“This is it!? This is what all the fuss is about?” I wondered, when I finally got my hands on a ChatterBait lure. At first glance, you’d think it was just another bass jig, but you’d be mistaken. Bladed jigs, or vibrating jigs, commonly referred to by the original brand name, chatterbaits, work wonders when they hit water.
The original ChatterBait was the vision of Ron Davis of Greenwood, South Carolina. In 2003, he designed a vibrating jig that became a local phenomenon. Then, in 2006, several wins on the American tournament circuit vaulted the ChatterBait to national stardom. Orders soon overwhelmed Davis’ small business, and eager anglers turned to Ebay to bid for the coveted lure. The most willing shelled out over $100 per bait.
Soon Z-Man Fishing Lures took over manufacturing and the ChatterBait hit the market full bore. Success also brought a wave of copycat chatterbaits and the lures made their way to wherever bass live. Over time, the fanfare has quieted, but not the lure’s effectiveness. A hybrid between a swim jig and a spinnerbait, a chatterbait’s most distinguishing feature is its hexagonal metal lip. When cranked through the water, it vibrates, producing a wide wobble action and throbbing pulse. Although it doesn’t have as much flash as a spinnerbait, it swims much more seductively.
Good Enough for the Pros
LaSalle, Ont. native Casey Martin, now of New Hope, Alabama, is a huge believer in these vibrating jigs. In a way, he owes his professional fishing career to them. He’s the only Canadian to ever win an American national bass tournament. He finds these baits shine when bass are in cover or murky water, or when fishing pressure is overwhelming. “Chatterbaits are awesome. Alone they’re great — they have a wide erratic swim and produce a lot of vibration. When teamed up with a bulky trailer like a Turbo Craw or swimbait, the erratic motion produces realistic swimming action,” said Martin.
Martin perfected his bass tournament technique angling from the back of a pro angler’s boat, a less-than-ideal position. Despite the odds, he excelled, something he attributes to the versatility of chatterbaits.
One of Martin’s most exciting wins was at Lake Champlain along the border of New York and Vermont. Fishing thick weedbeds, he fired a green pumpkin chatterbait with matching swimbait trailer everywhere his pro angler took them over the course of the 3-day tournament. Martin caught smallmouth and largemouth and was able to use it both shallow and in the many grass beds that grow in the mid-depths. Jimmy Looi, of North York, Ont. is another big fan of vibrating jigs. Most summers, Looi can be found patrolling the bass-rich shallows of the Kawarthas or Bay of Quinte, where he finds the chatterbaits make super search baits. He likes to use them right after the season opener, before largemouth retreat to the bottom in heavy weed cover.
Looi targets bass inside grass lines, pads, cane, and other shallow cover. “Shallow for me is 1 to 3 feet of water,” explained Looi. “I keep the bait high and move it quickly, with a steady retrieve.” In late summer and early autumn, Looi targets the grass flats in the middepths. “I look for 8 to 14 feet of water and try to catch them there. These baits are a great alternative to a spinnerbait or crankbait,” said Looi. Hunting for active bass demands a quick tempo. This style of bait casts like a bullet and doesn’t wear you out like a big crankbait or spinnerbait. The trick is to keep the bait thumping. Looi usually targets grass with this bait and is a firm believer in braided fishing line.
If the bait fouls, he’ll snap the rod, quickly flicking off any weeds. “It’s easy to tell if the bait is running correctly by feeling its pulse as it swims. Braid slips through the grass better than mono and has the power to dig fish out of cover if it gets bogged down,” Looi explained. Every year I try to learn to fish one new lure. I was glad when I discovered the bladed jig. This bait deserves time knotted to your line. Chances are you’ll kick yourself for not trying it sooner.
First published in the March 2014 issue of Ontario OUT OF DOORS.