Fishing and Rigging the RonZ
December 17, 2010
Ron Poirier is one of those guys who loves to talk fishing. Get him started and you may hear some wonderful stories about his early years on Cape Cod, when he and his dad patrolled the beaches during the glory days of surf fishing.
While the era of beach buggy striper fishing along the Outer Cape is long over, Poirier is helping a new generation of New England fishermen forge their own memories. In the nearly 20 years since Poirier started RonZ Manufacturing, his lure has become a favorite among striper fishermen and, more recently, light-tackle tuna hunters. The RonZ’s popularity has even expanded into freshwater and tropical big-game venues, and is being fished for everything from trout to marlin.
Much thought, tinkering and testing went into the RonZ’s design, as members of the Buzzards Bay Anglers Club learned at Poirier’s entertaining and informative presentation at the club’s December meeting in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. While there are lots of soft-plastic baits on the market, the RonZ was designed to work as part of a “system” involving a unique, dedicated jig head. As such, Poirier’s unique Zhead jig heads are just as critical to the lure’s performance as the plastic tails.
As Poirier explained to the Anglers Club members, the RonZ system grew out of his commercial striper-fishing days on Cape Cod in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. A longtime surf fisherman, Poirier recalled how the growing population of seals along the Outer Cape forced fishermen to move offshore into deeper areas. Unfortunately, traditional bait-fishing techniques did not work in these areas because of the amount of dogfish, which made quick work of eels and chunk baits. The solution was to use big soft-plastic baits.
The commercially available soft-plastics Poirier and his friends first used took their share of fish, but Poirier found that many of the biggest bass would only follow the lure to the surface without striking. “At that point I knew it was all about the wiggle,” he said.
His Outer Cape experiences prompted Poirier to start experimenting with pouring his own jig heads and soft-plastics. Fortunately, at the time he was working for a company that specialized in injection-molded plastics, which gave him a head start on the manufacturing process. Since then, Poirier has built RonZ into a successful company that now sells to numerous tackle shops throughout the region and beyond. His lures range from a 4-inch size to 14-inch specialty models designed for tuna and marlin.
Building a System
The RonZ system starts with the Zhead, which are available in standard lead or tin. The tin heads weigh less than traditional lead heads, yet are able to reach the same depth in the same amount of time, thanks to their unique “knife-edge” arrowhead design that slices through the water. This can be important when using lighter, “finesse” tackle for working the lures more effectively near the bottom, especially in deep-water situations.
More importantly, the Zhead’s shape also gives the lure a realistic swimming action when it moves through the water. “I basically created an unstable vessel with the [arrowhead] design,” he explained. “The jig naturally wants to veer off to one side or the other, but the tail acts as a stabilizer and keeps it tracking straight, like the feathers on an arrow. The lure will basically fish itself.”
Indeed, many anglers enjoy success by simply “dead-sticking” the jig as the boat drifts with the wind or current. Of course, RonZ lures can also be trolled, cast and retrieved, or hopped over the bottom like a traditional jig, and have proven effective on bottom species such as fluke and sea bass.
Aside from their incredibly realistic action, the reason RonZ’s work so well is because of their fishlike profile when viewed from below—the direction from which most predators will approach the lure. Even though the long, tapered body resembles that of an eel or sand eel, when seen from below the profile matches that of a number of narrow-bodied prey species, from herring to mackerel to halfbeaks.
As Poirier demonstrated during his presentation, success with the RonZ, or any soft-plastic bait, hinges on how it’s rigged on the jig head. “Fish do not like crooked tails,” he said, explaining that a tail that is bunched or kinked on the hook will throw off its swimming action and alert the fish that something is amiss.
To aid in the rigging process, RonZ tails come with a premarked hole indicating where the hook point should exit. However, the angler still needs to insert the jig hook exactly in the center of the tail and thread it precisely through the center of the body to rig it right. Poirier recommended guiding the jig hook with your fingers as you thread it through the body.
RonZ tails are made of a very soft , flexible plastic. To keep them secured, the Zheads feature a special round barb, which holds the lure better than the sharp barbs found on some other jig heads and doesn’t tear the plastic.
Awesome for Tuna
As mentioned, RonZ lures have gained a huge following among bluefin tuna fishermen in recent years, and Poirier spent a good deal of time during the BBAC presentation discussing some of the gear and techniques being used to take tuna on his lures. While RonZ’s can be trolled for tuna, Poirier focused on the exciting, cutting-edge casting and jigging techniques being used by many top anglers and guides.
The challenge of beating a 200-plus-pound tuna on spinning gear has prompted leading tackle companies to come up with remarkably high-tech rod and reel designs. Case in point is the Van Staal Powerlite rods, which Poirier displayed at his presentation. The Powerlites feature alternating layers of fiberglass and graphite, and can dead-lift 38 pounds. That kind of strength is critical to landing a big tuna quickly and reducing the chances of equipment failure or the hook pulling loose. Carrying a retail price of $250, the rods are equipped with Alconite guides to withstand the abuse of braided line being repeatedly rubbed over their surface. (Other excellent spin rods for tuna include the Big Gun and Terez brands.)
Some of the top spinning reels being used for the bigger tuna in the last 2 seasons are made by Shimano (Stella models), Penn and Van Staal. These reels feature powerful drags and are usually spooled with 80-pound-test braid. Poirier prefers fluorocarbon leaders due to their ability to blend with the water, and uses mini crimps and chafing gear when attaching the leader to the jig. “Fluoro is hard and stiff; it does not like knots,” he explained.
Naturally, Poirier had to upgrade his Zheads to withstand the extremes of tuna fishing. His revolutionary 4X-strong Zheads, designed for use with his 10-inch tails, feature heavy-duty 9/0 Gamakatsu live-bait hooks that are connected to a swivel via a cotter pin that is molded into the jig head. This super-strong “no-fail” setup allows the hook to swing on the jighead, reducing the chance of the tuna gaining leverage on the hook during the fight and prying it free. The swinging hook also gives the lure more action.
“The 4X, 10-inch series is my number-one seller among tuna fishermen,” Poirier revealed. “That lure probably took over 1,000 fish last season.” The 4X series and 3X series Zheads are available in a variety of head sizes.
When casting RonZ’s to breaking tuna, Poirier explained how they often provide a big advantage over lighter, topwater lures. “When you find a school of busting tuna, there are usually a bunch of shearwaters around that like to dive and grab your lure. With the RonZ, cast it into or ahead of the school and let it sink below the range of the shearwaters, then begin your retrieve. Usually the fish will hook themselves.”
While some lure makers might be content to rest on their laurels, Poirier continues to come up with new ways to rig and fish his lures. He recently created a tiny 4-inch version of the RonZ for ice fishing, and is preparing to unveil a topwater bait called the White Ghost. New England fishermen will need to stay tuned!
Have you caught anything on a RonZ?
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