Z-Man® wins back-to-back at ICAST

New Mulletron™ LT Swimbait Voted Best New Saltwater Soft Bait

Beyond signs of potential greatness, back-to-back championship trophies often imply exemplary culture: creativity, camaraderie, and other exciting things brewing behind the scenes. Competitive replays are usually assigned to the crème de la crème, cutting edge athletes and hall of fame teams who, across multiple seasons, continue to click on all cylinders. More concisely, teams simply don’t achieve best two years in a row status unless something special is afoot.

At this year’s Big Game Fishing Ball, also known as ICAST, a season of brainstorming, sweat equity, and in-water lure testing resulted in two wins for Z-Man at the prestigious New Product Showcase. Further cementing his prominence as architects of bladed jigs, Z-Man’s new ChatterBait Elite EVO™ won Best New Freshwater Hard Lure.

For the second year in a row, the Vanguard Tackle team also won Best New Saltwater Soft Lure with its innovative Mulletron™ LT (Line-Through) Swim Lure. (Last July, Z-Man won the same category of awards with its innovative, first-of-its-kind Kicker CrabZ™, a side-swimming crab hook that garnered winning votes from reputable fishing media and tackle buyers alike.)

At the 2023 ICAST show, among a highly competitive field of 29 other new soft lures slated for saltwater, Z-Man once again drew the winning votes, this time for its technical saltwater mullet-mimicking swimbait—a not-so-subtle statement for the South Carolina coastal company whose headquarters are awash in salty blasts from the adjacent Atlantic.

The ICAST-winning Mulletron LT swimbait from Z-Man offers several amazing angler-focused advantages.

For Z-Man’s director of product development, José Chávez, the win marked satisfaction on behalf of the amplified angler’s success. But the award also opened a conversation about decoy conservation-focused design, a hidden branch of the Mulletron LT’s purpose-oriented anatomy.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few months educating anglers about the value of a saltwater hook that goes through the line,” says Chavez, a longtime lure designer and accomplished angler. “What we haven’t widely disclosed to this point is that the Mulletron LT’s internal hook and line-pass harness system is also conservation driven, in part with a focus on fish health and safe releases.

“Of course, the unique sickle-style dorsal hook and lure’s slider system hold the fish firmly and ensure they stay hooked throughout the battle,” Chavez notes. “Normally, the hook sits nicely in the corner of a fish’s jaw or snugly in the soft meat inside the mouth. The bait itself is then slid up the line and away from the jaws, where large, powerful fish, often airborne, cannot use their weight for leverage.

Paired with a specialized single hook, the Mulletron LT’s through-the-line construction helps deliver clean, healthy casts.

“Often to the detriment of the health of the fish, many cross-line swimbaits employ a treble hook, which can create all sorts of potential problems and hazards when handling large, powerful fish alongside the boat. Obviously, a single hook helps to avoid some of these problems. But with Mulletron, we went further by optimizing hook placement and designing a unique sickle-style hook for maximum penetration, holding power, and quick, harmless removal.”

“On the boat, a quick snap of the pliers safely releases the hook and ensures a safe and healthy release, protecting both the angler and the fish from potential harm. Apex predators like tarpon and snook are a precious resource, and we want to do everything we can to sustain these incredible fisheries.”

Speaking directly to the lure’s form and function, Chavez calls attention to the hidden engineering of the Mulletron LT. “As a prey species, the mullet is ubiquitous, certainly among the most important forage fish for saltwater predators off the North American coast. As prime targets among selective tarpon, snook, stripers, and other super-powered sport fish, we knew that any mullet bait we built had to be physically true to life and extremely tough. The ElaZtech material of the bait is itself the strongest soft plastic in the industry.

“But at ICAST, we wanted to give people a behind-the-scenes look at the inner skeleton, or harness, of the Mulletron LT,” he said. “To permanently lock the harness in place, we use special ABS bolts, which attach to the ElaZtech material like a vise. Providing additional security, a large corkscrew (spring) ensures that the bait and harness will work as one. Underneath the ABS are special bolts that lock the bait ballast weights in place. We even implemented a hidden rattle chamber for maximum sound pull.”

Chávez calls for additional accoutrements, further establishing the Mulletron as a worthy winner. “The bait’s wedge-shaped tail produces high-level punching and kicking action at any retrieve speed, even when the bait is free falling. Inside the tail is a hollow scent chamber. You will notice a small port, at the top, that allows anglers to inject Pro-Cure or other attractants for a slow release scent trail.”

Finally, to allow anglers to reach fish in secret and inaccessible holding areas (under piers, mangroves, bridges, etc.), the Mulletron features flat sides that promote smooth, discreet jumps.

“Obviously, we poured our heart and soul into this design,” admits Chávez. “Selfishly, we did it, at least in part, because everyone at Z-Man is passionate about catching and releasing the biggest saltwater animals.

“Seriously though, we couldn’t be happier that anglers around the world are now enjoying the same success and enthusiasm we’ve had trying it out. To be recognized by our friends in the sport fishing community and to go home with an ICAST trophy is an incredible honor. It motivates us to take lure design even further into the future. Stay tuned!”

Equaling the realism and precise sink rates of technical freshwater sand swimbaits, the Mulletron LT offers a moderate sink rate (ROF-8), sinking eight feet every ten seconds. Two size versions, a 4.5-inch weighing 3/4 ounces (3/0 hook) and a 6-inch weighing 1-3/4 ounces (5/0 hook), allow local forage classes to be mixed. Six fine-tuned color patterns correspond to various light and water conditions and mimic local mullet runs. The Mulletron LT’s ultra-realistic mullet profile is perfectly complemented by highly detailed, hand-painted or photo-printed body finishes. Available in October, the Z-Man Mulletron LT will retail for $9.99 and $12.99, respectively.

Chavez (right) and Z-Man President Daniel Nussbaum clutch and smile at their ICAST 2023 new product trophies.

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. Z-Man has long been one of the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits, and other lures. Creator of the original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovator of 10X Tough ElaZtech® soft baits, among the most sought after baits in freshwater and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest growing lure brands in the world.