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Swimbait Review

 

Illude Lunker Fighters Zombie Gerbil A Deadly Walker (continued)

Dexterity: It took me a little bit of experimentation to unlock the full potential of the Zombie Gerbil. At first, I fell into the trap of trying to fish it the exact same way as the Rad Rat, which involves a combination of twitches upon landing and mostly straight retrieves. The Zombie Gerbil has a much shorter and stouter profile and is also taller, which complements the lure's flat joint, providing a larger surface area to create a high-pitched clack as the two sections make contact.


The Zombie Gerbil is still light enough to fish all day with the right setup

Though the Zombie Gerbil can be fished with a straight retrieve or cranked quickly to generate a wake, the lure is primarily designed to be a surface walking style bait. This is how I draw the majority of strikes on the Zombie Gerbil, by positioning it near or over structure and twitching and walking the bait. The Zombie comes to life with a combination of rod tip twitches and handle cranks, turning and rocking back and forth, generating both a loud clack and plenty of water movement. It's entertaining just watching this bait mimic a struggling gerbil.


Notice how high the Zombie sits in the water thanks to the bait's height. This bait is designed to walk

I would say that 70% of my Rad Rat or Zombie Rat catches come on a straight retrieve. The opposite is true with the Gerbil, as the majority of strikes seem to come when the lure is walked. I discussed these findings with Lendl, who explained, "the zombie gerbil was designed with a short and stout profile for a nice meal. It was actually made intended only for walking. A lot of people seem to think when they see a lipped bait that it will work like a crankbait, but it's definitely not designed to fish like a crankbait. You may be able to slow roll it and get a nice wake from it, but it was truly designed for walking."


I fished the Zombie many different ways, and while a straight retrieve works at times most strikes came from walking the bait in calm water

I've seen and heard the original Narle Gerbil in action but never personally owned one. I wanted to talk more about the original design and how it compares to the Zombie directly with Lendl, and whether we would see more Narle Gerbils produced in the future.


The Zombie Gerbil is an excellent bait in low light situations and for night fishing where fish key in on vibration and sound

"The Gerbil wood version lacked consistency. Not in action but in the orientation of how it sat on the water. It was very inconsistent due to the characteristics of wood. Although the wood version performed perfectly well with a high pitch clacking that we loved, we couldn't continue to build further batches," Lendl explained. "The Zombie resin version was much more consistent in orientation when sitting in the water, which people preferred. To be honest, when a bait is lacking, even though it performs perfectly well, we'll stop producing it because we don't want customers to be disappointed with the bait."


Comparing the Zombie Gerbil with a newer Gas Rat. Notice the difference in the wider coffin lip design on the Gas Rat (right) which creates a wider movement during constant retrieves

While the original Narle Gerbil is undoubtedly a fish catcher, the lack of consistency in how it sits in the water ultimately made it difficult to continue building the original. Lendl explained that the reason some of the original Narle Gerbils lean to one side or the other is because any given section of wood can be more or less porous, and some sections may even have knots. This will affect a bait like the Gerbil even more due to its short and stout dimensions.


Like other Illude and Lunker Fighters rats the Zombie Gerbil comes with rotating hooks and high quality Gamakatsu hooks

One thing that many anglers may not know about the Illude wood baits, like the Rad Rat, is that Lendl doesn't weigh down the wood with any extra weights to try and balance them out. Lendl lets the wood naturally react to the environment and how it is retrieved. This is a mind-blowing fact considering how difficult it is to make a wood bait sit or react in any consistent way. It also explains why Illude baits are so hard to produce, and why big bait enthusiasts treasure them.


Another rat-style compact bait is the wood-based Throwback Bad Bunny

Drawing Power: The Zombie Gerbil gets bit and is especially effective when walked. The large flat joint produces a loud clack, and I found it effective in low-light situations and deadly when night fishing. It should not be ruled out for use in bright daylight either; while fish are less likely to eat it in the middle of the day, I was able to draw a surprising number of strikes during the afternoon hours on warmer days. Whether fish are looking for an opportunistic meal or just irritated with the Gerbil, they seem eager to test the bait when worked over points or alongside structure. I also had success drawing strikes by varying my retrieve and mixing in pauses.


Though the Zombie is most deadly in low light it also catches in broad daylight when walked aggressively and is also very good for calling fishing out from structure like docks because it can be twitched and walked virtually in place

Vitality: One of the obvious benefits of the Zombie's resin construction is durability. The only issue I have experienced is the top of an eye coming off one bait after catching multiple fish, as well as the typical hook points and wear over time. Unlike wood baits, hooks will only scratch the surface rather than gouge out the sides of the wood.


Embracing the Zombie theme this fun colorway is complete with blood splatter

The clear lip has held up on all my baits, and the 2X Gamakatsu treble hooks are some of my favorites for swimbaits of this size. The stainless triple-coil split rings have never failed, and the hand-poured tail is my favorite soft plastic tail on the market. Many other swimbait builders source their tails from Illude because they look great, hold up to countless vicious strikes, float, can be tailored to any size, and are available in a wide range of opaque and translucent colorways.


The screw in tail in so seamless on the Zombie. As usual the attention to detail in the Illude Lunker Fighters baits is excellent

There is no doubt that the Zombie Gerbil will hold up better over time than the wood-based Narle Gerbil, and when I compare the overall durability of this bait versus other custom resin rats, it is right up there among the best of them in terms of both body and paint durability.


A solid fish on the Zombie Gerbil at magic hour

Next Section: Durability, Price and a New Acid Rat

 

   

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