A recent interview with Brett Hite took me to ChatterBait utopia, and I wondered where we’d go from here. Not long ago – just back in 2008 – the lure was having a coming-out party all across America as Hite, Bryan Thrift and others were racking up big paydays on the world’s richest bass trails, and eager anglers followed suit. Fast-forward a decade or so, and every bass fisherman around owns a ChatterBait, and most throw it with regularity. In fact, as I’ve stated before, I’d wager a ChatterBait is the most popular lure in America today.
Regardless, there’s a lot more to this thing than the original goofy-looking jig. Today, Z-Man Fishing Products manufacturers no less than 15 versions at last count, with more on the way. Recently, I had the opportunity to do a little content work for Z-Man, giving me a look at some new arrivals.
My first underwater video session with a ChatterBait proved what I had thought all along: the lure makes a racket. Despite having no sound chamber or rattles, all versions of the bladed jig make a lot of noise as the line tie bangs against the blade, the blade against the head.
And it’s that blade that holds the secret. Who in the world ever figured out the shape of that thing is beyond me; maybe it coincides with the coffin-bill on some hand-carved crankbaits. Regardless, the blade renders the bait both seductive and somewhat snag-proof, capable of dissecting the snag-filled lair of ol’ bucketmouth.
Now, as time went on, one ChatterBait just wouldn’t do, and designers found ways to improve on the original. Hook mods were quick to happen, line ties were changed and changed back, skirts secured and even blade materials tweaked.
We’ve seen weedless versions, finesse models and those tailored for redfish. Hite’s pet Jackhammer proved that bass anglers will spend a few bucks to get just what they want, retail experts be damned. And now, there’s more.
A willow-leaf bladed model confirmed one of my early hunches: blade changes are the next frontier. While I’m no expert in underwater acoustics, most bass are. And I’d wager that a lot can be done to modify a ChatterBait and turn it into a whole new lure in terms of appeal.
We’re learning more each day about the “footprint” certain lures put out and how they appeal to a number of fish senses, including both sound and feel. I wonder just how much research has been done on the footprint of the ChatterBait, and what it looks like compared to, say, a square-billed crankbait.
Hite claims the value of the ChatterBait lies in its ability to function as many baits in one. “It hunts like a square-bill, looks like a swimbait and fishes like a spinnerbait,” he told me. But just what does it sound or feel like?
I’ve thought, too, about the Scrounger. Able to custom fit to just about any lead-headed bait, the scrounger has flown under the radar a bit recently, after being expanded to include offshore, heavy-weight versions, and firmly fitting into the arsenal of many ledge-fishing gurus. Again, here we saw the incorporation of feel added to tired techniques, renewing them in the eyes of pressured bass. I see ChatterBaits weighing more than an ounce are now offered, as are swing-head versions. Will these take over the deep-water game?
Perhaps the greatest attribute of the ChatterBait lies in its efficiency. A common theme among the greatest anglers often centers around this concept, both in fresh- and saltwater. He who makes the most casts wins. And a ChatterBait will keep you fishing. Include the indestructible plastics many anglers are choosing for trailers, add a drop of Super Glue, and you’re pretty much set for the day. Cast, wind, repeat. Pretty simple.
But I still feel there’s more to it than that. Somewhere in the near future, I predict, we will see an expansion of this technique the likes of which we have not yet. You see, the bladed jig game is a whole new category – like the jig itself, or the spinnerbait – waiting to go to new heights.
Perhaps things are still too easy. Like the spinnerbait in the glory days, one can still catch a pile of fish just running down the bank throwing a ChatterBait. Its Bill Dance all over again.
But a time will come when bass will begin to shy away from the usual, if they haven’t already. And when those days are upon us, savvy anglers will take ChatterBaiting to a whole new level, mark my word.
Pondering for just a minute, I can come up with about a dozen different head designs for spinnerbaits, and the same amount for jigs. Perhaps the ChatterBait renaissance will start there. Or maybe it’s time to consider additional sound, as was the case with hard-rattling cranks. Will there someday be a Rat-L-Chatter? Crazier things have happened. A topwater? Could be.
In any case, the sky’s the limit, as we all know. There’s likely some Chatter-craze developers working on it right now. Just don’t tell the bass. Yet.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)