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What's in my Kit? - Sean Bekkers - Paddle Tails

By Sean Bekkers

Sitting back and looking through all my bags and boxes of ZMan plastics... it's fair to say that I have an extensive range of paddle tail patterns. These are really my go-to pattern and I will nearly always have one rigged on a rod when I'm heading out. The paddle tail provides heaps of movement and vibration to the presentation, even when worked slowly.

The range of colours, between natural, bright and dark colour options, is extensive, with a colour to suit any situation. They also come in a huge range of sizes and for me, my paddle tails range from 2.5" up to 6" in length. Throughout this article I'm going to break down each style and size I fish, how I rig and retrieve them, and what species I like to target using each paddle tail presentation.

ZMan 2.5 & 3" Slim SwimZ

As the name suggests, this little plastic has a rather slim and slender design, with a distinct little paddle tail. Don't let the appearance or lack of plastic fool you though as this plastic is responsible for most of my awesome estuary catches of late, with its crazy tail action even at dead slow retrieve speeds.

When flicking the ZMan Slim SwimZ (slimmy) around I'm intending to cover as many bases as possible, when it comes to what fish I'm targeting. Anything from a bream to an estuary jewfish (mulloway) will quite happily inhale a well presented slimmy. Jighead wise I tend not to go any heavier than a 1/4oz in either a TT Lures HeadlockZ HD or DemonZ jighead, both in a 1/0 size hook.

Colour is the next consideration and for me and I'm a sucker for anything green, with Baby Bass being my go-to as it matches the local bait population of hardy heads and herring. A close second is the Blue Glimmer as this can imitate a small jelly prawn or a baitfish that are found throughout the weed beds and structure in my local estuary system.

Structure wise I'm not scared of throwing this presentation into anything that I come across, including weed beds, drop offs, pylons, jetties... you get the idea. Depending on water depth and how gnarly the structure is, this will dictate whether I let the presentation settle on the bottom or not. When it comes to the gnarly structure it can be a bit of a guessing game to figure out whether you're going to hit it or not, however you've got to risk it for the biscuit.

My go-to retrieves will either be a slow roll (slow wind), a traditional hop, hop, and pause, or I'll keep the plastic up in the water column with a slow retrieve and lots of shaky rod tip action, resembling a nervous baitfish. Some of my best fish have been taken using the nervous baitfish presentation, however all of these techniques catch fish, it just depends on the day and what fires the fish up.

Being a paddle tail, I don't change my approach when fishing in low light or night situations either, with the only thing to consider being choosing a colour that will silhouette against the water, rather that dissolve in the darkness. For a night silhouette colour, I will opt for something like Pumpkin or Midnight Oil.

Rod wise, you're going to notice a theme here but the lighter the better, my go-to are the Okuma 7' 1-3kg and 2-4kg Helios SX spin rods, matched with Helios SX 30 size reels, loaded with 8 and 10 lb Platypus P8 Braid. Leader wise, again go as light as possible. I find 10lb Platypus Stealth FC Fluorocarbon has me covered, even when I lock onto a respectable estuary jewfish (mulloway).

Hot Tip: Always Pro-Cure scent up. If it gets them to hold on for a little longer, you've got more time to set the hook.

ZMan 3" MinnowZ

The 3" Minnowz is definitely one of ZMan's more popular models and with good reason. This is the perfect allround plastic that covers virtually everything an angler wants to target. Once again, anything from a bream to your offshore species love having a crack at these. Me personally, I'll throw them at anything from a bream to a boiling pot of pelagic action.

With the 3" MinnowZ I'll run a heavier jighead, like a 3/8oz TT Lures HeadlockZ in either a 2/0 or 3/0 hook size and, as you can probably guess, I'm targeting that deeper structure and usually looking for flathead, cod and jewfish (mulloway) as these are my go-to target species.

Retrieve wise I generally use a traditional hop and pause, or a very slow roll just off the bottom, allowing the thicker body and paddle tail to vibrate, which ultimately draws the fish in. If you decide to send it into tight structure, changing to a TT Lures SnakelockZ, instead of the Headlockz HD, is never a bad option. Choose a hook that suits the plastic and make sure the shank sits quite a way under the belly of the plastic as this allows the plastic to move down the hook when the fish strikes, clearing the hook from the plastic and allowing for a well set hook. A 3/0 SnakelockZ fits well, in a weight to suit your application.

As I said earlier, this is a great allrounder and this was proven by a good friend of mine that recently moved to Newcastle. Jarad, who has a lot of freshwater fishing experience, has recently switched his attention to saltwater and with this in mind he decided a feed of flathead was a good place to start. He chose three packets of ZMan 3" MinnowZ that were on a special from his local tackle store and managed to score his first flathead working along the edge of a weed bank.

It was really cool to hear how stoked he was about nailing his first fish on a plastic and this versatile allrounder had another happy user. Like all fishing, your first fish on a new technique is something special and getting that distinctive grab from a flathead on plastics is something you don't forget... and it gets super addictive.

Rod wise for me, when chasing flathead I'll use an Okuma 7' 2-4kg Helios SX combo, with either 10 or 15lb Platypus Stealth FC leader or an Okuma 7' 3-6kg Helios rod, with an Okuma Azores 4000 reel to chase jewfish or cod from around heavy structure like rocks and pylons. It's worth noting that my PB flathead so far was caught on the 3" MinnowZ in Pinfish colour, so this commonly gets a swim.

ZMan 4" DieZel MinnowZ

The 4" DieZel MinnowZ are quite large, in comparison to a 3" MinnowZ, not just in length either, with the body having a deeper and a different profile. There is also a deep belly slot, which is a perfect for weedless rigging as well as a place for loading your favourite Pro-Cure scent flavour.

I know a lot of anglers like throwing this presentation for mangrove jack and are really successful. For me, I'm not much of a jack angler, so I tend to be throwing these around with the intended target being estuary cod, jewfish and flathead.

My favourite way to fish them is with a lightly weighted hook, something like a TT Lures 1/8oz HeadlockZ HD jighead in a 3/0, with the idea being to work them along the edge of structure, such as a weed bed, using a slow roll and pause. Being lightly weighted means it will slowly work its way to the bottom, with the large paddle tail pulsing on the way down. By adding a few twitches with the rod tip, the presentation represents a drunk mullet really well.

I had an awesome session some time ago using this technique, which resulted in a flurry of flathead that by all accounts seemed shut down. On that occasion I was using a Pearl colour. Although I like using this presentation as described above it is an extremely versatile plastic and can be easily rigged on heavier jigheads or weedless. A lot of other TT Pro Team members have great success doing this and you can check them out on the 'Pro Team' section of the website or visit the 'Tips & Techniques' section for more articles.

Rod combo and leader wise it's about choosing one to suit the fish that you're chasing and jighead weight you're using, however for when I chase flathead with a lightly weighted jighead, I use my Okuma Helios (as opposed to Helios SX) 7' 1-3kg, matched with a Helios SX 30 spinning reel, loaded with Platypus 10lb Stealth FC Fluorocarbon Leader and 8lb Platypus P8 Braid. It is super light but can big bring rewards when everything falls into place.

ZMan 5" DieZel MinnowZ & 6" SwimmerZ

These two are the largest presentations that I have in my soft plastics range, with my intended targets being cod and bigger jewfish (mulloway). My preferred way to rig them is using a TT Lures 3/8oz or 1/2oz 8/0 SnakelockZ weedless jighead, even when there is no chance of snagging up. The reason for using a bigger SnakelockZ is that hook point is set further back in the plastic, meaning when the fish are playing the game of tail grabbing, I still get a hook up.

Hot Tip: If you're not working the plastics deep in structure, leave the hook tip slightly exposed as this doesn't impact the performance of the presentation and means that if a fish sniffs the plastic you've got a shot at setting the hook.

The style of retrieve that I like to use when fishing these is a traditional hop and pause (with a long pause) or a very slow roll, whilst keeping contact with the bottom. I find that this approach, combined with a good smothering of Pro-Cure scent, gets the fish's attention and they usually come back and have another go, if you miss the hook up the first time around. On the retrieve you'll notice that the paddle tail gives off heaps of vibration and the rod tip pulses with each wind of the handle. Both of these plastics are really effective at night because of this vibration.

On a different note, last year we used some Gold Rush 5" DieZel MinnowZ rigged with TT Lures 3/8oz 6/0 SnakelockZ when chasing barramundi in one of the local impoundments. All three of us caught barra from mid-30's to around 80cm on this presentation. Even the local bass were quite happy to inhale a 5" DieZel, so don't think for a second that this presentation is only for chasing big fish. Likewise in the salt water the smaller flathead are more than happy to have a go.

My go-to rods here are Okuma Helios 3-6kg spin rods matched with Okuma 4000 Azores Blue, loaded with 20lb Platypus Platinum Braid and leader wise I'll swap between 15lb and 20lb Platypus Stealth FC Fluorocarbon Leader.

As you have probably noticed, I really do only have a couple of rod combos that cover just about everything I like to do and for the most part you will find all of them stacked up in the boat together on all of my trips. I frequently change up between all of them, until I find what works for the day. This is the most important thing to keep in mind when fishing plastics. If you're confident that the area you are fishing in should have fish on it, keep cycling through your presentations until you crack the code. This shuffle may include larger plastics, smaller plastics, different models, colours and even leader choice can be critical, especially on a bright day with excellent water clarity. In a situation like this you may need to go very light to get the bite.

My final Hot Tip is always scent up. Apply a generous amount of Pro-Cure. This stuff does hang on for ages and I only usually reapply after landing a fish. If you're getting amongst it, I hope you're smashing them, and if you're not fishing at this point in time, I hope your keen and this little article gives you some inspiration to get the gear sorted for the next opportunity.

Screaming Dragz, Sean