Author: Rob Belloni
The BBZ-1 was released to the public in 2006. BBZ stands for Big Bass Zone, a reference to Bill Siemantel's book with the same name. The BBZ-1 comes in three colors: flat rainbow, rainbow trout, and silver fish. There is one size (8") and three sink rates: fast sink, slow sink, and floating. The baits retail for a click under $40 and come stock with 1/0 Gamakatsu 2x trebles (black) and Spro's Power Split Rings.
The BBZ-1 has a mechanical look to it out of the water, so when I got the lure what I really wanted to see was how it looked in the water. My first impression -- I was impressed. The BBZ-1 tracks perfectly straight in the water as fast as you can reel it. When you consider how many baits there are on the market that do not swim straight, that by itself is an accomplishment.
Not only does the BBZ-1 swim true, it also swims with a realistic action at all speeds. You can twitch the lure, rip it, or kill it and let it glide off -- in every case the BBZ-1 maintains its balance. Surprisingly, the lure does not foul on itself very often either. Most lip-less baits will grab the hooks if you throw too much slack in the line, but even when I tried to make the BBZ-1 foul itself, it did not.
The matte finish and large gaps between the body sections looked awkward out of the water, but in the water neither of these characteristics bothered me. It takes some guts for a manufacturer to incorporate features in to a lure that look bad on the shelf, but good in the water. That Spro made this leap is worth noting, and applauding. From an appearance standpoint I also liked the fact that the BBZ-1 fins and tail are color matched to the body. I hate when soft plastic components do not match with hardbait bodies, and was glad to see Spro get this right.
Durability wise, the BBZ-1 ranks an 8.5 out of 10 in my book. I put 5 hours in on the fast-sink model, fishing it hard, and came away with just a few tick marks and paint scratches around the back edges of the joints. The lure does beat on itself in the joints, but even if you do lose some of the top layer paint -- the primer coat is silver/gray so the lure still looks reasonably fish-like.
Another thing I liked about the BBZ-1 was the fact that the sink rates of the lure actually matched up with my expectations. I was expecting the fast-sink to be more of a slow-sink. I was also anticipating that the fast sink would have diminished swimming action because of the additional weight needed to pull the lure down. Neither of these fears were realized when I put the fast-sink model in the water. The lure sank out on a fast clip and swam with fluid action back to the boat. I dig that.
The stock hardware on the BBZ-1 is adequate, if not excellent. The hooks are sharp, and the split rings are strong. I would consider changing the hooks for stripers, or if you are slightly paranoid about big bass bending them out. Although the 2x rating on the Gamakatsu sounds comforting, I have bent out this exact model of hook before on largemouth bass. Regardless, it is nice that for $40 you get a lure that is ready to go out of the box.
Which brings me to the topic of price. $40 is a remarkable retail price point for what you get in the BBZ-1. Granted, this is a made in China product (I believe OEM'd by River2Sea) but you can't deny the fact that it is durable, realistic, and uses high quality components. Before the BBZ-1, virtually all of the big trout-imitating hardbaits were made by small manufacturers in the U.S.A. That a company like Spro was willing to go to China and do the volume says something about the swimbait market as a whole. That the end product turned out to be decent was surprising to me, and may say something about where swimbait manufacturing is going in the future.
Oh yea, you may be wondering if the BBZ-1 catches fish. From what I gather, it sure sounds like it does. The lure hasn't lit the world on fire, but I do hear the occasional BBZ-1 report, and it seems as though the BBZ-1 is here to stay.
The number one complaint in the first few months after the BBZ-1 was released was that the fins fell off. Ah, the perils of manufacturing overseas. There were emails and posts on Internet forums explaining how to get fin kits and do fin repair. It was something of a debacle, and put a bad taste in a lot of first time BBZ-1 users mouths. My understanding is that this problem is fixed, and on my own baits I have not had this problem. I did observe some slight peeling up on the tail, but a dot of super glue gel fixed the problem. In any case, keep an eye on your fins and consider purchasing a fin replacement kit along with your BBZ-1.
I feel like Spro did a decent job on the stock colors, but it would have been nice to see some additional options. How about a dark rainbow with heavy black spots and blue haze parr marks, or a baby bass pattern with pale yellow fins? Or perhaps a hitch edition with a forked tail? Additions like this could have improved the BBZ-1 offering.
One aspect of the BBZ-1 that I debate over is the internal rattle. I can see situations where this very loud rattle can be a plus. I can see other situations where it could be too obnoxious, too loud, and actually a deterrent to the fish. This becomes nit-picky, but a silent version would be nice. CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK is not always a good thing.
My first 4 bites on the BBZ-1 all bounced off the lure. These were 3-6lb bass, which is on the small end of what this lure is designed for, but nonetheless I didn't like missing them. I'm not sure what the dynamic is that would cause fish not to stick, but I suspect the wide body of the lure coupled with the stubby fins and the fast speeds I was fishing all combined to cause the fish not to stick. The jury is still out for me on hookup ratio with the BBZ-1, but my caution would be that if you expect to put a lot of small ones in the boat on this thing for tournaments, don't get your expectations too high. For 7lb+ fish, hooking up should not be a problem.
Overall the BBZ-1 does some interesting things and provides a nice option for a fisherman looking to get in to the big hardbaits at a reasonable price. The lure is ready to go out of the box, moves well in the water, covers all depth ranges, and looks like a trout. For $40 it's hard not to put one in your box.