The Zonker is a classic fly pattern that was initially designed to target trout and salmon. However, it has found some good applications for local species such as bass, saratoga, flathead, bream and many others.
The slow sink rate of the Zonker limits its use at times. When targeting deep schools of bass or for fishing in fast flowing currents, I found a need for a version that would sink faster and be fished deeper. The Deep Zonker was born after trying several different ways to add a little weight to this pattern and works exceptionally well, often getting engulfed as it sinks.
To get the Zonker to sink deeper, I obviously had to add some weight to this pattern. Even though I could have just added weighted eyes or wrapped a heap of lead wire around the hook shank, I believed this would compromise the Zonker’s clean lines and action. I didn’t want to make the fly too different in appearance to the original pattern; I just wanted it heavier so it could sink faster.
Zonker tape is classically made from zinc or aluminium and is fairly light, however, I managed to source some lead tape, which could be used in its place. This was almost heavy enough alone, however, to add a little more weight I also added a strip of lead wire along the back of the hook shank. This lead wire also stopped the lead tape from spinning on the round hook shank and provided a wider adhesion point for the Zonker strip.
This shaped body section was classically covered with mylar tubing, however to provide less resistance in the water I decided to cover it with an adhesive prism tape. This also opens up the possibilities for customising your fly, as reflective tape comes in a huge array of colours and finishes.
Zonker strips are thin strips of rabbit fur and are available in more than 20 colours, which also allows plenty of opportunity for different fly finishes.
The fine hair on the Zonker wafts enticingly when the fly is stripped and between strips as it sinks. The Zonker works effectively by enticing fish throughout the entire retrieve.
I use several different stripping techniques with the Deep Zonker. One is similar to that used when fishing clousers and other weighted flies. It consists of several short, sharp strips with a pause to allow the fly to again sink. This sees it imitating a wounded baitfish or a panicked prawn and will usually solicit strikes from any fish in the area.
When probing faster flowing waters, such as the southern rivers where bass, cod, goldens and other species thrive, I find that a single strip and pause in between works well. This strip is particularly effective in areas with prominent current flow because the Deep Zonker imitates a baitfish struggling against the current and momentarily tiring.
The Deep Zonker can be tied in XOS sizes on 7/0 Owner Long Shank hooks for targeting those mega Murray cod in the western rivers or even down to a size 10 for finicky New England rainbow trout.
I have used a stinger pattern hook for this pattern, which possess a thin, yet strong, wire construction, short point and small barb. A hungry bass or saratoga just has to sniff at this fly and he is hooked with this hook pattern.
(1) Place the hook securely in the vice and attach the thread with a jamb knot just behind the eye of the hook. Take a strip of large lead wire, straighten it and lay it along the back of the hook shank. Use a series of wraps with your thread to affix it securely in this position.
(2) Secure the entire length of the lead wire to the back of the hook shank with a series of wraps. As you get to the bend of the hook, cut the lead wire at an angle so it can be tied off flush to the hook shank and finished neatly with thread wraps. Wrap back along the hook shank to just behind the eye of the hook.
Coat the entire thread section affixing the lead wire with some head cement. Cut a strip of lead tape that is roughly as long as the hook shank. It is going to be folded around the hook shank so needs to be at least twice the desired body profile in width.
(3) Peel the backing from the lead tape and mould it around the hook shank and back onto itself so it is fastened together and securely in place. Take an old pair of scissors and trim the lead tape body to shape. I use a basic minnow profile as shown but you have the flexibility to make any shape you desire.
Make sure that you have good clearance between the hook point and the lead tape to ensure maximum hook-up potential.
(4) Remove the backing strip from your adhesive reflective tape and then fold it around the lead tape whilst pressing from top to bottom to eliminate the chance of air bubbles between the lead and adhesive tapes. These would affect the action and sink rate of the fly.
(5) Trim the adhesive reflective tape to the same shape as the lead tape. Cut the end of your Zonker strip into an arrow shape and then affix it securely to just behind the eye of the hook with a series of thread wraps. Whip finish, cut away the remaining thread and add a little head cement to the thread.
The hair on the Zonker should face towards the rear of the fly as shown, however I do know some anglers who tie it forward in Mohawk fashion for a similar fly called the Razorback. Mix some 5-minute epoxy and attach the eyes into position as shown. Whilst holding the Zonker strip up, apply some epoxy to the underside of the skin.
(6) Hold the Zonker in place whilst the epoxy dries. Trim the tail section if necessary so that the skin section of the Zonker is no longer than twice the length of the hook shank, as shown. You can coat the entire belly section with epoxy but I find this fly is durable enough as it is.
You will need to epoxy the eyes on as their own adhesive properties are not strong enough to survive repetitive casting. The belly section on the actual fly I tied for this column looks a lot better in real life, however the full effect can’t be seen here due to the flash photography.
Your Deep Zonker is finished and ready to be put into use, so get off your bum and get out there.
|Hook:||Mustad C52S BLN 1/0|
|Thread:||Flat-waxed nylon – black|
|Underbody:||Lead wire – large|
|Belly:||Lead tape – adhesive|
|Overbelly:||Self adhesive tape – pearl fishscale|
|Back:||Zonker strip – purple|
|Eye:||Hologram 3D 5/32 – silver|