Sometimes, you hear it. Every time you see it — experience it — you can’t help but flinch. And if you’ve kept your composure, you set and hang on for dear life. Still, no matter how many times the surface shatters and your lure goes bye-bye, you simply can’t prepare yourself for the sudden surge of mayhem, or the endorphins that follow. Nor do you ever get tired of it.
When you find a topwater lure that tensely carves the surface and raises your neck hairs on every cast, you never forget it. You want more of what happens next. Retrieving Z-Man’s new 4-inch HellraiZer evokes the sort of exhilaration that becomes compulsive, addictive. Cast. Crank. Watch the little slasher do its captivating surface dance — chop-chop-chop-chop. Head turned skyward, the lure cavorts desperately back and forth, like some poor, panicked animal — perhaps unsuited to life in the water — completely aware of what lies beneath. Tail blade thumps, glistens, churns water. The splashy sound becomes hypnotic, which merely dials up the decibels and the drama that follows.
Two years ago, when ChatterBait inventor Ron Davis unveiled his original surface slashing HellraiZer, anglers weren’t sure what to make of it. You might call that a precise description for some of the more groundbreaking lures of all time, ChatterBait included. Certainly, the HellraiZer is different. And now, anglers can amp up their surface strikes, adding a smaller-profile, 4-inch version of the incomparable topwater lure to their arsenals.
“I remember fishing the early versions of Ron Davis’ remarkable topwater lure and hoping I could keep it to myself for a while,” said Bryan Thrift, Z-Man pro. “After fishing the Z-Man HellraiZer the past few seasons, I can tell you this lure has an action and a vibration every angler needs to experience. The HellraiZer definitely has that familiar ChatterBait vibration, plus a sound and a swimming motion I’ve never seen in a topwater lure. The new 4-incher should be a natural, especially awesome for smallmouths or fishing ponds or anytime bass are focused on smaller forage.”
“After designing the original ChatterBait,” said Davis, “I kept returning to my passion for topwater fishing for big bass and stripers, and potential ways to bring the distinct vibration of the ChatterBlade topside.”
In response to questions about the lure’s nonconformist appearance, Thrift likes to remind anglers that headlining the packaging on Davis’ original ChatterBait was a simple tagline: Simply designed to catch fish. Not fishermen.
“I think the same thinking applies to the HellraiZer,” said Davis.
A downsized clone of the original 5-incher, the new 4-inch HellraiZer is a self-walking surface lure presenting numerous ingenious elements. Each feature and component operate independently yet in complete symbiosis, producing a fluid, panicked fleeing action (and an alluring sound) predatory fish interpret as vulnerability.
Noticeably smaller in scale and stature — scaled like a fingerling preyfish — the 4-inch HellraiZer presents bass and other predators with an easy decision, an inconspicuous, easy to catch meal in a bite-sized preyfish silhouette.
“It’s got big smallmouth written all over it,” said Thrift. “But the downsized HellraiZer is also ideal for fishing around schools of baby shad and herring — or anytime bass are eating slightly smaller prey.
“I knew if I could duplicate the desirable sound and action of a ChatterBlade — make this the lure’s driving force — we’d have something that really grabbed the fish’s attention,” said Davis, who exclusively casts lures of his own design.
From the beginning, Davis endeavored to create a very specific topwater action.
“We worked for a long time to make the lure’s movements resemble something alive and frenzied, like a crippled fish or a fleeing critter,” said Davis. “We’ve all seen how prey swims with these almost dizzy, disoriented side-to-side surface movements — always propelled by a tail or kicking back legs. It’s not a restrained, mechanical walk-the-dog action, but a faster-paced, naturally panicked, splashy action you might mistake for a real animal in distress. When you see it in the water, you feel like it’s alive.”
To achieve ChatterBait-like vibration and flash, Davis designed a precisely weighted tail blade to trail the lure’s body and create the illusion of natural propulsion; to mimic the chaotic tail and leg kicks of a prey animal in distress. Oscillating on a through-wire shaft, direct-connected to the lure’s body, Davis’ modified ChatterBlade drives the lure’s energetic action and proven vibration.
While traditional walk-the-dog surface lures require practice and a certain stop-and-go cadence to properly activate their back-and-forth motions, the HellraiZer merely requires the angler to start reeling the moment the lure hits the water. Change the tempo as needed, going from a slow crawl to a speedy surface retreat.
To produce such self-activated slashing action, Davis carved a distinctive body shape — slender, elongated and finished with an eyelet and split ring strategically planted in the lure’s chin, well back from its nose. Davis wasn’t content until he achieved a specific side-to-side fleeing action, and that required him to position the lure’s line-tie in a non-traditional location.
Endowed with a strike-focusing feathered treble hook trailing the blade on an elongated shaft, the HellraiZer boasts high-percentage hooksets. Connection rates are further elevated by virtue of the lure’s low-riding posture.
“When you retrieve the HellraiZer, it sits at an angle, head up and out of the water, while the entire tail section runs well below the surface,” said Thrift. “This makes it difficult for bass or other species to blow it out of the water and miss.”
The combination of the attractor treble hook — which spotlights the strike target — and the lure’s low-riding design prompt fish to engulf and eat it. The hook is also free to rotate on its shaft, further preventing bass from coming unbuttoned on headshakes or jumps.
Like a buzzbait, Thrift explains that retrieving the HellraiZer begins by immediately cranking the lure to the surface. From there, a simple straight retrieve — rodtip pointed slightly down — activates the HellraiZer’s frenzied, fleeing action.
“A straight, medium to fast retrieve works awesome,” said Thrift. “Fish it the same way you work a ChatterBait. You can also slow it way down and still maintain that palpable vibration and cool wakebait-like action. The blade creates that awesome ChatterBait sound, adding a visual bubble trail that leads bass right to the feathered treble hook.
“Throw it over submerged grass, docks and riprap. The HellraiZer’s an exceptional lure late in summer and fall, especially during blueback herring runs. Heck, I’ve even caught some really big redfish with it. And as noted, stripers and smallmouths absolutely destroy this thing. While fish haven’t really seen this action in a surface lure before, the HellraiZer certainly looks like something alive. That means it’s always a great choice, especially when anglers are throwing traditional surface lures.”
Available in October, the new 4-inch (3/8-ounce) Z-Man HellraiZer casts like a bullet and works at almost any retrieve speed. Ten blade/body color combinations cover any water color or fishing situation, including Ghost Shad, Snow, and Matte Black for low light conditions. MSRP $12.99.
For more information, visit www.zmanfishing.com.