Winning with floaters

by Luigi De Rose | June 22, 2023

Wanna make your bass presentations more appealing? One way is by substituting a traditional soft-plastic bait with a high-floating one. Advancements in bait design and plastics now make it simple to rise above the rest.

Daniel Nussbaum of Z-Man Baits built his company on the back of their ElaZtech plastics. Unlike most plastics that contain PVC, plastisol, or phthalates, ElaZtech’s unique formula gives its baits additional durability and buoyancy.

“Being buoyant makes our baits come to life,” Nussbaum stated. “Buoyance is important for surface
baits, but it’s become more critical for plastics worked along the bottom. Baits can lie kind of dead, but ElaZtech transmits natural movement easily as it floats off the bottom.”

The designers at Z-Man also add super-fine salt to achieve a desirable buoyancy of each bait they create. The salt regulates lift, but also adds flavour.

Canadian company XZone Lures is another advocate of high-flotation soft plastics. Owner Jim Van Ryn noted that scores of loyal customers prove they are not a fad. XZone created a specialized plastisol for its high-flotation baits, which, paired with unique design elements, allow their Ned Zone, Adrenaline Bug and Adrenaline Craw, Rebel Chunk, and Muscle Back Craw to hover.

Natural appeal

High-flotation bait offers many advantages. They react more naturally to the motion of the water. There is always some current and these baits sway even under the lightest flow. They hover naturally on a jig or behind a worm weight on bottom. There’s nothing appealing about an entire bait laying in the muck.

Lakefield’s Curtis Cronkwright, is a fan of these soft plastics. Jig fishing is popular among tournament anglers and standing out among them can be a challenge. He does so by having the jig trailer hovering in a defensive position.

“I prefer the stand-up jig style as it assists the trailer to ride higher off the bottom,” said Cronkwright, who alternates between XZone’s Muscle Back Craw and Rebel Chunk. “The whole jig really looks natural…it looks like it’s in an attack position, much like a real crayfish defending itself.”

Riding high with Ned rigs

The Ned rig craze has accelerated demand for high-buoyance baits. A modern version of a plain jig head and worm, Ned rig baits are short and stumpy. What they lack in looks, they make up for in catching ability.

Thunder Bay’s Trevor Zimak, has been a competitive angler since 2004. In recent years, he has gained tremendous faith in a Ned rig paired with a floating bait.

“The Ned rig is one of the easiest baits to fish. I throw it around rocks and pitch it to big boulders,” he stated. “I’m a fan of Z-Man baits. I like how they float high and stand up better than other baits I’ve tried. Another plus is the flotation really slows the fall — I’ve found that it has improved my catch ratio.”

Zimak has found success from Nakina to Shoal Lake by crawling the bait along bottom. He’ll use a dragging motion with the rod and add a few short twitches. The bait’s buoyancy helps navigate the rocky terrain as it’s dragged along at a 45-degree angle. To Zimak, this presentation looks like a minnow feeding on bottom.

Experimenting key

Ned rig fishing has popularized high-flotation baits, but there are many more possibilities. Switching to a more buoyant bait works in many situations. Adding a trailer to a chatterbait or spinnerbait easily helps keep the bait shallow without having to increase retrieve speed. Dropshot them, especially mini-soft plastic jerkbaits, and they hover naturally.

Consider rigging a high-flotation bait when getting ready for a day on the water. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Originally published in the June 2022 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS

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