The Ultimate Guide To Chatterbaits And How To Fish Them

Video how to fish a chatterbait


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Chatterbaits became part of my arsenal on a secluded lake several years back. Lipless Crankbaits, Ned Rigs, and Jigs made up my lure selection that day and some flipping baits for heavy grass. A few unopened Zman chatter baits lay at the bottom of my tackle bag, and with all honesty, I had some hesitation. I tore open the package and put on a Keitech Swim Bait trailer. Right away, I noticed a resemblance to a swim jig, and the term vibrating jig and bladed swim jig seemed appropriate.

Solid Action

The overall body structure and its odd metal faceplate got me thinking “what’ll they come up with next?” I began casting it. A pulsating action like a rhythmic spasm traveled through my rod and into the reel. The body action was seen several yards away, and greatest of all, it emitted a sound like an actual jackhammer; a metallic click and clack. This thing announced its presence like a marching band on a quiet suburban street.

It had me sold! I could imagine a 10 lb Largemouth locking on after this noisy intruder shambles by, and that massive load-up that follows. But, it was clear this wasn’t a catch-all lure. It also wasn’t for anyone pursuing the experience of a mere few bites. No, this is a bass lure for the determined; a lure designed for the larger game. For this reason, it’s crucial to understand how to fish a chatterbait. Knowing specific colors and trailers to be used, times of day, and where to fish is what I’ll discuss here; an ultimate guide to these effective lures and how to fish them!

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Why Fish Chatterbaits?

Vibrating Jigs are relatively new but they’ve taken the bass fishing world by storm. And for good reason. Some anglers have said they’re a combination of the best lures as they include the most effective attributes – vibration, sound, flash, and tight wobble action. Versatility also plays a part in their success – you can fish them at any depth including against the bottom. Popping it, letting it fall, burning it back across the surface, fishing it around grass, deflecting off stumps, skipping under boat docks – all of these methods are possible. But, what sets this lure aside is its unique ability to call out with sound.

A large mouth bass with a jack hammer chatterbait in its mouth.

Chatterbaits’ Sound

There is something to be said about luring a fish with sound. For bass, using sound is often effective. However, the sound is not only heard but felt. The unnatural jackhammering of a fast-moving lure is felt along the fish’s lateral line and triggers interest and often a bite that follows. The following is an excerpt from

Dr. Jones, a bass biologist, says that bass have just a moderate sense of hearing, especially at 100 to 200 cycles per second. Humans can detect sounds from 20 to 20,000 cycles per second, but bass are petty deaf at over 500 hz, Jones says. This means that they don’t hear high frequency sounds. Still, bass do use their hearing to hunt. Shaking a worm puts off vibrations that displace water. Those waves are felt by the lateral line, not heard by the bass. The lateral line is sensitive to very slight motions. Jones believes that it is these vibrations that attract a bass when a worm is shaken, not any high-frequency sounds produced by beads and metal. Sound carries five times better in water than it does in air, so taking advantage of sound really can improve your catch ratio.

Chatterbaits: Versatility

You can fish chatterbaits fast, or slow, drag them, pop them, let them fall, rip them hard, and deflect them. The sound and vibration emitted are perfect for stained water and heavy vegetation where visibility is limited, while the flash of the front blade creates the illusion of a fleeing baitfish. Your trailer selection also provides excellent opportunities to match the forage of your waters. Although, what’s most important is knowing how to fish a chatterbait.

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How To Fish Chatterbaits

Chattebaits can be fished in the following ways;

  • Just Below The Surface
  • Around Grass
  • Up Shallow
  • Along the Bottom

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Just Below The Surface

Fall is a perfect time to burn it back just below the surface because this time of year produces a lot of hungry fish looking to fatten up. From a boat or from the bank, cast out and retrieve fast, activating the blade. Keep the chatterbait high enough in the water column where you can see V shapes or wake on the surface. You can retrieve at different speeds and alternate between fast, steady retrieve, and intermittent pauses. Morning and early evening are great times to power fish these lures across open water, over humps, over shell beds, and along shallow shorelines. Just avoid topped-out vegetation.

Chatterbaits: Around Grass

In summer, the mid-water column (3-6 ft) is a perfect place to fish a chatterbait. Especially around weed lines and the outside of other bodies of submerged grass, as the sound emitted announces the lure’s presence where visibility isn’t available. At this depth, you can also retrieve over ledges and drop-offs. But vegetation is a primary target cover for giant bass, so target those grass patches and weed lines ( pictured below) and retrieve slow and steady. Target these locations in late spring and summer and later in the day as temperatures begin to rise, as bass will seek shade and higher oxygenated water near vegetation.

Weed lines provide perfect ambush points for large bass.
Weed lines like this that back up to thick shoreline cover are great areas to fish a chatterbait.

Chatterbaits: Up Shallow

Possibly the best place to throw a chatterbait is up shallow in 2-4 ft of water. Here, you can focus on making contact by deflecting off submerged structures like rocks and wood. Like a crankbait, that fast change in direction will activate a strike. Give your bait a twitch and let it fall as you would a crankbait, and switch up your retrieve each time. From a boat, parallel the shoreline and pick out good targets and cast near them, and retrieve slowly.

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Chatterbaits: Along The Bottom

Chatterbaits are effective when crawled or popped along the bottom. Even at this depth, the blade lets off the noise, and with a good trailer like a paddle tail swimbait, you’ll have perfect action and sound. This can be effective when fishing dams and/or rocky points when fish are holding deeper. Cast out and let your vibrating jig hit bottom. Then begin a slow retrieve while maintaining contact with the bottom, giving small pops by raising the tip of your rod.

Chatterbait Colors

It’s important to match the hatch. And this all depends on the baitfish or panfish in your water. For example, if your lake is full of bluegill or crappie, go with colors that imitate those species. When Bass are feeding primarily on shad, go with a shad color.

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When fishing in poor clarity, many anglers like to use darker colors like Junebug and black and /or a red-colored chatterbait with a golden blade. Darker colors are also effective when the target baitfish are bluegill; something with a fuller profile. I like to throw on literally a bluegill pattern with browns, greens, and blues, but in stained water scenarios, I’ll fish darker browns and blacks.

Jason holding a dark colored chatterbait with a Keitech swim bait trailer.

Colors For Early Spring

As the water temperature rises, bass will begin on their migratory routes toward spawning grounds. Before spawning, they’ll stage and feed. This is when a red chatterbait setup can activate fish, especially larger females preparing to spawn. The red color imitates a crawdad which produces a healthy amount of calories for bass as they emerge from a long winter.

Chatterbait Trailers

Selecting the right trailer, again, depends on the natural forage of the bass on your water. For example, if they’re feeding on shad, trout, and /or minnows, a slender swimbait profile with lighter colors can be effective. For example, a trailer like the Keitech Easy Shinner makes a perfect imitation of a baitfish when paired with a Zman chatterbait.

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Two jack hammer chatterbaits side by side on a wooden dock.
(Top) 3.4 oz Pumpkin Green JackHammer with Yamamoto Zako Swim Bait Trailer. (Bottom) Jackhammer Chatterbait with Z-man Razor Shad Swimsuit Trailer.

In muddy water, and when panfish are present, a trailer with a fuller profile can be effective. To keep things simple, I go with two main trailers year round – a Keitech Swing Impact Swimbait if I’m interested in using a narrow, more slender presentation and a Yamamoto Zako swim bait for that stubby, almost blue gill appearance. Usually, if I stay with these two presentations I get a healthy amount of bites. Other honorable brands you need to try would be:

  • Biopawn ExoSwim
  • Hog Farmer SpunkTail Swim Bait
  • Z-Man Razor Shad

Chatterbait Trailers: Panfish

A bulked-out presentation is never wrong when imitating bluegill. This is especially effective when retrieving near grass pockets. Consider darker colors ( picture below) with a fatter profile.

Chatterbaits with darker colors can be fished in muddy water and also imitate bluegill

Other vibrating jig trailers to consider when imitating panfish up shallow are creature baits like craws and grub-style tailers. Combining darker colors with these trailers gives you the opportunity to shift away from off-shore ledges to up-shallow giants holding ambush positions along weed lines.

This makes for an awesome chatterbait setup. To go even further, creature baits like the Berkley Pit Boss provides a compact, triple appendage flail that imitates the stubby stature of bluegill.

Chatterbait Rod Set Up

A 7 ‘ medium-heavy power casting rod is a standard selection for many anglers. Two options for rod material are glass and graphite. If you plan to fish for long days throwing a chatterbait, a graphite rod would be better for its lighter weight. Your objective should be to bomb long casts. For this reason, having a rod with fast action is key as well as medium-heavy power to get a strong hook set.

I like to use a braided line like 30 lb suffix 832 for its no-stretch quality and smaller diameter, which allows for a longer cast. 14 lb fluorocarbon is a wise choice if you’re working your lure in clear open water. When selecting a reel, it’s best to go with a lower gear ratio like 6:6:1 in order to keep your lure moving slowly. Examples of casting rods for vibrating jigs:

  • Abu Garcia Veritas Casting Fishing Rod

  • Ugly Stik GX2 Casting Fishing Rod

  • Evergreen Brett Hite Combat Stick

Final Thoughts

Chatterbaits are phenomenal lures for larger fish. If you like covering water and versatility, then pick up a few and play with different trailers and start slinging! Whether you’re cruising the banks on a steady troll or skipping under docks, you won’t be disappointed.

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