Indeed. I don't really buy the whole "Zek started rumours" thing. IMO it doesn't match with the still menacing and devious Ferengi we saw through the middle seasons of TNG before DS9 ensured they'd be dumbed down (while admittedly being nicely developed as a species, just not like they were at the start).
I like to think that the nice big ships we saw were the Galaxy-class explorers of the Ferengi, big, powerful and out to make contact with new worlds and civilizations - to sell and buy stuff. Their crews and Captains would be tougher, more militarized, and more aligned with a central Ferengi government (no doubt because they were paid more). They'd even wear uniforms to distinguish themselves as a unified force, some even wearing fur at the discretion of their Captains (you'll note that underneath the furry bits there were elements of the "standard" Ferengi uniform we'd come to know later).
We were catching those ships and their less merciful commanders in those early years as they expanded into contact with the Federation and company. Then, inasmuch as new worlds and new civilizations were supposed to contact a grand and awesome Galaxy-class Starship first, after everyone knew about them, those ships and their crews moved on to new territories, and we are left to deal with the smaller ships and the civilian merchant fleet.
PS - The LAZER WHIP was sorta also seen in ENT "Acquisition" where the Neelix-Ferengi guy had one. THAT one however looked more like a regular whip and not some big blue sex toy.