three sizes — 3/8- and ½-ounce (MSPR $7.99) and ¾-ounce (MSRP $8.99), each available in eight dynamic color patterns.
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