Your Complete Chatterbait Guide
Chatterbaits or bladed jigs are now one of the most popular lures used by bass anglers. They are versatile and are able to be used in many environmental settings. But for some fishermen and women, they may seem a bit challenging, sort of an enigma wrapped in a conundrum that has too many techniques even to attempt to try to use.
If you are thinking about adding Chatterbait lures into your tackle box but aren’t sure that you which one to use or even how to use them, you are definitely not alone.
For a lot of anglers trying something new can be a big decision. In fact, many stop at the consideration step and go back to their tried and true methods. This is a big mistake because if you are considering using chatterbait, you are on the right track.
So, in this guide, we are going to go over everything you may need and want to know about these popular lures. Hopefully, by the time we are done, you are off that fence and in the water, catching some fish with your brand new Chatterbait lure.
What is a Chatterbait?
If you have been fishing for a while, you may have used a spinnerbait, jig or crankbait and may be thinking what does the Chatterbait offer that they don’t? Well, let’s start with what a chatterbait is and a little history.
The lure itself is comprised of a hexagonal blade, lead head, and a colored skirt. It is part of the bladed jig family. The thing that makes it stand out above the other lures we mentioned above is the sound component. This is what makes chatterbaits so efficient. The blade is designed to roil off of the lead head, which reverses the movement. This gives a shorter pulse time without any effort from the fisherman or woman.
These lures have really only been around for about 15 years. It was conceived in the mind of a South Carolina angler who had been designing this unique lure for years. Ron Davis wanted to craft a lure with a hexagonal blade and a lead head jig to improve the days catch.
In 2004 he sold his first batch, and the rest, as they say, is history. How did they get the name? Well, that’s thanks to his dad, who said that the vibration could make your teeth chatter. Hence the name Chatterbait.
How to Choose a Chatterbait
Knowing how to choose the right Chatterbait is crucial, and this means paying attention to certain factors. (Not to mention when and where you are fishing - make sure to check those sections out below.) Some certain features and functions make a great Chatterbait and here are the ones we think you should definitely be looking at when you are trying to make your decision:
Trailers & Trailer Colors
There are several aspects to consider when looking at what trailer (more on what this is and some options that we think are the best on the market in a section below) will work for you.
The first is how many trailers do you want to cast with. Many top experts and professional anglers use multiple. You will want to think about the season as some seasons have the fish looking for something falling rather than sinking rapidly.
The second thing and maybe the most important, is choosing a color. You will want to match the hatch as close as possible. By using complimenting colors, you allow for a more realistic look. Here are some of the best color combinations:
This is a great choice for bass fishing. The combination of colors on the skirt paired with a trailer of dark color will be perfect for limited light and muddy water. If you are fishing in reeds or weeds, this works well, too.
Largemouth bass seems to frequent areas where bluegill spawns, and so, during this spawning season, it is a great idea to use a Chatterbait that mimics the bluegill. So, choose one with a skirt and trailer that has a bluegill pattern.
This option is good for all year and in many different situations. The color combination looks realistic in all kinds of water and is great when paired with a dark green trailer or any trailer that offers a nice contrast.
Pearl w/ Sexy Shad
If you are out on the water during the shad spawning season, which is at the beginning of the summer season, this is a nice combination.
Try using a red chatterbait in the early spring. Use a slow-rolling technique in grassy areas.
This will play a part in the speed and the depth that your bait gets in the water. If you are shallow fishing, you will want to go for something lighter. Whereas if you are fishing in deeper water, then going up in size will help you achieve your goals.
Will you need to make any adjustments to the chatterbait? Many experts suggest using the stock product with just a little trim of the skirt. Knowing the adjustments that may need to be made will help you find the right chatterbait for your needs.
There are many types of lines available, but the most commonly used when casting with chatterbait lures is braided, especially when fishing around the grass. Some also like to use fluorocarbon as it has a little stretch and flexibility to it.
When considering this, you will need to think about your technique and the location you will be fishing in. The weight suggested is typically between 15 – 20lb. test. The higher the weight, the better the chatterbait will stay deeper in the water.
Not only do you need to consider the trailer color, but the blade color is important too. Here is a quick guide to which blade would be the best for what:
Chrome – sunny and clear water
Gold – Muddy water
Black – Crawfish or Bluegill imitation
Green Pumpkin - Crawfish or Bluegill imitation
You always have to consider your budget. With so many options, there is sure to be a good fit for your needs within your budget range.
How to Use Chatterbait
The Chatterbait lure is a versatile option for any angler. Because it is like an amalgamation of many different lures, they offer many techniques of use that are similar to things like spinnerbait or crankbait.
Here are some ways to use your Chatterbait successfully:
The Right One
If you intend to use the chatterbait as a jig, then you will need to pick a weight that works for this use. Typically, a chatterbait with a weight between .4 oz and .6 oz would work well for this. Most often, you will find that a dark color lure will offer better performance. This means a black or even a green pumpkin would be optimal.
You will want to find a chatterbait that has its blade close to the lead head. This will maximize the back and forth motion as well as the sound generation. This will be the most efficient for catching bass. The noise agitates the bass and will make it attack the lure.
Another way to use a chatterbait is by playing with your retrieval methods. If you are just starting out, you may want to cast using the traditional cast. If you want more on this, you need to keep reading as there is a section that covers chatterbait techniques.
Consider the Fish
If you are into fishing, then you know that one lure or bait does not fit all. If you are dealing with colder water and a more sedentary fish, then you will want to use a slower retrieval. On the other hand, if they are active, then you want to reel in at a more rapid speed.
You can always customize your chatterbait. There are several ways you can do this, including:
Trim/Remove the Skirt – This will change the overall shape of the lure. This may make for a faster lure and will draw attention because it will be something the fish haven’t experienced before.
Color the Blade – If you are using a Bluegill blade, then taking something to color and cover the shiny blade will make it much more realistic.
Bent the Top Edge – Take the top edge and bend it a little a few inches from its end. This will keep it from coming up, which can make it hard to catch fish that lie in deep waters.
How to Tie a Chatterbait
One of the most important things to know is how to set-up and tie your chatterbait. It is not a long process, but doing it wrong could have tragic results on your next fishing trip.
Here are the steps needed to tie your chatterbait properly:
Connect the Blade
The blade needs to be attached to the main body of the chatterbait. The chatterbait body looks a little like a grass skirt. These are put together around a spook. These are the things that make the sound as the lure spins. At the top of this is a loop on the blade that you can push a string through.
Create a Loop
You will take the string and insert into that hole and create a loop.
Attach to Fish Hook
Then you will tie the loop to the fish hook, which is attached to the end of the line that is attached to your fishing pole. Now your chatterbait is ready to be cast.
Check out our full and detailed How To Tie a Chatterbait guide for more detail.
What is the Best Rod, Reel & Line for Chatterbait?
Though we are talking about the chatterbait itself, the tools you use to fish with will play a key role in how effective you are in the water. There are, of course, options that work best with a chatterbait lure. The first piece of equipment that needs to be looked at is the rod.
In many experts’ minds, the best rod for chatterbait use is a long (6’6” – 7’) model with a medium action and a fast tip. If you are using a lighter chatterbait, you can use a shorter rod. If you aren’t, the 7’ rod is probably the best option as it gives you a versatility of use.
You will have enough length to pull fish from thick grass as well as it is long enough to use in retrieval methods like the yo-yo.
Now you will want to use that rod with the right reel. In this case, a great idea would be to choose a gear ratio of 6.3:1 or above. You should definitely be choosing a baitcaster model, and this will be the right set up to get the most out of your chatterbait.
The last thing to consider is line (which we have mentioned above but will go a little more in-depth in this section). You don’t have to stress too hard when choosing your line. Though there are a few anglers that will suggest different lines for different water conditions, if you want to stick with just one type of line, going with a 30lb braided option is great.
Though if you want to try something different in clearer water, then using the fluorocarbon option we mentioned above could be an excellent option.
Chatterbait Fishing Techniques
Now you will want to really think about the casting and retrieval you wish to use. This will depend on many factors, including the fish and the season. Here are some of the best methods and what they are suitable for:
Chunk & Wind
This is the traditional cast and retrieves that you learn when first beginning to fish. One variation of this method is to cast parallel to the shore and then move up and down the shore until you find the strike zone. Then you will want to try to bring in the line as parallel as you can. This optimizes the time your lure is in the area where the fish are striking.
The object of all these methods is to draw attention to the lure, and one of the best ways to do that is to stop mid retrieval. Once you have paused briefly, then begin to retrieve your line again. While your chatterbait was paused, the skirt of the lure pulsated. This should have gained some attention, and then when the blade begins to move again, the fish will be enticed to take a little nibble.
Slow Your Roll
When you are fishing in the colder months, this may end up being your go-to retrieval method. You will cast your line and allow the lure to hit the bottom. Then slowly begin to reel the line in. The trick is to do it so slow you barely feel the movement of the blade.
This is best done with a heavy chatterbait. This is great in the fall and winter when the fish are a little sluggish. The slow reel will disturb the bottom where the schools are lying trying to stay away from the weather above.
This technique is done by casting your line out and allowing it to fall to the bottom. Once you feel it touch the bottom, you will want to lift your rod up which will cause your lure to raise as well and then wait for it to hit the bottom again. Make sure to keep your line tight as you bring your rod back down to its beginning position. Repeat this the entire time you reel your lure back in.
Bump & Grind
Start by casting your line and allowing the chatterbait to hit the bottom. Once you begin to reel your line in, try as hard as you can to allow it to run into anything you can. Whether it is a rock, the dock, or even tree stumps in the water, let your lure strike it. Make sure to pause for a second after each bump. The erratic movement this produces is fascinating to fish.
This is the exact opposite technique as the slow roll discussed above. You will want to cast the chatterbait and then as quickly as you can reel it back in. This should cause the blade to be doing its thing just below the surface of the water. This simulates a fish that is trying to get away and will provoke the fish to strike.
Bass are a pretty mellow fish most of the time, and this may make it harder to get your quota. Once you have cast in or near a grass patch, you will want to begin to reel in slowly. Then with a quick wrist snap, rip the chatterbait free of the grass. This will get the bass’s attention and cause them to strike.
Once you have begun, the retrieval starts to move the tip of the rod up and down. This will make the lure bob and weave through the water unpredictably. This, in turn, will cause the skirt to flutter in the water. This will be enough to get some attention from the fish for sure.
Switch It Up
You can also use variations or find your own retrieval methods. A good rule of thumb us to keep switching it up. After all, no one wants the same food every day, and neither does your fish. That means to find a few of your favorite retrieval methods, alternate between them, make sure to pay attention to the fish activity level, and the season you are fishing in will help you choose which one may work the best.
Things to Avoid
This guide is about chatterbaits, and we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss a few common mistakes that some people make when using this lure. So, we thought we would break down a few for you so that you will be able to steer clear of making them.
Here are the biggest mistakes we see being committed:
Clear Water Is Okay
Many anglers steer away from using chatterbait in clear water, but there is no need to steer away from them. Worried that the fish will be able to spot the difference between the lure an actual food may be where you are inclined to step back from this lure, but if you choose the right retrieval method even in the clearest of water, these lures can be quite efficient.
If you are new to lure fishing, you will want to stick with what you are used to. Sure, the standard cast and retrieval will work with a chatterbait, but you will definitely see some change in the number of hits you get if you employ some of the techniques we discussed above.
Premature Setting of the Hook
You will use your chatterbait lures a lot in grassy areas. This is great for catching fish, but when first starting out, you may need to get used to the tug and pull of the grass. This grass can and will feel at first like a fish is striking. Then you will react as you should and begin to set the hook. This is to be expected, and with some practice, you will be able to feel the difference between a bite and your lure getting caught on some grass. Just be patient.
Tighten That Trailer
You will need to make sure that your trailer is fastened tightly to the hook shank. This will help make sure you are using your chatterbait to the highest level of its performance. If you are having problems with this, then simply add some super glue to your trailer head and make it stick to your chatterbait. This will allow you to be able to skip longer without worrying about your trailer moving around.
It’s Not All About the Color
Though color does play an important part in the selection process, you don’t need to have a color for everything. Finding a few key colors that work well in the season and with the fish and its surroundings is just fine. You will save money and time tying chatterbait’s if you just find the ones that work and stick with those.
When to Use Chatterbait
When bass are shallow and active, the chatterbait’s will be far more effective than any other time. Of course, there is always one of the cases where experienced anglers have found a way to cheat the system and use these effectively all year long.
Bass as a species does move in patterns that are predictable according to the season, so here are some suggestions on when it is good to use this fantastic lure.
This is heralded by the waters warming and the beginning of the bass’ migration to the spawning waters. In preparation for their spawning cycle, the fish will begin to eat more. This is when you can use chatterbait’s to catch some of the bigger females that are moving to the spawning beds. This lure is actually a great alternative to many of the other options.
Though at this point in the cycle, the chatterbait lure is not great for actually fishing, you can use it to search for a good fishing spot. This is perfect to use in grass coverings or when the water is very muddy. This is the time of year where you will be catching the fish through using a search method rather than one of the other techniques.
This is when the large female bass moves from the spawning grounds into their summer homes. Because they won’t move right away, you will be able to fish with a chatterbait in the cover that is near the spawning ground. Use a chatterbait lure to catch them before they get into the wide-open where everyone else will be fishing.
Summer is when the grass will begin to grow and fill in, and this means that these lures will be less effective. Unless, of course, you stick to the weed edges. This is when you would use a slow-rolling retrieval technique. Use a heavier weight and see how successful you are.
This is when a lot of fish, including the shad and the bass, move back to the shallow waters. Grass begins to thin, and that means that this could be the perfect season for the use of a chatterbait. Using chatterbait’s that are designed with a baitfish color like bluegill is perfect. Also, you can still employ the ripping or other similar techniques to elicit bites.
Though not your typical season for fishing, there are some parts of the country that you could still do so with little to no problems. During this season, though, the fish go deep and stay all together in one area. In order to use a chatterbait effectively at this time of the year, make sure you use a heavyweight and try to use lighter-colored trailers. You will still want to match the color of the traditional bait.
The water is beginning the warming process, and the fish tend to gather around wooded areas or rocks. Use a lightweight chatterbait and one of the more erratic motion-making techniques so that you can catch the eye of the fish.
Where to Use a Chatterbait
Chatterbait’s are incredibly versatile as long as you stay away from thick brush and rocky areas. In these areas, the lure will get caught up in its surroundings rather easily. There are, however, several areas that are prime spots for the use of a chatterbait lure.
By knowing where you are headed to, and understanding which chatterbait works well in what situations, you will be able to find the right option for you.
Here are some of the best places to use this fishing lure:
You can use a chatterbait in stumps and areas where trees have fallen. You will be able to feel the lure as it works its way around these obstacles being careful to not snag your line on any of it. This is a great spot as the fish like to hide in these structures.
Though many don’t think about this lure when dock fishing, it is a great choice. Dock areas have a lot of food for bass during the spring and summer, and that means before they head out to the spawning fields. Try skipping the chatterbait around the dock with a trailer that is a swimbait model.
You want to look for grass that is underwater up to six feet deep. This is where the chatterbait truly shines. You can fish the tops of the weeds and ambush the bass into striking your bait. By using techniques like ripping or the yo-yo, you will be able to entice the fish to attack your bait as they think it is their dinner.
Shell beds may not be a spot a new angler should fish in or even think to try, but it can be very lucrative. Bass like to school around mussel beds in the summer season. Take your chatterbait and slow roll it along the bottom. This will stir the attention of the bass and get you some serious hits.
Chatterbait Vs. Spinnerbait
Many feel that the two lures are basically the same. If you really look at them without diving deep, this could be a reasonable assumption. They both are used to create a baitfish like water disturbance in order to entice bass into striking. This is done both by the use of sound vibration and movement.
Even though the basic construction of these two lures is the same, there are still situations where one is better than the other. (Though with a little experience and care truthfully, both can be used in any of the following conditions.)
Spinnerbait or Chatterbait - Water
This is one of the areas where it really depends on the time of year and the clarity of the water. Chatterbait’s are great in cold and muddy water. Many anglers prefer to use this before and after the spawning season. During the spawning season, when the water is warmer, many fishermen and women choose to use a spinnerbait.
The reason for the switch-up is all about the level of aggressiveness. Spinnerbaits are much more assertive, whereas the chatterbait offers more motion when reeled in slowly, which is what the fish will need in water that is colder and muddier.
Spinnerbait or Chatterbait – Shad
Fishing during the shad spawning season is a great way to land yourself a lot of bass but only if you are using the right bait. Though you can use a chatterbait, a lot of people who enjoy fishing prefer a spinnerbait during this season. The reason the lure looks a little bit more like a shad and is better at fooling the bass. Then again, if you work a little on matching the hatch, you could get great results from a chatterbait as well.
Spinnerbait or Chatterbait – Baitfish
When people are fishing in schooling areas for what is called baitfish like bluegill or bream, a chatterbait is a great option. These fish are often food sources for many other fish, and that is why chatterbait’s are the best option. There are many of these lures that look like and can move the same way to entice those fish to strike your lure.
Spinnerbait or Chatterbait – Vegetation
When dealing with thick grass and other vegetation, you want a lure that can be freed from the tangle easily. That is why, in this category, you have to go with a chatterbait. It rips clear of the grass, and its movement through the grass is rapid and causes the desired reaction from the fish.
Spinnerbait or Chatterbait – Docks & Bushes
This is another category where you can use both, but the chatterbait works the best. Chatterbait’s are a little more flexible and is easily folded up to skip.
Spinnerbait or Chatterbait – Burning Retrieval
This is, as we have said, when you cast, and you reel back in as fast as you can. This creates a wake while the lure rides just under the surface. This is a great technique to catch certain types of bass. Most would say that the spinnerbait is the best option for this, but with the right chatterbait, it is just as effective.
In the end, whether you choose one of the other is really up to you, and in truth, like we said before, with the right weight and set up a chatterbait can be just as versatile and effective as a spinnerbait in any situation.
Vibrating Jig Vs. Chatterbait
There really is no competition with this fight as they are actually the same thing. Vibrating jigs is the type of bait, and chatterbait is technically a brand name. Though many anglers use the terms interchangeably.
Best Way to Store/Transport Chatterbait’s
Making sure you store your tackle correctly is essential, especially when dealing with bait with extra pieces like the chatterbait. So, we could not have a complete chatterbait guide without talking about organization and tips for it. These tips are meant to help you extend the use of your chatterbait’s as well as have the right one at the right time.
Carry What You Need
Organize per season and water type. Certain chatterbait’s will work better at certain times and temps, and having your tackle separated like this will help you find the right option for your needs at the time. This can save you time as well and have you on the water faster, ready to bring in a fantastic haul.
You can use multiple boxes in one box. Separating the tackle into separate compartments. If you are looking for the right lure box, chatterbait’s fit a one-inch deep box. Making sure to separate weights, hooks, and lures will keep everything easy to grab. No tangles or damage to your lures!
Make sure that you only have the tackle and equipment you need. That includes the rod and reel that will work perfectly with your chatterbait’s. Organizing them all in one space will help you be prepared for the season’s fishing excursions.
Best Chatterbait Trailers
One of the most important aspects of the chatterbait is the trailer. These are pieces you add on to the main unit and comes in two types. There is swimbait or paddle tail, and choosing between the two options is really a preference. But…
What exactly is a chatterbait trailer?
The trailer is the piece that will give weight to your lure and should be close to the color pallet of the foliage or the fish that is the prey of the fish you are looking to catch. It is usually crafted in plastic and can either be opaque or transparent. You should always match the hatch when choosing your trailer.
Below are some of the best chatterbait trailers to have in your tackle box:
Best Chatterbait Trailers
Zoom Super Fluke
This may be the most popular trailer for a chatterbait. This option works best if there are small shad in the vicinity you are fishing. It doesn’t give a lot of action, but if you use it with a chatterbait, you will get its tail to move and vibrate enough to attract fish.
Strike King Rage Tail Craw
Crafted in high-grade plastic, this is the perfect trailer for your chatterbait, especially in areas where you need craws. The slender body creates turbulence and will incite fish to bite.
Yamamoto Swimming Senko
A small swimbait this model is an excellent choice for times when your fish aren’t looking for a heavy swimbait. It uses a subtle motion that drives the fish wild. It is a longer option when it comes to trailers, so you can try trimming it if you want a smaller trailer.
Strike King Rage Twin Tail Menace
This model offers a little contrast that makes it stand apart from many of the other models. This trailer actually flaps instead of moving side to side. You can actually split the flappers for individual movements that will give this trailer an even more unique movement.
This trailer gives your chatterbait a larger profile, which leads to a wider action. It is crafted with a segmented body, which makes for a unique movement when the blade hits the lead.
Strike King Rage Swimmer
This is a swimbait that falls in the boot tail category. This trailer doesn’t move in a typical manner; instead, it kind of wobbles through the water.
Zoom Salty Super Fluke
This is a good trailer to use year-round. This trailer doesn’t have much motion, which makes it great for imitating the fish’s behavior. They glide rather than modulate through the water. In fact, once you find the spots, no matter where they are, you can use this trailer to great success.
Mann’s HardNose Swim Toad
If you are fishing in water that is warmer than 50 degrees, you will be able to use this trailer to catch a good deal of fish. It is a bulkier build that works well in pre and post-spawn as well as fall months. You can use it in shallow water. It is great around docks and shallow grasses.
Yum F2 Mighty Craw
This is a great choice for muddy water. You can drag this trailer across the bottom. It is also well fit for a pre-spawn bass fishing trip. It is perfect for slow-rolling, which is why it works well in extremes of water temps. In these conditions, bass are slower and will react better to a slower retrieval method. This trailer is bulky, so no matter how slow you drag that you will have a wide motion. This trailer works in almost every scenario.
Strike King Rage Tail Shellcracker
This is a great trailer to be used in spring and summer. This trailer, when combined with the right blade and chatterbait, will look like a bream. It moves quickly, which imitates a bream in light. If you slow it down and use the yo-yo technique, you can also imitate a bream in trouble. This trailer is great for places with thick vegetation or cover. You can also use it for skipping over hatches of mayflies.
These are just some of the best trailer options out there today. If one of these isn’t the right fit for you, you may need to know how to choose the right trailer for your chatterbait.
Choosing a Trailer
The versatility of the trailer options that come with a chatterbait lure is vast. So, knowing what to look for in the trailer you add to your base unit is important. If you choose the right combination, you will be able to imitate the species your selected fish typically uses as a food source. This versatility is great for fishing but could be a bit daunting when trying to figure out your chosen trailer.
Choose the Trailer According to the Feeding Habit
The first thing you need to think about is what tasty morsels are your chosen fish eating at the moment. Shad? Bluegill? This may depend on what type of water you will be fishing in.
If it is a reservoir, you may be dealing with shad, and if you are pond fishing, then you may be dealing with bluegill or other types of panfish. Or if you are lucky and dealing with a rocky area like a river, you may be dealing with fish-eating crawfish.
If you are dealing with shad, you will want to look for a swimbait in the paddle tail family or even a grub with a single tail. If it is bluegills that you are working with, try a bulkier profile like a trailer with a craw or creature profile.
On the other hand, if it is crawfish, you are looking at finding a trailer that is double-tailed, or even a craw model will work just fine. You just have to choose the right trailer to match the hatch.
Choose the Right Color of Trailer
The color is crucial as you are trying to be crafty and trick the fish into thinking it is its food source. That means if it is shad you are trying to emulate, you will want to choose a trailer that is white or a shade close to the color of a shad. Bluegills will be best served with green, pumpkin, or blue colors. And crawfish you will want to find a brown, orange or green.
Color of the Water
You will also want to consider the water. Is it clear? Or muddy? In water with a lot of clarity, a color pallet of natural or transparent colors. If the water is muddy, you will want a trailer with a little more contrast. Try a dark or bright color; just make sure they are super contrast. Colors like black, purple, or reds work well in this type of water.
Now that you have a great idea of how to find the right trailer, you will be assured a good haul when you head out onto the water.
Chatterbait’s are a great versatile option to use on your bass fishing trips. With the right precautions, you can ensure you have the right chatterbait handy anywhere and anytime.
Try making sure you know your fishing location, the water conditions (including the temp and the clarity), and the season. This will make sure that you use not only the right chatterbait but the proper technique when casting and retrieving.
With all this information, you can easily see what the chatterbait lure is so very popular. You can use it in most conditions and scenarios, and with a little care, you can use it in and season too. So what are you waiting for? Grab your Chatterbait and head out to your favorite spot to catch some fish.