Call it a ruse. An evolutionary act of deception. An athletic, evasive action, not unlike the quick-footed sidestep of a running back. In water, a crab’s forward-facing eyes and claws trick predators into thinking slow, straightforward easy meal. But when a redfish or tarpon attacks, a crab launches into an unexpected sideways flush of bubbles and debris. Claws and appendages fold back and trail its shell in an oddball orientation that doesn’t make sense.

Unless you’re a crab.

In which case, the sideways sashay offers your best means of escape; and your worst chance to survive. All of which explains the excitement surrounding Z-Man’s new Kicker CrabZ™, the first-ever true-to-life imitation of a crab’s active, side-swimming, claw-kicking antics.

“While anglers today can choose from a pile of different soft plastic crab imitations, few are angler friendly, and exactly none of them match the way a crab truly swims when fleeing predators,” suggests Daniel Nussbaum, Kicker CrabZ designer and president of Z-Man Fishing. “We’re especially eager to get this new ElaZtech® inshore bait in angler’s hands because it not only moves just like a side-swimming crab, but it also matches the active way most anglers prefer to cast and retrieve lures.

 

“Think of it as a lively crab swimbait for big predators on the hunt,” adds Z-Man inshore saltwater pro Captain C.A. Richardson, “As opposed to something you just throw out there and soak in place, which fish may or may not eventually find. The Kicker CrabZ swims with the exact same mode of transportation predatory redfish and other species encounter when foraging for crabs in the wild—and that means they absolutely crush it.”

 

Sculpted with a realistic profile and streamlined, castable body contour, the Z-Man 3.5-inch Kicker CrabZ exhibits segmented legs, large beady eyes and protruding antennae. An accentuated, paddletail-like kicker claw adds to the illusion, thumping and waggling at all retrieve speeds, including on the fall. Visually, the claw precisely copycats the trailing pincer of a real crab as it flutters through the water. When you pause it, the Kicker CrabZ’ buoyant ElaZtech composition prompts the claw to elevate and strike a pose, copycatting a crab’s menacing defensive posture. Drop the bait into a swarm of fleeing crabs and it might become a Where’s Waldo? scenario.

The Kicker CrabZ’ distinctive swimming claw offers visual appeal and tasty crustacean vibes.

“Crabs represent a significant forage species for redfish, trout, tarpon and other inshore predators,” notes Nussbaum. “But most of the available soft plastic imitations are pretty one-dimensional—they don’t act like real crabs— which rarely sit motionless on bottom for long. While deadsticking a crab might work for super technical sight fishing, it’s not so good for covering water or fishing the way most people are accustomed to actively casting and retrieving.

 

“Because it’s designed to swim sideways, we built the Kicker CrabZ with a streamlined shape that casts much better than other pre-rigged crabs that tend to helicopter through the air—mostly due to awkward hook placement and a wide profile.”

 

Easy to rig and fun to fish, the aerodynamic, angler-friendly Kicker CrabZ casts well in wind and can be crawled along the bottom or swum in classic paddletail swimbait fashion. In other words, the versatile, lively little crustacean moves and responds just like a crab under duress.

 

For straight-retrieve stability, Z-Man crafted the bait with a special keeled belly that keeps it upright yet shimmying ever so slightly. To ease weedless rigging, a dorsal hook pocket offers protection until a fish crunches down, compresses the soft material and exposes the hookpoint. Composed of ecologically safe, 10X Tough ElaZtech, the Kicker CrabZ is both deceptively soft and durable—for the highest fish-per-bait ratio available.

The first-of-its-kind side-kicking crab swimbait, devised by the inshore saltwater pros at Z-Man Fishing.

Z-Man’s easy-to-rig Kicker CrabZ body accepts a variety of weighted hooks and jigheads already in most anglers’ boxes. Rigged on a 3/0 or 4/0 Z-Man ChinlockZ™ SWS hook, the buoyant Kicker CrabZ sinks slowly and can be slow-rolled just beneath the surface or allowed to spiral toward bottom. Rigging the bait on an ¼-ounce or heavier articulated jighead like the SnakelockZ™ or Texas Eye™ yields active swimming through the water column or hopping and slowly crawling the Kicker CrabZ along the bottom. A Pro BulletZ™ jighead is another perfect match, especially where weedless rigging is required.

 

“In Florida, I’ve been having a blast slow-rolling the Kicker CrabZ on a 3/0 ChinlockZ hook across shallow, 2-foot flats,” notes Richardson. “You can use the bait to cover quite a bit of water, blind-casting. Rigged on a lighter-weight ChinlockZ hook, the Kicker CrabZ stays up close to the surface where predators frequently encounter and snack on crabs in nature. Lately, speckled trout have been hammering it.”

 

For redfish and black drum, Richardson has found great success while sight fishing, rigging the Kicker CrabZ on a heavier ¼-ounce Pro BulletZ jighead. Tarpon, too. “We’ve got these big hill tides that drain huge shallow flats, where hundreds of thousands of crabs flush right through narrow passes,” adds Richardson. “Tarpon watch for crabs flying by and clinging to vegetation in the tide, picking them off grass patties like potato chips. It’s been a perfect scenario for swimming the Kicker CrabZ on a jighead.”

Testament to the bait’s convincing illusion, redfish and other inshore predators nearly always inhale and attempt to kill the bait. Nussbaum, who frequently slow-rolls, hops and drags the bait in front of tailing reds, offers a thrilling glimpse of the Kicker CrabZ’ allure: “You can’t believe the ferocity with which redfish eat this bait—the polar opposite of a subtle bite. No matter how you fish the Kicker CrabZ, redfish flat out crush it; they’re so convinced it’s real that they immediately inhale the bait and try to pulverize its shell with the pharyngeal teeth in their throats, completely convinced they’ve just eaten a real saltwater snack.”

 

A first-of-its-kind crab imitation that precisely mimics a live, sideways swimming crab, the new Z-Man 3.5-inch Kicker CrabZ is set for retail release in July 2022. Featuring ten alluring inshore patterns, including Blue Claw, Slam Shady and Redfish Toad, the Kicker CrabZ comes in 3-packs, MSRP $4.99. For more information, visit www.zmanfishing.com.