There aren’t many lures over the course of time that have as big of an impact as the Chatterbait has. It literally happened overnight. I still remember getting my very first Chatterbait, or at least one of the many look a likes, one that a buddy hand made for me. My first fish on my home made vibrating bait yielded a late in the day 4 pounder that put us in the money in a local team tournament on Sam Rayburn. That day changed the game for me and over the course of the next couple of years made me a lot of money. Its a lure setup that is ever changing and every single year I find a new application for the Chatterbait. Over the course of the article I’ll describe what I do to make the Chatterbait successful for me.
What sizes and colors
When it comes to fishing a vibrating bait, I really try to dumb it down for myself. I throw only 4 colors: White/Chartreuse, White, Black/Blue, and Green Pumpkin. My favorite of all time is Green Pumpkin. When I refer to a Chatterbait I really mean the old Phenix Vibrating Jig. To me it had a little better hook, and the most important part to it is they have colored blades. The Green Pumpkin with a Black Blade in a 3/8 ounce is by far my all time most used vibrating bait. Overall I use a 3/8 ounce probably around 90 percent of the time. I will, however, use a 1/4 ounce vibrating bait around really shallow cover or when I’m target casting around Cypress Trees. The other times I upsize to a 1/2 ounce if I’m fishing it in deep water. Thats the really cool thing about a vibrating bait, you can fish it effectively from 6 inches of water to 30 feet.
In my opinion, a vibrating bait is only as good as the trailer you put on it, and not every time that specific trailer is what you need to be throwing. I pretty much throw 3 trailers: a Gene Larew 4in Salt Craw, a Gene Larew Sweet Swimmer, and a Gene Larew Biffle Bug. Its unbelievable how these 3 baits really are different on the back of a vibrating bait. Something extremely important that I do is use Super Glue to secure my plastics to the hook. I use your standard Super Glue, but in the Gel version.
For me, this legendary bait has worked in so many situations already, so when the Chatterbait was made public, I put on a Salt Craw. Its offered in so many colors and has unique colors on the pinchers. The trailer of the vibrating bait is one that I’ll actually use multiple color patterns unlike my selection of colored vibrating baits. My favorite application for the Salt Craw is in tournaments when everyone is throwing a vibrating bait and I want mine to be different. The reason I throw the Salt Craw in CHatterbait infested water is the Salt Craw makes the lure a little more compact and thinner. I don’t want it to be too big and bulky, more so slice through the water. Something I occasionally, more so with my Salt Craw, is throw a completely different color trailer than the color of the Chatterbait. For example, with a Black/Blue Chatterbait I throw a Junebug Blue Salt Craw or a Green Pumpkin Chatterbait I throw a Okeechobee Craw Salt Craw but I make sure the blue is facing up.
When fish are feeding on baitfish this is the number one lure I turn to. I used to throw a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper on my Chatterbait, but I stopped because fish were constantly tearing off the tail of the Dipper. The thing I like about the Sweet Swimmer is that its extremely durable, but its soft enough to get the job done. I normally only throw the Sweet Swimmer when throwing the White or White/Chartreuse Chatterbaits, but will refer back to the Dipper if I’m trying to imitate a bream with the Green Pumpkin Chatterbait. This is the type of trailer that I match the color to the trailer, but will occasionally use some dip and dye and color the paddle tail of the Sweet Swimmer. For the White vibrating bait I use Money Milk color and for the White/Chartreuse I use Bright Pearl. A time when I am extremely successful with this setup is when the fish are on a heavy shad spawn.
When all else fails, I use a Biffle Bug as my trailer. This is one of the most versatile lures I’ve personally ever used, and now has become my favorite vibrating bait trailer. No doubt when the money is on the line, and I need a big fish off of a vibrating bait I turn to a Biffle Bug. It bulks the bait up and allows me to catch bigger than normal fish on the bait. When I was at Lake Champlain this year, my co-angler practice buddy was throwing this setup behind me while I threw the Salt Craw as a trailer. Needless to say I caught probably double the amount of fish that he did that day, but his quality was vastly better than mine, which got me thinking. Why did these fish turn down my Chatterbait to eat his? All I can think is my lure presentation was smaller and his was a full meal deal, kind of like a Cheeseburger compared to a Big Mac. Although I caught a ton of fish, he caught bigger. One thing I wish is that I would of known about this little trick on Potomac River this year in the FLW Tour Event there. I think it would of increased the size of fish I was catching around the isolated grass patches I was fishing. The color combo’s I use on the Bug are normally along the same lines of the color of the Chatterbaits I’m fishing. An example would be a White Chatterbait with a full size Pearl Pepper Biffle Bug. In the water it looks really goofy, but for some reason it works, just cant explain it.
When, Where, How
I pretty much will throw a vibrating year around. After my rookie year on the FLW Tour this year I used it in 5 of the 6 tournaments that I fished. Its just that effective. Its a lure than you can cover a vast amount of water with, catches big fish, and still has a subtle nature amidst the chaos of the vibration. Just look at all the success FLW Tour Pro Chris Baumgardner has had with this lure. I swear every time I see him in competition he’s throwing it, and he’s one of the deadliest people I know with it.
One of the unique features of this lure is that you can fish it anywhere. Like I said before, I would literally fish it from 6in to 30 foot of water. Some lakes I’ve caught fish slow reeling the Chatterbait on the bottom in 25 foot, very similar to slow rolling a spinnnerbait. Where I was throwing this was a hard spot(pretty sure it was shell) on the end of a finger point off a flat. I prefer to throw this lure in deep water without any obstructions around, preferably hard bottom areas. One of the most successful areas for me is around submerged grass. This is by far my favorite area to throw it. An example would be Potomac this year. I was throwing it to extremely specific targets when the tide would start moving. Instead of covering a ton of water I was throwing to a specific few cuts in the grass. These fish were using these cuts as a trail to move in and out of the grass when the tide would come up or go down. The first day of the tournament there were 4 footers on the spot and I couldn’t fish it. The second day, however, I just Power Poled down and cast to that one spot for the majority of the day. The second day I weighed almost 17 pounds and my co-angler weighed in 16. I cant even tell you how many 3 pounders we caught off of these cuts. The main factor to these 2 areas were they were unique in comparison to any other spot for 500 yards in either direction. If you find a specific looking spot like this and your on a tidal river, make sure to go back at different times of the tide to see when the fish will be more active on the spot.
Its going to be hard to describe exactly how I fish a vibrating bait. Its completely situational. In submerged grass I might let it go all the way to the bottom and crawl it back, maybe fish it like a spinnerbait and bump and roll with it, or just do a steady slow or fast retrieve. Each day the fish maybe different on the lure so you must vary the retrieve to see what works best for that day. Around floating docks, when the shad are spawning, I like to run the bait right under the edge of the flotation, but I’ve had equal success letting the lure drop 4 or 5 feet below the dock and slow roll it back. To me sometimes those fish think its a dying spawned out shad. Around the cypress tress a steady bump and roll retrieve with the 1/4 ounce model seems to work better. The reason I throw the 1/4 ounce around the trees is a few reasons: 1) I roll cast and reel with my right had, so I have to switch my rod to my other hand(I know I need to be better with my left), and 2) Since I have to switch hands it keeps the lure higher in the water than a standard 3/8 ounce, so it wont sink to the bottom as fast.
Overall, I really hope that what I’ve told you anglers helps continue your success on the water and even more I hope some of these tips and tricks work for you. I know there are many other ways to fish them, and there are probably a lot better fishermen with a Chatterbait, but uniquely we all have our little tips and tricks that might just get you that one or 2 extra bites when it counts.
By Andrew Upshaw
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