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State Record Seatrout Gobbles Z-Man® ElaZtech® Bait
Scented Jerk ShadZ™ and HeadlockZ HD™ Jighead shatters 61-year-old NC record
Todd Spangler’s morning started off with one big bite—and a tidal wave of high-fives. Approximately 8am on Wednesday, February 9, Spangler hooked a new North Carolina state record spotted seatrout—the biggest of the species landed on hook and line in 61 years. A few hours after officially weighing the monster inshore specimen, Spangler and his friend Josh Hamby returned to the water for a few more casts.
A phosphate miner and veteran inshore saltwater angler from Merritt, North Carolina, Spangler hooked the 12-pound 8-ounce seatrout on a 4-inch Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ and 1/8-ounce HeadlockZ HD jighead. The record-breaking trout, which measured 33-1/2-inches with an 18-inch girth, bested the previous, six-decade-old state record caught at Wrightsville Beach by four ounces.
“It was our first bite of the day,” recalls Spangler, who was fishing a creek mouth on the Neuse River when something cracked his ‘Dark N Stormy’ pattern Jerk ShadZ. “I’d been retrieving the bait by popping it up and letting it fall back to the bottom—trying to imitate a shrimp—when I felt a sharp little thump, almost right below the boat. My initial thought was that it struck like a smaller trout, but when I felt the big head shakes and screaming drag, my buddy and I thought we’d hooked a sizeable striped bass.
“A few minutes into the fight, we saw a broad silvery flash, which further fooled us into thinking striper,” Spangler said. “This time of year, we’re mostly targeting seatrout, which bunch up in big numbers in these creeks during the winter. We often catch redfish and stripers, too, but striper season is closed.”
Spangler said the fish pulled with a force and ferocity he’d never experienced in a seatrout. In North Carolina, all harvested spotted seatrout must measure at least 14-inches. A member of the drum (Sciaenidae) family, seatrout offer exceptional sport along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Known for its prominent canine teeth, distinct black spots, and an elongated dorsal fin, the seatrout remains one of the most popular inshore sportfish in North America.
“It was really bulldogging, doing big powerful head shakes. But, other than one big surface boil, mostly it stayed down and never gave us a good look. Just kept pulling the whole time—maybe 5 or 6 minutes—before I saw what it was. When I finally realized it was a monster trout, I got pretty excited and ordered Josh to grab the net. Man, I was so pumped—and that was before we even had a clue the fish was a potential record breaker. I’d never seen a trout like that before. Just an absolute giant.”
As the anglers marveled at the enormous trout in the net, curiosity compelled them to weigh the fish on Spangler’s old digital scale. “The readout showed 12.52 pounds,” noted Spangler. “But we weren’t sure that cheap old scale was giving an accurate weight. Josh looked up the current state record on his phone and I knew by his expression that we might have a special trout on board.”
They decided to quickly load the boat and drive to Neuse River Bait & Tackle in nearby Grantsboro. “We weighed the fish on a certified scale there, which also read exactly 12.52 pounds. Then, we had to wait almost three hours for a state biologist to arrive and certify its official size (12.50 pounds.) We had every intention of releasing the fish and did everything we could to keep it alive in aerated, saltwater bait tanks, but unfortunately, it just didn’t survive.”
Spangler, who builds his own tackle, caught the monster trout on a custom-made 6-foot 6-inch medium action spinning rod. “I’d just finished building that rod a week before catching the fish. It has a lot of sentimental value. My dad and I took a rod-building course about ten years ago. Today, I only fish rods I build myself.”
At the end of his line was one of Spangler’s favorite inshore saltwater baits. “I’ll often tie on a single Jerk ShadZ at the start of a trip and catch fish with it all day long,” he said. “Four or five outings later, I’ve still got the same bait on the hook. That’s how tough these ElaZtech® baits are. And I sort of believe they get better as fish put little tears and rips in the material. Heck, I’ll even pull a little section of the plastic up from the head and thread it over the jighead eye, which holds the bait into place, even after it’s gotten pretty torn up. No way you can do that with other plastics.”
For added attraction, Spangler occasionally re-applies Pro-Cure scent to his Jerk ShadZ. “These baits are pre-scented with Pro-Cure. It soaks right into the material like a sponge. But once it wears off after an hour or so, I’ll add a few more drops. Sticks to the bait like glue.”
Confident in certain, favorite bait colors, Spangler caught his record trout on Z-Man’s special Dark N Stormy hue, a pattern concocted by Z-Man pro Captain C.A. Richardson. “It’s sort of an electric purple color with silver flake that just lights up and comes alive in the water,” Spangler observes. “I’ve caught a lot of fish on that pattern—on the Jerk ShadZ, as well as the 3-inch MinnowZ™ and larger DieZel MinnowZ™.”
To effectively deliver the Jerk ShadZ, Spangler used a 3/0 1/8-ounce Z-Man HeadlockZ HD™ jighead. “I like that particular jighead because its keeper pins the bait to the hook and holds it in place better than anything I’ve tried. I’m also a big fan of Eye Strike Trout Eye™ jigs, which have these great big fish-attracting eyes.”
No sooner had a North Carolina state fisheries biologist certified the trout as the new state record, Spangler and his buddy decided to return to the water for a few more casts— further cementing his status as a legit, hardcore angler. “I work 12 hour shifts and put in a lot of overtime,” says Spangler. “I’m lucky, my wife and two kids let me fish 2 or 3 times a week.”
That same day, Spangler and his buddy caught five more trout and a couple legal-sized red drum. “We capped the outing with nice big 5-pound trout, which we immediately released. Perfect end to a day we’ll never forget.”
About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among 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 innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide.
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