Back Story of Bassmaster’s Winning Classic Technique

Jeff Gustafson and the legendary Lindners chronicle advances in depleting deep sea bass

Thirteen hundred miles north of the Tennessee River; Twenty years before Jeff Gustafson won the recent Bassmaster Classic, long before live sonar screens rewrote the rules of pole fighting, hanging a minnow he was already sailing under tournament winner big time.

Until then, the winning presentation of Gussy’s Classic was widely viewed as a niche technique, something that only worked in the North for suspended or deep-sea smallmouth bass. Perhaps most anglers still view moping (floating vertically with Jerk ShadZ™ buoyant superplastics) as super specialized, similar to how anglers once viewed offshore bass patterns, in general.

Interestingly, a week after Gussy won the 2023 Classic, Missouri State University’s Aric Szambelan finished just 3 ounces short of winning the Bassmaster College Series qualifier at Cherokee Lake, Tennessee; he guessed it, with a ¼ ounce jig and Scented Jerk ShadZ.

“The truth is, I fished with this same bait and method in at least half of the Bassmaster Elite tournaments last year,” divulges Gustafson, who also took advantage of the technique to win the 2021 Bassmaster Elite event on the Tennessee River. The professional bassist from Keewatin, Ontario, says that he has now made over half a million dollars with a jig and Z-Man.® Scented Jerk ShadZ: the prized presentation he calls his best bait ever. He has won or nearly won numerous other derbies from Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods, Ontario, to Lake Champlain, New York, dating back nearly two decades.

Even at a young age, Jeff Gustafson was competing alongside anglers like the legendary Ron Lindner.

“In the early 2000s, Hall of Fame anglers Jimmy and Bill Lindner won two Fort Francis Canadian Bass Championships, targeting the small suspended mouths of Rainy Lake,” recalls Gustafson. Unquestionably, the Lindners pioneered the original knockdown technique, discovering virgin populations of suspended largemouth in the process.

“At this point, given the success I’ve had getting down in Canadian lakes to Georgia and even Texas, I’d have to say it probably works in more places than it doesn’t,” he suggests. “Late spring, summer and fall. . . Anytime you have largemouth, smallmouth, or bass feeding on suspended smelts, ciscoes, alewives, shad, or herring, or using a 15-30 foot structure, leeching can unlock some crazy bites. In fact, many times jig and Jerk ShadZ is much more effective than a dropshot.”

In other words, anyone who calls Gussy’s method a niche pattern will first want to try it out on their local lake.

History of ‘Hanging a Minnow’
As Gustafson says, the original scoop method emerged in the early 2000s, inspired by ultra-competitive Canadian contests like the Fort Francis Canadian Bass Championships. Gussy, who won the event in 2013 and 2014, says the Canadian Bass Championships, along with the Kenora Bass International at Lake of the Woods, comprise two of the most competitive and coveted bass trophies in North America. Each event quickly fills fields of 130 boats, attracting a collection of exceptional angling talent from across the continent.

“The year that Jim and Bill Lindner won the first of their back-to-back Championships, we heard a lot of buzz about this new technique, post-spawn largemouth fishing,” suggests Gustafson, referring to the 2003 Rainy Lake bass derbies and 2004. .

Z-Man 4 Inch Scented Jerk ShadZ with Finesse EyeZ™ Stencil Head.

“Around that same time, we knew that Alex Keszler was vertically fishing in deep water at his tiller, catching great little mouths, from late spring through fall. But on the dock, since everyone was super secretive and hid their rods in storage, you didn’t know what baits these guys were packing.

“Eventually, word got out that the Lindners and others were using fluke-style soft lures mounted on 3/8-ounce jig heads with 90-degree eyelets,” recalls Gussy. “The 90-degree angle deal is key because it helps position the hook and bait tail nice and horizontal, not vertical or sloping down. (More on the horizontal advantage, momentarily.)

“At first, we used whatever type of 3- to 5-inch fluke bait we could find.” But it wasn’t long before Keszler and other anglers discovered a new style of buoyant superplastic that floated horizontally in the water, matching the natural swimming posture of suspended baitfish.

“Eventually, we found out that guys like Keszler and Ted Stewner were actually sewing their ElaZtech® baits to jigheads to create a permanent lure, preventing the bait from falling off the hook. Now, of course, a drop of Loctite Gel Control achieves the same benefit.

“At first, Z-Man was making the baits for another company, which were exceptionally soft and incredibly durable. For example, you could fish all day on one bait, catching up to 100 bass, if you wanted to. A few years later, Z-Man began making the Scented Jerk ShadZ under his own label, which quickly became the de facto depressed bait among most serious tournament anglers.”


About ElaZtech®
Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, flexible, and 10 times stronger than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts and tears better than other soft baits and boasts one of the highest fish per bait ratings in the industry, saving anglers from wasting time searching for a new bait when fish bite. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, realistic and attractive target for game fish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech is PVC-free, plastisol-free, phthalate-free, and non-toxic. All ElaZtech soft baits are manufactured at Z-Man’s headquarters in South Carolina, USA.

About Z-Man® Fishing Products
A dynamic company based in Charleston, South Carolina, Z-Man Fishing Products has been fusing cutting-edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Creator of the original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovator of 10X Tough ElaZtech soft baits, quickly becoming the most sought after baits in freshwater and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest growing lure brands in the world.