Photo courtesy of Hobie and Fin Factory

Perfect Paddletails 

Surefire inshore and near-shore lures that have passed the test of time

Saltwater anglers largely rely on two styles of plastics: shrimp and paddletail swimbaits. Why the finite selection? Because in truth, it is all you really need. And of the two, paddletails dominate the scene, as baitfish account for the lion’s share of what inshore saltwater gamefish consume.

But like any category of lures, there are winners and losers. Here is a quartet of true saltwater champions.

Z-MAN Scented PaddlerZ

If renamed, Z-Man’s durable and multifaceted Scented PaddlerZ would be call “VersitileZ”. Stranded on an island – Galapagos to the Greater Antilles – there’s not another bait that will catch as many species, last as long, and be fished as many ways as the PaddlerZ.

A segmented body and thin paddletail allow the Scented PaddlerZ to be operated as a twitch-, wake-, or swimbait on both fast and slow retrieve speeds. Conventional rigging pairs it with a jighead, especially Z-Man’s exceedingly sharp and tough Trout Eye™ or Redfish Eye™ jig, which were designed specifically for saltwater conditions. For jigging, simply pitch it out and retrieve with hops and freefalls, altering retrieval speed and the height of lifts in accordance with fish responses.

Z-Man dealer and Corpus Christi, Texas guide Mike Morales uses them nearly exclusively with his clients because of how easy Scented PaddlerZ are to fish, not to mention his consistent catches of redfish and seatrout. The proprietor of Fin Factory is bullish on the Redbone pattern for its natural tones melded with a taste of red, which is a triggering color on his Texas saltwater flats. In dingier water, Morales flips to darker tones like Gold Rush, which silhouettes better in the murk.

Keys to the bait – available in 4- and 5-inch sizes – are its sashaying segmented body and subtle tail sway. Couple that with the Scented PaddlerZ factory infusion of 100% natural Pro-Cure Mullet Super Gel, and you have an effective bait for all seasons.

Z-Man recommends rigging the 5-inch Scented PaddlerZ with a 4/0 JigheadZ™, Redfish Eye™ jighead, 4/0 HeadlockZ™ jigheads or 4/0 EZ KeeperZ™ weighted hooks, and the 4-inch Scented PaddlerZ with a 3/0 JigheadZ™, Trout Eye™ jigheads, 3/0 HeadlockZ™ HD jigheads or 3/0 EZ KeeperZ™ weighted hooks.

Made in the USA, the Scented PaddlerZ comes 5 baits to a pack and in a staggering 26 colors.

Storm WildEye Swim Shad

If you don’t see Storm’s WildEye Swim Shad on the peg-hooks, better go out and check the sign again, because you’re probably not in a tackle shop. And if you can’t catch fish on one, make sure you’ve opened the package.

Throttling saltwater species since 2002, Storm’s WildEye Swim Shad is as easy to fish as it is to find. Cast, retrieve, and repeat, working in pops and stalls. And no matching the body to a jig because the hook and weight are part of the package, perfectly matched for balance and effective hooksets.

The lure’s soft but durable outer body encases a holographic flash foil that throws color with every wiggle. A robust paddle tail ignites a stunningly realistic action, too.

Storm WildEye Swimbaits are available in a wide array of salty colors and 6 sizes, ranging from 2- to 9-inches. Sold fully rigged, 3 per pack.

Keitech Saltwater FAT Swing Impact

Certainly, the newest kid on the list, but Keitech’s Swing Impact family has made an immediate, well, impact on the marketplace. Freshwater bass anglers have been stripping the shelves of the original Swing Impact and more recently introduced FAT Swing Impact. So, it’s safe to assume the saltwater rendition will secure a similar foothold.

Outwardly, the Saltwater FAT Swing Impact doesn’t earn any awards for revolutionary cosmetics. But when you pull back the curtains, the paddletail swimbait is fraught with fish catching features, beginning with the material. Avid bassers are perhaps the most critical crowd when it comes to soft plastics, and nearly universally, they credit the Swing Impact’s supple, almost chewy material for fish holding on after the strike. The material is also heralded for its durability.

The same crowd lauds the Swing Impact’s seductive sway, which is produced by an outsized and tapered boot paddle. And it’s tough to know for certain if the ribbed body attracts by causing extra turbulence, but by that time, it’s likely been slurped up.

The 3.8-inch Saltwater FAT Swing Impact comes in 8 traditional saltwater colors and 6 baits per pack.

Z-Man Scented PogyZ

Saltwater baitfish come in a zoo of shapes and sizes, many of them stout, like pogy (aka menhaden or bunker), pilchards, croakers and shad. Even juvenile mullet, or “finger mullet,” are girthy for their global size. To that, Z-Man ideally mimics these deep-bodied morsels with the 3-inch Scented PogyZ.

Fished on either a jig or with a weighted swimbait hook, its deep profile, segmented body and teardrop paddle tail create a tight, natural wiggle worked slowly or on the burn. Z-Man recommends their Trout Eye™ or 3/0 HeadlockZ™ jighead, giving the PogyZ perfect balance and a hook that sticks and lasts.

The genetic makeup of the PogyZ bares as much importance, especially its composition. The Scented PogyZ, like the Scented PaddlerZ, is made from Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material. Famously soft and pliable, ElaZtech baits are up to 10 times more resistant to cuts and tears than comparable brands. Formulated in the USA, ElaZtech is also non-toxic and buoyant. This buoyancy really comes to play when the lure settles on the bottom, tail lofting.

The enticing aroma in the Scented PogyZ comes from a jolt of 100% natural Pro-Cure Mullet Super Gel scent

Z-Man’s Scented PogyZ come 5 baits per back and is available in a dozen colors.

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