One of the most versatile lures within the jig family is the bladed jig, or more commonly known as the chatterbait. The chatterbait has characteristics which allow it to be fished as if it were a jig, a spinnerbait, or a crankbait. In cold water or on sunny, slick days when those bass are holding close to bottom you can work a chatterbait along the bottom in various retrieves. If you add a swimbait trailer the chatterbait can be “slow rolled” along the bottom, or if you are using a craw imitator as a trailer, using a yo-yo style retrieve the chatterbait can mimic a scattering crawfish.
On other days when bass in the grass, or are active and roaming around for baitfish a chatterbait is a great way to help locate fish. It’s easy to cover a lot of water over flats with grass patches. If it is overcast and/or windy the bass may be more likely to come out of their cover to attack a chatterbait that is up high in the water column. But on sunny, calm days a more effective way to catch them with the chatterbait is to trigger a reaction strike by letting it get caught in the grass, then ripping it free.
Whenever you are not fishing a chatterbait into stumps, reeds, trees, or dock posts you can mimic that bait deflection by just using the rod or reel. You can do so by giving the rod sporadic twitches or doing what is called a reel pump, where you reel in line very quickly for a full handle rotation. When you do this the skirt of the chatterbait flairs outwards and the bait jumps forward quickly. When this happens, any bass that is trailing the bait will strike out of a natural reflex, thinking the bait is trying to get away.
- Cast out and burn back in fast (subsurface)
- Cast out, let it sink to the bottom, then slowly crawl / hop it along the bottom
- “yoyo” it (let it flutter down into the weeds, then rip it up with one motion of the rod, let it fall back down, and repeat)
- In open water a normal “chuck & wind” retrieve with sporadic rod or reel pumps to flare the skirt and change the vibrations of the bait
- For warmer months just simply covering water (fishing flats with grass, secondary points, or marsh) can be the most effective way to fish a chatterbait
- For fishing a chatterbait in the fall, simply casting towards the bank of creeks or creek mouths and retrieving back out deep, or casting parallel to the banks can help locate the bass chasing baitfish up shallow. The key to fishing a chatterbait up shallow this time of year is to try it at different angles. That is because the bass are staged in different places and are looking in different directions ready to ambush schools of baitfish.
What gear to use
For fishing a chatterbait through grass, most people prefer a 7’2″ to 7’4″ rod with a medium power, and with a fast tip/action. The gear ratio setup for the reel is not critical (a 6:4:1 to a 7:2:1 is in that sweet spot) but the line is important. When ripping a chatterbait through grass, using 14-20lb fluorocarbon allows the chatterbait to rip out of grass at a controllable speed. If you use braid, when you rip the chatterbait free from the grass it will shoot out like a bullet, going to fast for a bass to catch it. But since the fluorocarbon can stretch it loads up with the rod and when released it unloads at a rate which a bass can catch up.
When you are fishing around stumps, docks, reeds, bulrush or other emerged grasses, a heavier application may be required. This includes a more stout rod like a 7′ to 7’2″ medium-heavy, with 25lb straight braid or braid to fluoro leader. This prevents more breakoffs from happening and it allows you to fish more dense cover with ease.
Colors / Trailer Tuning
For clear water conditions, go with a natural shad look like a transparent white or silver skirt, or a panfish pattern like bluegill, sunfish, perch. With low visibility conditions use a chartreuse or black and blue color to stand out. Trailers are recommended and there are a couple determining factors to influence which one you use.
Of course, if you want the chatterbait to resemble a craw you use a soft plastic craw, same goes for other forage such as a baitfish. But if you put a trailer on that is a stiff bait it will not be able to be in sync with the chatterbait blade. Using softer-plastic baits allow the trailer to move at the side to side rate that the blade is, when the trailer and blade are in uniform the chatterbait has a really nice action. So if the trailer is a simbait and it kicks its tail once for every three motions of the blade, the action is not so appealing.