Z-Man Fishes the Susquehanna

Z-Man goes to the Susquehanna River. Reese is one of the pioneers of Midwest finesse fishing, a Finesse News Network member, and occasional contributor to Midwest Finesse columns. And here is an edited version of his report: Immediately following the ICAST show in July, I experienced for the first time in my life the incredible smallmouth bass fishery that is the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Joe opined that the rising water would have the bass pushed up into the grass, and while we quickly caught a few smallmouth bass, we soon shifted our attention away from the grass and towards the moving water in the middle of the river after we saw several smallmouth bass foraging on baitfish. Gareth and I did not keep track, but I am certain that we caught close to 150 smallmouth bass. Curious about how many smallmouth bass we had caught the previous day, I started off counting the number of smallmouth bass we were catching. And after I tangled with a few more smallmouth bass during the next few minutes, I connected with a 19-inch smallmouth bass, but throughout this fury with the TRD TubeZ, Gareth and Joe came up empty on spinnerbaits and swimbaits. Ultimately, they switched over to finesse baits (Finesse TRD and TRD HogZ), but did not start consistently catching the smallmouth bass until they switched to the TRD TubeZ. Gareth and I ended up catching even more fish than we had the day before thanks to the switch to finesse baits. After a slow bite in the morning on swimbaits and spinnerbaits, they switched to Finesse TRD on heavier 1/5 ounce NedlockZ jigheads and hit pay dirt While Gareth and I let the current sweep our finesse baits through deeper pockets and dragged them slowly along the bottom, Declan and Justin found success in the main-river current aggressively bouncing the heavier heads off the bottom.
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Daniel Nussbaum with one of the 500 smallmouth bass that he and three colleagues caught on the Susquehanna River.

Daniel Nussbaum of Ladson, South Carolina, is the president of Z-Man Fishing Products, and he has been a member of the Finesse News Network since 2011.

On Oct 1, 2013, we published a Midwest finesse column that Nussbaum wrote about his maiden outings on Aug. 26, 27, and 28, 2013, at the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada. He fished with Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, and several of Reese’s friends. Reese resides on the shores of the Lake of the Woods from the middle of May to the middle of September. Reese is one of the pioneers of Midwest finesse fishing, a Finesse News Network member, and occasional contributor to Midwest Finesse columns. The title of this column is “Z-Man Goes to Canada.”

Then on Sept. 5, 2016, we published a column that Nussbaum wrote about his return to the Lake of the Woods on Aug. 26, 27, and 28, 2016. The title of that column is “Z-Man Goes to Canada Again.”

After the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show on July 11-14, 2017, at Orlando, Florida, Nussbaum went smallmouth bass fishing in Pennsylvania, and he wrote a report about it.

And here is an edited version of his report:

Immediately following the ICAST show in July, I experienced for the first time in my life the incredible smallmouth bass fishery that is the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Joining me on the trip were Gareth Williams, Declan Williams and Justin Willmer. This threesome is from Brisbane, Australia. Gareth is the owner of TT Lures, and Declan is his son. Justin works for TT Lures, which is Z-Man’s distributor in Australia and the leading jighead manufacturer in that part of the world. Each year around ICAST, they join me for a few days of fishing and strategizing about growing our business together. After saltwater fishing in Louisiana the last two summers, I opted to introduce them to smallmouth bass this time around.

We enlisted the help of Joe Raymond of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and proprietor of Susquehanna Smallmouth Guides to show us what the area had to offer. Joe joined the Z-Man pro staff a couple of years ago, and he uses our ElaZtech plastic baits and ChatterBait bladed jigs virtually every day from spring through fall. Joe and the other guides he works with all run aluminum boats powered by either inboard or outboard jet-drive engines, which allows them to traverse the shallow, rocky waters of the Susquehanna River and Juniata River. We arranged to fish out of two of their boats.

While Joe employs a variety of baits and techniques, Midwest finesse tactics are playing an increasingly important role in his fishing, particularly when the water is shallow and clear and the smallmouth bass can be finicky. In the last year or so, he has essentially substituted Z-Man’s Finesse TRD and Finesse ShroomZ jig for the small tube baits that are a Susquehanna River staple. One of our goals on this trip was to put our new NedlockZ HD jigheads, which are being manufactured at TT Lures’ factory in Fiji, through their paces. And, selfishly, I also wanted to show the Australians how effective Midwest finesse techniques can be in hopes that they could find some applications for our ElaZtech finesse baits in their market. While they have done an outstanding job of establishing Z-Man as the top soft-plastic brand in Australia, they currently do not stock any of our finesse baits, and that is because finesse fishing simply is not as popular there.

Upon arriving in Harrisburg, we learned that the river was running higher than it normally does during the summer months, and it was predicted to rise considerably during our two days of pursuing smallmouth bass. High-river levels often result in muddy water that can make fishing tough, but we were also told that smallmouth bass can feed voraciously when the water is rising. So, we were not sure exactly what to expect. But things started to look up for us when Justin and Declan caught seven smallmouth bass from the bank the evening before our first fishing day.

On day one, Joe took Gareth and me well upstream from Harrisburg, and we began working along shallow-water edges of grassy islands with ChatterBaits, swimbaits, and topwater plugs. Joe opined that the rising water would have the bass pushed up into the grass, and while we quickly caught a few smallmouth bass, we soon shifted our attention away from the grass and towards the moving water in the middle of the river after we saw several smallmouth bass foraging on baitfish. Because of the high water, we could not see many of the rocks and boulders that are strewn upon the bed of the river, but we found smallmouth bass tucked in the riffles and current seams behind these rocks — as well as chasing baitfish in open water.

Between the muddy water and spread out fish, we stuck with power-fishing tactics for most of the day. The most productive bait was a four-inch DieZel MinnowZ in the darker Green Pumpkin or Purple Demon colors pinned to a 1/6-ounce HeadlockZ HD jighead with a 4/0 hook. When slowly bounced across the gravel bottom, Joe thinks that this combination, along with a dark-color scheme, mimics the crayfish that are prime forage for river bass. In addition, I caught a number of smallmouth bass on a ¼-ounce Original ChatterBait with a three-inch MinnowZ trailer in slightly deeper and muddier sections of the river. Gareth…

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