Out of the five biggest fish I have caught in my life, four have come on a ChatterBait, including my personal best – a 9-pounder I caught this year on Sam Rayburn during the first Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event.
Why does a ChatterBait get the big bites? I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of thump and vibration generated. It mimics a large baitfish, enticing even the most finicky bass for an easy meal. From my personal experience, the Jack Hammer catches the largest bass in the lake, but it will also produce numbers of bites. That’s a winning combination in a tournament, or just for a fun day on the water.
The best time of year for catching a big bass no matter the bait is during the prespawn. Fishing a ChatterBait in the prespawn through the spawn is very effective because it matches the shad, perch and bluegill that are primary forage of bass as the bass get ready to spawn. I like to target spawning areas and prespawn staging areas, especially areas that contain milfoil and hydrilla. Vegetation serves as cover to give the bass a place to hide to ambush baitfish. Baitfish also gravitate to areas with vegetation for protection.
When fishing this grass, I like to reel with a steady retrieve. Don’t worry if you get hung up; ripping the ChatterBait out of grass leads to reaction strikes as the bait flies past the bass in an erratic way. If you’re fishing an area that does not have grass, you can also impart this action by pausing your bait or twitching the rod tip.
Let’s talk about the bite. When you get a bite on a ChatterBait, you often feel the blade simply stop vibrating when the fish has sucked it up. I like fishing a ChatterBait on a glass rod, which isn’t quite as sensitive as a graphite rod, so I don’t rip the bait away from the bass too quickly. I think I get a better hookup. When setting the hook on a ChatterBait fish, I like to reel into the fish and give a hard pull, rather than a snapping hookset. This buries the hook in the mouth, minimizing the risk of pulling the bait away from the fish.
In terms of rod selection, I recommend the Favorite Phantom Phat Glass Cranking rod in both the 741 (7 feet, 4 inches) and 761 (7 feet, 6 inches) models with an Ardent Apex Grand in a 7.3:1 gear ratio and 17-pound-test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon. A glass cranking rod allows for optimum control of the fish when hooked because it flexes and prevents the fish from gaining leverage and coming unbuttoned.
Let’s talk about the ChatterBait itself. I will use a variety of skirt and blade colors depending on conditions. In slightly stained water where bluegill are the predominant forage, I typically will choose a green pumpkin skirt and trailer with a black blade. When shad are the primary forage, I choose a silver blade with a white skirt and trailer. In dirty water, a gold blade and a gold shiner or chartreuse color will stand out and be more visible to the fish. In Florida or anywhere with a large population of golden shiners, I will also fish a gold blade.
For the trailer, I typically choose a minnow bait such as the RaZor ShadZ for its very erratic tail action. The ChatterBait is totally customizable. Adding a trailer to your ChatterBait provides you the option to upsize or downsize the lure profile, as well as to mimic the forage size and color.
The depth I’m fishing will dictate the weight of the ChatterBait. In 4 feet or shallower, I fish a 3/8-ounce ChatterBait. From 5 to 12 feet, I fish 1/2 ounce, and then size up to a 3/4-ounce or even a 1 1/4-ounce bait when fishing deeper.
Give these tips a try. If you commit to throwing a ChatterBait this spring, you’re sure to catch some nice bass.