(Editor's note: This short feature comes from longtime industry rep Alan McGuckin.)
Matt Lee loves to fish a dropshot, but his decision to employ a 5-inch Strike King Z-Too on a straight-shank hook for Lake St. Clair smallmouth was the equivalent of his fianceé Abby choosing to serve 20-ounce rib eye steaks as a bridal shower appetizer. Essentially, Lee turned one of bass fishing’s dainty finesse techniques into a full-fledged food fest en route to yet another top-12 finish on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“I’m a dropshot fanatic," Lee said. "I threw it on spawning beds at Okeechobee, at stumps on Ross Barnett and at St. Clair for smallmouth. I pretty much never leave the dock without one tied on; it’s just a matter of tweaking the components a little to meet the conditions.
“My decision to use such a big bait on my dropshot at St. Clair was two-fold. First, the water was a little dingy and I thought the bigger bait would be more visible. And secondly, I noticed that the smallmouth I hooked in practice were spitting-up 4- to 8-inch perch."
Lee knew the smallmouth were feeding on yellow- and green-colored perch, then why did he opt for a white Z-Too?
“I’m pretty certain they were feeding on alewife as well as the perch. And the thing is, I was never on a big school of smallmouth. I felt like I was hunting big, single fish that seemed super aggressive – so that bait was visible and offered a big meal to those lone wolves.
“That Z-Too was too big for pesky perch to eat, and because it’s made of ElaZtech, it floats and never tears up. Plus, that particular lure almost shimmies like a swimbait.”
As much as Lee uses a dropshot, he’d never used such a big lure. So he experimented between a 1/0 and a 2/0 straight-shank hook, as well as an occasional circle hook that’s more standard on a dropshot.
“I was actually super-gluing the Z-Too on the hooks, and the one thing I figured out was that no matter what hook I used, by giving them an extra second to eat it rather than set the hook too fast, that was more critical than the exact hook I rigged with."
While gear ratios get a lot of attention when discussin baitcasting reels, their mechanical importance in spinning reels is too often overlooked, but not by top pros.
“Smallmouth move so quick that it’s critical to use a reel that can pick up a ton of slack line in a hurry, especially in one of those moments during the fight when they switch from going away from the boat, and run right at you, and you gotta get down on it like Kool & The Gang,” said Lee. “That’s why I love the Quantum Speed Freak. It picks up three feet of line with every turn of the handle, plus it’s got an awesome drag system for fighting those beasts.”
Lee shared his findings of the big lure’s success with younger brother Jordan, who was quick to heed Matt’s advice. Jordan had been fishing a smaller Strike King Dream Shot, but on day 3 of the tournament, he switched to the big Z-Too. His first fish of the day was a mammoth 6-13 bronze beast.
The Lee Brothers eventually finished 4th and 5th and won a combined $30,500. Everybody went home happy and ate well along the way, including St. Clair’s super-sized smallmouth.