Why all the chatter?

Updated: April 5, 2006, 6:36 PM ET
By Louie Stout | BASSMASTER Magazine, April 2006
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The hottest lure in bass fishing has the same physical characteristics of people you've probably encountered on a dance floor: The Chatterbait is ugly, but it can really shake that booty.

Just ask the fishermen who have used it on Florida's big bass over the past few months, where the jitterbugging hybrid has produced phenomenal results. In addition to a couple of wins, it's accounted for a number of big fish days for weekenders and touring pros alike.

Manufactured by Rad Lures in Greenwood, S.C., the Chatterbait combines the physical characteristics of a swimming jig with the performance of a spinnerbait and a crankbait. It's designed for fishing over submerged vegetation, but has proved itself to be equally deadly when swam through lily pads. Best of all, there's no need to impart any special rod action in the lure. Simply cast it out, wind it in and hang on. The strikes are violent.

"It may look like a gimmick, and that's fooled a lot of people," says Arkansas pro Scott Rook. "Based on the way this bait feels and has produced in Florida, there's nothing gimmicky about it."

The Chatterbait consists of a traditional jig body, skirt and twin tail trailer. It's built with a stout Mustad UltraPoint hook and is fashioned without a brushguard.

But that's where the similarities end. Hinged to the eyelet of the jighead is a small blade that oscillates from side to side. The faster you crank the jig, the more violent it thumps on the head, producing an erratic swimming motion.

Heavy line doesn't seem to restrict the action, either, as most pros fish it on heavy braided line in Florida.

"It produces an incredible amount of vibration — like a big Colorado-bladed spinnerbait or a wide wobbling crankbait," explains Rook. "You can feel it throbbing all the way through the rod."

The thumping action is caused by the oscillating blade that wriggles six to eight times per second as it is pulled against the water. However, notes company President Ron Davis, the movement is limited and the blade only travels a short distance before reversing directions.

"The water pressure pushes the blade from side to side," he explains. "It's trying to spin but can't, and the hinged mechanism not only produces a lot of vibration but it also prevents the jig from rolling over and snagging the bottom." The patent-pending design is the brainchild of Davis' father, James Ron Davis, who has tinkered with it for about 25 years.

"The goal was to design a jig that could be swum through brush and weeds without hanging up," he adds."Although we didn't achieve that 100 percent, we have a lure that is fairly weedless and puts a lot of action in a jig setup."

The Chatterbait was displayed to the public at the 2005 Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh. Sales were far from brisk.

"We knew it didn't have a lot of shelf appeal because it is so different," says Davis. "There are so many gimmicks on the market that people kind of lumped us among them. We begged and pleaded with the pros to give it a try because we knew it would produce."

After a couple of wins on grassy lakes late last year, word spread. As of mid-February, Rad Lures had to close down its online store (www.radlures.com) temporarily to meet dealer demands. Davis says he has been revamping its production and had hoped to be caught up by April.

Although the Chatterbait didn't produce the winning sack in the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour on Lake Okeechobee last February, it produced a large percentage of big fish. It would have produced more if a cold front hadn't shut down the aggressive bite.

"I was catching 25 fish a day on the Chatterbait during practice," says Florida pro Terry Scroggins, who finished second in the Okeechobee event. "The cold front came in and shut down the aggressive bite, so I had to switch to flipping techniques."

Scroggins believes one reason the lure has been dominant on Okeechobee during the spawning season is due to the stained water in Moonshine Bay where most of the fish were being caught.

"Vibration is the key to getting bit around the grass in water that's dirty," he explains. "But what was really interesting is that I couldn't get bit on a spinnerbait, but they were clobbering the Chatterbait."

Some pros speculate that one of the inherent benefits of the Chatterbait is that it emits spinnerbait-like vibration without a lot of flash.

"It's a great alternative for bass that may chase a spinnerbait but won't hit it," adds Rook. "There are times when too much flash can cause the bass to shy away."

That doesn't mean it won't work in clear water. Davis says the vibration will draw bass out of thick grass and recommends natural colors for fishing clear water.

Presently, it is offered in black/blue, white, white/chartreuse, shad, chartreuse, brown/black and green pumpkin/black. There are three sizes — 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 ounce.

The Chatterbait also is offered in different blade colors, and some pros are customizing them by adding variations of prism tape color schemes. Others are adding rattles when fishing dirty water.

"Basic jig rattles don't make a lot of noise when fished in the traditional manner, but they definitely do with the vibration the Chatterbait produces," says Davis.

In addition, anglers have been experimenting with plastic trailers and it's producing positive results. Scroggins removes the twin tail spinnerbait-like trailer and replaces it with a Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw.

"It gives the bait a bigger profile and the larger plastic gives it more buoyancy for fishing in shallow water," he notes.

Davis says the lure will fish with just about any soft plastic trailer, but says one of the best kept secrets is the use of a soft plastic jerkbait (like the Zoom Fluke) in place of the twin tail trailer.

"Some guys are taking off the skirt and the trailer and threading on the Fluke-style bait," he describes. "That gives it a crankbait action and makes it ideal for schooling fish."

Scroggins says the Chatterbait isn't as weedless as he would like and plans on gluing in a brushguard on his baits.

"It's not as weedless as I would like because the wide wobble really exposes the hook to the cover," he explains. "If I can do that, I'll have the best of both worlds in a swimming jig and a spinnerbait."

That may not be necessary, as Davis has plans to produce a Chatterbait with a brushguard.

"The bait was designed to fish over grass that hasn't topped out," he offers. "But when you fish it around lily pads or brush, it isn't nearly as weedless." However, anglers must understand that adding a brushguard may cause them to miss more strikes. We didn't put the guard on because we wanted to increase the bait's hooking success."

Davis says there are plans to improve the cosmetics of the lure and increase the number of offerings.

"There is a lot of emphasis in the lure business to make standard designs look more lifelike, and we obviously haven't done that," he explains. "But right now, the fish don't seem to care and neither do the fishermen."