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ZMan in the Top End

Shaun Taylor

As a guide, one trap you don't want to fall into is getting too set in your ways, only using products and techniques that have proven themselves in the past. With the daily pressure of producing fish for your clients it's an easy trap to fall into. Often a client will do something out of left field, or pull out a lure that you would ordinarily not give any shelf space in your tacklebox, only to slay every other lure in the water that day.

Over the last couple of seasons I have tried to experiment with new products (which as a tragic tackle rat comes pretty easy). Of course another major consideration for any of your guiding kit, be it rods and reels, terminal tackle and of course lures is durability. Working in a remote location, and being restricted in terms of how much weight you can carry into these areas, is something that you have to manage carefully.

Many lures will catch barramundi, but how many barramundi? I have tried stacks of excellent looking lures that work well for a few fish, only to fall apart from fatigue and the pressure that a barra's jaws can exert. This is where the ZMan range has been a revelation. Rigging a small paddle tail plastic weedless has been a killer technique for me for years, but the mortality rate of a lot of brands has proved not only costly, but time consuming as well, with re-rigging and patch up jobs keeping me occupied for a lot more time on the water than I would like.

My "go-to" paddle tails are now the ZMan 3" MinnowZ and ZMan 5" Scented PaddlerZ when the fish are looking for something more substantial. These plastics have proven themselves to be second to none in both durability and fish-catching ability. The colour range that is available also ticks all the boxes I am looking for. A couple of personal favourites of mine are the Chartreuse Glow, New Penny and my current favourite Redbone. Maybe it's the combination of the natural top and glow belly of the Redbone, but it has out fished all others run against it (especially in freshwater billabongs).

The old way of rigging weedless was to tie a small ball sinker into the loop knot, effectively "chin rigging" the plastic. One downside to this rig is that it sometimes has a tendency to break at the loop when the sinker hits the knot. This is where the TT Lures Snake Head comes into its own, having the weight connected to the front of the weedless hook, and available in a variety of weights, it has revolutionized my weedless rigging. The 6/0 hook in 3/8 and 1/4 ounce work perfectly for me with the 5" Scented PaddlerZ.

The Snake Head gives you the ability to fish these plastics through the thickest cover and certainly gives you more options. The "user friendly" nature of this rig also assists me when my clients casting abilities are less than perfect. An errant cast put up into and through a tree can usually be retrieved through the branches with a slow steady wind, often dropping out of the tree right into the strike zone. A lot of the time a single PaddlerZ will last for the whole day, which is as good as it gets with soft plastics.


Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge is known as the country's premier barra fishing operation, but the bluewater options in this area are also excellent. The species available at different times of year reads like a who's who of tropical sportsfish. Spanish mackeral, queenfish, GT's, giant herring and northern bluefin tuna just to name a few. Then there is the bottom fish such as golden snapper, coral trout, bluebone, tricky snapper, nannygai, etc., etc.

One of my more productive methods of targeting the reef species is drifting over the grounds jigging plastics. Depending on the depth and current I usually use either 1/2 or 3/4 ounce TT HeadlockZ HD 5/0 jighead, matched to ZMan 4" Scented ShrimpZ or ZMan 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ. To be honest, when I tried these plastics for the first time, I doubted if they would have what it takes to match it with the other bio bait shrimp and jerk shads I had been using. I was pleasantly surprised when they actually out fished them, and as for durability, well the others had been lucky to last more than a couple of fish whereas the ZMan plastics can last a whole session on multiple fish... unless a rampaging golden snapper buries you in the reef that is!

Some of my favourite colours in the ShrimpZ are Natural and New Penny. In the 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ I like New Penny, Smokey Shad, Redbone, Houdini and Pearl. A shake and a few small lifts off the bottom is a good way to entice a bite from the reef species, where a quick retrieve and a few more vigorous twitches mid retrieve usually gets the pelagics interested. I have also had great results with these same plastics on my home waters of Hervey Bay and am looking forward to next snapper season to see how a few of my favourite ZMan colours perform on the reds!

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